Want educators to care about data security? ‘Speak their language’

In November, the Arkansas Department of Education launched a voluntary training program designed to help educators throughout the state get a handle on data security. Most teachers realize protecting the privacy and personal data of students is important, but getting all the right people involved can be challenging, says the state’s director of data use and privacy, Ray Girdler.

“You can’t talk to tech coordinators alone and expect to have school-wide change,” Girdler says in a video interview. “They control the technology, but they don’t control the people.”

The training program contains six modules that cover a variety of data privacy and data security topics concerning education, he says. Next year, his office plans to add six additional modules so the program won’t be repetitive for repeat participants, but Girdler also says he’s the only state employee assigned to data security, so finding the resources to augment the program adequately is challenging.

Girdler says that as he’s traveled around the state doing on-site trainings, he’s found that many of these topics don’t come naturally to educators, despite their good intentions. Training is often a matter of meeting people where they’re at, he says.

“I always call it the path of least resistance,” he says. “If you want support, you have to make it easy for educators to get there, and you have to speak their language. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Ray Girdler gives tips for other edtech leaders:

Girdler’s top priorities for the coming year:

Girdler talks about upcoming trends he’s watching: