🚀 The Future for School Reports?


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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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What if teachers produced school reports by video and audio recording?

For teachers like me who have worked in the system for 20 or 30 years, you will have seen how the reporting process has moved from handwritten to automated copy and paste statement banks. But what could the future of school reports look like?

Handwritten, then statements banks …

I think it is essential that schools report to parents on the progress of the pupils they serve.

Reporting by technology rather than paper-based methods helps teachers become more efficient than round-robin reports where teachers wrote one sentence, or at the end of the year, almost an assignment per pupil!

The online system has allowed teachers to work quickly and cover greater detail. The benefits of populating statements allowed schools to produce more detailed reports, sometimes leading to mistakes, such as the wrong grade, name, gender or teacher sign-off!

For school leaders, the process of quality assuring the reports was just as important, and sometimes a headache. I’ve lost count of how many reports I’ve had to proofread to ensure they were good enough to be posted home. In some schools where I worked, we stopped posting them to ensure that parents attended parents’ evening to collect them.

The current issues and gap

On my travels to schools worldwide, over the last five years, I’ve started to change my approach to how schools generate and share their reports. These thoughts have been particularly inspired by two factors.

Firstly, teachers working in the independent and international sector, often have significant reporting pressure because of the nature of the school in which they work. If a parent is paying over £50,000 a year for their child’s education, we seem to spend endless time, energy and costs producing detailed – and very pretty – reports for them to read. Reports can exceed several pages …

Secondly, the online analytical world allows individuals and organisations to track data, clicks, traction, dropout and/or bounce rates.

More than anything, most schools (not all) don’t actually KNOW if parents actually read the report.

A new reporting methodology …

Before the pandemic, I was advocating an alternative for all schools to consider.

In this online era, there is no excuse for any school not to consider switching to something more efficient, and cost-effective, and addresses the final point made above. Here are some general insights I’ve learned from the world of edtech (education) over the last 15 years:

  1. Online reading behaviour averages 70 seconds
  2. YouTube video engagement drops off after 30 seconds
  3. One-page summaries which require little decoding work really well
  4. Dual coded (images and words) encourage high engagement
  5. If the information is shared as a hyperlink, you can track who, when, where and how!

Therefore, here is an alternative for your school to consider.

Imagine if?

Imagine if, rather than ask teachers to fill in detailed reports or templates, why couldn’t they record a 60-second voiceover?

Report QRFor teachers that are happy to share their online face, why not a 60-second video alongside a script or caption cue? These links would be private and only accessible to a specific email domain.

Sharing these short videos and voiceovers enables – when uploaded securely – the school to circulate the video via their management information system, then send the ‘reports’ to parents by email, text alert or with a QR code in a paper letter or other.

The difference?

Parents could click the link and watch/hear the recording.

Immediately, the school software would gathers the data to determine who opened the reports! How long did they watch or listen to the report? How did they do it: on a mobile phone or on a desktop? Which demographics are engaged with the report, enabling the school to take action with hard-to-reach families. The possibilities are endless!

Watch this example

Here’s an example – and if you click to watch this – I know a little bit more about you.

I appreciate there may be safeguarding concerns and privacy for teachers to consider, but I’m equally confident that there are some technological solutions around protecting content, data and privacy.

For teachers/schools worried about video recordings being abused, voiceover audio could be a safer way to get started. If not, if your school continues using paper-based methods, then do make sure the report shared is hyperlinked. This way, you can track the data, and save money and the planet …


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