Parent stress over permission slips goes off the charts

We’ve always known that permission slips are a constant bugbear for both parents and schools – after all, that’s why we created a business directly addressing that problem. But even we were amazed when satirical page Cottesloe Barbie decided to roast parent permission forms and received a reaction that went through the roof.

As the anonymous Editor in Chief of Cottesloe Barbie tells us, “That particular post has just risen in the last day (14th September 2017) to be the number one post we’ve ever had, with a reach of 112K, 1.8K reactions, 462 shares and over 500 comments.”

So what’s all the fuss about? Read below and you’ll see why Cottesloe Barbie hit the nail on the head with their hilarious depiction of parental permission grievances. And, if you’re laughing because it’s so true, tell your school about ParentPaperwork as soon as possible so we can make such frustrations a thing of your past.

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Life goes better with partners – Ayra Analytics

As Founder of Ayra Analytics Hansa Wijayasundara says, “Data analytics is not just another buzzword.”

ParentPaperwork is so aware of this fact that we’re constantly hammering home the value of data, including in our own recent article on data interoperability. We’re also putting our money where our mouths are by partnering with Hansa’s company to offer even more functionality and power to ParentPaperwork schools.

So what does Ayra Analytics specifically do? And how does this work in a school environment?

We put Hansa under the microscope to answer the questions you’re likely to ask, and to make some sense of this little thing called ‘data analytics’…

ParentPaperwork: Firstly, how did Ayra Analytics emerge as a business?

Hansa Wijayasundara: “We came about because we saw an opportunity for schools to collect, store and visualise data but it had to be in an easy-to-use format. As an example, schools can only currently analyse data in a single system. They don’t have the capability to analyse multiple sources of data such as that from student management systems, learning management systems and finance management systems with other external system data like NAPLAN, Allwell and Senses. We’re changing all that.”

“Ultimately, what Ayra Analytics does is help schools blend different data in a way that they can easily read, compare different data sets and come up with decisions.”

Can you explain the value of data analytics, and how it applies to schools, in a little more detail?

“Schools are in a great position to analyse the many, many sources of data they hold and collect but they just need the means to do it. This also includes data that schools have access to outside of their own environment, such as NAPLAN and the other external sources I’ve already mentioned.”

“Smart schools should be actively using their past and current data to come up with predictions. For example, they might predict the grades or marks a student will get in their exams based on their prior results. They can also use data analytics to improve administration tasks like budgeting and finance forecasting. In the admissions department, they might use data to find out where the students are coming from, as well as their family background, in order to understand their needs.”

“There are also trends in attendance that can be revealed through data analytics. ‘Do we see more absenteeism in a rainy day compared to a sunny day?’ or ‘Do we have more student absents on a particular day of the week.’ These are just some of the endless questions that can be answered. Schools have the power at their fingertips and we give them the tools to access that power.”

What are the pitfalls for a school when looking at data analytics? How can they be overcome?

“It’s a journey, it’s not a single project. Schools won’t be able to get all the outcomes they need on day one. If schools want to get all their data cleaned and ready before applying analytics, then it will never happen. Schools need to use analytics dashboards to visualise data first. This way, they can start to identify gaps in their data and the data cleaning process will then stem from that.”

“Data analytics is not just another buzzword, it’s the reality of both now and tomorrow. Schools need to commit a decent amount of time to get the outcomes they need but, once it’s all been put into action, they won’t look back. They really need to be data-savvy and have the staff in place that are ready to wrangle the data. So it’s about firstly creating a data analytics culture in the school and then moving forward with that in incremental and strategic steps.”

Where is the future of data analysis heading for schools?

“Predictive and prescriptive analytics. Schools should be able to predict student outcomes and intervene early, way before they get into trouble. Using both machine learning and AI, schools will be able to accurately prescribe solutions for teachers and students. Education will never be the same.”

How would you sum up Ayra Analytics service offering?

“Better data equals better insights. Better insights equal better decisions. Better decisions equal smarter education. And you can’t get better than that.”

www.ayraanalytics.com.au

Life goes better with partners – Digistorm

In March 2017, we announced that ParentPaperwork had become fully integrated with the Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox, which is yet another example of ParentPaperwork’s commitment to furthering our data interoperability.

