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MIS Systems Thread, School MIS Systems in Technical; I'm a bit late coming to this thread but I too worked as a developer in industry for many years ...
  1. #31
    GeneralDreedle's Avatar
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    I'm a bit late coming to this thread but I too worked as a developer in industry for many years (C++, VB, SQL, a bit of Java etc) before working in schools. And many of the thoughts and frustrations here speak my mind.

    I have several times sat down in beermat design meetings with old mates. The conclusion is that you could nail this product and the whole lucrative market with a small team of maybe 5 people.

    The problem is getting it into schools. Look at SIMS' (is it 80% marketshare?) origins as a model.

    You need:
    1) A home school to use as sandbox - OK that's probably achievable
    2) A local authoritty that will take it on - No chance: they're mostly 3rd rate battery hens
    3) selling power/ schmooze ability / graft - No chance: makes me physically shake with rage

    So number 2 is a systemic block - do you know a LA with those balls?
    Number 3 is an personal block but also a common shared profile for software engineers. You can't afford parasites on the team so you need that rare engineer who is also a corrupt smarm merchant. And no ethical values.

    The solution I think is contained in the reason why the beermat design team meetings always collapsed well before last orders: we always fell out over
    SQL Server v MySQL
    I always said you want to integrate web parts and Outlook groups so the MS overhead is worth it, but my hardcore mates insisted on full opensourrce.

    When I look back now I suspect they were right: The solution needs to be totally free and pupils should be able to help out on the development.
    You make the money from installation, support, training and lots of bespoke jobs.

    As I've said I'm an engineer and no salesman but I suspect you sell it to the teachers, not the schools or LAs: the dinosaurs are almost extinct - all that's left in schools in 5 years is those 20 something and 30 something eager beavers (soon to be burnouts!) who love computers.

    Make it part of some awesome, must-share portal eg: a free national supply teacher agency website.

    My 2c worth of big picture...someone else can handle the details, meanwhile I'll enjoy my evenings, weekends and holidays.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by MShakeshaft View Post
    Absolutely - turning raw data into information and then into Business Intelligence is the way to go. A valuable reporting database will be key tool to provide that 'edge'.
    This does seem to be the direction that things are moving. Schools will need to do much more with their data in the future than just print lists. We only need to look at two recent changes to predict how things need to go:
    1. Changes to Ofsted that will put more onus on schools undertaking systematic self-evaluation using school-level performance data.
    2. Pressure on schools to reduce staffing costs. 'Handling' data will not be enough. Data Managers need to be at the hub of managing teachers' research and standardised reporting. In several schools I work with, the 'Data Manager' role is being elevated to a member of the leadership team.

    School MIS suppliers are investing in more sophisticated data analysis and presentation functions. We will see the results of this at the BETT2011 show. Also, smaller companies like my own have developed SQL applications that will import data from any MIS and offer a range of new functions, made possible by adding additional information from exam boards, national datasets and 'research' information provided by teachers.

    I have mentioned before on these forums that schools need to consider using a range of data tools. Data-confident, self-evaluating schools that can show how they have acted on what they have found out about school standards are the ones where leadership will be judged as 'outstanding'. I have written about this on my popular 'blog' at this link.

    If MShakeshaft would like to contact me off list at mike@new-media-learning.org I would very much like to learn more and help if I can (no costs involved).
    Last edited by MikeBostock; 25th September 2010 at 11:09 AM.

  3. #33
    GeneralDreedle's Avatar
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    I live in the hope that you are totally wrong Mike. "Data confident Self evaluating schools" need to tell inspectors to stick the data where the sun shines and show them happy, fulfilled children and staff instead.

    There's only so many ways you can present 1000 kids shoe sizes and when your MIS and metrics are completely overhauled every 5 years you have no credible longitudinal data to rely on anyway. All KS3 sublevels are makebelieve with no calibration between KS2 and 3, no basis in the clalssroom, and no standardisation of assessment in most secondary subjects. The differences in most cohorts are so statistically insignificant as to be risible and the samples are too small to speak with any authority, particularly with the target groups they chase each year - eg white male FSM is the flavour of the month at the moment.

    Any school level data that schools need is provided on Raise Online and FFT, and this is what the inspectors and SIPs use so why would they do anything else?

