There’s Regulations & Then There’s Best Practices

February 3, 2016
Image of hand extended holding a light bulb with text: Pondering Best Practices

Image adapted from niekverlaan, 2014, lamp-432247_640.jpg, CC0,

(BTW, the ex-high school English teacher in me is making me say: I know, strictly speaking that title is not grammatically correct, but it sounded better. 🙂 )

In this blog, I’ve previously delved (in some detail here) into the nature of BC educators’ compliance (or lack thereof) with BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA, or as some people may remember it, FOIPPA) . I have also mentioned that practically speaking, I don’t think we’ll reach “full compliance” on the Compliance Continuum due to the rate of technological change and our ability to keep pace (access to resources, time, and professional development aside, though clearly important factors 😦 ). What I haven’t really differentiated between is what might be considered “strict compliance” (following the letter of the law) and best practices from an educational perspective with regard to privacy legislation and the use of web-based tools by BC educators. I believe technology savvy educators should reach higher than strict compliance to address students’ & educators’ best interests. In honour of Safer Internet Day 2016’s (2/9/16) theme, “Play Your Part For a Better Internet”, I’m going to share some personal examples of this difference. It’s my way to ‘get involved, inspire, and empower’. I encourage you to share something in honour this year’s Safer Internet Day theme too!

When working with a school staff or faculty, there is what I’ll call a “strict compliance necessity” to make sure that people know their legal obligations like “knowledge, notice, informed consent” when using cloud computing or social media tools–especially those with data stored or accessed outside Canada, or those where the location of data storage is unknown; however, knowledge of such strict compliance requirements is information without context. In my opinion, de-contextualized knowledge doesn’t stick very well–and prevents people understanding why things are the way they are and what makes the specifics important in a particular context. It’s like learning the formula for the Pythagorean Theorem by heart (i.e. a² + b² =c²) without understanding the context of a right triangle. In fact, during school math, I had difficulty with that entire formula until I finally realized that it dealt strictly with right triangles and always referred to the relationship of 2 sides of a triangle to its hypotenuse: while the sides might change, the hypotenuse never did. (A little math lesson, too? 🙂 ) This is one of the reasons I now like to give some sense of the historical context that ‘grew’ FIPPA, its amendments & regulations when I present the topic to BC educators–not only the global context but also regional, as pertains to our particular province. Ensuring educators have some understanding of the context in which FIPPA legislation was written, has been amended, etc., is a best practice.

(Note: If you’re interested in approaches to privacy legislation, you should be following the current developments in the European Union since the “Safe Harbor Ruling” was struck down in 10/15. If you are following the current EU situation, and are familiar with the BC context, there are clear parallels between  the circumstances under which the EU’s new privacy legislation is unfolding and BC’s current FIPPA laws and regulations; BC was just a bit earlier.)

Now for an in-the-field example of strict compliance necessity vs. best practice with students… In strict compliance with FIPPA and FIPPA Regulations, nowhere does it direct educators to specifically provide students (and their parents/guardians where applicable) with the steps to delete accounts after a class or course–though Section 11 of the FIPPA Regulations speaks to providing “the date on which the consent is effective and, if applicable, the date on which the consent expires” (See BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation, Section 11, ). It does, however, fit under the legally interpreted aspects of “knowledge” and “notice” for mitigating risks that are critical to the concept of “informed consent”. It is also a practice I encourage my graduate students to use in my OLTD 506  course (#OLTD506) here at VIU (#VIUEd).  When a course/class using a specific online tool comes to an end, providing support documentation or tutorials that walk students through the deletion of accounts or data–as is reasonably and practically possible–would be a best practice not only in British Columbia, but anywhere. In fact, teaching students how to manage the lifecycle of their accounts and associated services/products over time teaches good digital hygiene necessary for a digitally literate citizenry.

If you’re wondering what such a document might look like, here is an example I’ve drafted for our VIU Faculty of Education: Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared .

NOTE BENE: A ‘how to delete an account or data’ document such as this does not replace  the documentation required for obtaining informed student consent to use tools like Google Accounts & YouTube in a BC school under FIPPA. In our case, consent documentation was provided separately along with activity alternatives for students. Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared is provided to students as a supplement to consent documentation.

This document was designed for use with university students in classes where the use of Google and YouTube was encouraged. If you created a similar document, you would need to tailor your content to

  • the specific tool(s) you are using & their processes for deletion/ account closure
  • the level of your audience(s) (i.e. for students and caregivers)
  • your specific school policies, and/or regional laws/regulations

and the document should include the names & contacts for the relevant individuals who can lend support.

Let me know what you think of this post & shared document. I hope it inspires you to do your own thing to “Play Your Part For a Better Internet” on Safer Internet Day 2016.

If you would like to adapt this form for your own use, just contact me & I’m happy to extend permission.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t use CC licensing here, the research I’ve seen shows that “attribution” is rarely given as requested. You’ll see I gave attribution above to the CC0 image I used even though it wasn’t strictly necessary; it’s a thanks to the author from me. If you know of research showing the statistics have changed, share it with me and I’ll be happy to revisit my licensing commitments. 🙂 )


Images Made with Art Interactives: Are They ‘Art’?

