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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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