Reviewed by Adam Simpson, Burça Çapkan, Evrim Uysal and Sibel Taşkın Şimşek 

The 3rd Technology, Law and Privacy Conference was organised by Yücel Saygın from Sabanci University and Elif Küzeci from Bahçeşehir University Faculty of Law, along with Nilgün Başalp from Istanbul Bilgi University Faculty of Law, and Aytaç Göğüş from Okan University. It was held on June 10th at Sabancı University Karakoy Communication Center Istanbul, with the theme of “Privacy and Education in a Social Environment”. TUBITAK and DERIS Attorneys at Law Partnership sponsored the event.

The conference started with the opening speech given by Chris J. Hoofnagle from Berkeley University Faculty of Law on “EdTech: Promise and Peril”. The talk was very inspiring and informative, since it gave extremely useful information on the policies and practices in the United States regarding this topic. While it was concerned with privacy, it also highlighted the other difficult challenges in incorporating technology into education. He started his talk by pointing out that a lot of money is being spent on EdTech by the schools. Although the edges of EdTech are blurry, Hoofnagle mentioned two systems that help parents communicate to teachers.  The first one he mentioned was Classdojo, a tool which does not teach anything but helps the parent understand what is going on in the school. The second one was to enable parents to understand what is going on in schools. He stated that technology could be used to accomplish goals such as extending the work day to night time or using a graduate student to teach his class. Some possibilities of EdTech he mentioned in his talk were as follows:

•    Tailored instruction
•    Better engagement
•    Teaching outside classroom ( e.g. fieldtrips
•    Increase digital literacy
•    Embed assessment into the learning process
•    Adapt to students with different abilities etc.

He also mentioned the issue about costs in the EdTech world, where the tool designers need money and to move very quickly to remain competitive. If a company wants to sell its product, it is very important to be present in person, he said, because when the procurement process starts there is a “cone of silence” during the bidding process. He gave the example of one of the largest EdTech companies, which makes money even when its results do not measure up. He even mentioned how they treated school officials to trips abroad or to conferences in return for purchasing their product. Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, has a 100-page long manual, so for a small company to do a pilot study with them is impossible because of the rules they have. For such cases, smaller EdTech companies sell directly to teachers and they adapt them into their teaching. Then they try to convince the superiors to adapt the technology into their curriculum. By this way it is the teachers who evaluate them for privacy, which may cause issues regarding students’ privacy. In New York City, Izone allows pilot studies, does not undermine competitive posture. He mentioned that there are a lot of privacy rules in the US and they ask a lot of sensitive questions such as whether they are doing drugs, using tobacco etc. In order to protect children online, he suggests a filtered internet connection. According to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) the school district can give consent to use of student data in the school for students’ benefit. For adverts, parental consent is needed. However, parents may not sign them for a number of reasons, sometimes simply because they are too busy.

Another one, Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) bans targeted advertising in school. You cannot make EdTech based on advertising. The other, which is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that schools must serve everyone and accommodate disabilities. For example, videos have to be captioned, which is very expensive to do.

The IPAD project called LAUSD, like the Fatih Project in Turkey, started in August, 2013 in the US offering one-to-one tutorials with IPADs. It was up-to-date but the problem was that no one used them. Only 2 out of 69 schools used the IPADs, 1.3 billion dollars were spent for the project. The reason was that the content was not ready, students figured out how to disable the filters. He questioned the pedagogical, logistical and cultural aspects of the project by asking these questions:

•    Curriculum in place?
•    Cheating

•    Infrastructure in place? (wifi, power)
•    Training for teachers
•    Theft, loss, damage (who pays?)
•    Must be secured against attack, filtered for inappropriate uses

•    At home, the device might not be used as expected

Parents in poverty for example do not want these devices to come home because of theft and loss. He also warned about the possibility of principals or teachers watching students at home. Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman showing him how he could access what was going on every students’ laptop using a program called Apple Remote Desktop was one of the highlights in the session.

