Collaboration needs to be Disciplined

A reflection on my participation with a collective looking at the re-imagination of student reporting and the innovation associated with people and processes.

I was recently reflecting upon an ongoing reporting collective that I have been a part of for the last year and a half. One of the things that I have noticed is how hard change is. It often takes a long time and considerable commitment to turn turn the ship. For example, in a previous project, a principal shared with me that it had probably taken his school five year to transform the way in which teachers engage with data to inform learning within his school. Unless it is a new school or a school in crisis (e.g. Templestowe College), this timeline seems to be common trend.

It can therefore be a challenge to identify the specific points of change based on a year and a bit. One of the reasons is that sometimes we have a predefined ideal as to what such change might look like. A mindset of revolution rather than renaissance. It therefore occurred to me that I might have been thinking about this all the wrong way. Although the schools a part of the collective had not radically torn up their reports. They were still restricted to what providers make possible and the expectations of the various constituents. Instead the innovation came through in the actions, rather than the end product.

I would break this practice up into four aspects:


One of the biggest inhibitors of change seems to be time. This is captured in part by Tom Barrett’s discussion of innovation compression. There is something about committing yourself to regular meetings.


It is important to have structure to guide things. This has come in several forms, such as appropriate spaces to work collaboratively and activities that supported the reflective process.


Associated with the structure is the opportunity to celebrate the small wins to maintain energy and motivation. Sometimes when you work in a small team driving change this is missed.


Beyond the explicit structures, one of the most powerful aspects to come out of the collective has been the serendipitous conversations. Although it is possible to structure opportunities to share, sometimes the greatest learning comes through in the random conversation. This is something that I describe as the hidden professional development.

In the end, this experience has reminded me that content and change is people, the challenge is being disciplined about the process. As always, thoughts, comments and webmentions welcome.

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A part of the focus on deep learning is the realisation that reporting needs to be ongoing.

It can be easy to look at an application and provide one answer, the problem with this is that it does not cover all contexts. Here is a collection of ideas associated with GSuite and ongoing reporting and assessment.

I recently attended a professional learning day investigating ongoing reporting. As opposed to mandated biannual reporting, the interest was the different ways in which students engage with their learning. During the initial discussions, the following ideas were identified when developing any sort of solution:

  • Consistency
  • Timeliness
  • Clarity
  • Logistics
  • Stakeholders
  • Customisation

During a conversation during a break, I was asked about some ways which GSuite can be used to support ideas. Teachers may know about the different applications, however it is not always clear how these may support ongoing learning. Here then are some thoughts:


One of the benefits to Google Docs is the ability to work collaboratively within a digital environment. This can incorporate a range of formats, whether it be texts, tables, hyperlinks, images, charts, drawings and gifs. In terms of ongoing learning, Docs allows for feedback at any point, whether in the form of a suggestion or as a comment. Add-ons, such as CheckMark or JoeZoo further extend these possibilities by providing additional functionality, while there are also various options for inserting voice comments.


Similar to Docs, Google Slides offers a number of ways to collect, collaborate and communicate. Where it differs is the ability to engage with desktop publishing. At a simple level, you can add video, texts and images, as well as use the Explore Tool to automagically organise this content. Alternatively, it is possible to build upon a preexisting template, such as Jennifer Scott’s Slides Yearbook. Matt Miller and Alice Keeler have also created an add-on that allows users to produce a presentation from a collection of images in Slides.


For some all solutions begin with Google Sheets. With the ability to protect access, hide cells and sheets, as well as link to a particular cell, Sheets provides a number of ways to organise data and information. One idea is to use Sheets as a central space for writing comments, linking to work and recording reflections. This could include sharing results with students from a mastersheet via IMPORTRANGE or providing an open space for students to support each other as Bianca Hewes’ has done with her work on medals and missions. Another approach to using Sheets is using scripts to automate some of the process. For example, Alice Keeler has created a template for making and communicating rubrics to students.