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  5. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneralDreedle View Post
    I live in the hope that you are totally wrong Mike. "Data confident Self evaluating schools" need to tell inspectors to stick the data where the sun shines and show them happy, fulfilled children and staff instead.

    There's only so many ways you can present 1000 kids shoe sizes and when your MIS and metrics are completely overhauled every 5 years you have no credible longitudinal data to rely on anyway. All KS3 sublevels are makebelieve with no calibration between KS2 and 3, no basis in the clalssroom, and no standardisation of assessment in most secondary subjects. The differences in most cohorts are so statistically insignificant as to be risible and the samples are too small to speak with any authority, particularly with the target groups they chase each year - eg white male FSM is the flavour of the month at the moment.

    Any school level data that schools need is provided on Raise Online and FFT, and this is what the inspectors and SIPs use so why would they do anything else?
    Thanks for this response. "Schools that are strong on self-evaluation tend to do better in their inspection". That's a conference quote from Dr. Mike Treadaway of FFT, and it is our experience too from our involvement with Osfted inspection.

    Regarding sample sizes, you are correct in saying that the interpretation of data needs to be sensible and the inferences need to be statistically valid. School evaluation is a complex business and teachers need to engage in the issues and get more used to being involved in the interpretation of performance data than they are at present.
    Groups like White British males on FSM do need to be tracked across subjects and teaching groups because the performance of 'identifiable groups' is something that has been elevated in importance in the new inspection framework. Schools need to show that they are 'specialising' in approaches that raises attainment for groups known to underachieve at a national level.

    RaiseOnline and FFT data does form the basis for the report that inspectors will already have drafted when they visit a school to find evidence of current standards. If a school doesn't like what it will say then it will need to have its own evidence to set alongside Raiseonline and FFT. Schools that can present a team with good evidence of the current progress of pupils, and the consistency and impact of teaching, will be more likely to be ones that are judged to be outstanding. In fact, the best schools already tend to be good at self-evaluation. There is more about this on the blog that I pointed out in the last post.

    A particular point to watch is that data managers do have a key role to play in relation to inspection. It will affect them if inspectors say that the school is making effective, high-impact use of the data available to them, just as it will affect them in a slightly different way if they say that it isn't.

    Coming back to the point I was making, schools do need to develop their use of Performance Data and to be opportunist about acquiring MIS products and third party tools that can help them with this important task.

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    The solution I think is contained in the reason why the beermat design team meetings always collapsed well before last orders: we always fell out over
    SQL Server v MySQL
    I served out a serious dev sentence on a nice big complex MIS in the 90s and but the end of that decade we'd "been there and done that" with the kind of issues that, AFAICT, the school ones have been mixed up in of late, not least interoperability. The rough timescales and resources seem reasonable to me, but this rather common OSS binary "all or nothing" is soooo.. frustrating. The first problem is having something that works (with the features an eclectic range of folk have been begging for), the next is getting them to discard the knowledge investment they have already in an existing product. The latter I think, is really, really hard, so you need to do everything you possibly can to chip away at it i.e. if they have MSSQL now and know how to drive it, then just give them MSSQL[1] to make the techs and LA support teams marginally less scared of it, make some of that existing tech know-how still useful and so on. You need the same kind of attitude to GUI-land except I avoid school MIS client apps like the plague so can't comment there.

    It's the same uncompromising deal with lots of those OSS apps. Sure you can run it on Windows, but nope we're not interested in making deployment easy, we're certainly no going to use MS file/open dialogs so your lockdown works etc., and GPO configuration? Oh no we've got our very own opaque [js|conf|xml] so never in a month of Sundays!

    ::sigh::

    [1] With the appropriate architecture you could certainly make the DB a choice, but no I'm not volunteering for any of this either.

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    localzuk (28th September 2010)

  8. #36
    GeneralDreedle's Avatar
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    I agree with what you're saying about the whole vegan obsessiveness with opensource tools that have the sellotape hanging off them. I'm a pragmatist by nature and MS stuff works and the kids love it, but my epiphany here is that it is an idealogical battle. The war can only be won with a SinnFein solution. Eventually you get the government of the day to adopt a defacto standard. You get the Titan to stamp his feet and send the little men and their little houses back into the dust. Not a competing market. A truly Free one.
    Much as I have loved MS tools over the years and ridiculed XWindows and widgets and gnu and all those noddy scripting languages I fear that means linux on desktops with web delivery to portable devices and other platforms. Schools can run lots of MS boxes on their networks (maybe I can keep Excel!), just not run their business system on them.

