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.


Professional Development changing standards

If there is one thing the NCLB taught us, that would be poor metrics and evaluations leads to teacher and student underperformance.

Bill Gates agrees, there should be a fairer way to evaluate a teacher in the classroom. Let’s use our resources and invest our money into technology that drives better professional development and evaluation metrics.

Many companies offer PD courses for employees seeking certifications and skills training. Courses are conducted onsite in a neighborhood facility, via webinar training or within an online learning management system.

PD organizations nationwide:

International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) – Making connections with professional learning opportunities

MindEdge – Massachusetts owned company offering narrative learning-based courses blended with innovative technology for Higher Ed clients (Check out their blog for the definition of interactivity in learning)

Educational Technology Training Center – Associated with the Richard Stockton School of Education, ETTC offers professional development aimed at increasing student achievement

Applying IBM’s Watson to Big Data Analytics in Education

‘A smarter planet is built on smarter analytics’

Anyone who has watched Jeopardy! for the last twenty odd years knows Watson as the computer genius who won against Ken Jennings on the show. Despite super intelligence, Watson’s cognitive software did not answer every question correctly. In fact during the second round contestants (human and AI) were stumped with this little known fact…Category? US Cities please. Its largest airport was named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.

Watson, the artificial intelligence computer designed by IBM was programmed to get most rapidly-fired questions correct, with the exception of a few trick contextual answers. Ironically, one of the system’s biggest flaws was deciphering pesty language idiosyncrasies. For example, English anomalies; idioms, conundrums, euphemisms, semantic woes and punctuation malfunctions. To resolve the slight hiccup, IBM designers focused on natural language processing to pick up on inconsistencies and ambiguities. (See Major tasks in NLP)

So with only ten seconds to answer the gameshow’s million-dollar question, how does a computer examine over 4TB or 200 million wiki sources? Did Watson use algorithms to sift through the data? This all led me to wonder, what role does big data and analytics play in the world today?

Putting Watson to Work chiefly explains research expansion in areas of finance, healthcare, mobile communication devices and engagement, or better customer relationships. It has huge potential in cross-industry disciplines. Imagine what Watson can do to drive better data analytics in education if we apply some of these principles:


Transform education through predictive analytics
Learn from software, improving outcomes for individual students
Align vision with data
Anticipate trends that shape the future
Act on decisions that optimize results

The Jeopardy answer was Chicago. I’m sorry Watson, but Toronto is not the US city we were looking for. If you only paid attention to context clues and punctuation: semicolons and syntax; the text directly following it.

After effects of NCLB Legislation

Education policies has been down a shaky road since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first administered in 1965, allowing federal funding for K12 schools. ESEA has changed many names since its inception and each transformation inherits the same goal: encourage an incentive program for outstanding performance. The ESEA Act was reauthorized as No Child Left Behind in 2001.

No Child Left Behind was administered to improve educational opportunities for low income students and to deliver accountability measures for underperforming districts. Mandatory each year under this act, students are tested in math and reading in grades 3-8 and once during grades 10-12. Annually students are tested once in science in grades 3-5, 6-8 and 10-12. These test scores must be published publicly with mention to any special populations including disabilities, ethnicity and family household income.

I argue two negative outcomes of this education policy. My disagreement with NCLB is with how a school’s performance is rated and the loss of funding in places it matters most.

Standardized Testing
Many parents, educators and students themselves believe teaching to the test has profound negative impacts on pedagogy and comprehension of material. I personally believe standardized tests teach memorization skills and are a poor indicator of a student’s aptitude with apparent disregard to creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving.

It is a fact, however, that states maintain funding (via NCLB waivers) if they require 95% of students to participate in standardized testing. What a great example of money dictating curriculum. Such debate has spewed parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.

Lost school funding
Over the last few years, New Hampshire has offered after-school tutoring at no cost to families who qualified for subsidies through the state’s funding campaign. The program was cut this year and questions, does our state motto Live free or Die pertain to education as well?

This all may seem out of date since Obama’s Race to the Top program has replaced NCLB. But there are plenty of states with substantial funding cuts due to poorly policed regulations. After Obama’s recent Presidential Address, I question what is being done to change our problems at home.

Side note: By 2014 all students must be proficient in grade level math and reading content areas. And parents: this is why we have a surge of consumerism in the classroom. Companies are racing to develop standard-aligned solutions; educational publishers, mobile app developers, big data big wigs.