Dear Principal: What will the natives think about your form?

What do you suppose the digital natives make of our schools and workplaces today when handed a form to sign?

A leap to the past? A reminder of times gone by? Or simply a sad reality that is taking far too long to resolve?

digital-natives2 sign

You can spot the shift; cafes no longer places of simple chatter, but a space intertwined by the physical and the virtual, with eyes darting across coffees then down to the hand and back again, fingers tapping a device non stop as multiple conversations are maintained in the spoken and unspoken worlds.

This is our current reality.  These are digital natives at play, and these digital natives know and understand the freedom and efficiency that technology affords; the power of the networks. With this group, the expectation is simple. Have access to device, can communicate. Best way to communicate. With devices.

Picture this…

Scenario 1:

A digital native has a child starting school.  At information night they are handed a package jam packed full of forms to sign and information to digest. They are informed that money for trips and school activities must go to the office via a labeled envelope, and notices must be returned with their child in a notices folder in the schoolbag.

Scenario 2:

A digital native has a child starting school.  At information night, they are informed that they must provide an email address as the school emails all the forms to be responded to and returned by printing or scanning and emailing. They are advised that money can be paid by credit card at the office, by writing the card number down on a piece of paper and handing them over for processing at a later stage. Receipt to be sent home via the child.

Scenario 3:

A digital native has a child starting school. At information night they are informed that they must check the website to find out what is going on, and download the relevant forms. They are advised that money can be paid by credit card over the phone to the office.

Can you begin to imagine what a digital native is thinking?

The no document generation

For starters, this generation is largely the “no document” generation. And by no document, that extends to digital.  Their web presence comprises not of documents in a file, or emails in folders (that is the web presence of a digital migrant), but of multiple profiles, avatars, pseudonyms, posts, comments, images, conversations, links and strings. The content they publish is a record of their existence, publicly and privately stored on record in databases across the planet. The content they consume is dished up to them by an array of computer algorithm and data mining smarts feeding interest and age specific content via multiple channels. They know what is going on by a network of alerts, asking them to attend to conversations or carry out specific tasks.

Ultimately the expectation is that communication in its entirety can be a web based process.  As such, where does this leave our digital natives as they enter the workforce as employees, and our schools as parents.  What do they say when handed forms to sign and return? What do they do when information comes to a physical letterbox in an envelope, or via email?

Do they suffer in silence, whilst waiting for the rest of the world to catch up? How long is reasonable for somebody to be subject to such antiquated behaviours and ways?

How should we share information with this group?

It is quite simple.  Not with documents. Certainly not physical documents, or electronic documents posted to websites or attached to email. Because such handling is neither familiar nor useful to complete the task at hand (responding to others).

For the digital native, the expectation would be to perform tasks using appropriate web based services and networks. A web space for handling business – separate to the space for social, but working in a similar fashion, where alerts keep them up-to-date and on top of things, and records exist of transactions.

Forms are really the last frontier

A large number of business processes have been digitized through the use of web forms and interfaces for users to input data, especially linked to corporate systems.  But what about the large number of everyday business processes that remain non digitized, or poorly digitized?

Take for example the humble contract between staff and employee (all that HR stuff), or the excursion consent agreement between parent and school. Business and schools are battling to find an effective digital means of sharing, given budget constraints and the nature of everyday forms.  The answer, to this date, has been email and push notification systems, both of which do little to address the issue of the need for response and the need to monitor and remind. Some schools opt for large enterprise systems to enable web based responses, but such systems are expensive and difficult to implement, and go only part of the way to solving the age old forms issue.

What is the solution?

Fortunately a new web forms service (network) has arrived, by the name of Signmee. This service enables schools (and business soon) to create and manage web forms ‘on the fly’, and to distribute these to contacts with a Signmee account (part of the network). The platform enables the school to monitor in real time who has opened the form, who has signed the form and who has provided a response. All responses are stored as record for future reference.

For the digital native, this solution is appealing. It works in a manner to which they are familiar-create account, link account to others as necessary, manage account. They can complete the task without leaving the device or application. SMS alerts advise they need to access their account, and takes them seamlessly through to the response fields. They have a record of all their business interactions in the one space.  The system knows who they are, and has the smarts to pre fill information when performing repeat tasks.

Finally, a system for digital natives has arrived.

Watch: Signmee explainer video

 

 

 

 

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