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.

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.

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

Education and technology adoption delivering industry empowerment in the classroom.

Education software exists to drive the education industry to greater efficiency, so it can be said teachers of today are being empowered by technology more than ever before to help develop student academic performance.

One may not think of Schools as typical to adopt technology. However, this is all changing. While digital technology has been around for decades, over the last few years the education sector in Australia has invested significantly more than most high-achieving OECD countries across public and private schools according to the Education at a Glance 2018 report.

The application of technology such as Sentral Education’s web based software, has added innovative and paperless tools allowing teachers to spend more time interacting with students and identify learning patterns faster.

As today’s world continues to evolve and become more automated, teachers and administrators are asking for web-based software solutions to help seamlessly manage school administration, student data to empower and deliver results.

Without technology wasted time is spent on duplication of processes, lack of insight and the operation of different systems between schools.  New technology offers the possibility to review  inefficient methods and adopt a central process with transparency for both teachers, students and parents.

Helping to reduce excessive workload

The Education Training Directorate (ETD) claims that a reduction in face-to-face teaching hours is not the most effective or efficient way to reduce teacher workload. Back in 2015, the ETD in the Sydney Morning Herald proposed to reduce teacher workload by a minimum 20 hours per year by streamlining or re-assigning administrative tasks.

Sentral Education plays a large part in eliminating wasted time and reducing inefficient processes across many of the responsibilities teachers deal with daily including administration, attendance, assessment and reporting, wellbeing and parent communication.

Changing landscape of the classroom

Technology has allowed teachers to focus more on student needs rather than mundane and repetitive tasks.  With Sentral Education, we hear all the time that teachers have developed a more personal interaction with students by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of academic performance. Parents also gain as Sentral assists in continual education development digitally with comprehensive visuals that parents can understand using Sentral’s Markbook tool.

Restoring work-life balance

Technology in the classroom helps to restore work-life balance for teachers who can now identify and eliminate non-essential tasks and spend time getting to what matters most.

Sentral Education is the trusted solution of choice in over 2,800 schools across Australia.

www.sentral.com.au