He also mentioned Adaptive Learning Platform (ALP), which adjust game play as learners engage to help you deliver a personalised learning experience for each child. He was not sure whether the data they collect is valid or not. He gave the example of KADHO, using Noam Chomsky’s quote and photo to suggest that adverts should have a reasonable basis.

He also suggested the book “The Prize” as one of the best books on the US school policy. The book talks about 2.00M dollar effort to reform Newark, NJ Schools and how charter schools emerged by people who do not like each other and who have opposite personalities, such as Republican Governor, Democratic Mayor and Facebook’s Zuckerberg. These schools take money from the state and create private schools and lots of money goes to EdTech. So, “The Prize” in short was the control of the budget. They also rewarded high-performing teachers but good teachers ended up being fired.

He talked about Gates Foundation effort, InBloom, which addresses lack of interoperability and standardization of school data systems. The idea was to leverage data collection to improve personalised learning. It was criticised because of evaluating teachers by test scores, privacy problems and attempts to capture “The Prize”. As a result, it failed and closed.

He talked about the structure of classrooms where whole class looks at one teacher. As a teacher one of the concerns is whether technology would take their place. They also question if the tools are useful, reliable and available.

Then he said “Technology is not the need (end) but it is the tool (means)”. These are the things he pointed out:

•   What do students and teachers need? (IPads, tablets etc.) What are the tech “hidden costs”? Who supports training?, are there enough outlets in the classroom etc. Who gives support in evaluating claims? (EduCase, Digital Promise etc.)

He also mentioned that the political is the real peril. He said technologies arrive as neutral tools and promoted by naive optimists who are not experts in technology or its history, but rather technophiles or even worse, people who use the political to sell their products. InBloom or MEB based grade entry systems were given as examples. He also pointed out that technologists, teachers and policy makers are all trying to control what gets taught, and how it gets taught. Duolingo for example does studies on how people learn languages at the backstage, he said. As a result, he points out that the public pays the bill and is saddled with the outcomes.

Gareth Cameron, who is Group Manager for Business and Industry at the Information Commissioner’s Office, UK, talked about the privacy and protection policies in the UK. Technology industry is a hugely important part of the UK economy since it is growing faster 32% faster than the rest of the UK economy. Therefore, he said good regulation is vital in helping develop a trusted tech industry. He also shared some numbers about children’s access to digital content in UK.

•    7 in 10 children (age 5-15) have access to a tablet computer at home.
•    4 in 10 own a mobile phone (age 5-15)
•    8 in 10 own a mobile phone (age 12-15)
•    88% have access to a PC at home

He mentioned that more children have started demonstrating a level of critical understanding in relation to different sources of online information. 56% say they are aware of personal advertising online but only a third (12-18) and 1 in 8 (8-11) correctly identify Google sponsored links or paid-for advertising.

He also talked about parental concerns and mediation. He said ¾ parents agree they know enough to help their child manage online risks and trust them to use the internet safely. 90% mediate use (technical tools, talking about risks, supervision, having rules). Age-inappropriate content, contact with unknown people and over-sharing are the top three risks parents talk to their children about. He compared English law with the approaches in the wider European community. He talked about a civil society initiative called Irights, which is signed by a number of diverse organisations, including the ICO. According to them “the internet and digital technologies need to be designed, delivered and consumed with the Irights framework” such as the right to remove (easily edit, delete all content), the right to know (make the info easy for them to access), the right to safety and support and the right to digital literacy (lesson plans for teachers which enable learners to better understand the value and importance of their personal info). He finished his talk by asking this question: “Is it a problem just for children and young people or is it for everyone?”

Aytaç Gögüş from Okan University introduced her research on the effective uses of internet among state universities. Students studying at 9th grade of state universities and their teachers were provided by tablets by the government within the scope of Fatih Project. With this research, she was looking for answers to the following questions:

•    How important is information privacy for students using internet?
•    What kind of precautions do they take for it?
•    Who do the students allow their information to be shared on the internet?
•    How often do the students use Information Technologies?
•    For what purposes do the students use Information Technologies?
•    Are the students aware that protecting their personal data is a basic human right and it is under constitutional guarantee in Turkey?