Now that ParentPaperwork and Digistorm schools are well and truly taking advantage of the increased functionality this partnership gives them, we thought it was timely to introduce Digistorm on a more intimate level to you.

We asked Digistorm’s Chris Lang some questions, and here’s what he had to say…

ParentPaperwork: Can you please tell us a bit about Digistorm and how it came about?

Chris Lang: “Sure, Digistorm was founded in 2011 and really came about when Tim Oswald, our MD, built and launched the first School App in Australia for King’s Christian College on the Gold Coast. After receiving a number of enquiries from other schools he decided to focus on building a mobile app system dedicated to education.”

“I came onboard following this and, since then, we’ve grown to 15-plus staff and now work with over 250 schools throughout Australia, NZ, Asia and the United States. We’ve also diversified our product offering to include websites, online enrolment portals and, more recently, a CRM designed specifically for K-12 schools.”

How do you recall the Digistorm and ParentPaperwork relationship beginning? Who courted who and when did romance blossom?

“It was quite organic really! As with most of our integration partners, it was driven by mutual clients who saw the tremendous value that this could bring to their school. David Eedle (CTO at Parent Paperwork) and I worked with our respective development teams to develop a proof of concept and roll it to a number of schools for their feedback.”

What does ParentPaperwork add to Digistorm that particularly appeals to you?

“The ability for our school communities to receive targeted instant notifications when their children have a permission note or slip outstanding is so convenient. Being able to then quickly approve or decline it in just a few taps, while still ensuring full compliance, seems so powerful to me. Best of all, there is no extra work required to push it to our eduAPP system.”

“I’ve had so many schools ask me for this exact workflow over the years so to be able to offer it with a best-of-breed solution like Parent Paperwork is exciting.”

How has the interoperability between Digistorm and ParentPaperwork played out so far? Have there been any pleasant surprises? Customer comments?

“Due to the way that it was developed by both parties, it really is a plug & play solution for our schools so the implementation is quite seamless. The feedback has been nothing short of amazing and, recently, a leading independent girls school in South Australia commented to me that it was one of the best things that they had done.”

Where are you hoping the ParentPaperwork and Digistorm relationship will lead?

“We’d love to open this up to many more of our partner schools over the next 12 months and also to continue to develop the two platforms to be even more integrated. I hope that valuable feedback from our schools will drive the functionality in both systems.”

“We’ve got some exciting marketing initiatives in the works as well, and can see both companies going from strength to strength over the coming years.”

Your office looks like a cool place to be… What are the defining qualities of a ‘Digistormer’?

“Must own striped shirt, or be willing to improvise. Must like fancy cheese and not-so-fancy beer. Must be able to source and share a meme relevant to every situation in a matter of minutes…”

“…I’m only kidding! The great thing about this office is that everyone can be exactly who they want to be. We believe in a zero-politics environment with lots of laughs and even more hard work. If you have a skill, we’ll foster it – that’s why we have such a passionate, hard-working team. That’s the essence of a Digistormer.”

Do you have any closing comments?

“A shameless plug I know but I would encourage anyone who is interested in seeing the integration in action to contact Digistorm on 07 5508 2929 as we’d love to show it off.”

www.digistorm.com.au

New access controls and permissions for Users in ParentPaperwork

Data security and access are extremely important in environments such as schools, which often are managing significant volumes of personal information spanning across staff, parents and students. Increasingly, schools are using ParentPaperwork to capture, manage and report this data, and we have implemented a range of ways you can control access to data and functionality in ParentPaperwork.

This blog post outlines the types of permissions and configuration you can implement with ParentPaperwork in your school. You can also check out our Knowledge Base for further information.

A school may have as many Users accessing ParentPaperwork as they like. Note we have single sign-on for both Office 365 and Google, making it really easy to enable access for large groups of school staff. We can also synchronise a list of your staff each night as part of our overall data import schedule for your school.

