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

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from ParentPaperwork

The team at ParentPaperwork wish all of our schools, customers, partners, affiliates, friends and colleagues a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We’re sure you are all glad to be finishing up your year – however successful the past twelve months there’s no doubt a little rest and relaxation is welcome.

It’s certainly been a huge year for all of us at ParentPaperwork, we started 2015 as a barely-known little startup with a couple of school customers in Australia, and now are relied upon for fast, safe and secure online forms and data capture by schools in seven countries including the USA, UK, and Canada. We’re incredibly proud of our team, supporters and investors who have all made amazing contributions to making this success possible. To all of them, a very special ‘thank you’.

For our schools in our home country of Australia please enjoy your long summer holiday – it’s not such a bad idea having Christmas in Summer, although those of us in cities like Melbourne that are currently enjoying a run of 40 degree Celsius days (that’s 104 for those in Fahrenheit) the idea of snow seems a fantasy! Doesn’t prevent plenty of people in Santa costumes strolling the streets, just hope they have the light-weight versions on!

Our schools in other parts of the world will be back early January, so we trust you do have time for a break and time with family and friends.

The ParentPaperwork office will be technically closed from 25 December, re-opening Monday 4 January 2016. However, we are never really on holiday, we’ll be checking emails and requests for support throughout and will respond as quickly as usual in most cases, so please do not hesitate to reach out if you need assistance. Plus we’ll be using the quiet time to work on some updates and improvements to ParentPaperwork…

Have a safe and festive holidays, here’s to a fantastic 2016!

Fiona and David
Co-Founders, ParentPaperwork

fiona-headshot-round

david-headshot-round

How risky are paper forms in schools? Seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents

Risk and liability management is a significant and growing issue for schools around the world. Schools face ever increasingly tight legal frameworks around privacy, risk management and in some countries the advent of litigious parents who will sue for everything from poor exam results to even the mildest perception of the school placing their child in harm’s way. Some schools now employ full time staff members whose job is to prepare risk assessments and evaluate every activity for the potential for all manner of disaster.

With this in mind it’s essential schools consider all aspects of their administrative and management processes and policies. ParentPaperwork is helping schools with this by offering a platform that replaces paper forms with a secure, robust online forms system to capture, manage and report information from parents.

Let’s break down why paper forms are inherently risky in schools, and examine seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents.

1. Who signed the form?

Schools have an obligation to secure informed consent from the guardian of a student for excursions and other activities. That means ensuring the parent has all the necessary information to make an informed decision about their child participating in an activity. And the school needs to be confident they have secured that consent from the appropriate person.

How can you have any confidence the information provided on a form, and signature at the bottom, is from the intended parent or guardian? The paper form has been stuffed in a school bag, and presumably transported home, but schools have no capacity to validate the form was filled in by the parent. ParentPaperwork communicates directly with the nominated contacts for a student, and can add another layer of identification with Two Factor Authentication.

2. Was the form filled out correctly?

A paper form has no controls to ensure that information is entered into all the required fields. Even the design of the form is a problem – all too often class teachers simply design their own form, ignoring the mandated form created by the school, or the school’s auspicing body – the local authority, the school district. ParentPaperwork ensures staff use the correct form template, and can designate fields as required to force parents to complete the necessary information.

3. Can you read their handwriting?

Once paper forms have been returned the information needs to be transcribed often into a central report, perhaps an Excel spreadsheet. You are dependent on being able to read the parent’s handwriting, a mistake can be costly. We all know we have parents whose handwriting is illegible, can you be sure you have interpreted the information correctly? ParentPaperwork’s online forms mean parents are typing their responses to all the fields and questions.

4. Are the responses from parents being compiled correctly?

Your school’s office staff might be faced with a pile of dozens or hundreds of forms they need to collate and assemble information from. Any time information is moved from one medium to another the risk of corruption is high. Maybe they could read the handwriting, but did they then transcribe the information consistently and correctly? ParentPaperwork collates the parent responses for you, there’s no opportunity for data to be corrupted along the way.

5. Are your paper forms stored securely?

Schools must adhere to data retention policies, they vary around the world but a good rule of thumb seems to be seven years. Where are you storing your paper forms? In a box in a shed down the back of the playing fields? In the basement – the one that floods each winter? Are you really sure they are safe for the next seven years? Some schools even pay for secure off-site storage of paperwork! ParentPaperwork stores all the online form data in a secure cloud-based database, backed up constantly.

