Parents can now manage their ParentPaperwork forms inside Schoolbox

We are now pleased to advise ParentPaperwork is now integrated with leading Australian learning management system Schoolbox, for parents to view and complete their online forms.

Parent portals are an increasing part of a school’s technology stack, it makes sense to concentrate a parent’s online interaction with their children’s school into a single point of contact. There’s nothing calculated to drive parents up the wall more than telling them they need to register and sign into a plethora of web sites.

This is a major reason why ParentPaperwork is not a ‘destination’ for parents. They might click our online form links, but we don’t require them to create an account or sign in. Instead we see ParentPaperwork as a piece of infrastructure a school can integrate with and deploy into their existing technology stack.

Schools Love Schoolbox

Schools love Schoolbox, and we do too. It’s a fantastic Melbourne-made software-as-a-service LMS, built by a group of talented people who are determined to create the best possible set of tools for K-12 schools.

schoolbox-pp

The integration set up is simple and there is no cost to your school. Parents can click a link in the Schoolbox portal and view a history of previously submitted forms, plus complete new forms. If you have our Admin and Enrolment Forms module they can even create their own new forms.

schoolbox-pp2

A Terrific Triumvirate

Don’t forget, if you also have the Digistorm schoolAPP, ParentPaperwork integrates to that as well. It’s a fantastic triumvirate – ParentPaperwork + Schoolbox + Digistorm schoolApp. Terrific convenience for your parents, reduced workload for school staff.

Parents can now use the Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox to receive and submit online forms

A key goal for us at ParentPaperwork is ensure we are a cooperative part of the education technology landscape, and a signature strategy towards that goal is promoting interoperability between ParentPaperwork and other high quality products.

Many schools in Australia, and increasingly overseas, use the Schoolbox learning management system. And many of them use the terrific Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox.

We are pleased to announce that ParentPaperwork is now fully integrated with the Digistorm schoolAPP.

When a message is sent to parents advising there is a new Slip for them to complete, this is also delivered as an in-app notification to their phone. Then when they open their app they have all their childrens’ ParentPaperwork forms at their finger tips, both previously completed ones, and forms yet to the submitted.

The new Slips can be completed and submitted right there inside the app. The ease of use and convenience is fantastic.

Notifications

When a new Slip is sent  to parents, a notification will show on their phone. They can tap the notification to open the Digistorm app and complete the form.

App Menus

A new menu option is displayed in the Digistorm app.

Tapping this link will open a list of Students with a count of any outstanding Slips for each.

Tapping the name of a Student will open a list of Slips, with incomplete ones at the top (highlighted with a red dot), and completed Slips at the bottom (green dot).

Tapping a Slip name will open the online form from ParentPaperwork directly in the app browser window, so a Slip can be completed and submitted, or viewed if it has already been submitted.

There is no cost for a school to use the ParentPaperwork integration to the Digistorm schoolApp. Just contact our Support Team to arrange for the connection between ParentPaperwork and Digistorm to be configured.

 

 

 

New webinars to help you get the most out of ParentPaperwork

Part of my role at ParentPaperwork is supporting our existing customers to experience the best value possible from the ParentPaperwork platform. Often schools will purchase ParentPaperwork with a particular goal in mind, but then overtime they come to appreciate that the platform can assist the school in so many more ways.

My experience includes 25 years in leadership roles, including Deputy Principal in a leading Melbourne independent school, and now as part of the ParentPaperwork team this has placed me in a unique position to understand how schools can maximise the benefits across the whole school’s operations using ParentPaperwork.

With many of our schools now having used ParentPaperwork for over 12 months and mastered their basic needs, the major questions that we are now fielding from everyone one … “Is this the best way to do what I need to be doing?”, “so what else can I do with the program?” and “what are all these new features I can see in the program?”

Schools are busy places and we understand fully that keeping up to date with improvement and new features is not easy. Time to explore is precious. This means that many of us, me included, cling onto the ways that we learnt to do things the first time.

With the assistance of many of our partner schools we have been  adding new modules and features to the suite of ParentPaperwork fairly consistently. All the new feature give you GREATER ABILITY/FACILITY, and SHORT CUTS to help you work more effectively.

