A brain extension. Organise your thoughts
New Note
As the CEO and Technical Architect for the Pupil Asset school system, I will clearly be claiming the future of MISes is PA MIS! But actually, we are not there yet - and where we are heading in trying to produce the system of the future is I think still interesting - as well as how far away we are from realising those goals.

When I first began looking at school software, I found it incredible that so little progress from the wider world of technology had penetrated into schools. Management software was confined to physical servers (or a Compaq PC under the secretary’s desk!) and so impossibly hard to use that everyone who had not been on the 3 day training course was scared of it. So all this complexity obviously delivered a huge amount of functionality for the school. Didn’t it? Well… beyond storing parent addresses and doctor’s details (never, ever used btw - teachers just phone an ambulance if it gets that bad) it was always a fight (and often another training course) to complete a government census return or extract data for analysis. Let me tell you - making a complex and confusing system is EASY - making a SIMPLE one, now that’s 80% of the work. Ebay is far more complex as an application than a school MIS - yet if you had to have 3 days training just to use it they would be out of business.

Worst of all about these legacy systems was the precious little “Information” in Management Information System. An impenetrable mess of menuing leading to a raw data Excel download (and often only if you’d bought the optional assessment package…) That is flexible, yes - but in the same way as buying a PC and learning to program is flexible.

The original iPhone came out in July 2007 (yes, 10 years ago!) I clearly recall the conversation I had with a friend at the time saying he already had a digital camera and an iPod - and internet connections were better through a land line. What he (and the other handset manufacturers) failed to see was that in combining these things with a simpler interface wrought something far greater than the sum of it’s parts. Schools are no different… the data is there, and it’s not hard to track - but pulling it together lets you - as a head or governor - see who in my school is not achieving to their best potential. And by “see” I don’t mean manipulate spreadsheets for 2 weeks before Ofsted come in - but have it there, at your fingertips, on a dashboard, in real time, as soon as you sit down with a coffee. What’s more, those initial widgets need to be clickable  to examine that cohort - explore WHY this Maths set is not doing as well as the English one. By combining the attendance, behaviour and assessment data together, you can see that little Jonny is struggling - but he’s been away 6 out of the last 10 days and got into a fight two weeks ago. 30 seconds - Maximum. That’s all it should take.

Consolidation. That’s the future. 
Next steps should be built in too. Texting parents (or better still free iMessage style app messaging) as soon as they need to know is a solved and relatively simple problem. Building a connection to your external messaging service is more work than just sending a text message.

In summary, the future MIS isn’t an MIS - certainly not as we know it today. It’s a system for sorting out your school full stop. So how are far along are we with this vision? Well, actually you can do everything above today with Pupil Asset. So what’s missing from our goals? You. Don’t you think it’s time to take control of your school?


James Leeds /jamesleeds 18 Feb 2017

In this, concerning higher /education

James Leeds /jamesleeds 15 Feb 2017

Need to coin a phrase for the educational attitude (expressed here) that promotes teaching fundamental principles before nurturing natural interest.

We risk putting off potentially excellent candidates / extinguishing natural interest by introducing subjects at a complex level disconnected from the experience or interest of the student. In this example, I would have been put off as a child if I didn't have BASIC to allow me to instantly see something that looked like the games I had already played. Learning the principles of pointers or recursive functions would have proven too high a bar - for my interest and my intellect.

Other examples in eduction abound however. Is the reason we trail other European countries in maths something to do with our desperate policies to cram learning in at an increasingly young age - far before any natural interest (or relevance) has presented itself? So many children go on to consider Maths a "chore" - just a means to a grade to university to a job.

It's the Govian mentality of learning your nouns and verbs and proper grammar before establishing a simple joy of writing creatively.

How about over-education? Or Premature-Curriculum?