The Privacy Pyramid

Which parts of your website should be password protected? What belongs behind the login?

Chances are, members of your school community have an opinion: staff, faculty, alumni, parents and even students. There are legal considerations, too, depending on the country you live in and the age(s) of the students you work with. Somewhere between the legal guidelines, security, school policies and personal preference lies the squishy compromise that allows content stewards to determine what can be available to anyone in the general public to see, and what’s protected with a password for internal viewing only.

privacy pyramid

This graphic is meant to help give you a way to think about the different levels of privacy. Note that this is an inverted pyramid: private content is in the smallest piece of the pyramid, public content in the largest. The most controversial piece is the middle section – to be determined by your community, your security team, your Head of School.

privacy pyramid explained

Examples of the types of content in these categories are above. Private content will usually include family contact information: phone numbers, post and email addresses. The potentially sensitive content section can contain several options, all to be determined by your stakeholders. A few notes:

Faculty directory: this can include all sorts of details, such as photos, email addresses, phone numbers and even short bios. My take? The more information you can share publicly about your fantastic teachers, the better. It also helps the faculty members to increase their professional digital footprint.

Student surnames: do you name students on your website? First and last names? Class year? Do you name students in photos? Whatever you decide, be sure to be clear about your policies with parents. At the beginning of the school year as part of the re-enrollment process, have all families sign consent forms acknowledging acceptance of the policy.

Calendars: sharing generic details (“Band trip to Zurich” and “field trip”) is not the same as publishing exact itineraries and travel documents. Err on the side of vague if there is a concern. Also be aware of what other schools publish about your school. Take athletics, for example: if the opposing teams post their schedules publicly, your school’s schedules are as good as public too.

Photos/videos: Do you post photos of kids at all? This can be one of the most controversial discussions/decisions for your school. Always consider the legal ramifications for your particular country and age group. However, there are obvious benefits to showing student photos, including showing what the school community is really like, and how students engage with faculty and one another in your school’s learning environment.

While it is important to have buy-in from your constituents, privacy issues can’t be “design by committee.” Your highest level of administration (principals, head of communications, security team, advancement) should support the decisions on these items and move forward with policies.

Flexing Your Faculty: Teacher Blogs

I’ve previously written about the valuable role students can play in generating content for social spaces. Student-generated content is a great way to communicate the culture of your school, straight from kids who experience it every day. But you might not realize that there is another source for content creation right under your nose—the faculty.

Faculty bloggers are a great way to round out your school’s story online. You can show off your outstanding teachers to several different audiences. Potential families and potential employees are both curious about what life is like on campus. Although student recruitment is a major part of outreach, staff turnover rates in international independent schools range from 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. This makes staff and faculty recruitment a big part of school marketing.

Making the Case

Faculty are already busy—they’re teaching, after all—so asking teachers to blog on top of their regular duties might be a hard sell. There are ways to make the case, however. Teachers already regularly communicate with parents in a variety of ways. Think about how some of that information can be turned into blog posts—for example, photos from a field trip, quick video clips from presentations or class reading for the week. If the class is using technology or other tools in the classroom, all the better. Initiatives like 1:1 programs (one laptop for each student) are also great fodder for blogs.

Another way to make the case is to appeal to a teacher’s professional goals and career arc. Blogs can be a great way to create and maintain personal brand. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for international school teachers to change schools. Some migrate to new schools every two to three years and having a digital record of classrooms and activities can be a great way to show course progression, teaching styles and interest to potential employers.

Privacy Concerns

As always, protecting students and families is critical. Faculty should adhere to the same data protection and privacy policies used for all school publications. I am personally a big proponent of having the majority of content publicly available, but keeping kids safe is of the utmost importance.

Finders, Keepers

Your teachers might be creating the greatest blog content ever written, but if it isn’t easy to find, they might as well not bother. Make faculty blogs easy to find for all of your audiences: potential families, current families, potential employees and the teaching and learning community at large. Consider creating a page on your website that lists all faculty blogs and make it easy for users to navigate between them.

Final thoughts: Blogs aren’t the only way to share faculty-generated content. Microblogs like Twitter, photo sharing sites like Flickr or the many social bookmarking sites are also options. It’s up to you, the school and your faculty to figure out what works best.

Why Can’t I Quit You, Facebook?

There has been quite a bit of hubbub about Facebook lately, particularly about the arrogant attitude towards privacy and user data. Yes, Facebook sucks, and has managed to steadily increase its suckitude over the past few years. But even with the calls for quitting Facebook, many of us still linger (myself included).

Why?

Staying connected to friends: There are people in my life I’d lose contact with completely if I left Facebook. I like having an ambient awareness of what they’re up to and what they’re working on. These people don’t have blogs, twitter feeds or utilize other ways for me to connect with them socially online. So for right now, I don’t have a good replacement for Facebook for this purpose.

Keeping up with Facebook itself: My consulting clients’ communications strategies almost always include Facebook. I have to be a Facebook native in order to speak intelligently about it and have a grasp on its ins and outs. If I leave Facebook entirely, my intimate understanding of the user experience will weaken and eventually fade entirely. Setting up a fake profile wouldn’t give me the same ability to learn the subtle nuances, specifically the ways in which Facebook connects users to one another, to brands, to services, and to the web.

So what to do?

Give Facebook as little information about yourself as possible: Zuckerberg and crew do not need to know your address, your cell phone number, your favorite books or your relationship status. If all you want to do is find old friends, keep education info simply to find former classmates. Otherwise, get all of the irrelevant details out of your profile and lock your profile down. Don’t install applications (yes, this means Farmville, Mafia Wars and Sorority Life). The less Facebook knows about you, the better.

Set your privacy settings: If you haven’t done this yet, DO IT NOW. Don’t assume that Facebook (or any online tool, for that matter) is going to protect your privacy by default. When you set up a new profile on any site or service, check the privacy settings and the privacy policy. It just makes good sense.