Building on the potential of Sheets, Google Forms provides a number of ways to collect and co-ordinate ongoing learning. One way is through the use of pre and post tests to drive differentiated instruction. Although in the past you had to use Flubaroo to automate this, with the addition of quizzes you are now able to do a lot more without the support of add-ons. Another use of Forms is as a way to efficiently record data. For example, you maybe conducting a reading conference, a Form can automate this process and send a summary to the student. Going a step further, it is also possible to create a unique link with pre-filled in content, such as name and class. This could even include attaching evidence using the ‘Upload a File’ function. This might be a short video or some work that has been annotated. This workflow is particularly useful when saving work on a mobile device.


One of the challenges with ongoing reporting can be coordinating everything. Google Classroom allows you to create and communicate various resources and templates. This can include sending out individual files or sharing a collaborative document. In addition to giving feedback, Classroom provides a space for teachers to coordinate an ongoing conversation using private comments. Those using the mobile application are also able to annotate submitted artefacts. Classroom provides a way of communicating with parents. This involves sending regular summaries of missing work, upcoming dates and class acivities, such as questions, announcements and assignments. Although this could be done using Gmail, which would in fact allow dialogue, the benefit of Classroom is that it automates the process and allows parents to moderate how the communication works.

Google Drive

Although Google has added the ability to insert video from Drive into a presentation, it is possible to take this a step further and embed content from Drive in other spaces. This might include audio files, PDF documents or images. The benefit of embedding with Drive is that you are able to manage who has access to various content, whether it be only people within an instance or even just particular users. This can be useful when developing something like a closed portfolio. Another use of Drive is to capture and organise learning. As discussed, Forms now provides the ability to upload files. These items are then placed in one folder associated with the responses.


An alternative to using Drive and Classroom to collect content with Keep. There are a number of ways to organise and annotate evidence within Keep. For example, it can be useful when working with photos on moboile devices, as it allows you to avoid adding images to the camera roll. Notes can also be organised using labels and collaborated upon. This content can then be curated in Docs and Slides via the ‘Keep Notepad’.


A common application used to share and publish ongoing learning is Google Sites. The new Sites allows users to quickly and easily collect and collate work. One of the challenges though when sharing using Sites is that the setting associated with the various files allow access. If creating a public showcase it can be useful to add all the files into a folder with the desired sharing settings, which then overwrites the original settings. Another option is to use Alice Keeler’s AnyoneCanView Add-on, which changes the default settings associated with the document. For those wanting to embed more than just documents and images, Martin Hawksey has demonstrated how to embed any iFrame application using via Google Apps Scripts.

Many of these aspects cross-over to posts that I have written before involving portfolios and documentation, however where this differs is the attempt to capture many of the parts and how they might interconnect. As always, I am interested in your views. Is there something I have missed or maybe something you disagree with? Comments welcome for this is all ongoing learning, right?

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One of the challenges with a new learning platform like Compass is where it fits and how it compares with what went before. Here then is my comparison between Edmodo and Compass:

I think that there are many aspects that neither platforms deal with, including the ability to incorporate rubrics and the possibility to collaborate. Some other possibilities are Alice Keeler’s Rubric Tab, as well we Google Classroom and Google Apps for further communication and collaboration.

There will always be limitations to applications such as Edmodo and Compass. The challenge sometimes is finding what works best for you.

This was originally posted at ebox

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I have been report co-ordinator for four years now and I feel that I have gotten as much as I can from QuickVic, the free report software provided by the Victorian State Government. During this time, I have implemented many changes in an effort to not only improve reports, but also to streamline the whole process. Ever since I have been teaching, the process associated with reporting has been a tedious one.

Some of the changes that I have made to reports and the whole process include:
  • Developing a guide for writing clear comment banks. This included providing a list of words to differentiate between high, medium and low, as well as various link words and phrases to help support the flow of paragraphs.
  • Adapted the templates. Over the years I have adapted the templates by firstly embedding the blurb to splitting the primary reports into different subjects and areas to help seperate the comments.
  • Created a collaborative document to share progression points. When I took over the role, co-ordinators added their choices to a document and sent them back. I changed this by creating a Google Doc that allowed people to see what other year levels had put down, as well as an overview of the whole school.
Reflecting on these changes now, I think that they were all so simply, don’t get me wrong, very tedious at times, but simple none the less. The thing is that if they were so simple, then why did it take me to bring them in and make the changes? I think in some respect, many solutions look simple in retrospect. The reality though is that I think it does not matter how many changes you make, at some point there comes a limit.