The afternoon sessions started with Hamit İvgin from Turkish Ministry of Education, who is also the IT Coordinator for Istanbul, talking about Fatih project. The project was designed in four stages, starting with high schools. However, because of lack of sponsors and e-content, it could not reach its aims. The project has, however, been completed in Anatolian and Science High Schools; they are still working with secondary and vocational schools, and in 8-10 years time kindergarten and primary schools will be completed. He mentioned that they do not have any problems with providing tablets, and that 80% of schools have interactive whiteboards.

He showed some sample photos of desks with messages written on them to support the idea of the students’ need to share things about themselves, which is a good example of microblogging. He finished his talk by pointing out the opportunities that IT and Internet provide. Some examples are as follows:
•    Equal distribution of opportunities in education and access to information
•    Distance learning
•    Freedom of expressing one’s self
•    Playing games

Learning new languages as a result of globalisation

Batuhan Aydagül, representing ERI (Education Reform Initiative), Turkey, added a new perspective to the perception of strengths and weaknesses of any educational technology project with the aim of creating a serious transformation in education, namely the Fatih Project in this particular case. He emphasized the key role of producing high quality e-content which meets the needs of the learners and the teachers. Being one of the people involved in the writing of a detailed report discussing the pros and cons of the project, his talk was very informative, to the point and full of clear, useful messages to be taken away as food for thought for anyone interested in organizing a similar project.

Hamit İvgin (who spoke in the afternoon), also stated that the report prepared by ERI actually helped shape the scope of the Fatih project. He referred to this project as ‘the frog leap of technology’.There are 4 arguments behind the creation of the Fatih Project:

1.    The political transformation argument; originally, in 2010, there were only projectors and a curtain.
2.    The social transformation argument; in 2011 tablets were given out to learners.
3.    The economic argument; it is not a very profitable investment because Turkey does not produce its own technology. All it can produce is the screen and the hard disk. However, as MEB (the Turkish Ministry of Education) describes it, it is a project designed with the major aim of enriching the opportunities and equality in education.
4.    The educational equality argument; the main idea of the report is that it is a good intention as it is, because it is an effort to create equality in education by equipping learners who cannot afford such technologies.

However, as Aydagül pointed out, any project will probably ‘fall into place’ if the essentials of a good education are there. That is: a common goal and vision; leadership, as well as; rewriting the pedagogy and content. He also mentioned a theoretical “z-book” which is a term he used to emphasize the fact that, no matter what you name something in order to make it look very high-tech, if you do not have the right backing, the project will not create the desired outcome.
In other words, having good technology does not ensure that you have everything good and things all work very well. Also required are:

•    Critical thinking skills
•    Creating the right environment to ensure learner autonomy
•    Technology as a tool, not as a means and finally
•    Equipping the teacher with the right skills to put this all together

Ali İnan, from Adana Science and Technology University, talked about students’ data protection. He started his talk by explaining the three roles in data mining area:

1.    data subject (whose data is collected)
2.    data controller (who collects the data)
3.    data processors (who do not control but has access to data)

He explained the actor- role combinations with a chart:
He talked about the possible platforms to store the data. One could be “All-cloud”, where everything is stored in the cloud. Some advantages of this are that it does not cost much, it is always updated and offers effective data protection. The disadvantages could be the need to be online all the time and the possibility of hacks. The other platform could be “On-premise”, where the data is stored on the devices. It allows offline access, limited attacks and high level privacy, but costs much and data protection is very weak. The other option he talked about was “Data-on-cloud”. The applications work in local network but data is stored in the cloud and protected with a code. Limited attacks and high level of protection are some advantages of this but being online is a must in this platform.

Using camera and microphone in the Fatih Project might have some disadvantages, he emphasized. Some of his examples were as follows:

•    Fatih Project system could ask to have access to students cam and mic (e.g. distance learning, monitor cheating)
•    Privacy issues: to collect data about students

Learn more about the conference at the website: