Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Future of e-Portfolios

Eddie Norgate, Principal, Diamond Harbour School

As a self-proclaimed cynic, there are many aspects of education that I struggle to fathom. Why does the rubbish in a school always blow down from the senior area to the juniors? “The junior children always pick up their rubbish, it must be the seniors.” Why are swimming parents the most difficult to deal with? Tongue now removed from cheek, and on a serious note, why do leaders and teachers alike pull their hair out when dealing with Student Management Systems? (SMS) E-Tap, Assembly they all have their strengths and weaknesses. This cynic was looking too closely at the weaknesses, so in October 2013 decided to investigate what was on offer.

To help explain the journey, there were some key aspects aligned with the strategic direction of our school that needed consideration:

  1. How can we safely and effectively report to parents in an online environment?
  2. What system allows support teachers, teachers working in MLEs and teacher aides to comment on learning in one place?
  3. What are the best ways to communicate information to parents?
  4. What accounting products are out there to support schools and to give cash-flow projections?

In terms of reporting to parents we had dabbled with the Google Platform with limited success. Pleasingly teachers were already exploring different ways to report, capture learning and were keen to challenge the current systems. I wasn’t expecting too much when I started talking with other leaders and in hindsight I was overly optimistic to think that I would find a ‘one stop system’ to address the above.  After some fruitless discussion and investigation we were lucky to be referred to LINC-ED by another colleague. 

Check out the demo video:

After 3-4 months of exploring and debating we decided to take the plunge and started using LINC-ED at the beginning of 2014. From a principal’s perspective the benefits of LINC-ED are endless:

  • ERO - the much dreaded Gestapo. LINC-ED allows you to document, link and wax lyrical about your actions and processes against the six dimensions.
  • Data - the data is easy to access, very easy to share and report to the staff and BoT. Even easier to send to the MOE.
  • Appraisals and teacher inquiries are all stored on LINC-ED. No more paper, one central place, opportunities for leaders and staff to collaborate.
  • Sharing of resources, links and learning is simple for staff.
  • I particularly like the visual layout and the personal nature.
  • All teachers can comment on all children in terms of their learning. Ideal for MLEs.
  • You can track which parents have opened their child’s report. In the past we did not know how many parents read their child’s report.
  • Target groups and children identified in annual plans are flagged on LINC-ED. This means when visiting classes, you can briefly check up on these children. It helps to focus teacher talk around our learners.
  • SENCOs can upload all those specialists reports to one central area.
  • LINC-ED provides options at 3 way conferences.
  • All forms of learning are easy to capture when reporting, google docs, video clips etc.

We are still required to use an approved SMS for our roll return, E-Tap, which also allows us to invoice parents. Obviously we still have some historical data stored on E-Tap and we will keep it for next year too, but as soon as we are able rid ourselves of E-Tap we will. (The team at LINC-ED are currently working with the Ministry of Education to ensure all requirements have been met and approved)

We all know implementing new systems is not all beer and skittles. You could probably guess the initial issues:

  1. Getting staff behind a new system.
  2. Paying for two SMS whilst the new one is phased in.
  3. Up-skilling staff and parents.

In the coming months we look forward to exploring the student portal, opening the system all year for parents to access and we are excited about the opportunity of a using LINC-ED for roll returns.

Whilst LINC-ED was unable to solve the cash-flow and accounting practices within our school we have developed an in-house facility that accurately forecasts our cash-flow. We’ve been advised to hold off for another 6 months before taking on an accounting package. Furthermore, we are using Mailchimp for our school newsletter which saves hours of time and also gives us data on who actually reads it!

Swimming season is nearly upon us and I will leave you to deal with the rubbish at your school, but if you would like more information about LINC-ED-Ed, the implementation process or just to see it in action, drop me an email. You won’t be disappointed!

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