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ERIC Number: EJ1118549
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Sep
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1525-1810
Student Data Privacy, Digital Learning, and Special Education: Challenges at the Intersection of Policy and Practice
Stahl, William M.; Karger, Joanne
Journal of Special Education Leadership, v29 n2 p79-88 Sept 2016
The rapid adoption of digital content and delivery systems, each with its own capacity to track, store, and analyze student usage, interactions, and academic outcomes at both a highly detailed and granular level, has emerged as an area of widespread opportunity, but also of concern. The comingling of various student data sets (demographics, usage, and achievement) now possible as the result of data interoperability standards has raised the specter of dangerous and privacy-invading misuse, simultaneous with the potential for customizing education for every student. Most Internet-enabled digital learning environments can record timely information on students: where they are, what they are doing, how they got there, how long they stayed, and where they went, as well as formative and summative details of their academic achievement. Research utilizing data from digital learning environments has the potential to improve teaching and learning in unprecedented ways. For students with disabilities, this information can provide unique insights into the impact of curriculum and school reform efforts on the progress of these students. Digital learning systems and the data they collect offer a timeliness and specificity that can be otherwise impractical or impossible to acquire. Positive outcomes can only be achieved with clear and legally compliant data sharing procedures in place. The promising opportunities created by research involving digital student data are accompanied by the rise of serious questions regarding student privacy. Concerns abound with respect to whether data that are collected will have a subsequent negative impact on students' future life opportunities and whether hackers and commercial marketers will be able to penetrate the data system. For students with disabilities, the dangers posed are of serious consequence in light of the confidential and potentially sensitive nature of the information involved. In the present climate, the protective vigilance triggered by the perceived liabilities inherent in large scale data sharing is apparent, and the confusing legality of widespread data tracking threatens to limit opportunities for research. This article explores the relationship between student privacy and research on digital learning for all students, and students with disabilities in particular. Recommendations are presented for state, district, and school personnel, as well as policy makers, to help them move forward in support of research while at the same time protecting the privacy rights of all students, including those with disabilities.
Council of Administrators of Special Education. Fort Valley State University, 1005 State University Drive, Fort Valley, GA 31030. Tel: 478-825-7667; Fax: 478-825-7811; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Department of Education (ED)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 1974; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Grant or Contract Numbers: H327U110011