Teacher-student privacy Best Practices in the BYOD classroom

How do teachers monitor privacy in a BYOD classroom? With so many schools now adopting a bring your own device policy allowing students to access material the way they like in the classroom, an idea of privacy is addressed. Is a teacher able to access too much information on their student? Are online safety boundaries and precautions being dismantled from this shift in policy?

Over the years in various software development roles, I’ve observed how users interact with a product and developed documentation and a dynamic user experience around what I’ve learned. Many technical communications best practices can be applied to other fields as well.

Here are a few ways teachers can practice good privacy awareness in the school:

Establish a teacher-student written agreement
In business we call it a contract and in software, we call it a software license agreement. The SLA is a written agreement acknowledged by both parties and enables the end-user (in this case the student) to agree to the terms set by the licensor (the teacher). For example, a teacher could enforce a classroom BYOD etiquette document reminding students of regulations that she/he sends out at the beginning of each year. What better way to establish a set of rules between teacher and student while also educating about business relationships and contractual agreements?

Remind students of password protection
Single sign-on (SSO) allows end users to access data by signing on with one recognized key. You no longer have to keep track of a half dozen different password combinations of numbers, lowercase letters and special characters. Remind students of password rights and the importance of keeping data safe.

Model a student walkthrough for in-class tablets
As a technical writer we try to simplify steps for an end user, ensuring that following a predefined sequence will eliminate the chance of the user deviating off course, getting lost or confused, or just throwing away the manual (that we’ve slaved over) and/or product. A teacher developing a workflow or a set of steps for the student to follow may stop unwanted use of other tablet applications and distractions.

Initiate a help desk portal
When designing end-user documentation that addresses multiple topics, we develop context-sensitive help which is content chunked into themes and accessible by hyperlinks in the table of contents or at the beginning of each section. This makes it very user friendly so we all don’t have to sift through a multitude of irrelevant topics to get to the desired content. In the classroom find a way to display frequently addressed questions and a help section so students can send security issues instantly to the product’s customer support. Involve parents by creating a separate portal so they can monitor their own child’s mobile device privacy and connect to help desk support.

Push new content and system updates at once
Any good documentation makes note of changing requirements under versioning control. We want to make sure the user understands what fixes have been made since the last release and if any updates effect usability. You can apply the same standard in a classroom environment. When there is a new software release of an application, administer this content all at once to your student’s tablets. You will have greater control of their usage and specifically will be able to wipe data if all in sync.

Set user permissions
When developing documentation for different audiences or setting up a content management system for different roles, you want to create a unique experience specific to the needs of a user. So we add permissions. We apply standards indicating who can use what app or see what content. In the classroom, you can also monitor a student’s usage and therefore privacy through remote take over and blocking. Geofencing is another access control tool that can be used to restrict certain applications according to location with internal GPS. 

Note: Incorporating a discussion with your parents will be a great way to receive feedback on how the student is using the application outside the classroom. You want your parents to be just as excited about the power of tablets as you are. The kids are an easy sell and heck, many know how to use a tablet with greater ease than most. But getting your parents involved in their child’s enrichment at home is the most important – whether that is through a tablet borrowing program for parents or a parent-led focus group to build awareness and privacy best practices.

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