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Distance Learning Cybersecurity...Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Updated: Aug 25, 2021


As part of my doctoral program's focus upon learning technology, I will be posting weekly to this blog which asks educational scholars to reflect upon the boons and pitfalls of our current distance learning homeostasis in the Year of Covid-19.


Most schools have rushed headlong into the digital classroom as the only panacea for the current necessity of social distancing to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some schools have remained open, particularly those in higher education, but they do so knowing full well that history may judge them harshly for their risk-taking. As educators settle into the new reality of long hours within the Zoom classroom, the question arises regarding how secure, from a cyber security standpoint, is using Zoom and other digital meeting platforms to teach our minor children?


You do not have to google far to find a litany of articles detailing security breaches that have occurred in online classrooms over the past ten months. There are but a few cybersecurity experts writing articles about inherent vulnerabilities for personal data security in the unregulated digital teaching frenzy. What I find most striking is the deafening silence regarding this important issue from school systems.


Since we know that cybersecurity breaches, such as the much-publicized incidents of Zoombombing, have been fairly widespread in both public and private digital school learning spaces, it would seem logical that cybersecurity for students and teachers relying upon digital platforms would be a high priority, either for government regulation or private company safeguarding. In actuality, however, cybersecurity for distance learners across the country remains a topic which is largely unaddressed.


Over the next few months, I will be engaged in conversations here in this blog forum with educational scholars and colleagues to flush out the truth about the current state of affairs in our educational sector's cybersecurity management. It can seem rather daunting to contemplate the potential magnitude of the systemic vulnerability which exists for millions of students and teachers who spend their days treading water within digital platforms. These platforms were designed for adults, not children.. The underlying software for virtual instruction must be vetted for safety from online hackers by the individual educational institution which chooses to employ it. The app companies make no such definitive safety guarantees.


I am convinced that every challenge provides an opportunity; this one caterwauls for an informed, intentional overhaul of our practices to prioritize education's digital security. Our country's overnight shift to virtual schooling forces us, as educators, to face the cybersecurity nemesis, head-on.

Long hours in our current virtual schoolroom comprise students' new reality.




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8 commentaires


Matilde Gonzalez
Matilde Gonzalez
01 mars 2021

Gigi, thank you for posting about this topic. I think that one of the biggest downfalls, aside, from the disproportionate quality of distance learning, has to be the lack of information to parents on the risk of their children using video conferencing platforms. As distance learning continues, I think that both parents and district administrators have to have a sincere conversation on the inherent risks.

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En réponse à

You raise an incredibly important point. I think we parents assume that there is great vigilance on the part of education management regarding the online systems for delivering education to our children. I was gobsmacked when I learned by personal experience both as a parent and a fellow educator, that is most often NOT the case.

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Patricia Camarillo
Patricia Camarillo
14 févr. 2021

Hi GiGi, totally agree this is an area of need. I just wanted to share a story about my youngest daughter who is 10. During our time of COVID, she enjoys playing RoBlox which is an online game for young children. In this game, they go into virtual rooms and "socialize" among other things, while another big thing is trading. I have had to contact RoBlox via email, because they do not use phones, about "scamming" of precious items. Its kind of hard to explain, the point is as an "educated" parent, even I do not know what really goes on in some of these games. I look forward to learning more on this topic.

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En réponse à

As parents, we are uneasy about the influence of social media and online gaming have on the attitudes and behavior of our children. Our children are unaware of many of the threats to them that this unmonitored exposure can present. We need to educate children/students to empower them to exercise discernment to filter out negative actors with whom they come in contact. Doing nothing is not a protective behavior for them as individuals.

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Brittney Johnson
Brittney Johnson
10 févr. 2021

This is a very important and necessary conversation to have in all schools - especially during distance learning when we operate with children. This is an important piece of learning that many are weary of and would like to have confidence in when working with confidential information as well. I am excited to see where this research goes.

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En réponse à

School systems need to launch curricula which inform all students as to the pervasiveness of data privacy threats.

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Gigi!

THANK YOU for taking on this topic!!! This is a personal ethical issue that I have struggled with recently and have been made to feel like the crazy person in the room for brining up concerns. Most of my concerns are because I want explanations to gain understanding. The problem is that nobody can explain any of it to my satisfaction. I was made to feel like a compete idiot and excluded from all meetings because I would not use Zoom until they fixed their security flaws and the district obtained an education account. I still feel like I need a better understanding of data collection, storage, encryption, servers etc... The only explanations I can come up with for…

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En réponse à

I think that the de facto situation which exists, i.e. that somehow this has become a taboo subject needs to be disrupted. The assumption that "someone else is taking care of our collective data integrity needs to be actively dispelled. Thank you for your post!

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