We are introducing a weekly webinar starting in May, each will run for 45 minutes and cover a particular topic. We’ll be publishing dates and times soon so please look for our newsletter in your inbox or follow us on Twitter – @parentpaperwork.

The webinars will focus on:

  • Maximising the use and therefore the benefits of using ParentPaperwork
  • Increasing  your staff time savings, even more
  • Teaching you about more features in ParentPaperwork
  • Reconfirming that   your current process for sending a Slip is the best way to do it.

We will cover information for expert users, but mostly  the sessions will be for everyday users and administrators who want to reaffirm their processes, or knowledge of the ParentPaperwork program.

If you have a topic or question you want answered or included in the webinar series please email me at sam.sapuppo@parentpaperwork.com.

ParentPaperwork launches game-changing new online forms feature for students

We have big news for ParentPaperwork schools to kick off 2017! We are pleased to announce the launch of our most important new feature in twelve months – sending online forms to Students.

Hundreds of schools in seven countries now use ParentPaperwork to send online forms to their parents and staff, and capture and report the responses – and they all see huge savings in time and money as a result.

We listen carefully to the feedback from our schools – and for some months they’ve been saying how much they love the current modules, but then list all the forms they need to send to students, like sports registrations, subject electives selection, school council elections, student surveys; and prefect voting.

The ParentPaperwork team mused on this feedback for a couple of months and figured out the best way to deliver student form functionality to our schools customers. Over the Australian summer our tech team has worked hard to create this new functionality and we’re very proud to reveal it to you.

A new Module within the ParentPaperwork Suite

Now when you set up a new form, you have the choice of it being completed by either the parent or the student. You can also ask that a read only copy be sent to the other – so send a form to parents with cc to students; or send a form to students with a cc to parents. Everybody gets kept in the information loop – no unnecessary surprises!

We’re very excited about this brilliant new functionality. The ParentPaperwork team is proud to offer it at no charge to all our current full suite subscription customers (those with both Parent Slips and School Forms modules). We will be charging for this feature for newbies in the year ahead, so this is our special gift to you for your input, ideas and savvy!

You can now select students to complete a form

Traditional paper-based processes are quite simply broken and no longer workable in today’s world, where accountability, risk management and statutory compliance are critical issues for school leaders globally. ParentPaperwork provides your school with a robust, secure system to replace all your paper forms.

With the launch of our new Slips to Students functionality we can confidently say ParentPaperwork is easily the most comprehensive, fully featured, administration data capture, management and reporting platform for K-12 schools, kinders and ELC’s in the world. And it’s all built and managed right here in Melbourne, Australia, with customers as far afield as the Czech Republic, Canada and Portugal.

This is just the start of what we’ve planned to be a huge year! The ParentPaperwork team has several major new features slated for 2017 and I can’t wait to tell you all about them over the coming months, especially the forthcoming Metrics and Data Analysis Module!

Workload still an issue for teachers in schools globally

Online tools such as ParentPaperwork are a great way to reduce teacher workload.

Where do forms fit in?

This is not a new topic that I’m about introduce. And it’s one I’m hoping for the sake of my 9 month old niece in Phoenix, Arizona and my children’s future children and their teachers, will be solved sometime soon.

What am I talking about? Well as the CEO of an Edtech startup based in Melbourne, Australia one of the key issues that we talk about in our office amongst the team, is ways that we can help schools run better by using the ParentPaperwork platform to automate paper form processes inside the administrative function of the school. And just because what we do deals with administrative forms, doesn’t mean we don’t positively impact teachers too. It does and I’ll explain more further in.

Teacher workload is not going away as an issue

In the education news sources I scanned last month in Melbourne The Age highlighted a new survey, ‘Put Education 1st‘, commissioned by the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch which found that most teachers are failing basic tasks due to out-of-control workload. You can quibble on the numbers, however when surveying 13,000 teachers leads the survey to the conclusion that teacher workload is going crazy, then I pay attention.

50 to 60 hour work weeks, the new normal?

