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!

Global Payments Acquires Sentral, a Leading Provider of Cloud-Based School Administration Software Solutions in Australia

MEDIA RELEASE
March 4, 2019
Global Payments Acquires Sentral, a Leading Provider of Cloud-Based School Administration Software Solutions in Australia
BRISBANE – Global Payments Inc. (NYSE: GPN), a leading worldwide provider of payment technology and software solutions, announced today that it has completed the acquisition of Sentral Education in Australia, further expanding its educational market capabilities.
The cloud-based school management platform streamlines school administration, student management and data management. The acquisition will accelerate product enhancement and development for schools using Sentral’s school management platform and aligns well with Global Payments technology-enabled, software driven payments strategy.
“We are excited to be a part of the Global Payments team,” said Greg Coffey, General Manager of Sentral Education. “It will be business as usual for our clients. Sentral’s core values, vision and customer centric approach continue to be at the heart of our future operations and strategy. Sentral is dedicated to providing market-leading school management software and we look forward to introducing additional innovation and further enhancing our platform.”
“We are delighted to welcome Sentral Education to Global Payments,” said Mark Healy, Managing Director of Global Payments Australia and New Zealand. “Sentral was founded and run by a group of truly passionate individuals who are dedicated to making schools better. Software integration is at the core of our businesses and Sentral will benefit from the global expertise we have not just in payments, but in school management solutions. The acquisition aligns perfectly with our strategy of providing market leading software and great user experiences in technology solutions and payments.”
ENDS
For media enquiries or interview requests with Global Payments or Sentral  please contact:
Brenton Gibbs
M: 0419 828440
Global Payments Inc. (NYSE: GPN) is a leading worldwide provider of payment technology and software solutions delivering innovative services to our customers globally. Our technologies, services and employee expertise enable us to provide a broad range of solutions that allow our customers to accept all payment types and operate their businesses more efficiently across a variety of distribution channels in many markets around the world.

Teachers call for reduction in administration according to survey

91% of teachers in NSW reported administrative demands were a major hindrance to their core job according to a University of Sydney survey conducted in July 2018.

Around 18,000 primary and secondary public school teachers in NSW were involved in the Understanding work in schools: The foundation for teaching and learning survey and asked to rank the frequency of activities in schools across planning and preparing lessons, reporting to parents and playground duties.

Teachers believed data collection requirements such as administration, paperwork, data and reporting were delaying constantly move them away from their key focus – providing quality lessons to their students.

Sentral is a solution that helps teachers move away from the hassle of daily reporting, paperwork and administration. Sentral provides tools to make student assessment and reporting a breeze throughout their education lifecycle so teachers are able to spend their time on what matters most.

Here’s how most of Sentral users are evaluating student learning and differentiating their teaching to address students’ needs more:

Using target teaching methods

Sentral allows teachers to insert data and compile comprehensive insights to individualise student performance and tailor requirements for those performing or underperforming.

Save time

Did you know you can save time on collecting, managing and reporting by creating teacher friendly workflows? Spend time on what matters most with automatic templates to insert data.

Communicate better in and out of the school

Improve your communication frequency and quality with Sentral by sending reminders using the Parent Portal to notify parents of homework and assessment tasks and direct message parents about achievements or concerns – that way you can always remember what you said and track progress!

Analyse your class results and plan accordingly

Analyse class results and identify whether you need to amend classroom activities at the right classroom level. You can also easily analyse student, class or cohort performance to measure against internal standards.

For more details on how Sentral can help your school, visit www.sentral.com.au

Sentral Education founders nominated as Technology Entreprenuers by The Pearcy Foundation

Sentral Education founders Geoff Byers and Peta Byers nominated as Technology Entreprenuers by The Pearcy Foundation.

The Pearcey Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 1998 in memory of a great Australian ICT pioneer Dr Trevor Pearcey who pioneered the first digital computer in Australia, believed to be the fourth operational stored program electronic computer ever constructed.

CSIRAC was built between 1947-1949 and is the oldest surviving computer of its type in the world and currently is on display in Melbourne Museum. The Foundation operates broadly across the Australian Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, celebrating achievements through national and state awards and being involved in debate and public policy on critical national issues.

Peta and Geoff Byers were nominated (as one of nine companies) as Technology Entrepreneurs recognising “taking a risk”, “making a difference” and “being an inspiration”.

Sentral and Armitage Associates join forces

Sentral has brought on a strategic investment partner in Armitage Associates to continue to support and drive ongoing growth.
There will be no change to Sentral’s business operations as a result of Armitage’s investment. Sentral’s founding Directors continue to be responsible for day-to-day operations and remain shareholders of the business alongside Armitage. Ian Basser, Managing Director of Figaro Partners, has joined Sentral as chairman as part of the transaction.
Sentral CEO Geoff Byers said “We are excited to have the financial backing of Armitage to continue to expand our business. We are seeing significant demand within all education sectors for Sentral’s school administration software as education in Australia rapidly embraces the move to cloud based solutions. Our corporate advisors, Right Click Capital, advised us throughout the transaction and have brokered a partnership with Armitage that will allow us to invest in additional business resources to continue to support the growth of the company.
Mark De Ambrosis, Managing Director of Armitage Associates, said “This is a fantastic example of the Armitage model – partnering with leading operators in a growing education market to provide capital and support for ongoing growth”.

Armitage history and investment strategy:

Armitage Associates is a growth equity firm established with the support of the Melbourne-based Schwartz family. Armitage’s investments focus on providing capital and management support to small and medium sized businesses in Australia.
Armitage looks to partner with management to assist in growing their company providing equity capital for growth. Armitage is fortunate to have long-term patient capital and adopts a long-term investment approach.

About Sentral:

Sentral is a proven web-based software solution that seamlessly manages school administration, student data and so much more. Our tailor-made solutions help administration staff, teachers and school leaders save valuable time to focus on improving school and student outcomes. 100% Australian owned and operated,  Sentral is the trusted solution of choice in over 1,900 schools across Australia.

Contact:

Yusuf Pingar
Marketing Manager
M: 0429 546721
yusuf.pingar@sentral.com.au