6. Can you find a form from six months ago? Five years ago?

Let’s say there was a question or query raised about an activity in the past? Can you locate and retrieve a paper form submitted by a parent two years ago? Would you have to pay your offsite document storage company to retrieve and deliver a box back to school? Is there a catalogue or index for every batch of paper forms you’ve added to storage over the years? ParentPaperwork’s online database means you can search for a particular student, parent or activity and immediately display the online form the parent completed, no matter how long ago.

7. Who has access to your paper forms?

Paper forms regularly contain highly sensitive personal information about students and parents – health information, personal circumstances and addresses and contacts, all of which is likely strictly regulated by the privacy and data protection laws in your country. How do you control access to the paper forms, or the transcribed data within the school? Can any teacher just pick up a form, or see a spreadsheet of compiled responses? ParentPaperwork provides strong user permissions to control which staff member can see what information, ensuring only those who ‘need to know’ can access personal data.

These seven points of failure should be keeping school administrators awake at night everywhere. It only takes one incident to highlight the inadequacies of old style manual processes. In today’s world any incident is one too many, and that’s why the team behind ParentPaperwork has worked hard to create the right technology solution to reduce risk and improve liability management in schools around the world, by replacing paper forms with a secure online system.

 

 

 

 

 

ParentPaperwork joins the Schools IT Roadshow around the UK

ParentPaperwork will be part of the Schools IT Roadshow around the UK in coming months, kicking off on Jersey on 18 November, presenting a range of tools and services to groups of schools that can assist in improving efficiency and productivity.

Today, access to technology and IT, both in the home and at school is more prevalent than ever. We now use apps, where once we might have used websites and the hardware we use is changing from desktops to smart phones and tablets. IT influences our daily lives, and teachers and students naturally bring these influences with them into school.

This opens up great possibilities to improve the way schools engage with parents, students and staff through communications, surveys and events such as parent’s evenings.

To help you with this, three IT providers, Groupcall, NetMedia and ParentPaperwork have launched a roadshow of school based meetings to guide local schools in how technology is evolving and improving the running of schools and helping to cut costs and increase efficiency. The three businesses cover:

Communications: Groupcall helps schools communicate and engage with parents, students and staff quicker, through Messenger and help staff with registration, reporting and analysis through Emerge.

Events: NetMedia helps schools to connect better with parents through more effective parents evening, using the Parents’ Evening Booking System.

Forms and Surveys: ParentPaperwork enhances parental engagement and helps schools to free up time through online forms and surveys replacing notes in book bags and flyers handed out at the school gate.

If you are looking at ways to improve parental engagement, communication and deliver cost savings and efficiencies in your school, then why not explore a number of areas of opportunity at The Schools IT Roadshow:

Channel Islands: Jersey – Wednesday 18th November, @ Jersey College of Girls, Le Mont Millais, St Saviour, Jersey C.I. JE2 7YB

South West: Devon 25.11.2015 @09:00

North West: Manchester 3.12.2015 @09:00

East London: Waltham Forest 27.01.2015 @09:00

North Midlands: Nottingham 10.02.2015 @ 09:00

Register to attend one of the roadshow meetings

Explore what is happening with technology in schools, and find out, what is helping them to cut costs, improve efficiencies and ultimately help to drive parental engagement, student attainment, and achievement.

Register today to find out more: http://schoolsitroadshow.eventbrite.co.uk

ParentPaperwork has moved house to St Kilda

We’re moving today into our new office, on Wellington Street in St Kilda, Melbourne, opposite Albert Park (great for walks at lunchtime). There’s plenty of natural light, heaps of space to expand, and all new fitout – in fact they haven’t installed the kitchen yet, but we’ll rough it for now!

Our new street address is:

Level 1
3 Wellington Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

Feel free to come and say hello!

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 1.09.49 pm

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.

CEcP-zEWEAE3g9z

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.

CDNxzbcXIAATOCV

  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…

CENOnnWUMAAbKgR

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.

2

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.

ParentPaperwork now integrates with Denbigh School Administration system

We’re pleased to advise ParentPaperwork now integrates to the Denbigh School Administration system.

Denbigh is a terrific Australian company which specialises in the development of customised administration solutions for educational institutions and other enterprises throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

The new integration means ParentPaperwork can automatically import parent and student data directly from Denbigh, without the need for manual data handling.

We schedule the data sync each night, so any changes you’ve made to parent or student records in Denbigh will automatically transfer to ParentPaperwork. We can also bring over co-curricular activity information to make creating Student Lists in ParentPaperwork really easy.

If you are using Denbigh, we’d love to show you how ParentPaperwork can benefit your school!