The world of school management information systems continues to throw up new links. Two recently-announced ones should be studied by schools which are interested either in electronic registration or in doing the timetable by computer.
The first is a coming together, still in its early stages, between Bromcom's RadioEars and modules of the SIMS management system. RadioEars, you may recall, is the system - highly publicised at its launch three years ago - by which each teacher carries a folder containing a small computer linked by radio to a PC in the school office. The teacher calls up the register, marks it by pressing keys on the small machine, and then zaps it off back to the PC.
The advantage of Radioears has always been not so much that it puts the register on computer - other systems will do that just as well - but that it provides a quick and efficient two-way link between the classroom where the register is marked and the office where the data is stored and processed. Other systems either call for a hard-wired link or depend on paper being carried from classrooms to the school office. The problem about RadioEars for me is that at up to Pounds 40,000 for an installation in a big school, it is an expensive way of dealing with just one aspect of school administration.
Bromcom insists that there are adequate compensating savings in time and administration, especially now that there are other RadioEars functions such as internal electronic mail. In my view, though, RadioEars has needed to be capable of being more fully integrated into the school's main admin system.
Now, this seems to be happening. Bromcom has just announced a development where a teacher, using the RadioEars folder, will choose a SIMS module such as Attendance, Assessment or Examination, and enter appropriate data in the classroom on a screen set up to receive it. This is sent to the RadioEars PC and then passed by cable to the PC running the SIMS system.
In a sense, the whole process emulates an Optical Mark Reader system - indeed Bromcom calls it "OMR Simulator" - but instead of physically sending OMR sheets around the school, RadioEars passes their electronic equivalents around by radio link. There is not even a pilot running as yet - I am promised a visit when there is something to see - but this is one to watch even if you have something other than SIMS, because Bromcom says it wants to make the same sort of link to other systems.
The other new link-up is the addition of three new timetable-based modules to the range of Windows management functions offered by RMKey Solutions. Computer timetabling is a specialised field, and Key Solutions has chosen to fill the gap in this area by acquiring the rights to an existing product, in this case CCM Software's "Facility Timetabler", "Facility Options" and "Facility Cover". Each of these, now prefixed "Key Solutions Facility" will, says Key Solutions, "Integrate seamlessly with the Key Solutions Administration Manager Module".
Dublin-based CCM, whose software is heavily used in Ireland's education system, has been working hard for some time to establish a foothold in the UK schools market, and this link with Key Solutions makes considerable sense for both parties. I visited CCM in Dublin a year ago and was much impressed both by their approach and by the respect which Irish schools had for their products.
Bromcom: 0171 222 2121
RMKey Solutions 0181 460 9766