Sentral supports key factors for primary to secondary transition success

Transitioning from primary to secondary school can be a stressful time for young students and their parents. It’s something that often gets talked about in the media around this time of year, like this example in the SMH which describes strategies being used at Sir Joseph Banks High School in Sydney. Generally, concerns about the transition include stress, coping strategies, the anxiety of suddenly becoming the small fish in the big pond, and the impact on academic achievement. Some students sail through this without any trouble, but many don’t. Sentral can play a significant role in managing some of these concerns, and to find out how, it’s useful to take a look at some recent Australian research on student transition from primary school to high school.

In a paper by Hopwood, Hay, and Dyment (2016) the authors report on a research study that claims to build upon current knowledge about student transition “by focussing specifically on the perspectives of teachers, as teachers play an important role in guiding and supporting students through the transition years”. This is interesting because it might seem normal to think that the teachers have got it all together, and that it’s the students who are experiencing all the stress. Not so according to the research by Hopwood.

The small-scale study in the state of Tasmania had the specific “goal of accessing authentic teacher voice pertaining to their experiences of facilitating the transition process”. It took what researchers call a qualitative interpretivist perspective. It means that the researchers were more interested in depth than large numbers. They really wanted to know the actual experiences of the teachers. Three key themes emerged for transition success,

  • Curriculum continuity and awareness
  • Communication between primary and secondary schools
  • Adequate teacher support

(Hopwood et al., 2016)

Whilst the above three themes seem reasonably straightforward, they are actually quite complex to implement given the large variety of factors at play. When a student transitions, they may be moving to a different school system or different area which means that continuity, communication and support can be that much more difficult amongst teachers. This is where a common student management platform like Sentral can make a significant positive impact. Let’s take a brief look at some examples.

Sentral improves continuity

In a recent interview with David Summerville, ICT administrator at Callaghan College, Wallsend Campus in Newcastle, David commented that one of the benefits of using Sentral was that so many teachers were familiar with the platform. This dramatically shortened the onboarding process for new teachers. But what about the transition issue? Again, one of the insights David shared was improved continuity of data once all the feeder schools for Callaghan (also Sentral schools) moved to a cloud-based version of Sentral. This would mean that the entire student history could easily migrate to the high school situation, bringing with it all the academic records, student plans and wellbeing information. For high school teachers awaiting their new year 7 students, this level of information could give teachers valuable advance notice of their students’ capabilities and needs. And it’s not only the data that are of value, but the data will be in a familiar format which reduces time spent sifting through hard copies or digital data from another system.

Sentral improves communication

It’s universally accepted that good communication leads to good outcomes. Yet there are still shortfalls in the way we communicate. Consider this finding from the research.

Despite the acknowledgement that communication was an important part of teacher practice, the majority of teachers interviewed reported that communication was not occurring sufficiently between schools, making it difficult to address the needs of their students adequately.

(Hopwood et al., 2016)

But what does the above comment really call for? Does it mean more phone calls, sms, emails or data exchange? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, findings from the study revealed that “just over half the teachers reported the need for increased school visits” (Hopwood et al., 2016). Whilst this may be desirable, it may not always be practical. So, what do you do? That depends on your personal preferred method of communication, and the tools you have at your disposal. With a fully integrated system like Sentral there are several benefits. The Sentral Communication module may not be able to magically teleport a teacher to another school, but it can provide teachers at both ends the ability to check message history within the school and between parents and caregivers. It provides a way to appropriately share relevant documents, track issues and interview history. Whilst not being able to substitute a physical meeting or visit to another school, Sentral can provide the all-important backstory for teachers to more adequately know the individual needs of transitioning students.

Sentral improves support

Consider this finding from the study.

Teacher support referred to the types of resources available to assist teachers, including access to age appropriate resources, teacher’s aides to work with students in the classroom, increased planning time, support from colleagues and opportunities to attend professional development days.

The common theme in the above comment is that each of the resources listed require time. For teachers to do their work efficiently and effectively, quality time can be created by removing the burden of day to day administrative tasks. As a fully integrated system, Sentral allows teachers to manage tasks such as daily admin, assessment, academic reporting, wellbeing and more using a seamless digital solution that works quietly in the background. With more time and less hassle, teachers can reallocate precious time to things like creating resources, planning and professional development.

Continuity, communication and support are all complex topics and they’ll represent different things in different contexts. That’s one of the reasons why small-scale research studies like the one discussed add so much value; it meant something for those participants. It’s a good reminder for all involved in education to consider ways to bridge the gap between research and practice to achieve better learning outcomes. Staying abreast of this kind of knowledge and insight is also one of the key drivers of Sentral’s mission; to help teachers and students be the best they can be.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/the-school-that-s-making-high-school-more-like-primary-20191127-p53emn.html

Hopwood, B., Hay, I., & Dyment, J. (2016). The transition from primary to secondary school: Teachers’ perspectives. Australian Educational Researcher, 43(3), 289-307. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13384-016-0200-0

 

Sentral ready to help drive effective school leadership

As the 2020 school year rapidly approaches, many school leaders will already be attending to the significant task ahead of planning for and providing effective leadership. Whilst some readers may think that leadership is simply a part of the job for principals, it’s worth remembering that education in today’s world is filled with ever-growing challenges and responsibilities. This means that principals and others in leadership roles need to be constantly aware of the changing educational landscape and be ready to respond appropriately. Coupled with insight from quality PD courses and research, Sentral can provide a solid foundation for your school’s leadership strategy. Let’s see how that might work. 

