Monthly Archives: March 2016

Better data? We’re all in it together

As someone relatively new to this sector and keen to check I’m going about things the most effective way, I was greatly interested in this new report from the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group, as it claims to “have developed recommendations to eliminate unnecessary workload in the recording, inputting, monitoring, and analysing of data”.

Data Management Review Group report: Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management
This report from the Data Management Review Group sets out principles and recommendations to reduce the workload burden on teachers. It calls on all parties in the education system to reduce the unnecessary burdens of data management by ensuring that every data collection has a clear purpose, and that the process is as efficient as possible.

Whilst the report does suggest some sound principles for effective data management — be clear on the purpose, identify the most efficient process, ensure the data is valid — I was disappointed there weren’t more recommendations that I could really get my teeth into and run with.

It was certainly interesting to read their suggestions for the DfE, including a call to “bring forward the release of both validated and unvalidated data to as early as possible in the cycle so it is available when decisions are taken to prevent unnecessary duplication by schools” and a recommendation that they should “reduce the number of different log-ins schools need to use simply to access and share information”. (All to be accepted, apparently.)

I felt, though, there was little I could directly take on board, as most of it was either just common sense and already taking place, or outside my sphere of influence.

But perhaps that was their point; for us to make any headway in increasing data management efficiency, we have to accept we’re all in this together, from the DfE and Ofsted, to local authorities and governing boards, not just data managers and teachers.

So why use SharePoint?

Some more SharePoint links to help clarify my thinking on any upcoming implementation project that might be starting at work.

First of all, rather than concentrating on what it can do, let’s look instead at what our expectations of SharePoint might be. What kind of users are we?​

Different SharePoint users and definitions
The vastness of SharePoint creates areas of specialization. The result is that a person’s view of SharePoint is greatly affected by how that person uses the product. It’s important to keep this in mind when talking with people about SharePoint. If you ask ten people to define SharePoint, you’re likely to get ten different answers.​

That article goes on to list half a dozen roles people might fall into, from anonymous visitors and casual users to power users and administrators. Perhaps any implementation needs to acknowledge these differences and recognise that some staff would be more comfortable in one role than another? Would we give them the choice?

For any introduction of new software/platform/process to be successful, we need to know why we’re doing it. Are we wanting to make better use of SharePoint just because we have the licences? Is this an answer in search of a problem? Or is there a real business need?

I think we’ve got two. I’d like a better staff intranet (I’m so desperate to get my hands on that) and IT colleagues here would like a better file store setup. But as these next links show, simply introducing SharePoint in itself won’t solve all our problems.

Design a Brilliant SharePoint Intranet
Some Microsoft SharePoint intranets are nothing short of marvelous — rich with features that support the business and engage employees, anchored by predictable navigation, supported by a smart search, and with page layouts that make employees want to scan all the content. But it was not always this way.​

Leveraging your office intranet for employee connection & collaboration
But in spite of this, many companies’ intranets are still being used the same way they were 10-15 years ago, even though they are capable of being so much more than a document storage system. Here are some features of intranets you can review to check whether your office intranet is being used at its full potential and better leverage it if it’s not.​

Should SharePoint replace file servers?
Many in the SharePoint market claim that SharePoint can and should replace your file servers. Is this a best practice? Should you plan to move all of your files that currently exist into SharePoint? There are pros and cons to this debate, each of which we’ll outline below. However, if you don’t want to read this entire section, then you should know that our simple answer is no.

Onwards.

A fascinating look into what it’s like reading with dyslexia

This is very clever, a great use of Javascript.

Dsxyliea
A friend who has dyslexia described to me how she experiences reading. She can read, but it takes a lot of concentration, and the letters seems to “jump around”. I remembered reading about typoglycemia. Wouldn’t it be possible to do it interactively on a website with Javascript? Sure it would.

Much obliged to Christopher Hallas, over on Linked In, who pointed me in the direction of this pdf from the British Dyslexia Association, full of great advice for clear, accessible documents production.

Dyslexia Style Guide (pdf)
The aim is to ensure that written material takes into account the visual stress experienced by some dyslexic people, and to facilitate ease of reading. Adopting best practice for dyslexic readers has the advantage of making documents easier on the eye for everyone.

Couldn’t agree more. And here’s another take on recreating the exasperation​​ ​of reading with dyslexia.​​

This font shows you what it feels like to be dyslexic
“What this typeface does is break down the reading time of a non-dyslexic down to the speed of a dyslexic. I wanted to make non-dyslexic people understand what it is like to read with the condition and to recreate the frustration and embarrassment of reading everyday text and then in turn to create a better understanding of the condition”.​​

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get

I think it’s time for a backlash against inane, obvious productivity advice, and this article from the Guardian feels like a good start.

Overwhelmed? 10 ways to feel less busy​
#8 ​​​Slow down, however wrong that feels​
The last thing you want to hear, when you’re drowning in to-dos, is that cultivating patience might be part of the solution. But our urgency-addicted culture is at the core of the busyness problem, according to the addiction researcher Stephanie Brown. We’re convinced that with just a bit more speed we could stay in control – and so we grow unwilling to tolerate the discomfort of slowing down. When you’re already on this urgency treadmill, it can feel excruciating to attempt to slow down – but you may end up getting more done if you try. Experiment with doing nothing at all for 10 minutes between tasks: the harder that feels, the more you may need it.

RM gives SharePoint a helping hand

What looks to be a nice tool from RM for setting up school intranet pages using SharePoint​​ and Office 365.​

RM Site Creator helps your school get the most out of Microsoft Office 365
In a few minutes you can design an impressive looking school intranet with corresponding areas for all your different subjects, year groups, clubs and interest groups, as well as areas for Staff CPD and for Student Voice. RM Site Creator also offers default site structures, designed with input from teachers, which you can then customise to meet your individual school’s need.​