Time for a Change

A few months ago I was listening to the Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast and they were discussing the demise of Windows XP. One of the reasons given as to why it has lasted so long is that it actually costs a lot of money for companies in regards to training, licences and even replacing machines in order to change over to a new operating system and with that a changed way of doing things. This has definitely been the case in regards to reporting.
At the start of the year the Victorian Curriculum and Assesssment Authority released a set of guidelines regarding curriculum planning and reporting. They outlined the following requirements:

(a) Schools have the flexibility to choose, in partnership with their school community, the way in which they will report student achievement. There will no longer be a single mandated report format.

(b) Schools report, both to parents and, where directed, to the relevant sectoral authorities, on student achievement in English, Mathematics and Science against the common achievement standards, indicating the level of attainment reached by each student and the age-expected level of attainment (except in specific instances of individual students where this has been determined by schools in partnership with parents to be unnecessary).

(c) Schools will not be required to report student achievement against the other domains each year, but should, following the Foundation year, report student achievement against all domains in each two-year band of schooling.

Although the guidelines provide some indication as to where curriculum and reporting is heading, they provide little clarity for schools. The one guarantee though is that the dependency of many schools on QuickVic, the free product offered by the Victorian state government, is coming to an end.
In a culture of autonomy, the onus is being put back on schools to develop a solution that best fits their needs. For many this means that the current reporting process is open for discussion and with that how and when reports are produced.
In search for the next big thing, I started scrolling through the different options out there. Not only for the best program to replace QuickVic, but also the right fit for the school. The three main contenders that initially stood out were: Accelerus, Reporter Pro and Compass.


Owned by the same company who produce QuickVic, Accelerus is the next step up from Markbook. They have had the lion’s share over the last ten years, particularly in secondary schools. Like QuickVic, there are avenues for developing your own templates. However, as far as I could tell, that is really where the similarities stop.
The biggest difference between QuickVic and Accelerus is that it is a historical database that updates via the web, rather than across a network. Once setup, an administrator simply needs to update various elements in order to maintain it. This means that staff are able to develop their own gradebook in order to keep track of progress and start developing reports and profiles from the first day of the semester, rather than wait until late into the semester for the server to be opened up. In support of the core reporting module, there is also some provisioning for interim reporting. Something sorely missed in using QuickVic.
Another big selling point for Accelerus are the possibilities of data analytics. This seems to be where it is all at. The ability to reflect on a student’s growth overtime is very important when it comes to assessment and reporting. However, having recently gone with Phillip Holmes-Smith’s Student Performance Analyser, this functionality is rendered null and void. One of the issues that some leaders had with Accelerus was the story that the data was able to provide. Although you can create your own rules to sort and present data, it was felt that what was on offer was not quite adequate.
Another interesting aspect associated with Accelurus is what other opportunities and attributes it offers? Clearly assessment and reporting is its bread and butter, this is what Accelerus has always done well. Subsequently, its offerings for other areas, like welfare, are not complex enough in my view to adequately replace learning management systems, such as Student Management Tool (SMTool). This is a big challenge at the moment for schools as many are trying to streamline their systems as best possible.
It must be noted that Accelerus are also looking at rolling out a lite version of its reporting package as a replacement for QuickVic, which includes the removal of such aspects as interim reports. However, the exact details are yet to be outlined.

Reporter Pro

There are many schools using Human Edge’s timetabling package, First Class, so it makes a lot of sense to add attendance and assessment to this. Although already having the information in First Class helps a lot, what was presented in regards to Reporter Pro simply didn’t stand up to other packages in regards to flexibility.