One way for principals to develop new insights on emerging leadership issues is to attend a leadership program, such as that offered by The Principals’ Centre at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s a “centre dedicated to the support and development of principals and other school leaders”, and “has attracted thousands of educators from across the globe to its professional education programs, inspiring today’s school leaders to be outstanding in their roles”  (Harvard Graduate School of Education). If you’re in Sydney or can easily get to Sydney, then you’re in luck. From 13 -16 January 2020, the centre is offering a course hosted at the University of Sydney Business School titled “Leadership for School Excellence”.  Those fortunate enough to attend will be presented with hard hitting objectives, including language such as “high expectations for instructional quality”, becoming a “more effective school leader”, “being informed by relevant school data” and “increasing engagement” to name a few. This course sounds like hard work. 

Courses like these come at the right time, for as recent research shows, school leaders and principals are indeed under pressure in several areas. Take for example findings from the TALIS 2018 survey, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)What’s that? 

“The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) collects internationally comparable data on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers and principals in schools across the world. It offers teachers and principals the opportunity to provide their perspectives on the state of education in their own countries, allowing for a global view of teachers, the education systems in which they work, and the successes and challenges faced by teachers and school leaders”. (Australian Council for Education Research) 

The report is comprehensive, and a full analysis is beyond the scope of this article. However, let’s take a look at a few salient points. The report states that, 

Almost two-thirds of Australian principals cited high workload and level of responsibility in their job as issues that substantially limited their effectiveness. Principals of schools with a higher proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more likely to report a lack of principal support such as higher levels of teacher absenteeism, lack of support from parents or guardians, and lack of shared leadership within the school. (Australian Council for Education Research) 

There’s a lot packed into that statement.  This of course is a highlevel view and may not accurately reflect your local school context. However, reversing those issues might seem insurmountable and that’s why courses such as those offered by Harvard are so pertinent in today’s education climate.  

 Sentral helps drive effectiveness 

So how does a school management platform help to address issues like those mentioned above? Surely leadership is done by the people and not the software. Yes, that’s absolutely correct. For example, in a recent podcast interview with Kylie FabriDeputy Principal at Callaghan College Wallsend Campus in Newcastle (a Sentral school), Kylie made very clear that it was the people who ultimately made the difference, but that achieving the outcomes was made that much simpler and effective with the right tools at hand. And that’s why Sentral plays such a vital role at Callaghan. 

Consider these findings from TALIS 2018. 

 A little more than one-third (34%) of Australian principals’ working time was spent on administrative tasks and meetings, while one-quarter (25%) of their time was spent on leadership tasks and meetings. Prior OECD research identified curriculum and teaching-related tasks and meetings as a key component of instructional leadership and supporting teaching(Australian Council for Education Research) 

 According to those surveyed, more than half a principal’s time is is spent on administration and meetings with some leadership included. That’s a fairly substantial proportion. Now imagine if that time could be reduced, or at least made more efficient. The time freed up could then conceivably be used for ‘curriculum and teaching’ related tasks which have been shown to be a key component of instructional leadership.  

 Sentral Administration reduces burden 

 The Sentral Administration module ensures that your school’s student data are complete and secure. Student profiles are intuitively presented to the user resulting in fast access to required information. The ability to find, access and appropriately share information significantly reduces the time taken to manage a number of tasks such as communication, wellbeing and activities. With a centralised system of information, school leaders have access to all necessary information within the one environment.  

Sentral Finance streamlines payments 

 Closely related to student records administration is the handling of payments for items such as fees,  events and activities. Sentral Finance introduces a level of integration and control that enables superior oversight and functionality. Complex family situations and households are handled seamlessly with advanced rules and billing notifications. Together, a properly functioning administration and finance system has the power to make a significant positive impact to the functioning of every school. 

Sentral Wellbeing improves community 

 Consider these findings from TALIS 2018. 

 Incidents related to school safety are a particular concern to Australian principals compared to the OECD average. Intimidation and bullying of students is a particular issue, with 37 per cent of principals reporting that this occurs at least weekly in their school. Also of concern is the relatively high incidence of intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff. Twelve per cent of Australian principals reported that this happens at least weekly, compared to three per cent on average across the OECD. The incidence of cyber-bullying, measured for the first time, was also relatively high compared to the average across the OECD. (Australian Council for Education Research) 

The Sentral Wellbeing module provides a comprehensive system for recording events related to students’ wellbeing and enables a range of staff to collaborate as appropriate. Whether contacting parents, or checking the validity of student accounts of events, Sentral provides the resources to accurately track and record all necessary information. This creates an environment where staff and school leaders can feel confident that they are working with the most up-to-date information on all wellbeing concerns. 