    Why should the government ask the questions and not distibute the software that gives the answers? Why the tango through the year as census specs are revised and suppliers run to catch up? Issue the census patch when you raise the requirement. Otherwise don't bother the schools with the question!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneralDreedle View Post
    Why should the government ask the questions and not distibute the software that gives the answers? Why the tango through the year as census specs are revised and suppliers run to catch up? Issue the census patch when you raise the requirement. Otherwise don't bother the schools with the question!
    So what you're saying is, the government should liaise with the MIS suppliers about changing standards, and only when they have built them into their systems and all schools have upgraded, that is when they become mandatory. Interesting...

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    So what you're saying is, the government should liaise with the MIS suppliers about changing standards
    I don't see that. In the current context of this thread we've very optimistically disappeared "MIS suppliers" for being too [expensive|parasitic|annoying]. The premise is that given a prevalent open source school MIS system, the Gov can bleeping well go and hack the code to implement any new must-have functionality they, as opposed to you, require.

    it is an idealogical battle.
    Indeed, but I think that's much better fought incrementally not with nukes. Think ahead, but go for genuine "quick wins" (urgh.. I hate that but it will have to do). Don't hold out for Utopia.

  11. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by PiqueABoo View Post
    I don't see that. In the current context of this thread we've very optimistically disappeared "MIS suppliers" for being too [expensive|parasitic|annoying]. The premise is that given a prevalent open source school MIS system, the Gov can bleeping well go and hack the code to implement any new must-have functionality they, as opposed to you, require.
    Now that is truly a fascinating concept. The government changes the goal posts and is obligated to alter the code, after which they send you the updated add-in. Now we're just dreaming.

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    GeneralDreedle's Avatar
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    'Boo's got it. Your restatement of what I said is not right. There should be NO MIS suppliers. It's an artificial market. They are fantastical creatures, a bit like vampires really, differing only in that we brought them to life. The government creates requirements year on year and forces schools to gift taxpayers money to Capita and Serco etc. in order to meet those requirements. Now, we all know that govt can't manage IT projects (worked on some of them - that's a whole other can of worms) so I'm not foolish enough to be advocating another one.

    What I'm saying is bottom-up create a culture of best value, shared reponsibility. Of course it's anaethma to BSF and managed service but then that's going to crash and burn anyway (see my strangely silent thread elsewhere). Lots of things start out dreaming. Lots of dreams die. But money talks vikpaw, and the bloat is about to burst. Might be someone listening now. Cheap Dreams: They really are interesting.

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    WOW GeneralDreedle, i'm thinking outside the box and seeing where you're coming from now. A big paradigm shift! thanks for clarifying.

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Can someone disable this guys bold tool!

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    WSF
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    I'm definitely interested in assisting with this project, MShakeshaft. PM me if possible to discuss this further if you're interested?

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    The biggest issue you will need to over come is acceptance from state schools as they are normally locked into the version their county will support. This is normally a killer for any new MIS.
    A better way of gaining a foot hold would be by modulising the application, base it round SIF the systems interoperability framework, this will allow you to integrate with all the leading MIS providers. Then you could select the area that could be most improved with lease amount of effort. repeat this process until you have a complete MIS and they can stop using their old one and easily migrate over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    The biggest issue you will need to over come is acceptance from state schools as they are normally locked into the version their county will support. This is normally a killer for any new MIS.
    A better way of gaining a foot hold would be by modulising the application, base it round SIF the systems interoperability framework, this will allow you to integrate with all the leading MIS providers. Then you could select the area that could be most improved with lease amount of effort. repeat this process until you have a complete MIS and they can stop using their old one and easily migrate over.
    I see your point, however with many schools gaining Academy status, they are able to break away from their LEAs and choose their own software.

    Also, integrating with existing MIS providers will prove to be very difficult; Capita charge over 7k for partnership that gives you the resources to develop, and Serco Learning charge about 5k - so unless you're willing to shell out a lot of money, you're back to square one.

    There is a huge need for a better and cheaper MIS though. Hope this goes ahead!

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