One of the interesting things about the Expo at the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) conference was the number of stands relating to technology. At a guess, I’d say about 40-50% of the stands were ICT related. However, even more interesting was the number of stands that were dedicated to administration for schools using technology. There were a number of companies offering online lesson planners and online school databases. The one that stood out for me was Aladdin Schools, an online service that not only was a school database for children’s records, it also recorded attendance and loads of other things.
I have previously posted about why we should scrap our roll books and, as of yet, the Department of Education, in their enlightened wisdom have still got us sticking ones, zeros and other squiggles into large hardback books. Most principals and teachers, probably logically, would not see the need to record attendance electronically as it would mean doing the same job twice. I’m one of those exceptions. My staff record attendance using a Google Spreadsheet and my deputy principal records it in hard copy in that horrible book. Why? Well, because on June 30th, I’d like my books to be balanced at 12pm so we can all go out to lunch to celebrate the end of the year. Also, I want to prove what a fruitless exercise it is having a stupid rollbook.
So, fair play to Aladdin schools for putting in this brilliant function. What the attendance tracker does in Aladdin is much more powerful than my spreadsheet. Not only does it balance your books, it reports which children have missed 20 days or more. It is ready to send those figures to the NEWB once their new system is ready. The other thing I like about the attendance system is that one only has to mark the children who are absent. This makes it quicker to take the attendence, as usually there’s fewer people out than in! An extra feature I would like to see is the ability to record if a child is late.
Another lovely feature of Aladdin schools is their text-a-parent service. I really like the way you can send texts simply to particular groups, which you can set up easily. For example, sending a text to the parents of children who go on the bus, is really easy. Simply set up a group called “Bus”, for example, and add the names of the children to it. It would be excellent if one could choose whatever service they liked for texting but I’m sure this is where Aladdin makes good money.
I also love the way a parent can log on to the system and find out everything about their own child. They can see test scores, news about their child and report cards from year to year. They can also add their personal details so other parents in the school can see them. This is helpful for organising playdates and other such outside activities.
There are so many features in Aladdin Schools that it’s impossible to list them all. From notifiying the principal of “today’s birthdays” to being able to simplify splitting classes when a teacher is away, this product is almost faultless. Unlike any other school administration system, this product was made for the Irish market. It is not adapted from some UK or American system like everything else available right now. I would highly recommend Aladdin Schools to any school. If enough schools do sign up, (€10 per child per annum), it may put further pressure on the government to start looking at the role of the roll book in the 21st century.