Always look in gift horse’s mouth

12Apps of Christmas graphicI’m really looking forward to exploring new apps during the #12appsBC event (coming up F-A-S-T-!). I have the enviable position this year of being able to “peek behind the curtain” and see the apps that our enthusiastic, experienced edtechs and educator teams are preparing for you. I see a few I’ve tried, I see a few I’ve read about but haven’t tested, and a few I’ve never heard of before. I’m looking forward to seeing what a wide range of educators comes up with – a scenario ripe with possibilities and potential.

But I’ve also been reviewing my awareness and knowledge around some of the risks inherent in using any cloud-based “free” apps – partly because of this event but also cuz I’m developing an online design work for educators and I want to make sure I am aware of current issues, particularly in regards to any institutional initiatives or guidelines for faculty. For those in BC, you’re aware of the requirements of the BC FoIPPA legislation for higher education – but are you comfortable with how to protect your students’ privacy while still creating engaging and useful learning activities or resources? Does your institution have practical advice or assistance that you can tap into?

Twitter conversation JHengstlerI had a brief (and informative) Twitter exchange with VIU’s @jhengstler to try and understand a tweet she posted recently with question about how much teachers do when they assess the risks of using online edtech. Although I’ve been reading terms of use and privacy policies of hundreds of Web2.0 tools and cloud-based apps since I got involved in supporting instructors in utilizing the “new” free technologies in 2004 (;-), I would not be able to say that I read every line as Julia says she does. She’s a great resource if you want to learn more about the issues (maybe start with her 2014 blog post  The Compliance Continuum ? or follow her Twitter feed.

Other places to look for information about cloud-based tools and their use in BC-based schools is to:

  • follow the BC Edtech Privacy Group (my 12Apps colleague, BCcampus’ Clint Lalonde is a member);
  • check out one institution’s approach to supporting the safe use of cloud-based tools (that I know of), Royal Roads University’s Cloud-based Learning Tools Notification
  • and read about the reality of that approach for many faculty (Privacy in BC…)
  • or try out UBC’s Digital Tattoo site to learn more about your own digital presence and the important elements of digital identity.

look in horse's mouthAnd a few things to leave you with…

Even if you can’t read every line of the ever-changing, densely worded, mind-numbing terms of reference and privacy agreements for every cloud-based app you use, keep in mind the adage “always look a gift horse in the mouth” – read for the essentials – who has ownership of what you post – where is the transition between “free” and “paid services” – what are the cancellation policies – what happens if there’s a conflict between you and the app provider – can you backup your own work in a readable format.

Keep developing your digital literacy skills – one of the better descriptions of what that entails (IMHO) is Digital Literacy Fundamental from Mediasmarts

Don’t be afraid to take risks – most powerful learning experiences involve risk. But be aware, plan to mitigate risks and, have fun exploring!

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