5 Things to Know About Smart Devices in the Classroom



In a world full of technology- available at our fingertips, the adaptation of smart devices, or virtual assistants like Amazon’s Echo or Dot, or Google’s Home can increase information readily available to students and offer additional avenues for timers and stopwatches, music, quizzes and games, weather updates, and immediate facts & question answers.

But are schools doing the due diligence needed to ensure the risks of using these devices in the classroom, don’t outweigh the odds? We’ve done the research and want to share 5 important things to note about having smart devices in the classroom.

  1. Regulations Virtual assistants do not adequately address FERPA, COPPA, or even SOPIPA regulations in their operating policies.
  2. Money Driven Functions. Virtual assistants sell personal information through marketing, advertising, tracking, and ad-profiling and sell this information to 3rd parties.
  3. Storing Data. Assistants store account and voice data, which can be associated to particular individuals.
  4. The Power of Opting-In. Have parents consented or opted in on behalf of the students and do they know the risk or rewards of these devices? 
  5. Cybersecurity risks. Smart Assistants are very much hackable and not immune to security risks. 

Let’s dive in deeper.

A big consideration is CIPA and E-Rate funding. E-Rate funding requires that children are not accessing prohibited content. Since there are no systems or platforms that can monitor or filter student traffic on smart assistants, having smart devices could potentially cause a school to be out of compliance with CIPA and possibly lose E-Rate funding benefits.

Additionally, even with parental permission, schools must also consider FERPA, which can only release educational data with parental permission. The use of personal, marketing, or ad-based data could possibly violate that federal mandate. An important question to address is have your teachers or staff been trained on managing the device accounts in control of these assistants, and are they familiar with the data collection options?

Daniel Kahn Gillmor, an ACLU Staff Technologist asked a pertinent question, “Should students be required to submit themselves to always-on voice-tracking and other third-party surveillance in order to get an education?” 

When using a smart assistant, a teacher or school is making data privacy decisions on behalf of the students or parents. Assistants are scrutinized by privacy advocates for exposing children or students to digital footprint leaks, personal data leaks, and remote surveillance. Proper training and knowledge on smart devices, turning on and off microphones, as well as initiating specific times when students are allowed to use the devices can help keep children and teachers’ data and information safe. 

There have been many reported cases of these devices recording conversations and being delivered to outside entities. Smart devices, like any technology, if not secured properly, could be hacked. It’s important to have Cybersecurity initiatives in place to deter unwanted or even criminal activity. For more information on smart devices or assistants in the classroom and best practices, please reach out to info@forward-edge.net.