Just a few weeks into my new role at Microsoft as the UK Education Marketing Manager, I received an email from Chris Byers, founder of EduGeek.net, kindly inviting me to attend the 2011 conference in Preston.

For those unfamiliar with the community, EduGeek is a free online peer support community and information portal for IT professionals predominantly working in the field of education. As of June 2010, EduGeek had 31,000 members and is growing rapidly due to a large number of eager new international members, most notably from the US. I will update this post when I get the confirmed current membership numbers.

I didn’t have much involvement with EduGeek during my time at ULCC, but had heard a lot about the great community that Chris and his team has built over the last few years. With this in mind, I was excited to meet some of the community members and learn a little more about some of the challenges facing the schools sector.

So with the SatNav programmed and enough travel sweets to keep me going for a round the world trip, I jumped in the car and headed up to Preston for what I was sure was going to be a great conference.

The conference was held at University of Central Lancashire's Westleigh Conference Centre, which turned out to be the perfect venue for the day: picturesque grounds, ample parking and an internet connection that mostly, apart from a slight blip, held up to the demands of a tech hungry audience.

The perfect ingredients for a great conference!

EduGeek Conference 2011

In terms of the content on the day, it definitely lived up to my expectations. Like many conferences, it’s the people you meet during the day that make attendance most worthwhile, but content highlights included the following:

Rick Byers (Head of Operations @ CTI Group) - The DPA Myths and Musts

Rick Byers, brother of Chris Byers (founder of EduGeek.net) and Head of Operations at CTI Group, gave an insightful overview of the 'Myths and Musts' associated with the Data Protection Act (DPA) and how it impacts the education sector.

Before launching into a breakdown of these myths and musts, Rick presented some useful background on the DPA which helped build a great foundation for the content to follow. The core element of which is that the DPA is designed to allow the free transfer of personal data whilst safeguarding that data, but is not designed to stop the flow of data.

Furthermore some countries are more stringent than others with this responsibility. The UK, for example, is often criticised in this area and could improve. Food for thought…

So with that background in place, here are the DPA Myths and Musts.

The Myths

  • DPA stops parents from taking photos in schools - False
  • DPA stops parents from finding out their kids exam results - False
  • Aims to protect peoples privacy - False
  • Laws across the EU provide the same level of data protection - False
  • Personal data is private information about a person -False
  • You can process data freely if its already public knowledge - False
  • Only personal data of EU residents is protected - False
  • Only EU organisations are caught by EU data protection laws - False
  • You can easily get hold of all documents an organisation holds that contain your personal data - False
  • If someone processes your personal data without your consent
    • You can get compensation - False
    • They're committing a criminal offence - False
    • You can stop others from processing your personal data if you don’t want then to - False
    • Journalists and bloggers can freely publish your personal data – False

The Musts

  • You must obey the law
  • You (and your organisation) must be registered with the DPA

Additionally, here are the 8 core principles of the DPA and some other useful references by Rick.

clip_image001

So to conclude, the DPA Summary is here to protect us, not hinder, and that we all benefit from its remit. We are, however, all bound by the act so folks can't simply opt-out at will. The taxman will have a few things to say about this, I am sure!

Tom Newton @ Smoothwall

Rather than present a deck on Smoothwall's range of web filtering and firewall technologies, Tom gave an amusing presentation on a selection of his favourite free web apps that the EduGeek community might find useful.

I will take some time over the weekend to check out some of these in more detail.

The other sessions by Adobe, LUNS, AEG and DELL were also very interesting, but these 2 session stood out for me in particular.

As I mentioned in the opening to this post, I really enjoyed my first EduGeek Conference and look forward to attending the 2012 event. The content was great, but it was the community members that really made the event for me.

Thanks again to Chris for inviting me and for the EduGeek members for making me feel so welcome!