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

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.

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

 

Loopy & downright loony school forms

Those of us with school-age children will appreciate how much of a hassle the seemingly endless stream of permission forms and slips can be during the school year. Excursions and field trips, free-dress days, swimming carnivals, sports meets and anything else that may be even the tiniest bit out of the ordinary will usually call on a guardian’s signature to give the OK.

Those on the other end of the stick – the teachers – will realise, although this can sometimes be an annoyance to already time-poor parents, the problems that can crop up from not properly informing them of school activities can cause major headaches and even legal trouble down the track.

When it comes down to it, most parents want to know what’s happening with their child during the hours they’re not around. Informed consent is important for any activity that might put your child in an unfamiliar situation or those which parents may want to know about.

And, although some permission forms have caused concern for parents, like one that asked for blanket permission to allow a school to publish photos of their child online, most are routine and innocuous, acting only to inform parents and get their seal of approval.

However, occasionally schools can miss the mark. A permission slip for parents of sixth graders in the US that asked consent for their child to eat a single Oreo biscuit stirred up an epic online battle that divided people into camps of the overprotective versus the free-range. Like all online debates, there were no winners, and we’re not sure how many kids were denied their chocolatey treat.

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Even a form which is borne from good intentions can come across as loony. Here are some of our recent favourites:

As mad as some of these may seem, let’s spare a thought for the poor teachers who have been pushed so far they thought their crazy form was necessary. That’s right, if they’re wanting the OK to go ahead and screen a kids movie to kids, offer a cookie in class or let your child get in touch with nature, there’s a good chance they’re doing so because someone complained about it in the past!

We’ve even seen how poorly communicated information can threaten school excursions and why these kinds of activities are important, especially for students, so let’s not let a few loony forms ruin everyone’s fun.

ParentPaperwork takes the craziness out of administering permission slips. Click here for more information.

How to be a Good Digital Citizen: a guide for teachers and students

Navigating the online world can be a bit of a minefield, even for us adults, so when it comes to teaching the next generation how to survive in a technology-driven society, it can be difficult to know just where to begin.

There is a lot of information out there about the negative side effects of technology. Articles warn of it changing the way children think or feel, putting their privacy and safety at risk and even the possibilities of overuse leading to obesity. But when it comes to the Internet, our gadgets and how we interact with them, maybe some morality needs to come into play? We all need to be good digital citizens to promote responsible use of technology.

Good digital citizenship is all about the quality of behaviour that we display online, both kids and adults need new skills to behave safely and responsibly in the digital landscape. Preventing kids from accessing unsuitable material online through filters is an uphill battle. Instead,  teach them to understand the digital world and act responsibly within it.

Being a good citizen online follows the same basic rules as good citizenship offline.

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More than just online safety

Often when we read about students and their digital lives, the focus is on safety and civility online, teaching them not to engage in cyberbullying, or to give out personal information or post anything that may come back to haunt them. But being a good digital citizen goes beyond this; promoting the use of a sophisticated set of skills that allows full participation in the worldwide online conversation.

Joseph Kahne, Professor of Education at Mills College in Oakland, CA, and Chairman of the MacArthur Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, says we need to broaden our ideas about digital citizenship and give kids a little more credit:

“One of the challenges and important priorities for K-12 today has to be broadening our understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen,” he says. “So that we’re talking about young people as producers and managers of information and perspectives, and not simply as people we need to keep safe and civil.”

The 9 elements of digital citizenship

There are a lot of little rules that can be followed to make our online lives a lot easier. Through its digital citizenship site, the International Society for Technology in Education has made it simpler for us by identifying a framework of 9 key themes of digital citizenship that teachers and students can use to promote responsible online interactions.

