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.


The power of BYOD

BYOD, Bring your own device is something I’ve discussed here before, but let’s take a deeper look.
Essentially BYOD is a new trend in Higher Ed and commercial markets of promoting mobile learning and communication throughout the organization. Frankly, its a cheaper solution for companies to provide employees with their own mobile devices. The CIO of law firm Foley & Lardner LLP stated in an online interview, ‘BYOD integration saved his company $100,000 in hardware expenses.’

Where is BYOD implemented?
Companies like Dell use it, while Apple promotes their own iOS platform and tools to create BYOD programs.
Higher education

The biggest challenge for companies implementing BYOD is data protection. Security and server-related problems pose a threat to virtual environments. We as consumers want to ensure data is transferred safely onto the devices of our liking. Solution? Pair seasoned veterans offering virtualization and data protection products with companies who are integrating this into their workforce. I’ve researched three different companies offering cost-effective solutions to this challenge.
VMware, a large-scale enterprise solution for virtualization
Infinio, a Boston-based startup addressing data storage
Syncsort, a mid-sized company in New Jersey specializing in data protection and integration

With the rise of electronic medical records (EMRs), the need for BYOD to accommodate an ever-changing workforce is greatly needed. A major concern to healthcare professionals, however, has been making these initiatives adhere to HIPAA rules and regulations. Solution? Make sure organizations set clear guidelines for employees’ usage and ensure HIPAA compliance.

Lastly, Higher Education has seen a shift in digital learning. It would be an expensive feat for school districts to provide each student with a laptop, smart phone or tablet. So, encouraging personal devices in the classroom only sounded appropriate. One challenge is whether districts can support this infrastructure and added bandwidth. Solution? Perhaps schools should partner with internet providers (Verizon’s 4G network) to find scalable network solutions.

Pearson, taking one step further towards digitalization

There is a lot of hupla surrounding technology in higher ed right now and I am only excited to see where it is going next.
Let me break some things down for you first:

BYOD/BYOT (bring your own device/technology encourages students to use their own devices to retrieve information)
MOOC (massive open online course, now being offered at Universities and the Museum of Natural History)

It is inevitable for the textbook industry to, well, ‘budgetize’ their print production to meet the needs of the market. Cengage, Macmillan, and Pearson are making their strides to adapt to a changing market by partnering with CMS providers, creating textbooks that are far less traditional black-and-white paper and more full multimedia experiences and recently, acquiring small startups. Pearson, for example bought Learning Catalytics, software for teachers to collect and track a student’s retention and feedback during a lecture in real-time. [This could be used to prompt classroom discussions in both lower grades and seminars alike]. Pearson also continues to grow their eBook library, offers access codes providing resources to an accompaniment of MyLabs and is surely improving that drag-and-drop feature many like. But if decreasing the needs of traditional books being sold at college libraries and being used across classrooms, eventually focusing on an online curriculum or very best, a blended learning environment, what will this mean for professors? We are redefining the textbook and redefining the classroom experience right along with it. If textbooks are fading, will colleges jump on the wagon to offer MOOC-based curriculums?

Currently EdX, Udacity and Coursera are the three largest MOOC providers. They provide free classes out on the web (hence open courseware) to unenrolled students. ‘Students’ in the broad sense of the word… The Museum of Natural History recently joined Coursera in offering development courses to public school science teachers in NYC and some colleges have adopted the model ”flipping the classroom,” allowing instruction and homework to be done online and classroom discussion meant to facilitate discussion! These three companies will have an undeniable impact on higher ed in the future. It will be exciting and nerve wrecking to watch education transform. There will always be ups and downs. But if MOOC is changing our idea of learning, what does this also mean for the textbook industry? If publishers do not have a say over which titles are being offered, how will content be standardized? How will we regulate the Common Core? If any solution, MOOC providers should work one-on-one with the publishers to ensure content and all needs are met.