Whilst surveys like TALIS sometimes provide findings that we’d rather not read about, they also contain many positive results. In addition, they remind us that education is continuously evolving and that educators need to evolve with it if Australia is to provide opportunities for excellence in teaching and learning. Sentral recognises that in a climate of increased accountability and regulatory compliance, time spent on teaching and learning is a critical priority. It’s what drives Sentral to continue to innovate and evolve with the industry it serves. Through its commitment to the educational needs of Australia’s children, Sentral will continue in its core mission; to help teachers and students be the best they can be. 

 

 Australian Council for Education Research. (2019). TALIS 2018, The Teaching and Learning International Survey. Retrieved from https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=talis 

Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2020). The Principals’ Center in Australia: Leadership for School Excellence. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/ppe/program/principals-centre-australia-leadership-school-excellence 

 

Sentral: The best platform for 2020 vision

The start of a new year usually brings a time of reflection on the year past and how things might be different for the coming 12 months. Rarely, in fact only once in history, do you get the chance to think that your vision for the year might align with the calendar date; 2020. In reality, that has little to do with anything but it’s fun to ponder the thought. What’s not so much fun is to reflect on the PISA news released towards the end of 2019Whilst it’s not the brightest note to start the year on, the news cannot be ignored because it highlights some longer-term problems with Australian education. If Australia does not address these, then it runs the risk of failing to provide our children with the best education possible. And whilst some readers may not place too much importance on standardised tests, the results are data nonetheless. 

To help students and teachers be the best they can be is at the core of Sentral’s mission. And whilst a full analysis of the 2018 PISA results and how to address them is well beyond the scope of a blog post, this article will take a brief look at how Sentral can be used to improve learning outcomes and provide the foundation for creating a vision for 2020. 

The aim of this article is not to rehash what mainstream media has already written about. A quick web search will find the relevant articles, such as those from the SMH, The Australian, and the ABC (listed below). It’s also not encouraging to be reminded of the language that has been used to describe Australia’s 2018 PISA results, like dishearteningfalling behindalarm bells, ‘blame game’ and ‘wake-up call’What is encouraging to consider is that the OECD provides a succinct ‘Country Note’ for each participating nation, neatly summarising the statistics. When read carefully it can provide useful insight. For example, the media usually reports mainly on reading, maths and science. But perhaps a less known detail is that PISA also reports on “an innovative domain (in 2018, the innovative domain was global competence), and on students’ wellbeing” (OECD, 2019). 

Sentral Wellbeing 

For Australia, PISA states that “compared to the average student across OECD countries, Australian students reported being bullied more frequently, felt more afraid of failing, and were more likely to have skipped school and feel lonely at school” (OECD, 2019). Whilst a regrettable finding, it’s encouraging to know that schools can access the tools to reverse the situation. Sentral can make a direct positive impact in this space through the use of the Sentral Wellbeing module. Sentral Wellbeing is a highly configurable tool that schools can use to design and implement their approaches to managing wellbeing. Whether adapting to an existing system, or starting from scratch, Sentral Wellbeing enables teachers to work collaboratively on wellbeing issues, confident that information is being shared appropriately and securely amongst relevant staff and allied professionals. 

It might seem natural to think of wellbeing in terms of incidents, or problems that may lead to behavioural issues with an individual or small group level. However, one of the issues reported on by PISA is perhaps not so often discussedwhat school life means for students’ lives. For example, “some 32% of students in Australia (OECD average: 26%) reported that, in every or most language -of-instruction lessons, their teacher has to wait a long time for students to quiet down (OECD, 2019)School life for one third of students might therefore ‘mean’ a day filled with distraction before any learning can really begin. Is this a form of bullying on the part of the distractors? Hard to know. Sentral Wellbeing can offer support in this situation as it allows teachers to record behaviours across groups, classes or individuals which can then be shared with other teachers experiencing similar problems of disruption. When considered together, these ‘incidents’ can be be analysed for trends or patterns that can then be appropriately addressed. Teachers can then more easily work together across faculties to coordinate strategies for creating better learning environments. 

Power BI 

Standardised tests like PISA produce a large quantity of data. As mentioned above, the Country Note provides a succinct look into the data for each participating nation, complete with a set of very statistical looking charts. A key tool used by PISA commentators and journalists is the infographic, which turns these charts into more readable visuals that help us understand what the data are trying to tell us. Sadly, the 2018 charts generally show downward trends. Given that PISA tests are triennial (held every three years) you might be wondering exactly how useful these charts are, after the fact. If the test were annual, you might think that you could respond more promptly and perhaps stem the trends which we now see as so disturbing. Of course, conducting PISA tests annually may simply be impossible given current resources. But what if you could get a visual snapshot of your students’ performance at any given time. 

