Improvements to form workflows in ParentPaperwork

kids in classroom with laptop

We’ve released two great improvements to the form workflows in ParentPaperwork:

  1. Select User on Workflow
  2. Autocomplete of Workflow Steps

Select User on Workflow

Until now multiple Users could be selected on an Approval workflow step, when the workflow step ‘Send for Approval’ was actioned all those Users would receive a notification, and any of them could then take the Approve action.

This feature allows an option to be set when configuring the workflow to say that the User taking the Send for Approval action must nominate one of those Users to take the Approve action.

When editing a Workflow Step for an Approve Step, there is a new drop down option to ‘Choose from one selected User’.

When a Slip is moved through the Workflow, the User who actions the ‘Send for Approval’ step will be prompted to nominate one of the group of Users allocated to the Approve Step.

Autocomplete of Workflow Steps

We have tweaked the workflow system to auto complete steps under two circumstances to make usage more intuitive.

  1. After an Approve step is actioned where the next step is a Send for Approval, the Send for Approval will auto complete. Deals with workflows with multiple approvals and means the person actioning the first Approve step then doesn’t have to manually action the next Send for Approval step
  2. After the Approve step is actioned where the next step is Queue to Send, the Queue to Send step will auto complete. This means if the person approving doesn’t realise they need to take an action again to Queue the Slip, the job is done for them.

Note: Auto-complete will not fire on a Send from Approval step after an Approve step if a User needs to be selected for the next Approve step – otherwise there’s no opportunity for that User to be selected.

Read about more features: Annual student record keeping just got smarter

Photo: Lucélia Ribeiro

 

New feature: Student record updates just got smarter

Paperwork files

The more we work with schools around the world, the more we hear a common thread. Schools need an easy, reliable way for parents to update student records with critical content like medical or personal information.

For sometime ParentPaperwork has had Student Attributes – user-defined fields that can be configured to maintain information about a student.

Now, these can also be used on a Form sent home to parents, creating a powerful tool that allows schools to continuously update the information held on file about a student ( in turn lowering risk and saving time).

The important stuff just got easier

Male teacher working on computer

The obvious use for this feature is the annual student record update process, which we know many schools undertake.

Usually a complete student record is printed out, often half a dozen pages or more, and sent home to parents via school bag or sent through the mail.

Parents are asked to manually mark any changes, and then staff (often casuals hired for the purpose) work through the returned printouts and transcribe updates into the student management system.

It’s an incredibly labour intensive and expensive process, not to mention very prone to human error.

Now with ParentPaperwork, a school can import any number of data elements to the Student records, put them on a Template, then send the Slip to parents. The parents then update the information, and the school can export either all the data, or only the components that have changed.

It’s an elegant, simple and robust way of updating student record information.

Here’s how it works

Importing Student Attributes

There is an Import option for Student Attributes (Click Profile Name > Import Data). Upload is via CSV, the file must contain the Student Id and any number of columns.

After upload the columns can be mapped to Attributes.

Add Student Attribute fields to Form Templates

This feature allows a User to add Student Attributes to Form Templates, to let a Parent update one or more Attributes when they submit a Parent Slip. When in Form Template Design, the User sees a list of their Student Attribute fields along with the standard Form fields. They can drag/drop the fields as usual, the edit options are limited to just the label for the field. All Student Attribute fields are ‘Required’.

Student Attribute fields are shaded pale yellow on the list of available fields for the Parent section of the Template.

Parents see the Attribute fields on their Slips like the normal fields. The fields are pre-filled with the existing Attribute values. Changes to Attribute values as part of a Slip submission are logged.

Parent submit Slip with Student Attributes

Parents see the Attribute fields on their Slips like the normal fields. The fields are pre-filled with the existing Attribute values. Changes to Attribute values as part of an Slip submission are logged.

Export Student Attribute Changes

As previously, the normal ‘Export List’ option on the View Slip page will contain any Student Attributes designated to be included in Exports. Note this will NOT include Attributes that are on the Template but not marked for inclusion in the export.

