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:
- The user experiences should be front and centre of all thinking and planning.
- All programs and systems need to be interoperable.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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