Data Day Stuff

Back to work and back to the data day routine. (Sorry, I couldn’t help that one pun.) In fact data and more specifically the security of it, has been at the forefront of my mind several times today.

1. Morning Coffee

I start the day with a quick coffee and a look at the news and what do I discover? IT experts believe that primary school teachers are putting their students’ data at risk (SHOCK!) by taking data home with them (HORROR!), where it could be lost (SCANDAL!).

That sounds quite bad, but hold on a moment, what data are we talking about here? That would be teachers’ mark books, which in this modern era are often stored electonically (we’re not all dinosaurs you know). Plus there is no suggestion that any data has actually been lost, just that it could have been.

According to the survey, only 1% of teachers encrypt this data (which is pretty bad), but teachers (primary and secondary) have always taken this data home – the nature of the job involves marking at home, which implies recording the marks at home in a markbook. The mere (and frankly unsatisfactory) 1% of teachers who encrypt their data does actually represent an improvement on the 0% of paper-based markbooks that are encrypted.

I have student data at home now, because I have to mark a set of exam scripts this evening, so my markbook (on my school laptop) is sitting next to me. In an ideal world I wouldn’t bring this type of stuff home, but that’s the nature of the job: I have (at least in theory, although not always in practice) a minimum of 2.5 hours a week during school time to do planning, preparation and assessment work. That’s simply not sufficient to complete all my marking, let alone planning and preparation, but extra work outside of ‘directed hours’ is part of the job. I could stay in school to complete the work, in fact sometimes I do, but would you sit in a freezing cold building on a January evening or would you work at home?

I’m not moaning about the work, that’s the nature of the job, but if anyone seriously wants teachers to stop taking data home then some major changes in working (and heating) practices are needed. In the meantime, I promise faithfully not to put all of my data on disks and dispatch it to random government departments via Dodgy Courier Company Inc so that it goes mysteriously astray….

2. Lunch break

A quick Internet fix at lunchtime got me laughing. Shock! Horror! Scandal! Jeremy Clarkson admits he was wrong!

JC had decided that all the fuss about lost data disks was ridiculous, so he published his bank account details in his column in The Sun and told readers how to trace his address. He was totally confident that this carried no risk.

“All you’ll be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing.”
Jeremy Clarkson

Except that someone has rather enterprisingly set up a £500 direct debit from his account in aid of a diabetes charity. How marvellous!

“I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.”
“Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”
Jeremy Clarkson

Tee hee, ha, ha, snigger, snigger.

3. After School Meeting

I am not a big fan of meetings. I can see that they are necessary, but meetings are not often particularly interesting experiences. Today’s meeting was different. We spent an hour watching a presentation about safety online, in preparation for some work we will be doing with our students. This didn’t sound as if it would be great, but the speaker was excellent and I’m sure that she will do a great job of launching this project with our students.

The main point of all this is to get our students to think about the personal data that many of them happily give away to total strangers online, but then she mentioned teachers’ data. “How many teachers have public profiles on social networking sites?” asked our speaker. “Would those people want to students to see their personal photos?” (A similar question to one I asked earlier this year in the staffroom, but I was mocked for my backward anti-Facebook attitude.)

Ooh look, some people rushing off to review their Facebook pages.

Ooh look, I’m in smug mode.

4 comments to Data Day Stuff

  • Ooops – does that make me a dinosaur?

    I mark my books at home, write the marks in a mark book, total them every month and then add them to the computer.

    Damn, it does sound daft when I write that. Maybe I should “get with the program” and start using the laptop a bit more.

  • Now I’m sitting here feeling embarrassed as I realise that I’ve just called most of my colleagues dinosaurs…. I was being a bit flippant!
    I think most people still do use paper mark books – my point is really that the data is no more or less secure on a disk/memorystick/laptop than in a markbook.

  • No, I do disagree here.

    No-one would steal a markbook from the seat of a car. If you left a laptop on the seat of a car, in almost any area, it wouldn’t be there when you come back. n

    There isn’t usually any other info than marks and names/forms in markbooks (maybe the odd note from a parent or another teacher tucked in), whereas there is often a lot of other identifying personal data on a laptop.

    I know of several teachers who allow their kids to use their laptops or PCs with their student data on them – and not always with separate profiles.

    All that is needed (and it will come) is for laptops (or whatever) to only be the controlled entry point to a secure school server, not the vehicle
    for storing actual data. This already happens in many large corporate organisations.

    Did you see the TV programme with Jermey Vine on young person online security recently? Scary stuff!


    I’ve watched some of it, but not all of it yet (I’m still watching on the i-player).

    So far it’s along very similar lines to the presentation we were given in school. The safety project that we are running with our students has started, although not with my own form’s yeargroup yet. It’ll be interesting to see how they react, I really do hope it is an effective project.

    It has already been effective for those staff who are parents – I think just about everyone went home and discussed the net with their kids.