While education apps are meant to help teachers manage their classrooms, concern is growing over the management of student data tracked by those apps.
Following an article published Monday in the New York Times, the founders of education app ClassDojo announced an update Tuesday regarding student privacy and data collection. Starting in January, ClassDojo will store student profiles for only one year.
ClassDojo is a classroom management system designed to help teachers improve student behavior. The app, launched in 2011, is now used in thousands of classrooms by millions of teachers and students. Teachers can award positive and negative feedback points for behavior in class in real-time using a smartphone or laptop, and create reports using the data for parents and students to access.
A screenshot of a demo ClassDojo class shows how students can receive points for positive behavior.
“ClassDojo is not a data company. That’s not what this business is about,” says ClassDojo CEO Sam Chaudhary.
Manoj Lamba, head of marketing at ClassDojo, says unless a parent chooses to save a child’s information, the individual profile will now be deleted at the end of the school year. The plan was already in the works, he says, but called it “a no-brainer” to announce it after the Times profile of the company raised questions about student privacy.
In the post “What the New York Times got wrong,” co-founders Chaudhary and Liam Don responded to concern the data from their app could become part of a student’s permanent record:
“If students or their parents don’t save their ClassDojo profiles within that school year, we’ll permanently delete that data. If teachers want to keep data for longer than that, they can invite parents and students to save their ClassDojo profiles.”
Privacy advocates, who are increasingly worried about student data privacy as billions of dollars in educational technology flood classrooms, applauded the move. Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, author of “Learning with Big Data: The Future of Education” says with so much digital technology tracking students in school, he worries they could end up with a permanent “data backpack.”
“Everything in a student’s past will be captured, collected, stored and therefore remembered,” he says.
Lamba, head of marketing for ClassDojo, says the company should have taken the step earlier to delete data entirely. With this change, parents and students will now know about — and own — any lasting data that exists about a student.
While ClassDojo’s decision to delete data will help ease that concern, it doesn’t calm other worries about classroom technologies used to monitor kids. Kahlia Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says even if the data disappears after a year, the effects of that monitoring may live on.
“If a student is afraid that every single thing she does is recorded and scaled and sent off to others who can make decisions about her life, then it can chill her speech,” she says.