November 11, 2010
Mona Lisa (L. Da Vinci)

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Each year since I’ve been working at VIU’s Faculty of Education, I’ve been doing a workshop on art and technology for pre-service teachers. About 80-85% of the participants tend to be novice tech-users, so I generally introduce them to an image creation/editing program. Lately, my tool of choice is –primarily because it is cloud-based with powerful high-end features. I start out by having students download a copy of the Mona Lisa. They then build a reflection & play with it in a variety of ways. (I do other things, but this is the ‘skills’ portion of my show.) In the past, I’ve had some year-4 students say, “This isn’t art.”  I grew up with an older sister who did graphic art—like designing business cards and medical illustration—so I know that art can be practical as well as ‘fine’. I point out that creating and making images with this type of software is similar to graphic design and has lots of applications: used for presentations, magazine covers, etc. Also, playing with an image is a non-threatening entry to art for the art-phobic. Students can learn basic skills so that when they are confronted with a literal blank canvas it’s a bit less daunting.

This year, I wanted to include some mobile art-inspired sites or apps. The night before the presentation, I did some research and found a couple I liked.  One was ‘s online interactive.

Julia's Pollock-esque Image

Julia's Pollock-esque Image Created on

The program allows you to create Jackson Pollock –type art.

The program randomizes the colours; the user controls where the strokes move & their weight.Through trial and error users determine that different movements create different sizes & shapes of digital paint on the digital canvas.

Another example was the Arcs21 ( ) app by Lia. This is an iPhone/iPad app that generates an image constructed of arcs. Take a look at the screen shots here . The user can manipulate the arcs by shaking the phone (randomizes arcs), touching the phone screen (relocates the origin of the images), and resetting menu options like count, length, feather, density, speed and colours. From the Pollock interactive, a user could create a screen capture to show his/her work. Arcs21 allows the user to “save a photo” of the work at a selected point in the process.

While playing with Arcs21, I turned to my visiting sister and said, “Do you think this is art?”

She firmly replied, “No.” If there was a hesitation, I didn’t detect it.

“Why not?” I asked. I was puzzled. I was interacting with tools and materials to create the image. Why wouldn’t that be art? So I asked her, “What is your criteria for making art?”

Her response was, “It has to be created from raw materials.”

“What about mosaics?” I asked next. To me, those bits of tile were created by someone else. Still, she wouldn’t agree that what was produced with this app would be art. The classification issue troubled me. Why wouldn’t it be considered art? Would others say it wasn’t art?

Fast forward to the next morning. I demoed the Pollock interactive & the Arcs21 app during the art & technology sessions. With the Pollock one, I demoed it at the front of a room on a SMART board showing how you use your finger would “paint” the screen. I even had students throw Koosh balls to edit & interact with the image. I then passed my iPhone around the room with Arcs21 running and asked the students to interact with it. I then questioned, “Are the images created with these programs ‘art’?” While most of the students thought it was ‘art’ there were several dissenters.  One objected to the lack of control over the colours in the Pollock interactive. She thought, if it was ‘art’ the artist needed to be able to control the colours. I asked, “If you gave a 3rd grader 3 crayons and asked him to draw, would that be art?” The answer was, yes. In fact, what if a student had a single crayon that produced random colour? There are crayons like that.  The next dissenter said that the problem was that the art wasn’t completely created by the person using it. I pointed out that one artist could paint a background, and ship a canvas to another who painted the foreground. They might never meet to collaborate—was that ‘art’? The answer was again, yes. So, I said, “Your issue is that the collaborator is a machine, not a person?” The student replied that ‘art’ needed to be created by humans. I asked if the artist and the programmer who created Arcs21 would be considered people & whether they could be considered human “collaborators”. The student was not comfortable with that classification, and maintained it wasn’t art.

Later that week, I ran the session for the second section of the pre-service year-4s. The next group was much less resistant to the concept of this type of image creation being ‘art’. Still, about 2 students in the group of 30+ didn’t think it was ‘art’. I shared my background discussion leading up to considering whether this was art. I shared my interactions with the previous section of year-4’s and asked if one of these year-4’s would explain their stance. One student piped up, “I’m trying to figure out why it wouldn’t be art? I haven’t decided.” Another asked, “Would the main reason you show these be to get students talking about what ‘art’ is?”

Whether a teacher, or user considers the images created by these types of program authentic ‘art’ or not, they are great discussion starters for classes on art, technology, philosophy, and more. Further, the fact that these programs give art-phobic students a place to “play” before trying to start from scratch is another valuable feature.  Technology can provide a new hook to get students engaged in ‘art’ regardless of its form. Just as electronic books and e-readers are regenerating interest in the written word, generative, interactive art applications can regenerate interest in arts, genres and artists. Check out some other art-based iPhone apps here:

Go2Web20: directory of Web 2.0 resources

June 23, 2009


A big shout out to TeacherTechBlog for turning me on to Go2Web20. This site provides a directory of web 2.0 & social networking applications searchable by keywords–like elearning, teacher, knowledge, community, etc. Here is a screen shot of a search on “elearning”.


When you mouse over each icon you get a brief descriptor. If that’s not enough info the little keypad looking icon at the top right of the search allows you to switch to an annotated list view like below:

annotated view

This is going to be one of my new favourites as I dig in to find gems like Where I can create online activities & assessments for students.

yacapacaI sure hope this moves out of beta–try it yourself.

delicious discovery–tip

May 17, 2009

Cool. Was bookmarking in delicious w/txt highlighted on screen–automatically went into delicious notes. Good to know! Any other tips?