As a Microsoft Strategic Partner, Sentral is pleased to offer Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence)an analytical tool that brings raw data to life, creating visuals that are easy to interpret. That’s not to say that PISA charts are difficult to interpret. It’s just that they are released every three years, whereas Power BI is available to schools in real time, all the time. Rather than waiting for standardised test charts to tell you the news (good or bad), Power BI enables schools to see the impact of teaching and learning strategies as they happen. Consider the example from above that 1 in 3 students report long wait times for their classes to quiet down. Power BI enables schools to analyse multiple data types across different categories, which can highlight cause and effect trends. What students are experiencing in one class with one particular learning activity may be having flow on impacts (positive and/or negative) in other classes, such as the ability to quiet down promptlyPower BI can therefore be used not only for remediation, but also for enhancement. 

When standardised tests produce poorer than hoped for results, it’s easy to become despondent and lose vision. Media coverage that reinforces the message does help to inform the public about reports that they may not ordinarily read, yet it doesn’t tell the whole story. In the roughly 10,000 schools around Australia there are many teachers who are completely committed to helping students achieve their very best. Sentral is proud to be providing a comprehensive student management platform to over 3000 of them. And each year Sentral invests heavily in further developing the tools that empower teachers and students to be the best they can be. Sentral Wellbeing and Power BI are just two parts of the fully integrated Sentral platform which can help your school deliver outstanding educational outcomes and achieve a vision that could be described as truly 2020. 

 

OECD. (2019). Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Resuts from PISA 2018, Country Note. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_AUS.pdf 

Media Articles referred to; 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-03/australia-education-results-maths-reading-science-getting-worse/11760880 

https://www.smh.com.au/education/alarm-bells-australian-students-record-worst-result-in-global-tests-20191203-p53gie.html 

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/pisa-australia-tanks-in-global-education-rankings-despite-20bn-boost/news-story/2a133b1f592b8c6db850cecea91fabed 

 

NSW Bush fires: Sentral enables better communication

From the team at Sentral

Ahead of forecast catastrophic fire conditions for Tuesday 12 November, Sentral activates automated messaging for all its NSW schools.

On 11 November 2019 the state of NSW was put on notice for the severest of all fire conditions. Catastrophic fire danger was declared for the Sydney, Hunter, Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions.

With high temperatures and high winds forecast across the state, communities and businesses were instructed to make the appropriate preparations. This included schools, and over 600 made the decision ahead of time to close for the day to reduce the need for students to travel through potentially fire affected areas. Transport NSW also encouraged commuters to leave work early to avoid potential problems and delays with public transport.

Whilst this no doubt placed many people in difficult situations, the decision for schools to close was most certainly appropriate. By the end of the day on 12 November 2019, the NSW Rural Fire Service Website was indicating around 100 fire incidents across NSW of varying alert levels. The loss of life and property was tragic.

Sentral contributes to the fire effort

From a school’s perspective, communication is a critical factor in emergency situations. To quickly send messages to the entire school community is a key capability.

In preparation for this very stressful period, Sentral activated automated SMS messaging for its NSW schools at no cost.

For schools in fire affected areas, continuous communication with the latest updates was made possible. In addition, schools were also given the option of a ‘Dedicated Mobile Phone Number’ connected to the SMS messaging service. This means that messages always come from the same number, enabling parents to save the number into their phones for effective 2-way communication. The dedicated number option was provided free for one year.

Sentral enabled these services for schools swiftly as an expression of care for its customers.

Sentral is a key component in school communication

Built on decades of experience, and trusted by over 3000 schools across Australia, Sentral places a high priority on the communication capabilities provided by the platform. With features including bulk and automated SMS messaging, dedicated mobile phone numbers and email, schools are able to keep parents informed of their child’s wellbeing quickly and efficiently.

Into the future

Sentral recognises that the future will bring further challenges and critical events. Schools can be assured that the safety and wellbeing of all people in the schools it serves is of paramount importance. It’s one of the key aspects that drives product innovation and the ability to respond quickly in difficult situations.

Sentral salutes our heroes

Sentral would like to acknowledge and thank all volunteers and emergency services for their frontline work to protect life and property. Sentral recognises the great personal risk taken by those actively dealing with the fire situation, and the contribution they make to ensuring the safety of our homes, communities and schools. In many cases, their efforts are truly heroic.

Inspiration from a leading advocate: Julie Bishop

Sentral Embraces Cloud Innovation

Written by Colin Klupiec

Last week the NSW Primary Principals Association, 2019 Annual Conference was held at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. This year’s inspiring theme: Building Us. Sentral was there as a key sponsor to the event with several contributions that supported the theme. More on that later in this post. Let’s first take a look at a critical issue raised by one of the event’s keynote speakers, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

The overarching message presented by Ms Bishop was the “rising importance of science, engineering and technology.” This is an ever-pertinent message for Australian educators, and something that became very apparent to her as the Minister for Education and Science in 2006-2007 (Bishop, 2018). Whilst Ms Bishop has held several other significant senior political roles including Shadow Treasurer, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, and most recently the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the mandate for Australia to provide quality science and technology education is still a topic she speaks about passionately. In particular, supporting and developing women; from early school education (Bishop, 2018), right through to inspiring women to be successful in innovation, business, politics and leadership (Bishop, 2019). Let’s take a look at a recent example of Ms Bishop’s experience.

