Episode 95 – How cheap is too cheap?


On this episode Tony, Tim and myself discuss blogs that teachers run and some things they should be aware of and should schools consider super cheap devices in their school?

As always subscribe to us on iTunes, Podomatic or your favorite podcast app.

Check out the agenda below:

You can always listen to the podcast right here or download it HERE!


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Happy Thanksgiving!


To all of our American friends and family out there we wish you a happy turkey day!


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Episode 94 – No more iPads!


This episode Tim joins Tony and myself to revisit Australia’s decision to replace history and geography with coding and to talk about the iPad Pro and should schools consider it?

As always find us on iTunes, Podomatic or your favorite podcasting app.

Check out the talking points below:

  • Australia mandates coding and gets rid of History and Geography
    • Tim – WTF!!!??
    • Is this widespread or just a few places?
    • Thoughts from the panel
  • iPad Pro reviews are in
    • Who are they for?
    • For our art students in high school?
    • Certainly not for widespread distribution right?

Listen to the podcast below (20:12) or download it HERE!

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Episode 93 – Faculty meetings suck!


They do and you know! This week Tony and I talk about why faculty meetings are not a pleasant experience and what technology can (and shouldn’t) do about it. I am not sure we have the answer but I think we’re onto something here. Check out the agenda below.

As always subscribe to us on iTunes, Podomatic and your favorite Android or iOS apps.

You can always listen to it or download it right HERE!

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Episode 92 – Tim we need your help!


This episode Tony and talk all about programming. Yep, we talk about whether schools are starting students with too difficult a language or not. We also talk about Australia’s decision to make coding mandatory, but at what cost.

As always you can find us on iTunes and Podomatic and if you have a comment, just leave it here on the blog – we love those things!

Check out the agenda below:

You can listen to it right now as well or download it HERE!

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Padlet – A quick review

Padlet has been a mainstay in classrooms for years. It was previously known as Wallwishers. Basically it is a blank canvas and you add notes. These notes can include links to websites, various types of files and images. If you use the premium option you get more options such as uploading videos from your phone, premium themes, larger storage and a few more perks.

Let’s get into it.

Step 1 – Signing up

This is crazy easy. You can sign up with your Google, Facebook or Twitter account. To sign up with your email, just give them your email, make a password and click I’m Beautiful. I think that last part is really to prove that you are not a robot.

Step 2 – Your dashboard

When you first log in – you have a pretty lonely dashboard, but worry not we will change that.

Normally you see a list of your Padlets and a list of activity that has happened like the image below.

So let’s create our first Padlet and change this situation. To start one, click on New padlet in the top right hand corner.

It’ll take a second but then you will find yourself inside your fist blank Padlet, which is very much an empty canvas. To add anything, just double click. No menu to drag items, no shortcut keys, no convoluted floating window that you constantly have to move around to see what may be hiding under it. Just double click and what looks like a sticky note appears.

Here you can write a title, a description and then add a webpage, upload a file or use your webcam (if you have one … you probably have one) to take a photo. All in all its simplicity is great. It’s easy enough that a young elementary student can use it and it is flexible enough that someone in higher education can use it as well. It is pretty rare to find a tool that can appeal to that wide of an audience.

You can do more and we will cover that in Step 4.

Step 3 – Settings

I don’t want you to misinterpret what I’m saying here. I know a lot of people here the word simplicity and they equate that to very little options. That is not the case with Padlet. You will notice on the far right hand side of your Padlet a little menu bar with icons. This is a place that you will not visit too often, but it does have some important features. Check out the image below to get a quick idea.

Here is a list and quick description:
– Home = Takes you to your dashboard
– New = Let’s you create a new Padlet
– YOU! = Let’s you switch between your Padlets, access your account and log out
– Share = Let’s you share it on social media, get a QR code for easy mobile access and get that all important embed code to put it in websites
– Info = Gives you very basic info about that particular Padlet
– Help = A very helpful quick guide to Padlet’s features
– Settings = The settings where you can change privacy, the wallpaper and more

The settings are where you can make some real changes. Check out the image below.

Here you can change the wall paper, and a favicon of sorts to your Padlet, change the privacy settings and more. I do have to say that many of the wallpapers are kind of ugly. I tended to pick the backgrounds with a light colored background.

Step 4 – Adding content to your Padlet

Like I mentioned earlier, all you need to do is double click to add text, images, webpages and more. You can also drag and drop files right inside of Padelt making it even easier to get those files uploaded.

Since not all sites support all files, I thought I would take it through some of its paces to see what I could and couldn’t upload. Check out my list below.

