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.

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.

The next generation of wikis

Did you know the origin of the word wiki is Hawaiian, meaning quick, fast? Wikis are website portals that are open for anyone to edit content. I use the word portal precisely as wikis are not static webpages. You can navigate from any one given point and easily be redirected to other sources for PDF files, video links, etc. It is meant to be on the cloud, meaning anyone can contribute, but there are also precautions that can be made in order to manage user’s views and permissions of content.

In tech writing, wikis are replacing the traditional user manual. No longer will you have to print out a ten-page quick start guide for a product, but instead enjoy a much more friendly user experience. Wikis are interactive, intuitive and visible throughout the organization.

Some of the top wiki providers are Mediawiki, Confluence, and Dokuwiki. One company offering an alternative solution to Confluence Wiki, however, is Mindtouch.

There are a few key features that beats the rest:
– Mindtouch’s product is context-sensitive
– Offers a robust reporting feature (aka Google Analytics for Marketing)
– Integrates CRM (Salesforce) data for real-time product feedback
– Bug tracking system that can replace or used in conjunction with JIRA
– More outputs and even offers an easy Flare-to-Mindtouch wiki migration
– and did I mention Agile friendly?

So get on board with Mindtouch, because they are redefining the user manual with a more impressive wiki.