Whilst still Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop presented at the 2018 Vogue Codes event with an emphatic and confronting message. In her opening lines, Ms Bishop stated that “no country can reach its full potential unless and until it embraces and engages with and utilises the skills and talents and intellect and energy of the 50 per cent of its population that is female” (Bishop, 2018). A strong statement indeed, and of course entirely valid. Given the challenges ahead, it seems unlikely that we will meet them without this equality. Quoting statistics referring to the fact that “75% of the fastest growing occupations worldwide require STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] skills and STEM knowledge”, Ms Bishop went on the state that if we in Australia are to “sustain our standard of living, then we need more women and girls who are STEM-literate and undertaking STEM careers” (Bishop, 2018).

One outstanding example of this message becoming reality is the Commonwealth Digital Identity Initiative. It’s one of several projects pioneered by the innovationXchange, a hub introduced to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by the then Hon. Ms Julie Bishop in 2015. In partnership with the UK and other public and private partners (Innovation Exchange, 2019), it’s a project designed to help people with no formal ID; e.g. birth certificate, driver’s licence, credit cards or similar. It’s hard to believe, but it’s estimated that there may be around 1 billion people affected by this around the world, making access to basic services including health and education either very difficult or impossible (Bishop, 2018). And in fact, “women are more likely to lack an ID than men, particularly in low income countries, where over 45% of women do not have an ID compared to 30% of men” (Innovation Exchange, 2019).

Why is this innovative? It’s a question openly asked on the innovationXchange website. Along with the clear humanitarian benefits, the program answers this question with this very clear statement;

Digital identity along with internet connectivity and digital financial services are considered to be the building blocks of a modern digital economy. With these core elements in place, it becomes easier for governments, businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate further and to find new ways to engage a connected population. (Innovation Exchange, 2019)

So, the mandate for raising awareness about science, technology and engineering in our schools is clearly supported by real life examples. It’s not just about increasing student numbers in subjects. There are real human and economic benefits, both locally and globally. Delegates at the conference were indeed privileged to listen to Ms Bishop’s address, which comes from a background of much experience.

Sentral embraces cloud innovation

Innovation also lies at the heart of Sentral’s mission: to help schools work smart. Harnessing the power that science, technology and engineering have to offer, Sentral embraces this message through constant development of its product offerings. Perhaps one of the most salient advances of computing technology in the last 15 years has been the development of cloud technology, and Sentral is helping schools understand and take advantage of the benefits it has to offer. For example, consider the key points presented at the conference, by one of Sentral’s dedicated Education Consultants, Cassie Martin.

The Cloud is simple and flexible

As administrative demands on schools grow, IT systems can become more complex and onerous to manage. With Sentral in the cloud, local infrastructure requirements are significantly reduced with a corresponding reduction in IT support. Maintaining ageing and expensive hardware is no longer required, and the management of software updates happens seamlessly in the background whilst your school gets on with business. And, as your school grows, the capacity to expand your data requirements can be added as needed.

The Cloud is always on and accessible

A key issue facing teachers today is managing the increasing responsibilities of their jobs, in addition to actual face to face teaching. And in a world where people are increasingly working at times most efficient for them, it’s critical for schools to have a system that works when their staff do. So, when teachers need access to Sentral, they can rest assured it will be there for them, 99.9% of the time. The high-speed nature of Sentral in the cloud means no risk of outages at critical or peak times.

The Cloud is cost effective

Moving from an onsite server to the cloud results in a lower total cost of ownership for most schools. This is made possible by the reduction of capital costs associated with owning and managing computer hardware and infrastructure. This includes simple, and sometimes overlooked running costs such as electricity, air conditioning, security and support associated with server rooms and specialised equipment. In addition, there are no more limits on data.

The Cloud is safe and secure

Safety and compliance are of paramount importance to your school. They are also a critical part of Sentral’s cloud solution. When schools migrate to Sentral in the cloud, they can rest assured that it complies with all government privacy requirements. Through our partnership with Microsoft, school data is hosted on the acclaimed Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. It offers best in class security and redundancy features, being located in numerous Microsoft-managed data centres. And of course, regular backups and fast restoration of systems are all included.

There is no doubt that as we meet current challenges, new ones will arise. The exceptional educators at the PPA Conference, Sentral’s presence and the inspiring keynote presentations demonstrate part of the collective commitment to addressing what lies ahead for our children. And it is this commitment that will help Australia continue to ‘build’ and prosper socially and economically.

 

 

Bishop, J. (2018). Address at Vogue Codes. Retrieved from https://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/Pages/2018/jb_sp_180622.aspx?w=tb1CaGpkPX%2FlS0K%2Bg9ZKEg%3D%3D

Bishop, J. (2019). Julie Bishop: We need more women leaders. Retrieved from https://www.qut.edu.au/news?id=146368

Innovation Exchange. (2019). Commonwealth Digital Identity Initiative. Retrieved from https://ixc.dfat.gov.au/projects/commonwealth-digital-identity-initiative/#

How access to key data regarding students can empower school leaders

Technology has broken new barriers to bring data, people and organisations together. It is safe to say that we live in a fast-evolving environment and education is moving with it.

