Towards Compliant Instant Messaging in the Classroom

Instant messaging has become a big part of classroom life for many, and for a number of good reasons. 

It allows a more immediate, two-way communication between students and teachers, both in terms of operational matters (class feedback, due dates, class cancellations, or urgent notices), as well as co-learning. 

Plus, it helps keep the classroom atmosphere alive, which is a good way to preserve camaraderie when students are not physically in the same location, as has been the case in the last couple of months. 

But despite the benefits that instant messaging brings, it can easily turn into a minefield, where messages get piled atop each other, without any meaningful communication and plenty of difficulties to track what’s going on. And worse, schools can easily fall into the non-compliance trap, leaving theirs and their students’ privacy up for grabs.

Here are the key rules schools and teachers need to follow to make sure that they use instant messaging in the classroom properly and safely.

1. Use only approved educational software

Under FERPA, teachers are not allowed to use educational software (which includes instant messaging tools) for which the school doesn’t have the vendor contract. 

So in case you discover a piece of software that might suit your class nicely, it’s best you check with the school administration whether they have a vendor agreement in place.

In addition, it’s also important to check which instant messaging apps your school approves and adhere to the list of only those tools that have been vetted as safe. Otherwise, you’re risking to expose your and your students’ data. 

2. Ask for consent before using social networks

FERPA also introduces the rule under which schools need to get parents’ permission for underage students to use social networks and tools and connect them to classroom pages. 

Similar applies to students who are above the legal age: you need to get their consent before you can start using a platform for school-related matters.

Make sure you receive consent before adding any new social networks to your teaching arsenal, as it’s the safest way to avoid fines and repercussions for non-compliance.

3. Preserve information exchanged via instant messaging  

Instant messaging content is considered to be official business records, the same as email. This means that in case a student or parent files a FOIA request under which they ask for your school to disclose all records that pertain to the student, you would need to also make available the content the student exchanged from instant messaging software used for class purposes.

Given the unstructured nature and volume of this data, it’s impossible to do this manually, so in order to stay compliant with the regulations, your school’s tech team should investigate how this information capturing can be preserved automatically. 

For example, if you use tools such as WhatsApp to exchange class information, then it’s wise to have a dedicated archiving tool that can keep your WhatsApp archive running in the background. That way, in case there is a FOIA request, you can easily extract all the content related to the request and provide it to the party asking for information.

4. Use only business emails and accounts

When it comes to protecting students and school data, it’s safest to refrain from using personal emails for those purposes, no matter how inconvenient that might sometimes be (for instance if you don’t have remote access to your email from home or your personal device). 

Most schools have archiving tools in place that keep track of all communication between schools and teachers and third parties. That way, all official business records are safely stored and encrypted and can be reproduced in case of an emergency. 

But if you choose to use your personal emails or social media accounts, you might leave the data vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data thefts, with little to no chance of retrieving the data.

5. Use only trusted networks

To access your instant messaging tools you might need to log in using a network that’s not safe and with the potential for your messages to be stolen and your data exposed. Check with your school’s tech department for specific cyber security guidelines on which type of networks you should use and how to detect harmful ones.

6. Follow communication policies

The final step towards compliant instant messaging in the classroom is to create, or if there is one, to consistently implement existing communication policies. This means that no personal information or personal messages should be exchanged between teachers and students, and communication should take place only in designated and approved venues.

It’s important to mention this as sometimes, no matter how versed we are in following the rules, we might take a wrong step, and distribute information that we should not have exposed. This can then make us exposed to fines and penalties for non-compliance with current regulations. 

So, set clear guidelines and make sure everyone follows them consistently. Finally, instant messaging is likely to take up an even bigger part of communication in a school setting, so it’s key that we set it on the right footing from the get-go. 