User Roles

There are two User Roles:

  1. Administrator – complete access to all of ParentPaperwork’s features and configuration. We’d recommend you limit the number people with this ‘Access All Areas’ permission.
  2. User – a standard User. They cannot alter ParentPaperwork’s configuration (including managing Users) nor can they edit the Form Templates and Workflows. User Permissions can be applied to ‘Users’.

By default, a User has access to all information, and you can use various permissions settings to control and define their access.

Individual User Permissions

User can have their access restricted in multiple ways:

  1. They can be configured to only have View access. They’ll be able to log into ParentPaperwork and see all the information but will not be able to add new data or edit existing data – for example, they cannot create a new Slip nor edit a Student or Contact.
  2. They can have their access restricted to only Slips they created or those on which they appear on the workflow. In a busy school, with many Slips being sent, this is a great option to reduce the ‘noise’ for a particular user so they only see the information relevant to them.
  3. They can have their access restricted to specific Student Lists. By default, this also means their access is restricted to only the Slips they create or those on which they appear on the workflow, as per option 2 above. This is perfect for parent class reps and others who should only have access to very specific groups of students and parents
  4. Users can be assigned to User Groups, and the above permissions will be controlled via the Group.

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User Groups

User Groups can be used to control permissions for groups of Users. You can set the same permissions as for individual Users, and these will apply to Users assigned to the Group instead of the individual permissions.

The User Groups list page summarises the permissions assigned to each Group.

Editing a User Group allows you to control the permissions.

Users Groups and Form Template Categories

User Groups can be used to control access to sets of Form Templates via the Template Categories.

A Form Template can be assigned to one or more Form Template Categories. A Category may be assigned to one or more User Groups.

If a Category is assigned to a User Group, only Users assigned to the Group can:

  • Create a new Slip/Form from the Templates in that Category
  • Access an existing Slip/Form that was created from the Templates in that Category

By using a combination of User permissions, User Groups and Form Template Categories, you can restrict access to information in ParentPaperwork to selected Users and groups of Users.

For example, perhaps staff within school departments can be given view only access to Slips/Forms relevant to their department, while the heads of department can edit and manage forms across one or more departments. Or only school leaders are given access to Forms relating to human resources or staffing issues.

Send ParentPaperwork Broadcasts to Students

Earlier in 2o17, we launched Student Slips, allowing schools to send ParentPaperwork’s online forms to Students – the perfect and logical complement to our original Parent Slips system.

Student Slips is ideal for senior schools and colleges for tasks like sports registrations, subject electives selection, school council elections, student surveys and prefect voting

With Student Slips, you have the choice of the form being completed by either the parent or the student. You can also ask that a ‘read only’ copy be sent to the other party – such as sending a form to parents with a cc to students, or sending a form to students with a cc to parents. Everybody gets kept in the information loop – no unnecessary surprises!

The feedback on Student Slips has been excellent, and we have now extended this functionality to the Broadcasts module.

Previously, you could only send a Broadcast to Parents of selected Student Lists or individually nominated Students. Now you can send a Broadcast direct to Students, with an option to CC to their Parents or vice versa – send to Parents with a CC to their associated Students.

 

student-broadcast

Setting up a Broadcast to Students works the same as sending out a Slip. You choose to send the Broadcast to ‘Parents’ or ‘Students’ and, if you wish, you can CC in the other party.

It is important to note that Broadcasts to Students are only available if you have the email addresses for Students in ParentPaperwork – Broadcasts via SMS to Students are not available. However, we can import Student emails via your scheduled nightly import.

Additionally, please note that Broadcasts to Students are only available if your school has purchased the Student Slips module – please contact our sales team if you need more information.

 

A lack of school data interoperability leads to inoperability

Written by David Eedle, CTO, ParentPaperwork

What are we talking about when we say ‘data interoperability’? Consider this analogy:

You’ve got a kitchen and you mistakenly buy a whole lot of appliances from different countries, which means they all have varying power plugs. The toaster is still a toaster, the blender is still a blender, and a kettle is still a kettle. Individually and in the appropriate environment, they’ll work perfectly. But, in your kitchen with your power points, they can’t function.