Increasingly, data is used to improve decision making and deliver scalable and measurable results. Instead of making ‘gut feel’ decisions or doing things the same way it’s always been done, data arms us with facts and figures that help shape a better future.

“Data-driven decision-making is about gathering data to understand if a school or district is meeting its purpose and vision,” says Victoria Bernhardt, author of Data Analysis for Comprehensive Schoolwide Improvement. “If we do not have a target, we make decisions that essentially lead to ‘random acts of improvement.’” Instead, Bernhardt says, superintendents should strive for “focused acts of improvement,”. This only occurs when school leaders are clear about their purpose.

To lead the change and achieve desired outcomes, school leaders must be knowledgeable about data and utilise it as a leadership tool. By using data in their leadership tool box, school leaders can easily track and identify weaknesses, see the challenges of individual students and classes so that they can further base their plans for improvement to maximum potential. Student data offers invaluable support for making good decisions. How that data is then used is critical.

At Sentral we believe, to empower students, teachers should first empower themselves. The use of data provides evidence of impact that can inform teaching to enable accuracy on what is happening to students in the classroom. By providing training to teachers on how to analyse data, they can examine their data, evaluate their performance and establish learning goals. School leaders can then use student data analysis to identify factors that motivate student performance and adjust their process to meet student needs.

According to the NSW Government, ‘Effective self-assessment, improving classroom practice, and reporting to the community involves schools collecting, analysing and presenting data. The ability to investigate, reflect on and make the most of available data is a core competency for everyone in schools – leaders, teachers and support staff.’.

Using data is now an essential tool in our education system. Sentral incorporates the use of data across every segment of our platform. Here are a few tips for using student data to empower teaching and learning:

Don’t ‘data dump’: Start small, try not to take in a large amount of data at the same time to allow for a proper thinking process when interpreting the data.

Start with core issues: Prioritise your objectives and start by choosing core issues you think are the most important and time sensitive. Use data as the basis to plan and evaluate your current situation.

Focus on the big picture: Don’t lose yourself on small unimportant details. Instead, focus on the data to show you the big picture of your overall performance.

Choose reliable partners: When it comes to starting your digital transformation journey, make sure you have a reliable partner to help you understand the current landscape, evolving environment and school requirements to ease your digital migration.

With technology underlying your school, you can use the data it generates to see what’s happening in your school and use that information to make the school more agile. Sentral offers a cloud-based SaaS that enables schools to generate qualitative data and insights on the school’s progress.

Simply contact Sentral to discover how you can streamline your school and provide an on-demand, shared service that includes IT support, services, and program software. We can help ease your digital transformation journey.

Solving the culture/technology dilemma; could it drive our nation further?

Written and produced by Colin Klupiec

The Dilemma

In late 2014 I had the great privilege of visiting a Festool advanced manufacturing facility in the middle of Germany, not far from the city of Stuttgart. As a technology educator, this was akin to a child visiting the best toyshop in the world, since Festool makes some of the finest power tools available, and I was using them in my daily work. Given my German heritage, and fluency in the language I knew I could approach this with confidence. I stretched out my hand and greeted the energetic process engineer, and in my excitement, realised that I had just committed my first faux pas. I used a casual greeting. How could I make such a beginner’s mistake? Traditionally, this would be a social disaster, particularly in a corporate context. Yet my young (and progressive) host recognised what was going on, smiled and graciously welcomed me in. I hadn’t even made it through the door, and culture was already playing a significant role.

Fast forward to the present, and the experience still resonates, particularly given that technology education, and more specifically STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is yet to demonstrate a significant uptake in student interest (Education Council, 2018). Why aren’t more students passionate about STEM learning pathways in senior school years? Perhaps it is because there are many definitions for what STEM actually is, which results in lack of consensus of what the ‘subject’ looks like (Holmlund, Lesseig, & Slavit, 2018). This undoubtedly forms the first hurdle, because it’s hard to implement a learning area with so much ambiguity. At the same time, Australian education bodies note that the number of students studying foreign languages is also in decline (ACOLA, 2013). Is this a curious coincidence, or an opportunity for investigation, or both?

Consider the plausibility that there is a connection between declining interest in STEM and foreign language learning in schools. Not because they are seemingly unrelated. But because there are overlapping elements of ‘culture’ which are easily overlooked or forgotten, as I was quick to experience in my visit to Festool. Referring again to definitions, it is noteworthy that many describe STEM in much broader terms than its component subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Definitions include an “enterprise that operates with a social license”, which is “truly global” and “bridges cultural divide” (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013). STEM “contributes to personal, social, and economic outcomes” (Timms, Moyle, Weldon, & Mitchell, 2018). STEM outcomes are “cultural achievements that reflect people’s humanity” (National Research Council, 2011), and “broaden student understanding of STEM disciplines through exposure to culturally relevant STEM contexts” (Moore, 2008). Comparing these definitions with the rationale for languages as stated in the Australian Curriculum (AC) makes for interesting reading, where “language capabilities represent linguistic and cultural resources through which the community can engage socially, culturally and economically, in domains which include business, trade, science…health and communications” (ACARA, 2018). And notably the rationale from the International Baccalaureate (IB) which aims to “enable students to understand and use the language they have studied in a range of contexts and for a variety of purposes” (International Baccalaureate, 2014). There is certainly an overlap. Ironically, the introduction of computers into schools was meant to be part of the solution. Who can forget the bold claims of a ‘digital education revolution’ made by Kevin Rudd in the 2007 labour election campaign? The benefit to trade and technical students, to the study of sciences and chemistry, and the turbo charging of foreign language learning that computers would facilitate was certainly a vision. But the results have been lacklustre. Despite the above, thousands of teachers have tried to move the needle on this issue and are doing great work. But perhaps the complication of culture is just too difficult to overcome. We need innovation, but what kind?