There are two new options on the ‘Preview/Print’ menu:

  • Export Only Student Attributes on Slip – exports all Student Attributes and values used on the Form Template irrespective of whether designated for export.
  • Export Only Student Attributes Updated on Slip – as above but only delta values are exported, if a value did not change when the Parent submitted the Form, the value does not export.

We’re excited about this new update and look forward to our growing customer community enjoying its benefits.

If you like this new feature, consider sharing it with colleagues below.

Photos: Erich Ferdinand, Unstock

How are schools managing innovation?

Little boy walking into desert

In a recent discussion with an innovative educational leader I admire, our conversation turned to the issue of constant change and signs of change fatigue in her staff. She noted that the fatigue she saw with her educators wasn’t evident in her parent community.

When you consider that the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and federal government continue to remind us the nation needs to be agile – we need to embrace innovation, that we’re going to be part of an ‘ideas boom’ – then it’s likely change will become more pronounced, not less.

So how do we manage that fatigue?

Change in education comes from a variety of directions, some technological, some cultural. There are new standard frameworks, the Australian Curriculum, new databases and administration systems, online reporting and portfolio development, new email systems, new learning management platforms, content management and marketing initiatives.

If your school experience has been anything like mine, most of these ‘innovations’ have been seen by staff as disruptions conceived by education bureaucracies, committees, or members of the school’s executive. They’ve been received as changes imposed from the outside, by a group of others who don’t understand or appreciate the realities of staff working conditions and the intricacies of their roles.

The real challenge is internalising innovation thinking. Transforming it from an outside-in mandate or an internal ‘testing bed’ into the school culture at large.

With our current approach, I can understand why we isolate innovation to a specific development group to pilot its launch. If not, fledgling ideas would be very likely sucked up into the vacuum of existing school policies, where they get lost forever in a haze of bureaucratic negativity, if they aren’t nurtured and protected in the early phases. We all appreciate there is one sure fire way to kill innovation – just keep saying no!

But what if there was a different approach?

Every day, a leader with a good idea fails at change management. Most fail because they can’t get beyond the vision. Most employ the tried and true method of “Freeze, Move, Refreeze”, then backfill the move with staff training. This process reinforces the notion for everyone that innovation is an event, associated with a seismic shift.

Innovation has milestones, but it is continuous. We have to give ourselves room to experiment, and work on practices that free, rather than shackle us.

In the past, best practices for implementing new technology in schools have at least included the following elements:

    • An ICT strategy that is part of the school’s strategic plan;
    • A change management strategy that reflects the culture of the organisation, including policies, procedures, and practices;
    • A roll out plan that includes stakeholder engagement, a communication plan and technical resources.
    • A well-resourced training plan.

Until recently we’ve been focused on replacing multiple non-integrating pieces of technology with a master curriculum and administration/finance systems program. A one size fits all approach.

These practices provide order and security for managers, but the question is, will they continue to be effective in a supercharged innovation environment?

If new products, initiatives and ideas are continuously arriving at an ever increasing pace, will schools miss out because their frameworks simply aren’t accommodating the possibilities?

And what about schools who don’t have the resources to load up for training, roll outs and technical implementation?

The majority of schools in the world survive on skinny administrative resources. How might they embrace and step up to innovation?

Asking the right questions

As a profession we place an enormous emphasis on developing smart classrooms, characterised by nimbleness and creativity. There’s some inspiring work.

How do we extend this same desire and mission to developing a smarter school as a whole?

School councils, school boards, principals, heads of departments, staff and parents could begin by asking themselves the following questions:

  • How would you assess your school’s readiness for adopting new technology and processes?
  • Does your school understand the difference between a change-ready school as opposed to an innovative school?
  • Do you have established ways to promote innovation and change?
  • Do you have staff who are ready and able to innovate, and staff who can lead change?
  • Does your Principal and their leadership team promote and manage change?
  • How flexible is all of the above?

Is your school change-ready or innovative?

School girl with business men

Innovation is the new normal, and schools need a culture of it to help our young people to  innovate themselves. It’s not something we can silo, or bolt old thinking around.

I encourage you to read Digital Transformation requires total organisational commitment, an excellent post from Ron Miller that speaks to our challenges. 

