When education’s digital age ramped up in the last decade and schools began to harness the proliferation of smartphones, laptops and tablets, the idea was that technology would free up teachers’ time and streamline learning for students.
For the most part, this worked, but reports like the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey continue to show teachers and principals being swamped by administrative tasks – both digital and otherwise.
The latest principal health and wellbeing report shows that 99.7% of principals work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health, and many have reported feeling depressed and even suicidal, as a result.
To tackle these issues, many principals have turned to ed-tech platforms that help them to streamline numerous processes across their school, such as timetabling, teacher-student communication and school excursions and events.
‘Great progress has been made’
Lisa Wilson, foundation principal of River Nile School (RNS), located in North Melbourne, is one principal that has leveraged technology to vastly improve the collection, storage and use of data for better analysis, and ultimately, outcomes.
In the first few years after opening in 2006, the school’s struggled with a highly challenging learning environment. Of the school’s 70 students, 54 come from disadvantaged and non-English speaking backgrounds.
By 2009, it was clear that staff needed a school management system that would make collecting, storing and accessing student records easier – especially as these details enable the school to claim government funding and are essential in the event that the school’s funding is audited.
After carefully reviewing a range of options in the ed-tech market, RNS settled on Compass, which has been helping more than 1,800 schools improve the way they communicate through integrated modules that reduce administrative workloads for educators.
Some of RNS’ staff who had previously worked at Compass schools spoke highly of the platform, prompting Wilson to consider the platform as an option to address the school’s challenges.
“The overwhelming majority of our students have had interrupted or no prior schooling and all are EAL so using technology poses an issue in itself,” Wilson told The Educator.
“However, by providing each student with a laptop and patiently teaching students how to use them then great progress can and has been made.”
Cutting out the middle man
Wilson said some of the biggest challenges that Compass' system has helped River Nile school address and resolve this year include a more sophisticated approach to recording attendance and making contact, assisting students to use email, class and timetable management and tracking student’s progress.
One module in particular that has helped the school, says Wilson, is Compass’ Chronicle, which allows staff to make observations regarding students in a number of categories. These include behaviour, attitude, learning outcomes, attendance, health and wellbeing and career.
“We are using Chronicle to keep a record of contact and care teams,” Wilson said, adding that this was especially useful with the school’s Nationally Consistent Collection of Data [NCCD] in the context of students and maintaining proper records.
Wilson said the school be integrating Compass records with the Victorian Assessment Software System [VASS] in 2020 and using the portal for students.
“We only have a limited number of students with parents and or wider family with whom they live so parents accessing the portal is on the agenda but not as high a priority,” she said.
“Our school will also be using compass for reports and assessment record keeping.”