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  1. Digital Access
    Not everyone has the same access to technology. Digital citizenship starts by promoting equal digital rights and supporting electronic access for everybody. No one should be denied digital access.
  1. Digital Commerce
    The Internet provides an open marketplace of almost any product, some of which can be in conflict with local laws or societal norms (such as pornography and gambling). Digital citizens need to understand this economy and become effective consumers within it. 
  1. Digital Communication
    The digital revolution has also been a communication revolution, and we can now be in constant contact with almost anyone around the world. Good digital citizenship means making appropriate decisions around our communication options. 
  1. Digital Literacy
    Technology is present in all aspects of our lives. Although a lot is taught at schools, there are many technologies in workplaces that are not. Digital citizens need to learn how to adapt to new technologies quickly and understand how these systems work. 
  1. Digital Etiquette
    There are many online who act inappropriately, some by choice but others by not understanding the etiquette of the digital space. Some spaces ban users for this behaviour but, to be a good digital citizen, we have to learn these rules and know what is appropriate and when. 
  1. Digital Law
    Just like in the real world, stealing and damaging other people’s work or identity or property is a crime. Every country has its own laws regarding online crime but good citizenship means having responsibility for actions and deeds, and being aware of the legalities of your behaviour. 
  1. Digital Rights & Responsibilities
    There are freedoms online that are extended to everyone in the digital world, such as privacy and free speech. With these rights come responsibilities, and good digital citizens must use technology in an appropriate manner and understand their own accountability for what they do online.
  1. Digital Health & Wellness
    From bad ergonomics, strain and eye safety to psychological issues such as Internet addiction and the effects of cyberbullying, digital citizens need to be taught how to protect themselves from dangers posed from online interactions. 
  1. Digital Security
    Our personal property and identity can be in as much danger online as off from people that steal, deface or destroy. As a responsible digital citizen, it is up to us to put the locks on our virtual doors and minimise our possibility of becoming a target of crime.

Digital citizenship can be a tricky concept for us to get our heads around but, when broken down into these elements, we can see the parallels to the real world.

Being a responsible digital citizen is important not only for students to learn but also teachers. Understanding these concepts can help us lead the way for the next generation and open the door for more positive online interactions.

And remember…

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A Schooling in Green: printing

The humble printer and photocopier can be a mini blackhole when it comes to expenses.

Many of us have worked in offices where the printing room is an unsupervised hotbed of wasted paper and ink. But, when it comes to schools, often the amount of wastage is multiplied, thanks to unnecessary printing of resources that could be handled electronically.

We’ve looked previously at the monetary costs associated with printing in school environments, which quoted Microsoft’s Education Marketing Manager Ray Fleming, who stated that schools often spend more on printing than they do on IT:

“An average school will use 1m sheets of paper a year and spend £60,000 (AUD $120k) on photocopying but only £56,000 (AUD $110k) on IT.”

The environmental cost of this amount of paper use is startling enough, but when we consider the additional burden of disposing of printer toner and ink cartridges, we can start to understand the immense size of the problem.

According to not-for-profit Australian environmental foundation, Planet Ark, Australians throw away more than 18 million printer cartridges every year. This equates to over 5,000 tonnes of non-biodegradable material that ends up as landfill. Compounding the issue is the fact that, when these cartridges break apart, they can potentially contaminate groundwater and the environment.

In the UK, it is estimated only 15% of the 65 million printer cartridges sold each year are recycled.

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For your health

Another often-ignored danger of printing is the affect it can have on your health.

Toner ink can contain carcinogens such as ‘carbon black’ – a dust that isn’t exposed during normal use but can be released if a cartridge is mishandled, and they can also emit carbon monoxide when overheated or place in poorly ventilated areas.

Studies have looked into the effects of sitting in close proximity to a printer and found there is a possibility of illness from spending long periods of time near printers, especially if not set up or used properly.

What can be done?

Thankfully, there is a lot that schools can do to help the environment when it comes to printing.

In Australia, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is a recycling program for toner and ink cartridges that has collected and recycled over 28 million cartridges since its inception. The program offers collection bins for schools that use a lot of cartridges and have drop-off points at many participating stores. They also have competitions for schools that participate, offering prizes made from cartridges they have recycled.

Also in Australia and the US, Close the Loop is a recycling program that turns used cartridges into products as diverse as pens, garden benches and even tarmac. In the US alone, the program has recovered close to 69,000 tonnes of material that otherwise would have gone to landfill. They too offer collection boxes for cartridge recovery.

In the US, most major ink and toner cartridge manufacturers will also offer a service to collect and recycle your used cartridges. In the UK, companies such as The Recycling Factory and Recycling 4 Charity will take your used cartridges, and even have programs aimed at schools.

There are many options when it comes to staying green within your school. Creating a program to collect and recycle your ink and toner cartridges is something simple that can have a huge positive impact on the environment. Of course, finding ways to reduce your use of printers and photocopiers should always be the first step in any attempt to make your school more sustainable.

Ask us how the ParentPaperwork system is contributing to environmental sustainability in schools.