  • PowerPoints = You can preview the whole presentation without animations and sounds
  • Word documents = Both .doc and .docx files
  • Excel files = You can preview the spreadsheet (thought is was a simple one with no charts and only one sheet)
  • Images = Yes it supports animated GIFs
  • PDF = You can preview
  • Youtube = Yep and I’m assuming that the same goes for Vimeo videos as well
  • Your own video/audio files = Sure as long as it is less than 25 MB.
  • Apple’s Pages file – It uploaded, but no preview was available
  • Apple’s Keynote – It would not upload
  • Apple’s Numbers – I didn’t try but I imagine it would work like the Pages file. Also, you shouldn’t be using this lousy program anyway

Step 5 – Collaborating

One reason why I’m writing about Padlet is its ability for students and colleagues to collaborate in real time together. In this day and age, this feature is a must (looking at you Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel online). Of course you can turn it off if you need to. By default your Padlet is publicly available through a Hidden Link. This means that you have to share the URL of your Padlet to people who want to work on it.

To get to all the settings select Settings from the far right hand menu and then select Privacy. Check out the image below.

As you can see, you can make it private, invite people through email, make it totally public (meaning people can even search for it) and even add a password to it. This flexibility really makes Padlet pretty sweet. To me, it is very clear of what everything means and makes it very easy to find and accomplish what you want to do concerning the privacy of your Padlet.

As for as the actual using of it, I had no notification when someone else was editing the Padlet and when changes were made, items just appeared, moved or were modified in an instant. If someone has editing rights, they can change whatever they want which makes sense, but if a person logs in and deletes everything I couldn’t find a log or version history that will allow me to see who did this or if it could be recovered. Something that makes Google Docs pretty darn sweet.

Also, if a person edited someone else’s addition, it never reflected that anywhere. Another thing that made me a little uncomfortable. However, Padlet’s answer to this is to allow the owner to moderate all new posts. You can find this option in the Privacy settings at the bottom.

When a person tries to add something it looks like this.

The owner sees this on their screen.

Once approved it shows up for everyone to see. If it is not approved, it is just removed. No notification is given to the author. The post just ceases to be. The owner even got a warning message saying that this could not be undone.

Also, people invited to edit cannot delete or edit anyone else’s posts once the moderation feature has been turned on. Of course the original author can delete or edit their posts.

Step 6 – Sharing

Sharing is important – almost as important as collaborating and Padlet has some interesting tricks up its sleeve here. Of course, you can share it to a bunch of social media outlets with a click of a button and then you need to sign in. You can also email, print or subscribe to it via RSS feed. I guess if you want to see what’s happening to your Padlet in your news feed you can.

There’s even a QR code for those with tablets and mobile devices that want to see it, in all its glory.

What really caught my attention was the Export features. You can export it as and image which is nice, but the PDF looks pretty cool. It is a timeline of what was added, by whom and when. Check it out.

That is just kind of neat. Sure images and notes added are not displayed, but all the links are there if you want to go directly to that info and it is a nice way to kind of summarize all that there is in a nicely looking package.

You can also export it to an Excel or CSV file. Both look pretty similar. Check it out.

Last but not least you can embed it into a webpage (it’s not WordPress.com friendly as of this post but Padlet said they are working to change that).

To check it out yourselves, click on the link below:

Summing it up

Padlet is pretty good. It works with Google Apps for Education and if your school shells out a little cash, you can some other nice features as well. I know people who swear by it and others who are less charmed with it. I’m going to be checking out Lino.it later this week to see how to two compare.


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Episode 91 – Did Android kill Chrome OS?


The IT Babble podcast has transformed! We are shifting our format from a longer show that is published once a week to a shorter format that is published several times a week! Leave your comments or questions in the comments below – we love those things!

As always you can find us on iTunes and Podomatic or listen to it right here on IT Babble.

This week Tony and I talk about the big news from Google about moving forward with Android and not Chrome OS! Check out the links below.

You can download it HERE!

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How to Teach Programming

This week on IT Babble the Podcast Edition, you will hear Patrick and I discuss this topic that was posted on Slashdot.org: Revisiting Why Johnny Can’t Code: Have We “Made the Print Too Small”?

Any one claiming that programming is related to text size has a serious problem. Why? Because tools that you can use to write programs allow you to set your text size. These are the options that come with the built in terminal on the Mac:

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 7.54.23

Clearly, there are plenty of fonts, sizes, and colors available. People are grasping at straws trying to figure out why all the time spent having students plow through programming models simply is not turing them into “coders” or programmers. Trust me, it is not the font size.