Picking A Corporate Learning Management System: Features You Should Compare

Those of us working education can easily forget the we’re not the only ones who use Learning Management Systems. Though this guest post might be helpful to anyone in the corporate world looking to produce an LMS to help support employee learning during these unusual times. – KW

A company invests in the career growth of its employees by offering workplace learning opportunities, thus equipping them with the knowledge they need to perform their jobs better. Workplace learning/training is also essential for improving employee retention rates. But training employees comes with a host of responsibilities and you need to be well aware of a lot of important factors like:

  • What are your business training goals?
  • What concepts do you want to cover in the training sessions?
  • What is the best platform to help you achieve the desired training goals?

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve from this training is possible by making a list of your core L&D goals. When it comes to picking the best platform for training, top eLearning experts suggest using a Learning Management System(LMS) for streamlining the delivery of training material.

An LMS is a digital tool that comes as an all-inclusive solution for all your L&D needs. It is a cloud-based platform that allows you to execute, document, track, deploy and deliver training programs.

Picking the ideal LMS for training your employees can get a little unnerving considering there so many LMSs on the eLearning market out there. This makes it necessary to know exactly what you need to achieve with it and then compare the relevant LMS options before picking “the one”. For example, when you compare Mindflash LMS with Violet LMS, you’ll realize it offers the option of a free trial, which is an important aspect to consider.

To help you find out how to choose an LMS that matches your needs, we have compiled a list of features that you should compare before finalizing one for your organization:

  • User friendly interface: It is important for an LMS to enable effective building of training material with an easy-to-use interface. If the overall experience is tedious and takes a lot of maneuvers, it doesn’t prove to be a worthwhile investment. Therefore, you should verify during the free trial whether it is easy to navigate or not.
  • Seamless integration with important platforms: It is essential for the LMS to be capable of integrating with all the major platforms as well as the current technologies your company uses for smooth functioning. This saves you the trouble of manually updating employee data as it will automatically sync all the existing data with your platform.
  • Flexible tracking and reporting: It is important to train employees, but it is equally important to keep track of their training progress. An LMS should provide dashboards to track course completion and reflect pending elements. To assess how impactful the training is, an LMS must also have flexible reporting capabilities. Reports help you track performance and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Collaboration tools: Engagement with peers for group projects, online discussions and other team activities prove to be highly beneficial in aiding team building. It also leads to a better team learning experience. An LMS must offer various collaboration tools to allow employees to communicate with ease. Failing to do so may lead to an additional expense of incorporating external tools to meet these needs.
  • Gamification tools: Gamification is a technique that encourages learning through competition by use of fun game principles. It increases user engagement in eLearning by providing rewards based on assessment results. It has been proven that since such tools ensure a high rate of information retention.
  • Mobile learning: This is a must-have LMS feature considering it makes learning very convenient. An LMS featuring mobile capabilities allows users to participate from anywhere across the globe and via any mobile device they possess. It also allows them to have full control over their pace of learning.


The above mentioned features should save you a lot of valuable time while selecting an LMS that’s best suited for your organization. For optimal results, keep a list of your company’s unique needs in mind while making the selection.



NoRedInk: Meeting Grade Level Writing Skills During Challenging Times

Dr. Anita De La Isla and the Director of Language And Literacy at Coppell Independent School District in Coppell, Texas. CISD uses NoRedInk, an online writing platform designed to build strong writers through interest-based curricula, adaptive exercises, and actionaable data.

Dr. De La Isla was kind enough to answer some questions about the challenge students and educators are facing in these pandemic times, and the role NoRedInk is playing in keeping student actively engaged and evolving as writers.

Can you discuss some of the challenges you’re seeing at your school as students struggle to meet grade-level writing standards amid the pandemic?

As public educators, we find ourselves immersed in a great time of change as our schools are faced with new and difficult challenges. This experience brings opportunity for growth and our current situation is no exception. One of the greatest challenges we’ve encountered is being able to maintain stability and meet the individual social, emotional, and educational needs of learners while balancing all the chaos and uncertainty that a pandemic brings. Additionally, the pandemic has continued to stretch educators’ time, resulting in even less one-on-one instruction for students than before. I believe teachers across the nation are going to be crunched to ensure every student is meeting their learning targets.

