Life goes better with partners – Ayra Analytics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is the future of data analysis heading for schools?

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

How would you sum up Ayra Analytics service offering?

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

www.ayraanalytics.com.au

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

 

ParentPaperwork makes an impression at BETT

The BETT Show, held in London each year, is one of the largest education technology tradeshows in the world. It’s big and it’s exhausting.

Originally known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show, BETT has been running for more than 30 years, and attracts more than 35,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. It’s held in the Excel, a vast exhibition hall on the banks of the Thames in the east end of London.

Nothing can completely prepare you for the sheer size of the event – walking from one end of the exhibition floor to the other takes 15 minutes, or longer, as you squeeze past hundreds of people packed along the aisles or hanging around exhibitor stands. Education and technology are rapidly colliding and sparking.

Anyone who is anyone in the EdTech universe is there, including Microsoft, Apple and Google, who each have large elaborate stands carefully designed to reflect their corporate image and brand.

Microsoft is all right angles, pale timber and slick video screens. Google is less formal and incorporates their ‘Google’ colours even into the benches. Apple has dozens of bright young things roaming around in trademark T-Shirts, jeans and runners.

Parent Paperwork at BETT

We spent the four days of BETT working with our UK partner Groupcall and meeting some terrific EdTech firms from all over the world.

Some countries, including Singapore and Israel, had stands showcasing groups of local EdTech firms. The United Arab Emirates had a stand devoted to recruiting British teachers to move to the UAE.

Special credit to Melbourne business Caremonkey who also made the trip. It was lovely to catch up with their founder Troy Westley and I’m hoping he found BETT as productive as ParentPaperwork did.

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The Groupcall stand at BETT was spectacular

Groupcall’s stand was fantastic, one of the largest at BETT, and definitely with the largest video screen, a 9m LED video wall across the back (and yes we played the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer a few times late one afternoon!).

The set up was perfect, with multiple seating areas with large computers where you could sit down with a group of school representatives and demonstrate products, as well as free standing touch screens also running the demos.

We even had a visit from Sir Bob Geldof. You may know him as a musician, but he’s also an original investor in Groupcall, and regularly attends to BETT to spend time connecting with Groupcall users and edutech innovators at large.

It was fun watching visitors walk past the stand and do a double take when they saw Sir Bob! (And of course immediately pull out their phone for a selfie).

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Sir Bob dropped by and was mobbed.

For us, it was our first major opportunity to showcase ParentPaperwork’s new integration with Groupcall’s Messenger school/parent communication platform.

We’re proud of this partnership – we’ve baked ParentPaperwork’s Parent Slips module deeply into Messenger, giving schools a seamless experience and all the benefits of replacing the paper forms they exchange with their parents.

I should also mention a fellow partner in Messenger, PEBS (Parent Evening Booking System).

Like us they have deeply integrated their parent teacher interview booking platform into Messenger, and their founder Will Mackenzie came down from Scotland to share time with us. He’s a fabulous guy, and already has hundreds of UK schools using PEBS.

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BETT is a remarkable experience.

I must confess, by the end of the last day my voice was almost gone, and my feet were killing me – I laughed I needed a foot spa to recover!

But this was a brilliant opportunity to talk to hundreds of people about ParentPaperwork, gauge their reaction, and solicit their feedback. We left BETT with a long list of interested school staffers.

Not one that I spoke with (and that was a great many) didn’t see the value of ParentPaperwork.

Once they had their ‘light bulb’ moment and connected in their mind the paper form problem with our solution, their enthusiasm was palpable. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

A student’s perspective on technology in her school and classroom

Clea Boyd-Eedle is in her final year of high school, and offers her perspective on technology in her school and classroom.

The way that students are taught today in schools has been completely revolutionised compared to 20 years ago, with the constant development and implementation of new and groundbreaking technology aimed to further education.

As a Year 12 student, I have plenty of experience with a wide range of tools that teachers use to aid their teaching. With a younger brother in Year 9 also, I am able to see the difference in the technology that my classmates and I use and the future year levels.

For example, iPads and tablets are being used to teach primary and kindergarten students. iPads have shown to be a fun and exciting way for children to learn, and has proved important in the way of aid for children with disabilities, and offers an array of apps and softwares for those in need of extra support.

Since year 4, much of my education has involved or incorporated technology in some sort of way. In year 5, trolleys of laptops were wheeled to each classroom where we would use websites and games to learn math and how to use applications like word, excel or powerpoint presentations.

I fondly remember playing a game in math called Bloxorz, where the player would manoeuvre a block around an obstacle course. It was a little more complicated than that but was very perplexing yet enjoyable. Language subjects used online quizzes and games which tested your vocabulary and ability to conjugate words, the best kind of game was when we were timed.

The fact that I even remember these methods of learning show that they are somewhat effective. I believe that I, and most students, learn best when the task is enjoyable, and by mixing entertainment with education; endless possibilities present themselves by way of teaching through technology.

Being in my final year, I have never been more grateful for technology and my ability to have my laptop in class. There are very few students in any of my classes who opt to handwrite their notes, although it is somewhat important, it is just much more quicker and easier to type. This is especially important when having lectures, and as much information must be written down as possible in short time frames. By having my laptop in class, I am able to search for virtually any piece of information I need.

Some may say that our generation is lazy and is becoming less intelligent, but in my opinion it is completely the opposite. We have literally anything we need to know at our fingertips.

Technology in education is so much more than just learning through educational games, as more schools are beginning to shift much of their curriculum and organisational tools online, we are now seeing the classroom being brought home.

My current school has its own platform where we access all our emails, lesson plans, content and timetables. Year levels below me also use an online diary to keep record of their homework and upcoming events, although we still use bound books. By storing all of this information online, not only an unthinkable amount of paper is saved, but being organised is much achievable for students.

What’s even better is that many of students textbooks are available for download onto their device, which not only saves money but means less weight to carry in the schoolbag home.

It is exciting to see the leaps and bounds that educational has made in the past few decades, and how dramatically it has developed. What is even more exciting are the possibilities that the future of technology in education presents, especially with the rapid rate of growth in the development of applications and software tools designed to aid teachers in the classroom.

Image: US Department of Education