tl;dr - Annotating terms of service to engage critical lenses on teaching and learning platforms

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

How do we engage with terms and conditions set by teaching and learning platforms used in higher education? This hands-on session offers a tool, created by the presenters, for analyzing platforms with the goal of protecting students’ data and privacy. Get out your “red pens” and prepare to annotate!


Amy Collier received her doctorate in Family Studies from Texas Woman’s University in 2008. Through her graduate studies in social sciences and 10+ years working in faculty development, Amy has been an advocate for learners and teachers across a variety of educational institutions, from community-based service organizations to large public broad-access universities. Currently, Amy is the Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College, where her strategic vision positions Middlebury as a leader in creating and sustaining a global learning community through digital pedagogies and technologies. Prior to this, Amy was the Senior Director for Inspiration and Outreach in the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning at Stanford University, where she oversaw online and blended course design initiatives, conducted research to inform effective teaching practice, and was a strong advocate for evidence-based instructional improvement, strategy and planning.
Adam Croom is a faculty member in the Strategic Communication area of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Croom also serves the university in a separate capacity as the Director of the Office of Digital Learning. Croom completed his Masters at Pepperdine University where he studied education and learning technologies. His research focused on networked approaches to online learning in public relations design courses.

Extended Abstract

Faculty and academic technologists are often encouraged to utilize and adopt an ever expanding number of educational platforms that exist on the web. To what extent does student privacy play into these decisions? How can we provide ways of both critiquing and evaluating platforms based on their data practices?

In light of growing concerns about how our higher education institutions protect (or, often, don’t protect) students’ data and privacy, we have been exploring the idea of Digital Sanctuary. Digital Sanctuary, modeled on the sanctuary city and campus movement, asks universities and colleges to seriously question their student data practices, policies, and systems. While Digital Sanctuary is an increasingly important part of conversations in IT and academic technology circles, a more nuanced view on teaching and learning platforms is difficult in practice.

As we explored how to enact Digital Sanctuaries for our students, within each of our very different institutional contexts, we began designing a tool that would a) allow for an open and transparent conversation on data usage and b) give institutions the opportunity to see plain language explanations for how student data is being treated by third-party companies. We were inspired by the ways Mike Caulfield’s Digital Polarization project affords students, faculty, and staff opportunities for agency as they critically evaluate information on the web. Similarly, we wanted to build a browser-based tool that would allow faculty, staff, and students to easily, yet carefully, reflect on the data and privacy issues of tools we use in higher education.

In this session, participants will learn about both the methodology and the technology. Participants will given the opportunity experiment with the tool we created and begin collaboratively annotating terms and conditions of various learning platforms. This session will also provide an opportunity for us to gain valuable feedback on the tool.

In addition to the hands-on part of this session, we will explore with participants how the tool might be used for advocacy, policy making, and necessary conversations at institutional, national, and international levels. As an example, we might begin to explore how this tool can also be utilized to examine what organizations are funding education technology tools and their influence.