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What questions should you ask to keep your school safe online?

Safer Internet day is on the 9th February this year and feels particularly important with children having had to move into a more digital world over the last twelve months. Whilst we all have a role to play in keeping our children safe online, it is not always easy trying to navigate our way through the technological maze we are faced with. The constant proliferation of new platforms, tools and providers means that it can sometimes feel a bit like the wild west out there.

There are some simple questions that schools can ask to make sure that the technology solutions they are using are fit for purpose in an educational setting, and that they are providing a safe and appropriate online learning environment.

Is it secure?

Talk to your provider about the security measures they have in place to ensure that their platform is secure. Online services should be hosted on known, secure servers, and data should be transferred, end to end, securely in an encrypted format. Your providers should be conducting regular penetration testing and have safeguards in place to deal with any incident regarding a potential breach.

In addition to security, data privacy must be a priority. This is especially true for education software, as so much personal information is collected. Dedicated edtech providers should have the security of yours and your students personal information at the heart of what they do. Ask to see their privacy policy and make sure that you are happy with it. Make sure that they are compliant with data regulations such as GDPR. If they are serious about keeping your data safe, then they should have robust measures to ensure that your data is only used to support teaching and learning.

Does it provide reliable access?

With technology now a critical part of a school’s infrastructure, reliability and ease of access are of crucial importance. Cloud hosted solutions ensure that teachers, students and parents can access resources and information from wherever they might be and are not dependent upon school servers for their uptime. Good solutions will include regular updates to their platform so that they remain secure and up to date with the latest advances in technology, whilst a robust support offering will ensure that any issues which arise will be dealt with swiftly to minimise disruption to the school. They should also be accessible on any device; students and parents will be using everything from laptops to mobile phones and your platform should provide a good experience for the user no matter how they are choosing to access it.

Does it work well with your existing systems?

The last thing you want to do is have to use a patchwork of systems that don’t talk to each other and require the same data to be entered multiple times. Your platform should provide seamless integration with your core systems such as your MIS and your Google or Microsoft tools for example. The fewer times you are entering data, the less frustrating your processes are, but crucially there are fewer opportunities for mistakes or for that data to be accessed by third parties.

What are our policies?

Technology can only do so much to keep your data secure with most data breaches occurring as a result of human error. Data security is a mindset and that’s especially important if you’re in an industry like education where the vast majority of users don’t see themselves as potential targets. Make sure you have policies in place regarding online security and take the time to train staff and students about the ways they can keep themselves, and others, safe online. There is no magic wand we can wave when it comes to online security, but if you ask the right questions you’ll be putting yourself and the students you teach in a better position to learn in a safe and secure online environment.

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