Earlier this month the BBC reported that many teachers in the UK were working 60 hour weeks. This compares to the Australian teachers who are working in the 50 to 55 hour range and Australian principals over 60 hours a week. The BBC story drew on a report from the Education Policy Institute that used data from the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey between 2012 and 2014. Again the issue of teacher workload and the issue of administrative tasks is mentioned over and over.

One thing I know for sure as a parent who has one child who has made it through 13 years of schooling and another who has another two years to go, and a third who will be in the Australian special education system for another 8 years, I do not want my children taught by someone who is stressed, tired, exhausted and on the point of overwhelm. And that is ditto for my niece and my children’s children. A well-rested, happy, dynamic and positive teacher who really drives the teaching/learning experience, can’t be expected to thrive in a culture and environment of chronic overwork.

New Edtech can be part of the workload solution

I’d like to say that we have a solution for you in ParentPaperwork, however what I think is more accurate to say is that we can be a part of the solution. One point of the UK story that worries me is that teachers are being shortchanged professional development opportunities because there simply isn’t time to attend them or apply for them. They are missing out on learning about the latest techniques, technologies and peer developments that could be shared and deployed to alleviate their current workload.

The part of the solution that we offer should make both teachers and principals happier. On the student side of the equation ParentPaperwork deals with all the forms that go home to parents requiring responses such as permission forms, rsvp’s and the like. The schools who use ParentPaperwork have found over 150 regular form processes that can be deployed using our platform.

The most important equation is the teacher-student relationship

Anecdotally principals and other education leaders report to members of my team that there are many issues that keep them awake at night but maybe the most contentious is how to best support teachers in their efforts to teach and create and grow positive relationships with students.

Principals are also telling us that they want to know about Edtech solutions that their teachers will use. That means they must solve a real problem and be easy and quick to use. Qualitatively I think we know that no matter how much data and structure you give to the bulk of the student population, the single most important factor in student success is the quality of the relationships they have with their teachers. One outstanding, thoughtful and caring teacher can switch a student who is flailing around struggling to fit in to the school environment, back on to learning, not simply because the teacher makes the content compelling but because they also create a bond of trust and safety and a space to learn. Learning after all is about taking a risk to move position from what one knows now and defending that, to opening one’s mind to a bigger picture and greater potential.

How much time does your staff spend on forms?

If you’re a principal I wonder if you’re aware how much time your teachers spend on some basic forms that are part of school life. How many hours do you think are spent doing the following?

* preparation of forms

* photocopying and distribution of forms

* collection of forms and follow ups

* management of the information – is this re-transcribed into another format?

* collation of information

* concerns about accuracy of the information and following up

* storing and retrieval of form information, when required

Schools are busy places and in any week there will be incursions, excursions, specialist classes and activities that require some kind of permission process to take place.

Real Edtech solutions, not fads

As Edtech entrepreneurs we’re not interested in creating tech bling and products that make a teacher, administrator, or Principal’s working day harder. Our mission is to help schools run more smoothly and to make our contribution towards taking a school paperless. We hope that a byproduct of what we do can help give teachers back a few precious hours a week, hours not spent distributing and collecting and hassling for forms from students. And give Principals, the capacity to know that all forms processes that run their school can be viewed at a glance and reports and analysis generated so that some of the compliance and other issues that keep them awake at night, can be put to bed for good.

If you’re currently part of the ParentPaperwork revolution then congratulations, we’re just getting started and we welcome you to help us make your school as efficient and effective on the administrative side as possible. If you’re not, please consider directing your Head of IT to our site for a demonstration. We are not the whole solution to teacher and principal stress and overwhelm but our current schools customers are finding that we take you a good way there. Time off forms and administration is time given back to the people you work with and to your students. Which in my view, is where best to put your precious time and energy.

Important information about pricing changes for ParentPaperwork

ParentPaperwork CEO and Co-Founder Fiona Boyd reflects on the past two years and outlines changes to ParentPaperwork’s subscription pricing model.

Who would believe it’s been nearly two years since ParentPaperwork started in all earnestness after winning the first Startup Victoria Pitch Competition at the end of August 2014.