Therein lies the problem with interoperability with technology in any situation, school or otherwise. If you’re establishing an office with a bunch of computers that can’t talk to each other, or can’t effectively connect, then what you have is data inoperability, rather than interoperability.

In the case of schools, each school has a source of truth: their student management system. It will be a central database of some sort that holds all the key and associated data about any given student (their name, contact details, information about guardians and, increasingly, their academic information).

The database may hold all that information but the database does not do everything. So schools buy all different types of software – for organising school lunch payments or selling tickets to the school play or sending online forms to parents or managing medical records, etc. – to increase the functionality of their central management system. Generally, we refer to this as a ‘stack’ of software.

But back to the kitchen analogy…

Let’s say you’ve got a core student management system (the kitchen) and you’ve bought five tools (blender, coffeemaker, toaster and so on) but you can’t plug them into your core management system. That means you’ve got six or seven ‘buckets’ of data floating around your school, all of which relate to your students and parents but which don’t talk to each other. That’s not a very viable situation but that’s exactly the kind of situation found in a lot of schools.

Mostly, this comes down to data exchange, which is the interoperability of data or data moving between all of those applications. If the school lunch system knows who the students and parents are, then it is able to help maintain a proper record for a student regarding how much lunch money they have remaining. If they know a student has left the school, then they know they shouldn’t be able to buy lunch. The core system gives the lunch system that information through interoperability.*

There are many student management systems on the market, and each one has its own eccentricities around providing access. As a rule, most abide by a closed system approach (i.e. they are bad at providing access) due to their foundations in technology from around 15 years ago. Today’s software is browser-based and cloud-based, which makes it far more interoperable. However, and, instead, were designed as standalone boxes that ‘you put stuff in’ and ‘you take stuff out’. In other words, they were never expected to ‘talk’ to other software.

As we’ve seen more software coming into schools, the stack has got taller and the older student management database companies are gradually learning to open up their data. They are realising they are never going to be able to have a set of features that deals with every single piece of functionality a school requires. Instead, they’re starting to see the inevitability that a school will have a stack of software and, therefore, those pieces of software will need to talk to each other.

So, what should a school be asking a potential software provider in order to ensure interoperability?

1. How does it integrate with other products?
2. Does that interoperability exist?
3. Is there an API** available?

Software developers need to remember that a school’s data does not belong to them; it belongs to the school. Accordingly, all schools should be able to access their own data freely and the multitude of uses and benefits that data provides.

Speak to ParentPaperwork for more information about school data interoperability.

* With ParentPaperwork, we make it our business to know the details of all students and guardians and, therefore, who’s allowed to do what and who’s allowed to see what. We do that by reading data directly out of the student management database. That’s interoperability. If the student database knows something, then we know it too.

** An API is a programmable interface for software that enables it to talk to another computer and exchange information.

New Reopen Slip function now available in Parent Slips

We have added a neat little feature that we know will be valued by everyone using Parent Slips. You can now reopen a previously submitted Parent Slip.

We understand that sometimes people make mistakes, or they click a button just that little too quickly. Of course, a submitted Parent Slip form cannot be edited by the parent after they click the big blue ‘Submit’ button. What the new Reopen feature allows you to do is reopen the Slip for a particular student and resend the notifications.

When a parent opens a Parent Slip form, data that is already held by a school for their student will be pre-filled so the parent doesn’t need to waste time retyping the same information all the time. Of course, if something has changed, they can amend the data so the change is updated to the school as part of their form submission.

The Reopen link appears on the View Responses list page, in the same place as the Resend link does for responses that have not yet been submitted.

Customise your SMS text message ‘From’ name

SMS Text messages sent from an unknown or anonymous sender have a higher chance of being ignored by the recipient, even if the message does reference their child.

In some countries, it is possible to replace the ‘From’ name that displays to the recipient on their phone with a more friendly alphanumeric substitute. You can control the SMS ‘From’ name on your Configuration page. Click your user name at the top right, then Settings. On the Settings page click the Configuration option.

You can control the SMS ‘From’ name on your Configuration page:

Click your user name at the top right, then Settings. On the Settings page, click the Configuration option.