Clayton Christensen is known the world over for his ground breaking work on disruptive innovation (Christensen, 2000). He distinguishes disruptive technologies from what he calls sustaining technologies, in that sustaining technologies “improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued. Most technological advances in a given industry are sustaining in character”. In other words, we like it when the products and services we buy continue to get incrementally better. According to Christensen, managers generally allocate resources to such innovations because it makes sense to do so. Seems obvious, right? By contrast, disruptive technologies “bring to market a very different value proposition that had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value” (Christensen, 2000). Historically, managers have been hesitant to allocate resources to disruptive innovations because it doesn’t make sense to do so. Schools can learn from this dichotomy. What if the STEM and language declines could be turned by an unknown or nonsensical value proposition? Not that we ignored it. It’s just that making classes work in unusual combinations is difficult, especially when students are mostly choosing other subjects. It doesn’t make sense to allocate resources that way. Although doing so, may be precisely what Australia needs if it is to address the aforementioned declines. This is a dilemma.

The Alternative Value Proposition

Consider the opening story. It’s easy to consider wider factors when you’ve suddenly found yourself red-faced in a culturally awkward situation and everything becomes crystal clear. But it’s a tough sell to students and school administrators when the resource allocation doesn’t make sense and the benefits only become apparent years later; potentially in another country, contributing to another country’s economy. But could the complementary cultural themes across learning areas drive an awareness of unknown value propositions? Could a disruptive approach to designing learning pathways and resource allocation indeed contribute to reversing the STEM and languages declines? Maybe. But it will take vision, and risk taking to find out.

 

 

References:

ACARA. (2018). Rationale. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/languages/rationale/

ACOLA. (2013). STEM comparisons. Retrieved from

Christensen, M., C. (2000). The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Education Council. (2018). Optimising STEM Industry-School Partnerships:Inspiring Australia’s Next Generation. Retrieved from http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/Reports%20and%20publications/Publications/Optimising%20STEM%20Industry-School%20Partnerships%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

Holmlund, T. D., Lesseig, K., & Slavit, D. (2018). Making sense of “STEM education” in K-12 contexts. International Journal of STEM Education, 5(1), 32. doi:10.1186/s40594-018-0127-2

International Baccalaureate. (2014). International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Subject Brief, Language Acquisition: Language B – Standard Level.

Moore, T., J. (2008). STEM integration: crossing disciplinary borders to promote learning and engagement. Invited presentation to the faculty and graduate students of the UTeachEngineering, UTeachNatural Sciences, and STEM Education program area at University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science. Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Office of the Chief Scientist. (2013). Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach. Retrieved from Canberra:

Timms, M., Moyle, K., Weldon, P., & Mitchell, P. (2018). Challenges in STEM learning in Australian schools. Policy Insights Issue 7. Camberwell, VIC: ACER.

Not all heroes wear capes! Sentral takes their development heroes for a night at the movies with Avengers: EndGame

In what was the busiest period yet for Sentral, finding a balance between work and everyday life can be a challenge for some.

At Sentral, we like to recognise and reward our employees throughout the year which provides a sense of recognition and empowerment in their day-to-day activities whilst also promoting a healthy work-life balance all year round.

This time, to celebrate the highly anticipated Avengers: EndGame movie release, Sentral rewarded the development team for an evening at Hoyts Chatswood to relax with colleagues and bond over the biggest box office hype at the moment.

To capture the mood and excitement of the event, we asked fellow employees about what it meant to work at Sentral:

Will who is a mobile developer at Sentral really enjoys working with his colleagues. He is enthusiastic about the work he does and believes “management is lovely and really encourages a health work-life balance.”

Ewan who is a test analyst at Sentral believes his colleagues are great to work with but also fun to hang out with. During busy periods, Ewan believes “the camaraderie and playful banter really helps us maintain positivity and celebrate our successes.”

Sentral encourages other businesses to pursue similar initiatives to celebrate success and recognise the efforts made by teams in achieving business outcomes. Happier employees translate into greater employee satisfaction and better results!

SENTRAL TAKES SERVERS TO THE CLOUD!

For decades many organisations and educational institutions relied heavily on physical servers to store data, communicate with each other and access resources easily.  The growing need for reliable network connectivity is largely due to the increasing demand of the modern world when it comes to accessing accurate information quickly, seamlessly and in real time, no matter where you are.

