Darryl Joyner
Teachers training on iPads.

As a district leader for Arlington Public Schools, I have a somewhat wonky title that barely fits on a business card. I’m an instructional technology integration analyst and I serve as the liaison between the Department of Teaching and Learning and the Department of Information Services.

But that description does a poor job of illustrating what I – along with the rest of my team – do. We create the technology ecosystem that makes the magic happen. The magic being all the deep learning made possible by technology.

Over the last year or so, we’ve spent a lot of time digging into the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders. What we’ve discovered is that when our visioning is done in a way that aligns with the Education Leaders Standards, it creates a landscape that better positions teachers and students to successfully align their work with the ISTE Standards for Educators and the ISTE Standards for Students, respectively. 

Balancing data policy with flexibility

A great deal of my team’s work falls under the System Designer standard within the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders. I’d like to share an example of how we use the fourth indicator to drive privacy and data management policies. 

Standard 4c: Protect privacy and security by ensuring that students and staff observe effective privacy and data management policies.

In our district, we take student data compliance very seriously. While we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of responsible data practices, we also embed data compliance processes into how we do business as a school system. Over time, these processes have evolved as we balance the importance of data policy with the need for flexibility in teaching and learning. 

In the early stages of our 1:1 initiative, we wanted educators to have the ability to add apps and programs to devices at the school level, but we knew that these resources had to be reviewed for compliance with federal student data guidelines. Our solution was to create a process that integrated our school-based instructional technology coordinators (ITCs) into the app request process.  

This strategy not only ensured that all requests would be vetted by each ITC for student data compliance, but it also helped to create a more effective culture of communication and collaboration between the ITCs and the teachers in their buildings. It also addressed indicator 3a of the Empowering Leader standard: Empower educators to exercise professional agency, build teacher leadership skills and pursue personalized professional learning.  

The initial request became a conversation starter and topic for planning. It provided a way for the ITCs to get a better sense of intended instructional outcomes and for teachers to have a better sense of the possibilities of technology integration. This process ensured that we were following federal guidelines with fidelity and put the ITC right in the middle of all instructional planning and professional learning that involved technology-integrated instruction.

Consistency became a challenge

The challenge, though, was a lack of consistency in interpreting federal guidelines. In some cases, the same app would be vetted by several ITCs who drew different conclusions about whether it was compliant. We also discovered that some vendors were creating products that didn’t seem able to gather or transmit data – i.e., there was no login required, but their privacy policies were written in such a way that we couldn’t be sure.

That’s when we made two important decisions. The first was that while requests would still be made by teachers, we would select one person in the district to vet all digital tools for data compliance. Because we would now have hundreds of teacher requests being reviewed by one person, this strategy slowed down the process for adding digital apps and programs, but it greatly improved compliance and consistency. We could now be sure that all digital resources were being vetted with a more consistent interpretation of federal guidelines. 

Taking control of data privacy

Secondly, we took control of data privacy agreements by writing our own. That is, instead of always being in a position to have to decipher every company’s privacy policy, we created our own offline data privacy agreement and asked vendors to agree to our terms. Every digital purchase over $10,000 required a vendor signature. 

It set the tone with the vendor: Security and proper treatment of our data was vital. It also enabled us to weed out vendors that were not like-minded. Not all vendors welcomed the idea.  

Some didn’t want to lock themselves into an agreement that might eliminate the flexibility for them to change their policy in the future. Others felt they could be overwhelmed by having to sign a plethora of agreements with other school systems.

Our response was that if they wanted our business, this is how it had to be. Over time, most vendors came to see that agreeing to our policy was in the best interest of both parties.

By integrating the ISTE Standards at every level of decision-making and practice, districts can execute systemwide technology implementation with greater fidelity. In addition, the various categories of ISTE Standards tie together in a way that’s more logical for teachers and students to see the connection between their work and system-level decisions. 

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Darryl Joyner is the instructional technology integration analyst for Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, Virginia, and the liaison between the Department of Teaching and Learning and the Department of Information Services. He’s an edtech speaker, presenter and thought leader with over 20 years of experience as an educator. Find him on Twitter @edtechpioneer.