Why the sad face? The loss of morale in teachers

Everyone in every job in every country at some point thinks, ‘I hate my job’. It’s one of the challenges with full-time work – but, when you are overworked, overstressed and falling behind, those four little words can begin to creep into your everyday vernacular.

This is certainly beginning to apply to teachers as job satisfaction levels reach record lows.

A 2012 MetLife Survey of Teachers found teacher job satisfaction declined from 62 percent of teachers feeling ‘very satisfied’ in 2008 to 39 percent by 2012. The survey also showed 51 percent of US teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week. But the trend does not stop there.

A recent survey by the Guardian Teaching Network found, by large, teachers in the UK feel overworked and undervalued, with 82 percent saying their workload is unmanageable and only four in 10 saying they are happy with their job.

And, in Australia, teachers work harder than their colleagues across the world. On average, Australian primary school teachers have 871 face-to-face hours with students annually compared to the world average of 782 hours per year.

This is leading to a decline in not only the amount of students enrolling in teacher courses, but it has been reported close to 50 percent of those who graduate as teachers leave the profession in the first five years.

When you actually crunch all these numbers, add the stress and overtime, these factors are major contributors to a loss of morale in teachers. And the biggest question that remains is: how do you win back that lost morale?

In Australia, the Grattan Institute put out the report, ‘Making time for great teaching’, which found teachers need to cut back on things that don’t directly improve teaching and learning. The report showed, when teachers were more efficient by cutting back on unnecessary tasks, they could spend more time doing what they loved – teaching.

This research is also in step with the UK Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who recently explained, “Teachers should spend more of their working week in the classroom rather than carrying out pointless administration tasks.”

“More should be done to tackle the issue of ‘unnecessary workload’ faced by teachers to give them more time with children.”

One of the ways teachers can take charge of their workload is to cut down on irrelevant or outdated processes and even start school initiatives for assisting the entire teaching workforce.

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First, find out which aspects of classroom time you can control. In some schools, teachers find they can reduce the time it takes to schedule lessons, grade papers and plan extracurricular activities by using digital tools to better organise calendars and paperwork.

The key is to find simple solutions for eliminating menial work like printing paper, or brush up on some time management skills by really looking at where your time is going during the day. And, if any of these methods work, it is a great opportunity to share your time-saving methods with the rest of the teaching team to hopefully adopt a school-wide approach to lessen the workload.

Rich McKinney, PhD, an award winning assistant principal in the US, explains how taking the initiative helps empower teachers and leads to better teaching and student learning outcomes. He says, “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”

“Students need teachers are who are highly competent role models, whose talents and expertise are leveraged both inside and outside of the classroom, and when possible, away from school in the community. When students recognize their teachers are leaders, their natural response will be to follow. School morale can only improve in this type of environment.”

There may be a loss of morale but it does not spell destruction for the teaching industry. Instead, it is an opportunity to take back control and get back to the real reason you became a teacher – to teach.

Read about how ParentPaperwork is playing its part in reducing teacher and school administration stress.

Oakleigh Grammar: a case study

Oakleigh Grammar in Melbourne, Australia, was one of the first schools in the world to adopt ParentPaperwork’s online platform at the initial startup phase. Their faith in ParentPaperwork – and the subsequent benefits they’ve experienced by taking on the ParentPaperwork system – have got them singing our praises.

We spoke to Soula Mitsopoulos, Head of Senior School’s PA/VASS Administrator at Oakleigh Grammar, to discover exactly why they’re our number one fans.

Which aspect of ParentPaperwork prompted you to give the system a try?
It was the opportunity for immediate responses, and the ability to export all the required details into a convenient spreadsheet.

What are some of the best things that have happened since implementing ParentPaperwork at your school?
The increase in efficiency in collecting responses and information has been really notable. Also, that we are able to work with the ParentPaperwork team to improve our requirements, as well as get ideas to streamline the processes, means a lot to us.

What was the process of introducing ParentPaperwork into your current school management systems like?
We’re not a huge school (just over 600 students from ELC to Year 12) so the slips are prepared, sent out and the responses monitored by our admin staff. This meant that the internal introduction process was straight-forward. We wrote out to school families explaining how the new process would work prior to implementation.

We haven’t really had any problems using Parent Paperwork to speak of, to be honest. The transition was quite smooth.

