An electronic diary sounds attractive

Kilobytes for school electronic diaries

An electronic diary sounds attractive. There is no chance to add another 10 marks or tear out the page inviting parents to school.
An electronic diary sounds attractive. There is no chance to add another 10 marks or tear out the page inviting parents to school. With this new idea, the teacher has ultimate control. All the pupil has to do is to study. But when will electronic diaries and class registers be a daily reality?

Electronic School, Electronic Diary project being implemented at Minsk’s gymnasium #40.

According to the Deputy Director of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR) and co-author of the programme Electronic School, Pavel Lis, both documents are ready to be used. He explains, “The essence of a school diary is organisation. If a pupil has forgotten to write down their homework, or the page was lost, the electronic version is available.” He described how schools using the devices in trials recorded an average increase in progress of 1.5 points.

The fact that schools are interested in the introduction of electronic documents is confirmed by the number of visitors to the website Last month there were up to 400,000 hits. However, of the 1,600 registered schools, only 35 actually implemented electronic documents. Some registered merely out of interest and to make use of the site within school. Others plan to use the system with selected classes. Many prefer to remain with the traditional method of keeping books in their hands.

There is optimism however as far as the project is concerned, as it is being used in diverse places such as Zaslavl, Rechitsa, Grodno and Soligorsk. There are a considerable number of educational institutions who have freely chosen to use the Electronic School and who were not participants of the experiment. Pavel Lis considers this good evidence to prove that the financial cost of realising the project will not hinder its development. There has been some discussion as to whether the system is too complicated for teachers to understand. Pavel points out that teachers are highly educated intellectual professionals and cites a Minsk high school where over 40 teachers are using the system, having learned it with no difficulty. In this particular school, paper diaries and registers are already seen as old fashioned.

The theme of school electronic documents has been under discussion since 2000. Entrepreneurs tried to promote the product in Russia, Ukraine and in our own schools. Many appealed to the Ministry of Education for support, but frequently it was the question of a Russian product that required costly adaptation for our Belarusian educational system. As a result, the preference was given to a domestic product, which did not require adapting. The project was finally realised at the expense of an investor, but without the use of budgetary funds. Today, it is one of the most successful examples of state-private partnership. Similar projects are successfully running in Russia, Slovakia and Holland.

According to the author, network operators are ready to join this common cause, having already subsidised tariff plans of teachers with free Internet traffic for educational resources, for using class registers and school diaries, and also for the sites recommended by the Ministry of Education.

As well as the developers, soon the service could become free for parents. Those who have paid in advance will get access to additional services. Pupils will have a self-education resource, while parents will be able to use analytics and forecasting of their child’s progress. “The essence of forecasting is in setting a mark that parents want to see at the end of a term or a year,” explained Pavel, “and the programme monitors the situation in each subject in real time. Depending on the level, the child’s progress will be shown in different colours: red, orange or green. The first two are a sign to the parent that progress deviates from the set norm. The methodology of analysis is now in the process of consultation with the Ministry of Education. Such analysis is usual for those who enter grammar schools, colleges and universities. The site will give recommendations about gaps in knowledge. This service is currently under testing.”

The possibilities of these electronic documents are limitless. For example, if a teacher wants to attach a video lesson or presentation to a pupil’s homework it is now possible. Another matter is that the question concerning storage of this content has not been solved yet. If everyone wanted to add videos, the space on the school server would quickly be filled. “This issue is being looked at now,” says Pavel. “The solution could be to store additional information in a different place, for example in the Ministry of Education, where it would be reviewed. In this way, all the best work from teachers would be available to their colleagues.”

The developers are working for the second year on the important issues of the safety of information, data encryption, reserve storage and copying. Mr. Lis is not afraid of the system being hacked, even if he was to admit that any gifted young hacker could decide to correct his mark in the electronic register or diary, the breach would contain information about time and address. This would constitute a cybercrime and would be a great risk for the sake of a better mark.

By Anna Artemeva
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