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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Visually Inspire Communication

Create adaptive learning environments with your coworkers  – illustrate data with infographics and share a story with an interactive presentation.

Scenario #1: Create infographics using Piktochart
My objective is to make static documentation interactive. An infographic enriched with color, easy-to-follow data and hyperlinks to wiki content and videos or GIFs was the best choice.

Identify audience and the best way to present ideas to the user. How should users interact with the information? Determine what content to use; often times statistical data can be represented as charts or simple graphics. Keep in mind less is more, so chunk content with different colors or blocks to separate text like shown here:
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You want a natural flow of progression when reading the document. Try to make eye-popping designs with little distractions to esthetics. Incorporate themes, embed graphics, videos and map plugins to engage users. In the end, you will have an infographic that is dynamic, appealing and promotes communication throughout the organization.

Piktochart is a free application available for download on my native PC. This program enabled me to choose preloaded templates or start a project from scratch. I enjoyed the user-friendly interface.

Use Also: visual.ly, infogr.am, Snag-It

Scenario #2: Create interactive presentations using Intuilab
Think Powerpoint2.0. Business presentations are no longer boring slides with lame animation or remote clickers with lazer pointers. Instead, presentations are interactive and reinventing communication.

Convey a message by guiding your users through a digital experience that tells a story. Interact with the slides; maximize the screen, highlight, swipe and draw over images.
Deliver and collaborate amongst coworkers in the cloud. Build presentations and distribute across multiple platforms and devices.

Intuilab appealed to me because of its touch screen capabilities. I also was able to learn this software quickly providing “if, then” statements that replaced code. Pros: All access sandbox. Cons: Compatible only with Windows 7 & 8; HTML release by the end of 2013.

Use Also: swipe.to, prezi, mural.ly

This week’s cleaning house: Websites, Design and Tweets

This week on 60 Minutes we were shown beyond the yellow construction tape of the new 9/11 museum. Designers gave us first views of the museum which is built over the sphere, the former statue and fountain that stood in between the twin towers. The museum will be a place of remembrance and a place to be silent to honor the ones lost.

I participated in the “How a Technology Integrator Chooses the Right Tools for the Job” Webinar sponsored by edWeb.net. I even received a CE certificate!

Balsamiq proved to be a suitable alternative for building wire frames as to my dismay, OmniGraffle is only offered on the iPad. I now have another reason to stay non iOS: compatibility issues.

I learned that GIFs, short animated videos (sometimes on a cruel loop) are useful to illustrate simple repeatable steps in technical documentation.

Wix.com is an intuitive website production tool that is free and requires no coding. For future endeavors, I will stick with wix.

In printing my own business card with vista print, I came across eye popping designs. What a difference texture makes to a sleek finish.

And in culmination of all things learned: I was mentioned on Twitter, which hinted at IPO.

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How is technical communications evolving?

In the few short years I’ve been in the biz, I’ve seen a drastic push for online help in replacing traditional text outputs. The bible-length manuals we used to print were often seen as an afterthought for products. While each doc set has a particular purpose and audience, companies are now looking to social collaboration to drive customer satisfaction. Wikis with embedded social help features offer real-time customer feedback about a product, crucial from a developer’s standpoint and marketing teams post launch.

Microsoft SharePoint: ‘Yammer’ is a social media tool fostering collaboration, knowledge and efficiency. There are endless possibilities with  apps and open APIs to be explored. Naturally Yammer is paired with Microsoft products; which means, a Microsoft Dynamics integration supersedes Salesforce CRM.

Mindtouch: ‘A social help system that includes a knowledge base, help center, ticketing integration and a help button.’ Enough said.

Atlassian Confluence Wiki: A robust system designed with JIRA users in mind. Some key features are: Embed Google docs, Scroll Version, and team calendars. Want a slimmer version, perhaps on a diet? Try Confluence Blueprints.

MadCap Flare: ‘Pulse’ is a social collaboration platform in conjunction with the Help Authoring Tool. While pricey, MadCap serves the purpose in finding one software to do five, ten, fifty, one hundred tasks in one.

Want to read more about wikis?: Follow the discussion on LinkedIn.