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A Useful Tool: The Functionality Overlap Document

By Bill Willis & Warren Apel
A Useful Tool: The Functionality Overlap Document

Who is doing what to solve the various common problems and tasks we face at international schools? Where? How? Several years ago, at a NESA Virtual School conference, we asked that very question.
At a breakout meeting on student information systems we quickly realized there were many more concerns we had in common. Warren Apel, who at that time was the Director of Technology at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, created a shared Google spreadsheet called the “Functionality Overlap.”
The collaborative document asked the question “Which student information system are you using?” But it went further still. As a group, we tried to capture many of the processes common to our schools and added statements such as:
• Athletic office uses a calendar to manage locations for athletic events
• Teacher sends email to a parent of a student in their class
• Teacher checks to see if a technology device (video camera, laptop cart, digital microscope, etc.) is available for check-out from the technology department
• Teacher creates a website for her classroom
• Principal sends a newsletter to parents...
Soon we had generated a list of over 100 common tasks schools faced. Each of us present at the meeting took a column and noted how our school dealt with each job.
Today, the Functionality Overlap document no longer serves only NESA but now includes over 40 schools from Europe to East Asia. It currently boasts 150 editors. New tasks/questions are continually added to the list.
Around the world, school and tech administrators have been using the Functionality Overlap document to compare, plan, and inspire.
Need help customizing your student information system? Use the document to see who else uses the same product; maybe they can suggest a solution to your problem. This versatile information tool is a great resource, which will only increase in usefulness the more schools contribute.
When a school contributes to the document, an interesting side effect occurs. Not only are you helping people understand how your school functions, you yourself begin to better grasp the inner workings of your own school. Often, contributors realize that, for certain tasks, five different systems are in place.
Another common revelation is that a school pays a good deal of money for a system that accomplishes only one task. When scanning sideways across the document, it becomes clear how other schools have solved the problems you face. At that point, you can start to make deeper connections.
If you need to update your school’s data, or wish to add your school, simply send a request to become an editor of the Functionality Overlap document to Bill Willis at [email protected] or Warren Apel at [email protected].
To view the Functionality Overlap document, visit:
Bill Willis is Director of Technology at the Lincoln School Nepal.
Warren Apel is Director of Educational Technology at the International School of Amsterdam.

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