None of us has experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. We are learning and adapting. Our students are learning and adapting. It’s a continuous ebb and flow. I’ve learned to give an abundance of grace and know that I’ve also needed to be the recipient of an abundance of grace. The beauty of all of this is that writing is therapeutic. We’ve seen some of the most beautiful writing emerge because of the pandemic.

Do you think the pandemic is exacerbating the current achievement gaps? How?

Absolutely, particularly as it relates to distance learning and students in low-income households or rural communities not having proper access to adequate computer devices and stable internet. This disparity between those students as compared to students in more affluent, urban areas is widening the gap.

Why is student engagement and student voice critical to boosting writing skills and bridging the achievement gap?

In Coppell ISD we are committed to transforming our classrooms into enriching literacy environments.  We strongly believe that students should be immersed in a community of writers where their voice, ideas and opinions are valued. NoRedInk equips us with a writing curriculum that is based on our students’ interests. We’ve seen that when our students write about what they know and are passionate about, their engagement in the writing experience increases. And when student engagement increases, student writing improves. We also believe in giving our students multiple opportunities to practice writing daily. We are committed to growing the writer, not just in improving a single piece of writing. Each writing piece should be an opportunity for reflection and growth in the transferable skills that can be applied across genres.

What is technology’s role in education?

Technology should leverage the instruction. In other words, Edtech should offer enhancements that otherwise would not have been possible without it. Right now, there’s no question that technology is the lifeline of all education amid the pandemic. All of these tools make it easier for educators to monitor, assess and provide feedback to learners. With so many teachers tasked with ensuring their students remain focused and engaged from afar, Edtech platforms like NoRedInk empower teachers to gauge student strengths and weaknesses, personalize instruction, and provide frequent feedback. The platform also tracks progress in near real-time for students in the classroom or at home.

Can you highlight some of the ways you’re using NoRedInk right now?

The beauty of being in our second year of implementation of NoRedInk is that the transition to remote instruction was near flawless. Our learners were used to using the platform and didn’t skip a beat. It also allowed us to deliver equitable instruction and provide just-in-time feedback to our learners regardless of whether they were learning in person or virtually. NoRedInk has allowed us to align pre-assessments to our High Priority Learning Standards so that we can progress monitor our students on the standards that are most essential to each grade level. We also plan on having students submit a minimum of 1 writing piece per grading period through NoRedInk so that teachers can provide clear goals and feedback when conferring with students. We love how the writing process has been scaffolded for learners on NoRedInk. Students have access to explicit instruction and examples all along the way so that if they get stuck, they have immediate built-in feedback and support.

Do you have tips for school leaders regarding how they can inspire, empower, and challenge all students as critical thinkers, readers, writers, and communicators amid the pandemic? 

My greatest advice would again be to give an abundance of grace, remove barriers, give readers and writers the opportunity to grow their wings and then step back and watch them soar. They will exceed your expectations every single time. We as teachers may not always know what is going on at home and it might be impacting their learning and performance. Therefore, every student needs a little more engagement and a little extra wiggle room. So, make sure to utilize educational tools that strengthen student engagement and allow for more positive feedback.



12 Expert Tips for Creating a Successful Learn-from-Home Space

Learn how to create a comfortable and productive learning space at home! 

Do you have children at home who engaged in remote learning? Are you worried about how to organize a learning space? If your answers are affirmative then, you are in the right place!

The pandemic that began in March this year found many of us in a state of utter shock. The restrictions, followed by complete lockdowns, were something none of us experienced before, and consequently, many started to panic. As it was not enough, we had to deal with the whole new organization of life – children suddenly need to study, and we had to work from home. 

Many have hoped that this situation will be over quickly. Nevertheless, with the new school year, a lot of children and parents found themselves in a similar situation. Alright, for the moment, we don’t have new lockdowns, but many schools are giving recommendations for remote learning when it is possible. 

