Sydney girls school gets electronic roll call

Kiosks for IP telephony and AV systems also possible

Pymble Ladies College students swipe themselves into class

Pymble Ladies College students swipe themselves into class

Pymble Ladies' College, a girls secondary school in Sydney's north, has introduced an electronic classroom student roll call system to reduce administrative disruption for students.

Using touch screen kiosks and swipe card system, students mark their attendance in academic and general classes using their smart card.

The system integrates with an events database which records all events, excursions and other activities that the student is involved in and it is linked into the students' and teachers' timetables.

PLC director of information technology Rathika Suresh said the kiosks have been operating since the start of the school year and have been well received by students, teachers and IT.

"The classroom kiosks have been enthusiastically embraced by both staff and students and [the] solution that is both simple and robust to survive the rigors of school life," Suresh said, adding a touch panel can be used if a card is not on the student.

IBM AnyPlace kiosks were installed in the college's senior classrooms and library. Prior to installing the kiosks, PLC was using a Web-based system to record roll and record and maintain an attendance register for every student for every period of the day.

“The Web-based system was developed internally and had its purpose, but when a teacher entered a class they had to login to it which was time consuming so we knew we had to change that,” she said.

“We had a barcode system for the library cards and the new system integrated with that well. We developed the software in-house and wanted to build and augment existing technology.”

The new roll call system also integrates with the existing Maze student management system, which Suresh said is popular among Australian Schools.

“We needed it totally customized and it had to grow with our needs,” she said. “Roll call could not be the only driver and we knew we could take it much further.”

PLC has already started using the kioks in other areas like IP telephony softphones and AV systems, which eliminates the need for separate touch panels for classroom controls.

The kiosks run Windows and the software is developed in Java and .Net.

“Anything we can do on a computer we can do on this,” Suresh said. “Calls for emergency, the swith and IT support can be placed from the kiosk to stop people from walking around unnecessarily. This is very new and went live this week.”

The next software enhancement will centre around management as the school is putting the kiosks in more places with more applications.

“So now it's a case of managing it and we are talking to IBM about that. We are doing changes manually, but want to centralise it.”

Security and industrial automation like lighting and temperature controls are also in the pipeline.

Students can also swipe their cards to get the status of their library books from the Spydus library management system. Teachers and staff receive a record of where a student is at any particular time.

Suresh said her IT department is enjoying the project and a future development might be to make the kiosks look less “industrial” and more “funky”.

According to the school, the old process took a minimum of 10 minutes of class time so using a smart card system has increase “learning time” by almost 4 hours per week.

Datacom was contracted for the delivery of the solution.

The kiosks can also display broadcast messages in the event of an emergency.

According to IBM's Darren Gosling, PLC's new roll call system is the first of its type in Australia.

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