Roll calls are a necessary evil, but if you look a bit closer and tally the time spent taking them and multiply that by a couple of thousand students, very quickly a picture of a lot of teaching time wasted begins to emerge.
Pymble Ladies' College in Sydney, which likes to keep abreast of technology, saw that something needed to be done, realising that roll calls were costing about four hours a week in teaching. They set about creating an attendance monitoring system with kiosks in each classroom; students swipe a card to register themselves at the beginning of classes and before extra curricular activities.
The kiosks are based on IBM hardware. Each is a PC and Pymble’s IT department has built further functions into them beyond roll call; databases can be accessed which include information like medical conditions that a particular student might have, as can a video library and resources for the classrooms’ interactive whiteboards, not to mention telephony.
From a duty of care perspective, the school now knows where each student is pretty much at all times, which is invaluable during excursions or in case of emergency.
The data being gathered is also important from an academic point of view. Teaching at Pymble is intensive, a lot of material is covered in a 60-minute class so attendance for the full session is essential, “If a student is consistently late by say 15 minutes, we know and the parents can be informed,” IT Manager Rathika Suresh says.
The system’s first iteration was based on Java, but given the amount of information being gathered, deficiencies in the speed of processing information became clear to Suresh during testing. She looked to a solution based on the Adobe Flash Platform, which includes the Flex® framework and Adobe AIR®, a cross-operating system runtime.
Using Flex® powerful, graphically appealing programs can be built rapidly using the array of samples and their source codes which Adobe makes available online as a jumping off point.
Suresh says that the project took about 18 months to complete, “Adobe AIR is an anytime, anywhere solution which was compatible and easy to integrate with the IT infrastructure we already had in place.”
Suresh is confident that the kiosks’ functionality will only increase over time.
“The Adobe Flash Platform with Adobe AIR is clearly a solution which Adobe will focus on in the future and we look forward to seeing how the platform continues to develop,” Suresh says.