Like so many others, it provides web access, allowing you to set things up early. However, there is little movement in regards to templates. Unlike Accelerus (and QuickVic) which allows you to create and modify your own templates, the options available within Reporter Pro seem rather limited. Although there is the offer of custom templates, sadly this seems to be done more by programmers and does not allow for much tinkering by the user. In addition to this, the structure of the interim reports is locked and very restrictive. In a culture of choice, fitting in with a system seems counterintuitive.

Although I know some schools that are utilising Human Edge for welfare purposes, I still feel that the same concerns that I have with Accelerus around branching out beyond reporting applies here. For me, it is not functional enough for the user to replace the more thorough learning management systems.


Compass is what the Ultranet should have been, well that was how it was sold to us. Compared to Accelerus and Human Edge, the team at Compass are relatively new to the field assessment and reporting. One of the things that stand out is that although other companies offer many of the same features, such as attendance and data analytics, Compass seems to offer so much more in a slick and intuitive manner.
Where Compass seems to trump other programs and applications is that it offers seemingly everything, whether this be news feeds, roll marking, file storage, curriculum planning, excursion notices and obviously, the publication of reports. Associated with this, it works comfortably on all platforms and even has an app which allows for the uploading of files on iPad and iPhone.
There are two downsides that I can see with Compass. Firstly, the cost. Even with all the options and choices, there will always be elements that go unused or underutilised. This is exacerbated by the amount outlayed by the school.
The other concern is that whereas other systems do not necessarily require a massive buy in from staff, in many respects Compass is a game changer in the same respect that the Ultranet was supposed to be. I understand that Compass is a far sturdier system than the Ultranet. However, I am still concerned that there will be some who simply won’t take on the changes, making more work for others.
Although these were the main programs that seem to be being used in schools at the moment, however there were also a few other alternatives that I came along in my journey:


Like so many other reporting programs, Gradexpert covers not only learning and teaching, but welfare as well. In some respects, it reminds me of Accelerus in the way that each teacher is able to setup their own gradebook with notes, tasks and assignments in order to keep track of teaching and learning.
In some respects, Gradexpert takes me back to the days of using Australian Teachers Chronicle’s Microsoft Access based Electonic Teachers Chronicle that they produced a few years ago. Although Gradexpert is functional, it does not seem as smooth and slick as some of the other options out there. Particularly in regards to copying text and the absence of an undo function.
One of the things that I did like about Gradexpert was the simplicity of their report designer. Unlike QuickVic’s use of Word Templates, Gradexpert provides a series of drop down options and moveable parts that make the creation of templates quite easy. I feel that it would be a great option for Primary schools wanting an alternative to QuickVic.


Predominantly used amongst Catholic schools, nForma has started making a move into state schools. Like so many other programs, it combines reporting, attendance and welfare all in one place. It is also located wholly on the web. Although it looks rather slick and stylish, it still has its bugs, especially when it comes to compatibility with Macs.
It seems unfair to say much more than that as they are in the midst of change. Instead of stipulating what will be a part of their product, they are looking to support schools with their choices. What this actually looks like and how it works will be interesting to see.


Originally taking foot in NSW, Sentral has since started moving across borders into different states. One of the biggest challenges in my view to moving into a new market is word of mouth. Other than speaking with colleagues from interstate, there just doesn’t seem to be many local schools who have taken it up. I must admit that I wish I had seen more of Sentral as it does look to be a true contender, especially in regards to learning management systems.


Other Alternatives

These seem to be the various programs on offer. However, something interesting that came out of all my investigations was that with the push for flexibility, some schools have moved outside of the box and started appropriating other programs to support and supplement the reporting process. One school was sharing notebooks within Evernote that included examples of student work, supported by various annotations. Another school which had moved to the Ultranet before its demise has moved to Edmodo to provide their communication with parents. Some skip the complications associated with administering various programs by simply using Microsoft Word to create a basic report.

In the end, it is an interesting time in regards to education and the digital revolution. Managing assessment and reporting is a big part of this. Have you had different experiences with any of the programs that I have mentioned? Were there any that I missed? Would love to know your thoughts.

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