For years schools appreciated servers as highly essential and functional but soon discovered as demand increased, it was not flexible. While physical servers have proven to be an effective solution for many years, there are several qualities lacking that will hinder technological advancement.

Why your physical servers should be history!

Unreliability: While most schools continue to use servers they sometimes experience inevitable breakdowns affecting school productivity and workflow. For example, a server breakdown during report-writing season would result in a delay in finalising school reports.

Unscalability: Servers do not give schools the flexibility to reach economies of scale in a quick and cost-effective way due to limited bandwidths service providers may have on offer.

Risk: A server in the classroom or school office could be affected by disasters, such as a fire or malfunction in which case valuable school data may be lost.

Technology and IT Support: Keeping up with technology can be costly and investments into servers are a dreaded expense for any school, particularly when new advances or updates drop into the market. A server also requires constant IT support and rely heavily on a full-time staff member or a third company IT provider.

Serviceability and warranty: A server warranty only lasts a few years and could be shorter than the standard education period of a child over the course of their schooling years. Once a manufacturer’s warranty expires there are two issues at hand, the first being parts for particular models can cease and if they are still available, they can be expensive to source. If schools experience this situation, it is recommended that an investment in the cloud is undertaken to avoid this reoccurring problem.

Sentral Education believes the future is the cloud

The move to the cloud is fast becoming the norm across all industries and education is no exception. Schools are embracing technology and benefitting from using cloud computing across all school functions.

Cloud computing is simply the delivery of computing services – servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and more – over the Internet, you probably already use cloud storage such as Netflix, Spotify and Office365.

Users will notice improved functionality, faster speeds, regular upgrades and easy access to module releases and benefits from third party integrations.

Why Cloud Computing is the right answer

Simplicity and flexibility: Schools will be able to reduce their IT support requirements, reduce infrastructure and space, receive automatic updates and enjoy seamless expansion of bandwidth for data. This will ensure your school future proofs its expansion and scalability needs.

Speed and accessibility: With a 99.9% uptime, teachers will not be bogged down by technical issues and get to do what matters most to them in the classroom. Staff will also have access to Sentral anywhere and anytime across any mobile device with high speeds and no disruption during peak periods.

Value Creation: Moving to the cloud reduces capital costs in IT infrastructure (such as servers), has no data limits, reduces IT support costs and lowers total cost of ownership for most schools.

Security: Sentral’s cloud software complies with all Government privacy requirements, is stored in numerous geo-redundant storage (GRS) and has regular data back-ups and fast restoration so schools can rest assure that data is kept safe and secure.

DON’T BE LEFT BEHIND

The shift to the Cloud from your current on-premise server is simple – contact your Sentral Consultant today!

The role of the cloud in helping schools move towards an agile future

Technology has impacted almost every aspect of life today, and education is no exception. School IT administrators, principals and teachers are acutely aware of the need to rise to the demands of ever-evolving technology to ensure they work smarter, faster and are able to seamlessly run a school management system.

In recent years, moving to the cloud has gained momentum and will soon become a norm across all business sectors with 83 per cent of enterprise workloads expected to be in the cloud by 2020 according to LogicMonitor Research. Integrating and moving to the cloud is the future and Sentral is now spearheading this change to provide current and future schools all the benefits that cloud computing has to offer.

The industry outlook for IT cloud computing according to Bloomberg Intelligence is continuing its global growth trend from $77 billion in 2015 to $205 billion by 2020.

A cloud model will help schools achieve a slew of significant advantages and drive a fundamental change in how schools manage and operate their IT department. One major highlight of being on the cloud is its agility.

LogicMonitor’s survey revealed many enterprises face challenges in digitally transforming their models and the adoption to the cloud has been fast-tracked due to its IT agility (62%) and mobility (55%).

Schools are often held back by inflexible and complex IT infrastructure systems, as such, school administrators are becoming attracted to the agile nature of cloud systems which optimises infrastructure to meet disparate needs and workload requirements.

With Sentral being a cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, schools can now easily migrate into the cloud and experience Sentral at its best. Simply contact Sentral and they will be able to provide an on-demand, shared service which includes IT support, services and program software.

Why agility is key!

In a fast-paced world, agility is key to growth and success! Here are some benefits schools can look forward to when moving to the cloud:

Flexibility & Scalability: Think ‘unlimited’. When moving to the cloud with Sentral, schools can relax and know that there will always be room for flexibility and scalability with little to no downtime for upgrades which will push your efficiency and IT infrastructure further.

The centralisation of school infrastructure: Sentral can adjust server capabilities to allocate extra bandwidth based on demand while remote management and maintenance can save time and increase security by being outsourced.

Cloud provides an all-in-one solution: Rather than installing and maintaining servers on each device, Sentral on the cloud provides easy access to teachers and students across many devices.

Greater access to learning: cloud functionality enables students and teachers to access new resources, multimedia learning, cloud-based textbooks and other educational resources without accessibility limits compared to textbook to student ratios.

To transition your school to a cloud system, talk to your Sentral Consultant or call Sentral to get a cloud license quotation based on your school size.