If your school is looking to streamline processes, ultimately what you will be looking to gain are new levels of efficiency. In essence, this would mean fewer interactions and follow-ups are required and things like double entry of data can be eliminated, which means you can get on with your job faster and not waste people’s time. This also means administration tasks like chasing information would be made faster by making the data you need more readily available at your fingertips, when you need it. Answers to questions like, “Have we paid for the buses?” or “Have the permission forms all been received?” should be able to be answered as quickly and easily as possible – and just as easily at home as at your desk at school.
Paper and hard copy documentation is not very efficient, simply because it gets lost in the shuffle. If you are organising an excursion, for example, there will be a number of people from whom you will need input. It makes more sense to have one centralised place where the process is managed and everyone can logon, view the status of each task and put in their bit of information. Achieving this means you will have a process that is easier to manage and one that provides better accountability.
Streamlining the activities and excursions process is definitely a good one to tackle if you can eliminate the pigeonholes and the roundtable meetings, because that is where the most information is lost and time is wasted. Simply put, staff members are happier in their jobs when they know they are not wasting their time. There is nothing worse than knowing that you have to do something you do not want to do, especially if it is time consuming and it is of no great benefit to anyone. If processes are made easier and more efficient, you are more able to devote your time and effort to the bigger picture stuff that will really benefit the school – and in this day and age, that is really what it should be about.
I look at a lot of school websites and I am always impressed if it works well. There is nothing more frustrating to parents and school community users if it will only work in Internet Explorer 8 and the information being displayed is from 2012. If this is the case, you are better off not having a website at all because it is, in many ways, detrimental. There has to be some investment on a fairly regular basis to ensure it can continue to serve the school community properly. It has to work on modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and there needs to be a commitment from someone in the school to update the information displayed on the website on a regular basis. If your website is older, it is likely to be built in an old-school way which, until fairly recently, means Google will be less likely to provide good search rankings if it is not built to be responsive and mobile friendly. If your school is looking to build an app, a real time saver means building it in HTML5 rather than building it in native code for users on iOS and again for Android, for example.
In recent years there has been an incredible proliferation of products and systems that make life easier for schools – some that have targeted public schools in particular, others that have been marketed specifically at the independent school market, others at the Catholic school sector. The critically important thing, no matter how it is marketed, is to speak with vendors and to choose a solution that works for you and provides your school the most benefit.
Gerald Gierer is a developer creating advanced Internet applications leveraging sophisticated open source frameworks including Spring and Ext JS. Gerald is a published author and expert on the software development lifecycle and built Staff PD and Education Management Solutions and ACE (Activities, Camps & Excursions), which many schools use and benefit from every day.
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