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The name can be up to 11 characters, numbers and letters, with no spaces.

Note: This feature will only work in some countries (for example, it is available in Australia but not in New Zealand).

If you would like to know more, please contact support@parentpaperwork.com.

 

 

Schools doing great things – WCCC

Windsor Community Children’s Centre Co-op Ltd (WCCC)
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Windsor Community Children’s Centre Co-op Ltd (WCCC) started life 40 years ago as Swinburne Prahran Community Children’s Centre Co-op – a centre for children of staff and mature-aged students at Prahran TAFE in Melbourne. Across those four decades, they’ve weathered many storms in a turbulent Australian childcare sector but remained community-focused as a parent-managed, not-for-profit service.

Director Rose Kelly took ParentPaperwork on a tour and answered some questions about early childhood education and care, both now and into the future, while Assistant Director of WCCC Deanne Andoniou tells how ParentPaperwork fits into the picture.

ParentPaperwork: As someone fully involved in the childcare sector, what are the biggest changes you believe have occurred in childcare in Australia since the establishment of WCCC 40 years ago?

Rose Kelly: “The most significant change from then until now is probably that the whole landscape of early childhood education and care (ECEC) has evolved from a service that provided a place where parents could leave their children so they could work and/or study to now being recognised for the positive impacts on young children’s lives in terms of brain development, socialisation and learning. The reforms around the sector have also changed a lot for the better as well, especially in terms of educator training and quality services.”

WCCC is viewed as a leader in your sector. What do you think are the strongest issues facing the childcare?

“The strongest issue would be affordability for families, especially our most vulnerable.”

Childcare work is still not compensated commensurate with the work involved and the impact on young lives at their earliest point. Do you see a way to make that change meaningfully?

“I believe the only way is for the federal government to subsidise childcare. There is so much national and international research around about the benefits of ECEC. When we improve programs and services that help all children to be healthy, to get a good education and to contribute to our collective prosperity, we all benefit.”

WCCC has a student to childcare worker ratio that is way more favourable for children than government requirements. Why?

“To provide high quality care for children. Research also indicates that smaller numbers of groupings of children is better for them in terms of learning and stress. It also creates a much more enjoyable working environment for the educators.”

It’s impressive how your children get an on-premises cooked lunch everyday and you have a cook who is clearly very much part of the team. How does eating a meal together, or the same meal together, influence the culture at the centre?

“Food is often the cornerstone of many cultures and it creates a very rich community social experience. We get to enjoy good company and eat delicious food.”

What are the key learning values of the centre? What is your teaching approach?

“We want each child to be able to learn and develop in their own way. We want them to be inquisitive and wonder. We want them to engage with others and be inclusive. We do not subscribe to any particular teaching approach. Where we provide play-based learning, it is rich in intention and content.”

What is the highlight of running Windsor CCC?

“The educators. I admire them for their constant dedication and willingness to strive for better outcomes for children, and forever growing their own professional and personal development. Also, the community involvement of our families for running the service – it is a partnership that I really value.”

In celebrating 40 years in the childcare space, what do you think lies ahead?

“That’s an interesting question. I think we will see changes in the sector again, about what society will value in terms of ECEC. I am hoping that stricter reforms will come into play around ECEC being viewed as a profitable business.”

It’s great how you ask children for permission to use their photo, not just parental permission. Maybe you can elaborate a bit on how you help children learn about rights?

“We aspire to Early Childhood Australia Code of Ethics, and we talk a lot to children about their rights and the rights of others. We try to, in all circumstances, give the children their own voice to be heard and respected.”

What’s the best thing about WCCC being around for 40 years?

“That we are serving the community by helping local families and, through all the years, it has maintained a not-for-profit parent-managed service. With demands on people’s times, I am hopeful that we can still be around for another 40 years.”

And speaking to Deanne Andoniou:

What do you specifically use ParentPaperwork for at Windsor CCC?

Deanne Andoniou:To maximise efficiency and responses from families and to offer families a quick and easy method to communicate back with the centre. ParentPaperwork sits in-line with our strong philosophy of sustainability and being conscious of our environmental footprint. We are able to view which families have not opened up an email or responded to an email sent. It means we can touch base with those families individually and offer a friendly reminder / support.”