The Main Problem

Everyone is over complicating the issues around learning to program, and they are not working towards the correct goals. The curricula are based on doing things in an hour, or 24-hours, or as a running elective without an objective.

Unless those in education set goals, at age appropriate levels, and have tasks that students can relate to, then attainment will be dismal. This process is not any different than learning a language. If a student is forced to do a language, and they have no application outside of the classroom, the language will not be learned.

The goal of programming, cannot be programming. This is what happens in all subjects when educators believe the subject should be taught, but have no practical application to connect the subject.

What Would a Curriculum Look Like?

I wrote a curriculum framework, yet to be fully implemented, for building problem solving skills and pattern recognition skills starting in year 3. The full framework can be seen here: Problem Solving with Computer Science and Programming: A Holistic Guide & Curriculum Overview.

The goal at every level is to build problem solving skills that connect to the physical world, as well as the digital world. The goal is always simple and repeated year after year. This allows a student to spend time working within the discipline, but also allows them to have time for all the other educational opportunities that are available.

Because this curriculum has a variety of experience based learning opportunities, students are more likely to apply what they learn to other subjects on their own initiative. When you state, this is programming class, and this is where you will do programming, then a student is less likely to apply programming outside of that framework.

What Does a Good Programming Class Look Like?

If students are required to take programming, then the lessons of a programming class cannot be based around following step-by-step instructions. Instead they need to be puzzle based, allow for teamwork, and follow a flexible assessment model.

One practice I like to follow for all new programming concepts is something I call “chopping wood”.

I once read that chopping wood is therapeutic because a person can get immediate results. Students new to programming need immediate results.

Here is how it works:

  • Students are given a working program, not piece of code, but a simple program with 3-4 parts.
  • The teacher asks the students to team up and annotate what they believe each part does. They do annotation with comments. The teacher asks the students not to run the program, just to study it.
  •  The students run the program and play with it. Whatever features it has the teacher then defines so the students can experiment. This might take 5-10 minutes, it is not a game or challenge.
  • The teacher sends the students the program again, this time it is broken. The students compare the working model to the broken one and try to fix it.
  • The students break the program and send it to one another. (This can also be a homework assignment)
  • The teacher review the structures and logic.
  • The final assignment- add a new feature. Annotate what you will do inside the code, and try to achieve it. Make it clear students can sign-up for forums (teacher provides a list if age appropriate) to get help from their peers around the world.

Rinse and repeat with every new set of concepts. After students have a decent framework, they can start taking code that exists and combining it together, improving it, etc. Then after they have manipulated and used many scripts or programs, the process of making something unique will not be so trivial or difficult.

The assessments need to be peer (30%), self (20%), and teacher (formative/summative 50%). Students need to feel like they have some say in their work. Most teachers are not great programmers, and without some input from students, interesting solutions or attempted solutions, may be ignored. In programming attempts matter. The logic might be clear, but the syntax maybe jus be a bit off. Literally speaking – if you are not careful in programming you can fail a student with a great idea for a grammatical/spelling mistake.

Unless the goal is to have a factory of people typing instruction sets, schools need to focus programming efforts towards problem solving, pattern recognition, and team work. As much as possible, the subject of programming needs to be integrated and not separated. The student mindset should be that programming, writing code, etc. is simply a tool box that can be accessed anywhere and anytime.

Tony DePrato



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SignUpGenius – A Walkthrough

Since I just wrote my review of SignUpGenius, I figured I would follow it up with a post about how to use SignUpGenius. Now like before, SignUpGenius does the job although it’s a little ugly and with some annoying ads, but it is pretty easy and if it’s just you or a small team, then this could work for you so read on!

Step 1 – Creating your account

Super easy, all they need is your email, password and your name. From the home screen, just click the Login/Join button in the upper right hand corner.

Then fill out the required info as I mentioned above. Check out the image below. They do make a strong claim that they will never sell or share your data with other companies.

Step 2 – Start your first sign-up

Now that we have an account it is time to create our first sign-up. For this example, I’ll set up a parent-teacher conference sign-ups. So let’s get going.

Once you’re logged into your dashboard, you will notice that there is a button near the top right hand corner that says Create a Sign Up.

Now it will want some basic information. It wants a group and a title of the event. Later on, it will ask you to add email addresses. If you use this group again, those emails will automatically be loaded so you can inform them.

Step 3 – Themes galore!

Yep, they have a lot of themes to chose from. My own personal opinion is that they are pretty ugly though. I suggest choosing a white or light colored background. You’ll see why later. However, picking a theme is pretty easy. Just select what you want and click continue.

