Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do’s and Don’ts of making student accounts on websites

It’s the internet age and not using websites for education would be cheating our students of their ability to participate in a global community.  However, with that comes a number of unknowns regarding the audience, what information is provided about the student, and interactions that can take place online.  In order to keep your students safe online, please keep the following information in mind.

What do I need to know about CIPA?

CIPA is the Children’s Internet Protection Act.  All schools are required to comply with this in order to protect their students from dangerous content on the internet.  This includes the instruction of safe online interactions to our students.

What do I need to know about COPPA?

COPPA is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and it provides the baseline for children’s privacy in the United States.  This includes the requirement of parental notice and consent when using web services directed at students under the age of 13.  The new changes made have said that data collection about students is important, but deciding who should be doing the collection is a matter for schools and school districts.  For this reason, it’s important to know what information your students are using when they make accounts online.

Types of sign-ins
Since most of the district is using Google Apps for Education, we have the benefit of having secure logins as school Google accounts.  When using Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, or other Google products, you can be sure that your students’ information is secure and in compliance with CIPA and COPPA.

If you are using a website that offers a single sign-on, such as Piktochart, then when your students go to sign in with their Google accounts, it’s going to list for you the information that the website is collecting from their Google account.  In most cases, it’s just their name and their account username.  This is not necessarily a COPPA violation, but it’s important to make sure that this is the only information that it is collecting.  If you have questions, please be sure to contact us!
Read the fine print!
If you are using a website that requires that you make accounts, such as Animoto, keep in mind the following limitations:
  • concerns for creating accounts for students under the age of 13
  • that account will exist forever
  • there is no way to recover passwords through e-mail
  • there may be an alternative that has similar functions but offers Google single sign-on

While these concerns are worth consideration, they should not stop you from using that site.  Some successful ways to still implement them include:
  • creating a teacher account with a very basic password that all students log into in order to use the site content (this has been very successful with Animoto)
  • create the account with student initials instead of full names
  • providing the family with the information about the site and encouraging them to use it at home for extra practice or enrichment purposes
  • sending home information about the site, with explicit instructions that the parents can “opt-out” of the account if they contact you accordingly
  • talking to your building administrators, librarians, or tech director about using the site as a building or district across content areas
Your building librarians are problem-solvers, so talk to us if you need help!

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