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

The brain behind Google Engineering – Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil, futuristic thinker, TEDTalks, SXSW speaker, and founder of Kurzweil Education Systems. He is the man who thinks he will live forever and inventor of the Kurzweil Reading Machine, developed with optical character recognition (OCR) technology and text-to-speech software for sighted and blind people.

In 2012, Larry Page hired him as the director of engineering at Google. Following my last post, Kurzweil is working on projects with machine learning (AI) and natural language processing.  By 2029, Kurzweil hopes artificial intelligence will be able to recognize human emotion and advanced syntactic parsing.


For clarification, [Kurzweil]:

My mission at Google is to develop natural language understanding with a team and in collaboration with other researchers at Google. Search has moved beyond just finding keywords, but it still doesn’t read all these billions of web pages and book pages for semantic content. If you write a blog post, you’ve got something to say, you’re not just creating words and synonyms. We’d like the computers to actually pick up on that semantic meaning. If that happens, and I believe that it’s feasible, people could ask more complex questions.

Kurzweil is using Google as a catalyst to propel artificial intelligence into the future. With great anticipation, I can’t wait to see Google’s transcendence into machine learning research.

Don’t just Transform, but Revolutionize Education

A manifesto of sorts. A call for change…

What is wrong with education today? There is not enough personalized instruction. We need better data to drive scalable solutions which means results in the classroom. We need predictive analytics asking people how they learn best and software designed to progress with its users. Let’s disrupt the linear vision of how students learn and introduce different modes.

Better data
Correlations. Frequencies. Algorithms — I was never good at math. Ultimately, data analytics should help us make informed decisions that propose change.

Break silos
It’s not just about alleviating a ten-pound backpack with a ten ounce tablet, but breaking common misconceptions of the intersection of education and technology. Let’s not pigeonhole ourselves into thinking curriculum should be delivered one way.

Deliver dynamic solutions
I use the term ‘solution’ loosely in trying to prove the point that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning. Through psychometrics and analysis, deliverables should be adaptable to a user’s needs. We should identify issues at the forefront, instead of making them an afterthought. 

Here is a thought:

Pierson Labs/Declara’s Ramona Pierson (also a SXSW 2014 panel electee) pushes mass production to mass customization with big-data education models.  Her team is developing an algorithm to map the learning methods of teachers with the needs of the classroom, addressing a student’s comprehension in realtime.

My first Meetup event

I spent this evening at my first networking event for EdTech in Boston. Organized by LearnLaunchX, I joined maybe forty guests in a hot, no AC room on the sixth floor of the PayPal offices on Oliver Street, walking distance to the aquarium.

We mingled, we exchanged business cards, we awkwardly looked at each other wondering who would crack the ice first, and we all probably had wished it went on for a few more hours… After our initial meet & greet session, we broke into groups to discuss topics that we previously chose on mobile, adaptive learning, MOOCs, flipped classrooms and ‘others.’

In the alotted time, there was only an opportunity to meet twice in small groups. For my first discussion on adaptive learning, we defined this method of using technology to adapt to different learning techniques, and shared ideas how to blend adaptive approaches and individualized learning. Everyone who contributed brought their own unique background and knowledge into the conversation.

The second discussion I sat in on was about MOOCs, or massive open online courses. We identified ways they are disrupting traditional pedagogical approaches — no more brick and mortars. (We now have face-to-computer interaction with virtual teachers.) Conversly, MOOCs are furthering our idea of a competency-based curriculum and everyone agreed with my point, MOOCs can become influential in the K12 market if used as a supplemental learning device. And we also talked briefly about the number of class enrollees verses those that actually completed the course. To no surprise, the number of enrollees far surpasses the latter.

What I learned about my first event: Butt in, but be polite, don’t drink the beer unless you want a bad breath (no I did not indulge, I needed to be an observant pedestrian taking public transportation back home) and print those business cards. I walked away with a small pile of business cards and if you can make at least one really good connection, you are all set.

Oh, did I mention the beer? There was Coors Light and some other generic brew. Now that’s where my entry fee went…

UPDATE: FB photos from the event

Is Beantown the next Silicon Valley of EdTech startups?

Any good startup starts with smart, curious people. We ask each other why and observe from one another. We seek comfort knowing we are collaborating with like-minded people who believe in the same values.

Its the strength of a team brainstorming and working together in close quarters that fosters growth; a seed with the help of a community that flourishes into a sustainable tree.

In Boston we have an EdTech boom! There are numerous publishing powerhouses (Pearson, HMH [now IPO], Cengage, Wiley, etc.) and companies new (Socrative) and old (Khan Academy) offering educational resources to K12 & Higher Ed markets.

LearnLaunchX is Boston’s first EdTech accelerator, with an inaugural cohort program for eight lucky startups. The chosen companies receive funding and a three-month residency at Back Bay’s Exponential sharing space.