Step 4 – Date and time

Since this is a sign up, this is kind of important and SignUpGenius makes it pretty easy. Again, this example is for parent-teacher conferences so I’ve set a start and finish day and then set the intervals for the conferences.

Again, just click Continue to move on.

Step 5 – Slots

OK, this is really the only confusing part and it’s not that bad so don’t worry. Here is the screen for the next step.

You can add something for the Title Slot which might confuse people. I added You and your child’s name for some clarification. What is a little confusing here is that do you need to add that to each of the blanks or just the one? The good news here is just add it to one and it will replicate it. I guess this option is here in case you want different people to work on different things at different times. It is kind of clever but a little confusing at first blush.

You can also add how many people you want for each slot which is kind of nice, but unnecessary for this example.

Step 6 – Settings

This is pretty simple. You can make certain fields required and the like. Check out the image below – I think it speaks for itself.

Step 7 – Preview

The next step gives you a peak of what it will look like. Mine is ugly (see it below).

Step 8 – Invite and make it live

Now that you’ve seen your preview, it is time for the last step. Inviting people (which is optional) and making it live.

You can add the emails manually or by importing them from Microsoft’s email, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL mail or even through a CSV spreadsheet. When you are done, you can send the invites and make it live, just make it live and send no invites or continue to work on the draft.

Once it is live, SignUpGenius will provide you with a link so you can look at the actual live site – check mine out in all it’s glory.

Ahhhh – glorious.

There you have it! Those are the basics and should get you up and running.


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SignUpGenius for Parent Conferences – Not so fast! – UPDATE!

For years parent conferences have been done the old fashioned way. The teachers send home a form. The parents fill out the form, the teacher reviews the forms, checks with other teachers (for students with siblings) and then sets the times and then sends those times home. Then the parents respond back with other ideas and so on and so on.


All the parents just show up at a given time and hope to get in to see the teacher they need to see.

Online sign up sites can help with this and we’ll be reviewing SignUpGenius today.

What does it do?

It lets teachers create their own sign up sheet for parent/conferences or any event that may require volunteers.


It is free but they do have paid versions that cost $10-$50/month. You can find more information here by clicking HERE.

Does it work?

Yes – it does.

The Problem

This isn’t so much a problem as it is sticking an oval peg into a perfectly round hole. If your school doesn’t have an online sign up and it is all left up to you, then SignUpGenius is probably a really good solution. Honestly, set up isn’t too bad (I’ll go through with that in a later post) and all you have to do is email out a link to your parents or you can add their email accounts to SignUpGenius and have them send out an invitation email.

The problem comes if you want your entire school on SignUpGenius. Because SignUpGenius is not centrally managed. Meaning that each teacher is responsible for setting up their own sign up sheets, getting it out to parents.

Sure there are ways to “manage” it, but that requires someone to take on a bit more work. Each teacher will have to email their link to a “supervisor” (just a teacher who doesn’t mind taking on a few extra hours of work). That supervisor will make sure that it’s been set up correctly and then email back to those that need help. Then help those people.

Also, other parents can see who signed up for what. I’m not sure why this would be an issue, but if you wanted to schedule in a bathroom break parents may try to take advantage of that time (don;t shake your head – I’ve seen it before).

Another problem is that parents can sign up for more than one time. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to get rid of their first appointment, the other time or they are hedging their bets. Either way it causes a little work for the teacher.

If it were managed centrally, then all this would be taken care of. Allowing parents to sign up for more than one time slot can be controlled by one person, and all the teachers would be responsible for is making sure their name is correct, the room number is correct, do they want bathroom breaks and to be aware of which parent is coming at what time.

If you want to put your whole school on a system I recommend School Bookings. It’s not free, but it is not too expensive either and it is very easy to set up and use. Check out their pricing HERE.

Summing it up


Good for individual or small groups of teachers. Free for the most part and pretty easy to use.


Not good for an entire school because it is not centrally managed. Parents can see who has signed up. Parents can sign up for more than one time.
To sum it up, if it is just you or your team – then go ahead with SignUpGenius. School Bookings is just too much. If you want the entire school you will want something that is centrally controlled and managed like School Bookings. You can read my review (a few years old but it still stands up) HERE. The prices most likely have changed and I know the visual appearance has changed a little too.

People signing up don’t have to create an account but it sure looks like they need one and I find that a little misleading. I’ll detail this more in my next post.

Also there are ads on the free version.


Should you use it – sure. I’m not a hater here (most times). This would work for individual teachers and small groups of teachers. Need a place for parents to sign up as volutneers? This is good! Want to hold a PD for your staff and want to know who is coming? Yep again. There are uses here but not on a whole school/district level. It becomes messy to scale it up to larger groups.


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