I continue to learn and be inspired from others that have bridged the digital divide and constructively equipped themselves to navigate for continuous change.

Got 10 minutes? Watch this great presentation by U.S. entrepreneur Diana Kander about a better way to approach innovation. Kander entered America as an eight-year old refugee of the Soviet Union. She’s become a hugely successful businessperson and educator, and understands from experience that innovation is less about planning and more about people.

Here she uses the world of business and products as a frame of reference, to explain where so many of us are going when we’re trying to innovate.

Read the first article in this series, Innovation: Are you ready for it?

Photos: Ian Burt, elmimmo

School emergency management in the spotlight

Police tape at emergency

In a little under one week more than 30 schools in Australia, and schools in the UK, France, Japan, Hawaii and Guam, have experienced the threat of serious emergencies and undergone lock-downs. This is a global issue, and can hit acutely local.

Bomb hoaxes have highlighted the need for schools to have active crisis management plans in place and well-rehearsed. An event like this impacts on students, staff, parents, emergency services, local residences, neighbouring schools, transport services and the media.

Once the safety and security of all the students and staff of a school has been organised, communicating with parents is essential. It’s equally important to communicate with the family of staff. If you do not, they will.

The immediate, emotional effects of a school emergency exacerbate the challenge. And those effects are often driven by a lack of clear information and instruction.

These 7 elements are essential:

1. A broadcast/communication system that gives the school the ability to send a one-way notification to any number of parents – this could be a whole parent body notification as per an emergency lockdown situation, or to a specific group.

There are often emergencies when different messages need to be delivered to different groups of people at particular times during the incident. It’s also critical to have the ability to know who has read the message that you have sent and who has not. Any system chosen must have this feature, whether it be by text and/or email.

2. A critical incident team, which includes an experienced communication person.

This team needs to rehearse its role and responses and undertake drills for staff and students. Dusting off the manuals during the emergency adds to the stress and confusion that can otherwise be avoided.

The initial first few minutes are vital in ensuring the physical and emotional safety of everyone. Every opportunity to appear calm and in control helps lessen fear and regulate heightened emotional states of all involved.

3. A clear set of procedures for:

  • Who communicates;
  • What is communicated – remember you have different audiences;
  • What group is being communicate to;
  • Who authorises the message(s);

In your planning you need to consider that some/all your students and staff have mobile phones and therefore will be communicating with family and friends. Depending on your school cohort, you cannot stop this, so how can you minimise the problems that this might cause and possibly use it to you advantage.

4. A clear, actionable message indicating what you want people to do.

It’s not useful for a parent to receive notification of an emergency without instructions telling them what they can or need to do. This means someone has to create that clear and succinct message, who can work calmly in an emotionally charged situation.

5. An assembly area away from the incident where, parents, families, local residents can gather and be briefed and kept informed of what is occurring, in real time.

Clear and precise information will not remove all fear, but will certainly lessen the anxiety. They can also be considered victims in an incident that need to be assisted.

6. A media plan. When the media becomes involved it is important to be clear who is speaking officially for the school. This is often in coordination with the emergency services on the scene.

7. A review process. Like all emergency plans, a review of how communication worked during the incident is vital. This should include all participant. By continuing to learn about our community and their preference we improve our effectiveness.

An online survey is an easy and effective way to collect this information, sort out meaningful trends and improve.

 

The media will seek out anyone willing to make a comment. Unfortunately the more emotional the person, the more likely they are to be approached.

We have seen just this week, along with the Principal of a school, distraught and concerned parent(s) comments sought to add ‘human interest’ to the story. Often parents arriving at the scene do not have all the facts and are highly emotional, so they are speaking out of fear, confusion and anxiety.

There are solutions

ParentPaperwork’s Broadcast feature provides the ability to schools to initiate an email and/or SMS text message to any group (or all) of parents at any time to support schools in their emergency management communication strategies.

Our Slips module enables schools to send a notification to parents via email and/or SMS text and require parents to complete an online form acknowledging receipt of the message.

We track delivery of the notifications, and display reporting to schools to indicate which parents have opened their emails or tapped on the texts even if they have not actually returned their online forms.

Photo: diversey/Creative Commons