We had an early stage platform in beta from late May that year and a couple of trial customers helping us identify how to go about creating the most universal platform we could to replace paper forms in schools, but we really came out of the gate with some gusto after the pitch win.

What I loved most about this business from the beginning was that before one line of code was even written we were talking to our children’s teachers, principals and other school leadership about what issues most mattered to them in terms of compliance paperwork and all the issues of liability around that.

ParentPaperwork as a concept was born in a humble but practical way. Neither of the two co-founders, myself or David Eedle, loved the constant stream of excursion, incursion, rsvp, subject selection, music selection, etc forms that were coming home to us for signing for our three children. In a fit of pique after just one too many forms and a growing belief that schools just wanted to keep Mums busy signing things, I told David to take the form signing job on.

He did. And being an analytical, data driven kind of guy, within a few months he’d collected a stash of forms he’d signed, copied them, and then one Friday pizza night lined them up along the kitchen counter and said ‘I think we need to do this differently.’

David and I have a long history creating businesses together and our most successful venture to date, has been the online community Arts Hub, that we started in 2000 and sold to private investors in 2006. Arts Hub is going to celebrate its 16th birthday in October this year, something we’re very proud of.

Part of what made Arts Hub successful was that the systems David created really made sense to the people using them. The content management system was straight forward and easy-to-use and didn’t require special training. After checking out the limited CMS’s available at the time, most of them costing $2m a year or more to license, we realised we wouldn’t get Arts Hub away unless we built our own technology and in a way that was super easy for our writing team to use. Arts Hub is a jobs and news service for the arts industry worldwide and it was key to its success that content could be created, edited, displayed and published quickly and in a fuss free way.

So my point to David was, go talk to educators and find out what the forms issue is like from the schools side of the equation. We think as parents it’s cumbersome and annoying and easy to lose track of, but is it such a problem from the teacher or school administrator point-of-view? And please don’t develop a technology that is whizzy and cool but doesn’t really make lives easier for the people using it. After many meetings at our children’s schools and others who were willing to give us their insight, David sat down and created the ParentPaperwork platform.

With our first few sales we weren’t really clear what pricing model would work, so we deliberately pitched low and took a stab at pricing around student number tiers. As time moves on and the product has grown in sophistication, functional power and the uses by schools now numbers in the many hundreds, we realise that in order to grow the business and keep adding the new powerful functionality our current customers request from us, we need a better pricing model.

So, from 1 September 2016 we’ll be changing our pricing structure.

The current model is tiered to the number of students in a school and can be quite inequitable if you’re at the wrong end of the tier. Prices can range from $1.45 per student up to $5.00 per student within the current model.

With the new model we’ll be charging a flat per student price of $3.60 per year per module – so $3.60 per student for Parent Slips and $3.60 per student for School Forms.

After testing the new price with current customers and potential new schools we think the price is really attractive and the new model is much fairer.

But some of our current customers are probably thinking, ‘hey, we were at the good end of the pricing tier under the current model and the price works for us.’ Because we’ve had great input from our first few hundred schools that has helped us develop and grow ParentPaperwork in ways that really matter in schools, the team here has decided to grandfather the price of all schools signed before 1 September 2016 and that their price will only ever increase by CPI in the future.

For many of our schools that will mean that as long as you remain a subscriber to ParentPaperwork the price to your school can be as much as one third of the cost of a new school subscription post 1 September 2016.

If there are any schools in your network that you believe have been thinking about signing up to ParentPaperwork but have been sitting on the fence, please consider encouraging them to sign up before 1 September. We’re sure they’ll thank you for not only the cost and labour savings that flow naturally once ParentPaperwork is deployed but also the benefit of getting the best price possible.

I’m happy to take your referrals directly so please don’t hesitate to direct your colleagues to fiona@parentpaperwork.com.

Calculate how much ParentPaperwork can save your school

Paper forms are a major resource and labour expense in schools, and recently we embarked on a quest to create some rough estimates of just how much the cost would be – both cash and to the environment.

If we look across all ParentPaperwork’s customers in 7 countries, on average schools are sending home 30 forms per student per year- so in a school of 1,000 students that’s 30,000 paper forms being managed between school and parents annually, let alone all the paper forms used internally by staff.

