Cybera cloud helping Alberta school protect student privacy

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Alberta offers several lesson plans to help students protect their privacy on the internet, including one titled “Getting the Toothpaste Back into the Tube: A Lesson on Online Information.” The lesson’s main takeaway is that, once something is put online, it’s almost impossible to take back offline.

As the synopsis for the lesson plan notes, anything that goes online should be considered: “permanent; can be copied; can be seen by unintended, and potentially much larger audiences; and is searchable.”

This is not only a good reminder for students — but for people of all ages — to think before they post something on the internet. For educators like David Hay, an elementary teacher with Elk Island Public Schools in Sherwood Park, Alberta, the need to protect the online privacy of himself and those around him is a responsibility he takes doubly seriously.

This is why he has begun utilizing an alternative method to posting student videos online. He wanted to avoid commonly used but not-so-private streaming services such as YouTube and Vimeo. Instead, he has implemented a private video sharing application for his school — hosted on Cybera’s Rapid Access Cloud — that is just as easy to use.

“Our school does a live video announcement each week, led by student ‘anchors’,” says Hay. “It’s completely run by the Grade 5 students, who develop the script and do the live production, and the announcements typically feature a video update from a different class in the school each week. 

“We’ve been doing this for years, and were streaming the announcements on YouTube, but we started to have some technical issues and, of course, the privacy concerns kept growing.”

Hay, who is an experienced programmer (and who works part-time with Cybera to promote the Callysto program — an online platform for teaching students computational thinking), decided to see if he could find an alternative to YouTube for sharing videos easily, while still maintaining privacy.

That’s when he happened upon the MistServer, an open source video content distribution platform designed for developers and system integrators. He was able to spin up an instance of a MistServer on the Rapid Access Cloud (Cybera’s free, Alberta-based cloud computing resource for local academics, researchers and non-profits), and has begun hosting the announcement shows there.

“The video stream goes live on the server, and teachers use the link to this server to watch the live video in their classes each week,” says Hay. “What’s great is the link remains the same, so we don’t have to send a new one every week.

“So we have a reliable system, the link is the same, and best of all, it’s private to our school, so we don’t need to worry about the videos and images of students leaking online.”

Hay can now focus on the fun side of video production with his students, including experimenting with remote video capture and trialing different video effects. 

As multimedia becomes more integrated in K-12 classrooms, and teachers are taking on the role of technical gurus, it’s an added relief to not have to worry about the privacy implications of their class projects!