By contributor Marilyn Assaf
VIU graduate Breanne Quist is in the running for a national honour: the Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award, dubbed the most prestigious innovation award in Canada.
Quist has been nominated for her work creating The Privacy Compass, a website designed to help BC teachers, parents, and schools navigate privacy issues when selecting and using learning management systems and social media tools like Twitter, Pinterest, and other blogs.
Nominees are Canadians who have demonstrated recent innovative talent in developing and successfully marketing a new concept, process, or procedure. Quist finds out in March if she will receive one of two $10k awards from the Manning Awards Foundation.
“I’m super excited because being nominated is a huge honour,” says Quist, who graduated from VIU’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership program on Friday, January 30.
Quist holds two other VIU credentials: a Bachelor of Education degree and an Online Learning and Training Diploma (OLTD). She lives in Nanaimo and teaches all subjects in grades eight, nine, and 10; as well as high school technology classes for Anchor Academy, a distance education school in Salmon Arm.
“Breanne started the seeds of her Privacy Compass project in my Social Media 506 class as part of the OLTD program,” says VIU professor Julia Hengstler, who nominated Quist with OLTD professor Randy Labonte. “She continued her work as a master’s student under my supervision.”
BC has some of the strictest privacy legislation in Canada and North America, says Hengstler, especially with regard to public schools and their ability to use social media and learning management tools.
Quist’s Privacy Compass website was designed to provide the information and support necessary to make informed decisions and support schools and teachers in selecting appropriate tools, support teacher knowledge, and obtain informed consent from students and parents.
“Breanne created a framework for identifying key privacy considerations, evaluating them, communicating them to teachers and parents, and creating relevant permission forms,” said Hengstler. The website also includes templates and submission opportunities for other educators to contribute to the available support documentation.
Quist’s work was reviewed by the Manning Awards Foundation nomination panel with experts in the field, and she was designated as a national “qualified nominee,” much like a regional finalist.
She will receive a certificate from the Manning Foundation to acknowledge reaching this significant level in the awards competition.
Hengstler praises Quist’s dedication and commitment to the project and her studies, considering that she juggled motherhood and school responsibilities.
Quist gave birth to two children within 18 months while completing her OLTD and master’s programs at VIU.
“A lot of my blog posts for OLTD courses were posted at 2 am,” recalls Quist. “I was up with the kids, so I figured I’d be productive and get school work done. It was tough sometimes, especially when my husband was called out of town to work. I got through it thanks to the incredible support from VIU faculty like Julia Hengstler and others. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Privacy Company website showcases 10 online tools ,but there are literally hundreds out there, adds Quist. She plans to enhance the site by adding more tools, and possibly turning it into a business.
“It has a good potential,” she says. “The first week my website was launched in October, there were over 1000 views.”
Web users need to understand that there are privacy issues and risks when accessing online resources, adds Quist. “It’s about knowing what they are, and understanding the benefits of using the tools and managing risks.”
As an example of one potential risk, Quist points to the US Patriot Act.
“If a student or teacher uploads online resources to Google Docs for a family genealogy project, the US government could read through all your family information,” says Quist. “By signing up for Google, you’ve agreed to let them do this. A lot of people don’t realize this.”