What do parents think about using it?

“Our parent survey had the highest level of participation (65.9% response rate) in comparison to using a survey software last year. ParentPaperwork was their preferred method of communication from the centre. They find it easy to respond immediately with a click of a button on their smart phones or computers.”

How much time and/or energy would you guess you reclaim by using ParentPaperwork?

“I would say, on average, ParentPaperwork has saved me two hours per broadcast/parent-slip/school-form sent. This is inclusive of follow-up emails and so on.”

Why would a childcare centre want to go down the path of using technologies such as ParentPaperwork?

“To be sustainable and environmentally-conscious. Also, the response time and level of participation from families is significantly greater.”

windsorccc.org.au

5 emerging trends to help schools stay on top of the technology avalanche: Part One

Written by ParentPaperwork’s Business Development Director, Sam Sapuppo

What can a 30-year veteran of school leadership possibly learn in two years of working for an edtech startup, ParentPaperwork? I surprised even myself.

We all know the bugbear of working in a school: everyone went to school, or knows someone who went to school, so everyone is an expert. Parents have also begun looking at and comparing schools through a business process lens. This aspect provides further and sometimes conflicting pressures but also wonderful opportunities. I would encourage all of us to use this window of opportunity to explore everything that enables a school to use its most precious commodities – staff time, finance and natural resources – to the best of its ability.

In this environment, the role of leadership in a school is to distil and discern lessons that can be learnt, and processes that can be built upon from business and community enterprises; to help the school work smarter and be overall more effective.

With 500 schools in eight countries, my recent edtech experiences have seen me work daily with a microcosm of the global school community and the vagaries that this environment throws up. This includes the multitude of student and learning management systems, communication platforms, websites, school budgets, processes and skill-sets.

All of us are working to assist staff who have varying degrees of digital skills. This is the easier obstacle to overcome. The more difficult issue is dealing with the cultural resistance – or indifference – to the introduction of yet another new technology in a school.

As a cautionary observation, I believe it is not just a school staff issue. The other side of the coin is the glaring and frustrating thing schools universally face; that is, the speed of technological and product change, and the time and expertise required to stay on top of it. What I hear from IT directors and principals is: how do you deal with the growth of problem-solving startup companies with their superior adaptability and versatility of software design? There is something new every day and it is just easier to do nothing.

In my particular case, as a team at ParentPaperwork, we are group of experienced:

  • Entrepreneurs – who have serious solution building experience;
  • IT engineers – with UX experience;
  • School leaders, administrators and teachers;
  • Marketing and sales professionals; and very importantly
  • Parents of school-aged children.

In our mind, we are trying to help schools work smarter rather than harder – a phrase that is very easy to roll off the tongue but much more difficult to achieve in practice. We are not egotistical enough to think we are the only ones doing this, or that we have the best way to solve it all. We do however believe we are an essential component, not just because of the solution we produce but because of the WAY we are going about our solution.

Smart schools have always understood that people come first. Whether it’s their staff, students or parents, the ‘primacy of people’ ethos remains no less fundamental in the age of digital integration. I dare not use the term ‘digital disruption’ in the education space. Indeed, it may be argued it has never been more critical to a school’s success.

Digital integration is making every school face up to the challenge of embracing and managing change. It is also an opportunity to re-engage with communities, drive innovation, reduce costs and boost efficiency.

So what are the five most important emerging trends that smart schools are using when building their IT ecosystems? We’ve identified the following:

  1. The user experiences should be front and centre of all thinking and planning.
  1. All programs and systems need to be interoperable.
  1. The benefits that new programs and processes employ are the key drivers for a decision, not the cost. Think: can we afford NOT to employ this new program and/or process?
  1. Staff time and data to assist with decision-making are now the two most valuable assets a school owns. Every new program and system that is deployed should address this new focus.
  1. Continuous improvement needs to be mandatory and non-intrusive.

Coming up, an in-depth look at these five trends – 5 emerging trends to help schools stay on top of the technology avalanche: Part 2