In dollar terms the forms sent home to parents for 1,000 students are probably costing you north of $16,000 a year. ParentPaperwork is very significantly cheaper than that.

ParentPaperwork will also obvious substantially reduce paper usage, resulting in strong environmental outcomes.

We’ve created a handy online calculator allowing you to see just how much you could save by using ParentPaperwork’s online forms platform to improve your school’s management processes.

Check out the new calculator!

Send Parent Slips forms to individual Students as well as Student Lists

We’re celebrating the start of a new week with a great new feature in ParentPaperwork – the ability to select individual Students for a Parent Slip as well, or instead of, the traditional Student Lists.

Ever since ParentPaperwork launched we’ve held firm to the principle that we send Slips to groups of Students, it always made sense when we thought about the ways paper forms are used in schools for group activities like excursions and field trips.

However, as more and more schools sign up for ParentPaperwork, the more ways they are finding to use the system to solve paper-based communication tasks. Over the past couple of months we’ve had schools in several countries ask us why we are so tied to Student Lists, and why can’t they just select a couple of Students and send out a form? That feedback made us reflect, and come to the conclusion there really wasn’t any reason! And so we’ve made the change.

As of today you can now send a Parent Slip, or a Broadcast, to any combination of Student Lists and/or individual Students. When you add a new Slip or Broadcast you will see the usual Student List selector, and a new field to select Students. Just start typing the name of the Student and a list of suggestions will display, click the name of the Student to add them to the recipients list.

select-students-for-slip

In all other ways the Parent Slips and Broadcasts work the same, the individual Students will be displayed on the lists of Responses and Statistics along with any Students from selected Student Lists.

You can even send a Slip or Broadcast to a single Student, there’s now no requirement to select a Student List at all.

It’s a source of pride to us that ParentPaperwork’s ongoing development is in direct response to the needs and desires of our schools – and this new feature is a great example of what happens when customers put forward ideas that resonate with other schools – because we are always listening and will always adopt great innovations that will be of benefit to the whole ParentPaperwork community.

Canadian schools seek out ParentPaperwork at Connect 2016

Canada’s largest education technology conference and trade show Connect 2016 was held the last week of April in Niagara Falls – a spectacular backdrop to a terrific conference featuring a memorable keynote speech from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

A large group of EdTech companies exhibited at the accompanying trade show, and ParentPaperwork was proud to be one of the firms selected for the Start Up Alley, a collection of up and coming EdTech startups from Canada and beyond.

The conference included many great sessions, ranging from integrating coding into the classroom to the many ways technology can enhance learning in the classroom.

Looking to the stars

Guest of honour Chris Hadfield took the audience from his childhood dreaming of space, through to his five months as Commander of the International Space Station, including his now legendary rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Music has been a lifelong passion for Chris and he recounted what he considers the most remarkable moment in his life, playing guitar in a live simulcast in which 700,000 schools students participated.

He reflected on the powerful way music and technology combined to inspire the next generation of dreamers, explorers and innovators.

Excited about the future

ParentPaperwork in Canada
Setting up for a huge couple of days

The group of companies exhibiting in Start Up Alley along with ParentPaperwork were varied, all with a new twist or take on how technology can be applied in education.

My Effect, founded by a remarkable young woman, helps connect students with volunteering opportunities; 5-A-Day-Fitness (also at BETT in London in January) were showing their innovative fitness programs; while Riipen has a fantastic platform for linking tertiary students with businesses looking for new talent.

There was no shortage of school staff wanting to talk about ParentPaperwork, highlighting yet again how paper forms and manual administration processes are a bugbear in every school, no matter which country.

Representatives from several school boards, ranging from 5,000 to 60,000 students, also sought us out to discuss how implementing an online forms solution could have a major impact across an entire network of schools.

Niagara Falls
The spectacular Niagara Falls

Attendees made sure they walked down to Niagara Falls just a few minutes from the convention venue. Truly spectacular, the iconic sight was worth braving the chill, and a wonderful setting for an inspiring gathering of Canadian educators ready to reframe their future.

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