How have parents and staff reacted to ParentPaperwork?
The teachers really appreciate not having to collect and chase up returned paper slips. And parents appreciate being able to respond online as soon as they get the notices/slips. Not having to rely on their children – particularly in the case of the younger ones – to remember to hand in a paper slip is a big thing.

What are the key benefits you have experienced? Have there been any unexpected benefits that you didn’t anticipate?
Definitely the reduction in staff time photocopying and in paper use, as well as the timeliness of receiving responses. The ability for our admin staff to answer parent questions regarding their responses without having to chase whomever was receiving paper replies is huge – also the ability to see at a glance who has responded, who has opened their email but not responded and who hasn’t even opened their email to know exactly who needs to be followed up.

What sort of savings are you seeing as a result of using ParentPaperwork? 
We’ve experienced savings in paper use, staff time in photocopying, teaching staff’s time collating returned slips and chasing up those not returned… They’re the main savings we’ve noted.

How important are environmental considerations to your school? How have you seen ParentPaperwork contributing to your school’s environmental goals?
Environmental considerations are very important to our school. ParentPaperwork is helping us to reduce our environmental footprint in the reduction of waste.

What would you say to other schools considering implementing ParentPaperwork into their school? Any handy tips?
I would say they definitely should do it! Parent Paperwork is easy to use, both in setting up and sending the slips then collecting, collating and reporting the information…

We’ve been using ParentPaperwork for over 12 months, and the excellent support and prompt service we get from the team at ParentPaperwork has made the whole process easy. We know we can rely on the system.

Feel free to visit Oakleigh Grammar online at oakleighgrammar.vic.edu.au

Click here for more information on ParentPaperwork.

A Schooling in Green: paper

It’s no secret schools and paper are intrinsically linked – but neither needs the other in order to survive. In fact, it may be time to make paper an endangered species.

Paper is not only a financial burden on schools but the production, deforestation and waste creates a massive carbon footprint. The good news is: schools can green up their act.

But first, a schooling in math.

The amount of paper used in the classroom varies from country to country. In the US, the average classroom uses 25,000 sheets of paper per year, which equals 833 pieces of paper per student.

Now, if one tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper, that means three trees are being used in every single US classroom per annum. That’s a lot of trees, especially when you consider recycling one ton of paper, which is about 20 full-grown trees, saves enough energy to heat an average home for six months.

And it’s not just the trees that are disappearing. Water is a vital ingredient when it comes to the production of trees. In Australia, to make just one ton of paper, over 90,000 litres of precious water are used, which will fill 450 rain barrels.

Modern paper also involves chemicals for bleaching and, once these chemical-laden products go to the landfill after use, it produces dangerous greenhouse gases during decomposition.

All these numbers are not meant to induce fear – they are simply painting a picture of paper consumption in schools. And based on the math, it’s time to make a change.

So how do you build an army of green warriors at your school?

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Learn to love math

A lesson in accounting is the best way to spearhead a sustainable charge. Review your current paper situation. Look at not only how much paper you use but how much paper you waste.

In the UK, the average secondary school produces 22kg of waste per student each academic year. The figure for primary schools is even higher at 45kg per student.

Ashford Secondary School in the UK did their part. They put two lead teachers in charge of Year 7 students to conduct a waste audit, realised they were tossing way too much in the landfill and came up with an action plan.

The school ended up saving nine tons of CO2 emissions per school year through a recycling program.

Educate about trees

Trees are a big part of our collective environments. They produce oxygen, shade, decoration and, if you’re a kid, they are fun to climb.

It’s important to educate students on the impact of paper production on the environment as it is a global problem. The largest producer countries – US, China, Japan and Canada – alone make up more than half of the world’s paper production, which is 400 million tons a year.

According to our earlier calculations, that’s around eight billion trees.

Raise awareness by putting deforestation in perspective. If students cannot imagine that only about 22 percent of the world’s old growth forests remain intact, ask them to imagine a world without trees.

Do something, even if it’s small

After the review and education processes, schools need to take action, even if it is to save one litre of water, one tree or put recycling bins next to every printer.

The simplest way to make a change is to reduce paper-dependent processes and activities with digital alternatives. Go to step one and think about what you have that can go paperless.

Reports and transcripts? Paperless. Permission slips for activities and excursions? Paperless.

School boards and councils should also be encouraged to distribute meeting papers via email or through online blogs to keep the school community up-to-date digitally. It is a cost-effective way to not only save paper but to make sure everyone stays informed.

The technological tools are already at your fingertips to start making your school greener today.