There are a lot of misconceptions about the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It is often used as an excuse as to why we shouldn’t post videos of student learning or start a class twitter account. It is good to understand your jurisdiction’s FOIP Consent form in order to know what parents are permitting you to do with their child’s information. This is all the more relevant in today’s digitally connected society where the internet is a ubiquitous public space that we frequently utilize for teaching and learning.
Before we look at the FOIP form, it is important to note that the form is only the one step in the process. You must inform parents on how you are using their child's information on the internet. You don’t need a new form every time, but if you decide halfway through the year to do a project that will go on YouTube, you need to let the parents know. Nobody likes surprises, and informing them gives them the option to back out, which is their prerogative.
Here are the elements of the FOIP form from Edmonton Public School that deal with posting information online:
“[School] is requesting your permission to use your child’s personal information (i.e., image, grade and/or name, etc.) in public venues or on the internet where the general public may have access to the information in order to communicate with parents, the community and the general public.”
Notice that this statement says that images and/or names can be used on the internet to communicate to the general public. Further to this point, it also states on the form:
“Examples might include, but not limited to:
-posting pictures, videos, podcasts or presentations online
-accessing and posting information to public websites or social media applications (e.g., Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and other emerging technologies)”
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It is imperative that you know the purpose for posting online. You could have students make videos of themselves reading stories and post it on YouTube. But why use YouTube? If the video’s intended audience is just you and the parent, it may be better to upload it to a Drive folder. If your class has a message for the community, then YouTube may be the best medium.
And this has to be stated again. You need to let parents know if you are using web apps or posting anything will use the student’s information. This can be done through a newsletter, class blog, Schoolzone (in EPSB) or any other medium that you use to communicate with parents.
Here is a great video to recap (and the acting is fantastic):
The FOIP Consent form ensures that we are abiding by Alberta’s FOIP Act. The Act isn’t preventative legislation. It instructs us on what we need to do when we need to use personal information in order to do our duties as teachers in today's connected, online world. The Act and our FOIP Consent form ensure that we, as a public institution, are being responsible with the information parents are giving us.
If you really want some good reading, check out the full Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.