Unlike in the beginning, when we, and let alone kids knew what exactly we are doing, this time, we had some time to gather our thoughts and organize our lives better, or at least think about it. Nonetheless, sometimes, and especially when you have more kids or a small flat, it can be a challenge to create an efficient learning space for your children. If your kid is among those who are again advised to attend school remotely and you need some learning space ideas, this is the right text for you. We consulted psychologists as well as interior design experts to help you out, and we believe you will like what we found.

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How To Create an Effective Learning Space

Create a Separate Learning Space

This situation in which school and home are in the same place can be quite confusing for kids since they are used to the fact that these aspects of their lives are separated. Not only that, it is perplexing, but a lot of kids may run into difficulties when they need to focus on schoolwork. That is why it is better to think of a learning space design, no matter how small.  Experts from home maker say this space needs to be only for studying and nothing else.

Ask Kids for Their Opinion

This is pretty straightforward, isn’t it?! Imagine working in an office that some decorated fully for you but without consulting you. In case you don’t want something like that for yourself, surely you understand that your kids won’t be happy about it either. On the other hand, if they have a say about the appearance of their learning space, they will be much more motivated to learn.

Get Adequate Furniture

If you, like us, never thought about homeschooling your kids before, it is unlikely that you have the best furniture for this situation. Sure many kids have a good desk and chair in their bedroom, but when they need to spend all day long sitting like that, they start to complain. But you don’t have to run to the shop and buy new furniture – things like poofs, exercise balls and pillows can be a convenient alternative to uncomfortable chairs.

Use Props and Other Stimuli

When you are making learning space remote, you have to think about how to motivate children to work, especially if they are younger. Kids who are only learning to read and write will appreciate it if you decorate the space with colorful letters and numbers. Older kids will be happy if you buy a globe or paste a big world map on the wall.  

Encourage Your Child to Keep their Learning Space Organized

Nobody manages to concentrate in a chaotic environment! However, it is not always simple to explain to children why they need to take care of the learning space.  One thing you can try is to offer them some sort of incentive for keeping things tidy and organized.

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Think About Your Child’s Position

Believe it or not but, only sitting can be considered as a learning space smart position. Many people think that it is okay to let their children lay in bed while they are learning from home. However, the same as us, children associate bed with relaxation and sleeping and can have a lot of trouble focusing on their work. Moreover, they may doze off during a class. 

Make Sure That There is Enough Light

As adults, we have different habits – some people work perfectly during the day, while some feel more productive at night. Kids, however, should study during the day and sleep at night. Therefore when you are creating a learning space, make sure there is enough daylight.  

Create Separate Space for Each Child

If you have two or more kids, this can be challenging. But, as kids can distract each other easily, it is often necessary. You can divide a bedroom with a screen or create a learning space library for one kid and living room for another.

Go Outside

A lot of schools decided to do part of their program outside whenever weather conditions allow for it. It not only decreases the risks of infection but also allows kids to learn on a more practical level. If there is a forest or even a park in your neighborhood, you can plan to make a day trip. 

Limit the Digital Learning

Nowadays, kids love to spend time playing with their electronic gadgets much more than being outside or reading books. In a regular situation a lot of parents do whatever possible to limit the time a child is going to spend in front of the computer. However, remote learning interferes with this as for many tasks kids need computers and other gadgets. But, you can try to introduce other things, books, sketchbooks, etc. to their learning space. 

Create a Clear Structure

Keep in mind that even we as adults need to have clearly defined what our day is going to look like, let alone kids. Now when they are learning remotely, you need to create clear plans and schedule to give your kid directions on how to behave and what to expect. If it is possible, try to organize schedules similar to those they had in school.

Know Your Kid

People tend to think that there are some standard rules we can apply to every kid. In reality, though, it is not like that. Each kid is specific and has different kinds of needs to be able to work well in general. And imagine in these chaotic times! Make sure that you know your child and also talk and take into consideration what they have to say.


Here we are at the end of our journey through what you need for an effective learning space for your children!  Keep in mind that one of the most important things is to include kids in the planning – this will indeed increase their motivation as they will feel their opinions count. Have you already created your kid’s study space?