By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

School administrators are often faced with complex decisions about curriculum, assessment, and the oversight of both. There is a myopic condition that can occur as conversations lead people into a spiral of good intentions full of false understanding. This condition is the belief that learning is a one-to-one relationship, and that content is related to a course or single field of study. The truth is learning, real learning, is a one-to-many relationship where content can connect to an unpredictable number of areas if it is allowed to develop organically and time as a constant is removed.

Understanding One-to-Many Relationships

A one-to-many relationship is often used in database development.


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Understanding The Cloud

cloud (1)


By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Cloud computing is one of the most difficult concepts to explain to people who spend most of their time working with children, running a school, and monitoring educational processes. Cloud computing is difficult to explain because it is imbued with industry jargon and misleading sales language, and when most people think about it, the concept is odd. After all, if cloud computing is fairly new, and the Internet is not new, then what were people doing before? How were they working? Why did anyone need, or want, to switch from one way of working to another?

Read More Here @ The International Educator.

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Are You Ready for VR in the Classroom?


By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Virtual Reality (VR), has changed more in the last year than it has in the last decade. The cost of using VR, and the various solutions, are prompting many people to start piloting VR applications in the classroom. Many of these VR concepts are actually AR, or Augmented Reality, concepts.

Here are a few recent updates everyone should read regarding VR. 

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Measurement in the Change Process


By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, brokering and solutions company. They did an extensive study on change management. In the study they state immediately and without hesitation, … Continue reading

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Episode 130 – Gboard


Tim, Tony and Patrick talk about the new Gboard iOS keyboard, Chrome and virtual reality and the 20% project. Check out the show notes below.

As always subscribe to us on iTunes and Podomatic or subscribe to us with your favorite podcasting app on your phone or tablet.

a. Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gboard-search.-gifs.-emojis/id1091700242?mt=8

Google SketchUp
a. How can you help Tim set up a class for next year that includes 3D printing?
b. Worth getting the Educators License/Pro.

Chrome wants VR Content in its browser,
a. Link: http://arstechnica.co.uk/gadgets/2016/05/chrome-browser-vr-content-90-fps/
b. Targets 90fps rendering

School lets kids spend 20% of their time on anything that want.
a. Link: http://www.techinsider.io/york-school-lets-kids-spend-20-on-anything-they-want-2016-5
b. http://www.20time.org/

You can download the MP3 file HERE!

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Students making their own gradebook in Google Sheets

In my last post I talked about the importance of grades being transparent for all stake holders involved. One idea I recommend is having students build their own gradebook in Google Sheets (or any spreadsheet program). This gives them significantly more insight in how grades actually work, behave and gives the student more ownership with their own grades.

However, not all teachers may have the experience or knowledge on how to lead their students to do this – in fact doing it step by step with a class is tough, so I went ahead and made a quick guide.

Note this guide does not cover weighted grades.

To download a PDF of this guide click HERE!

On find it online HERE!

Otherwise here it is in all its glory.

Google Sheets – Making your own gradebook

This guide will help you create your very own functional gradebook so you can keep track of your own grades and have a better understanding of how grades are calculated, figured and how impactful each grade truly is.

We will be entering in 20 separate assignments, projects and tests into this sample gradebook. Feel free to add more or less as you see fit.

Let’s begin.


Step 1 – Open up a blank Google Sheet

Go to drive.google.com and sign in.

Then click the New button (on the left hand side).

A drop down menu should appear and from there select Google Sheets.

Step 1 - Open up a blank Google Sheet

Step 2 – Set up the first half of your gradebook.

You want your gradebook to have two halves. The top half will have all the individual assignments. The second half will be the final calculations and final percentage (or grade if you are courageous enough).

Write this information in each corresponding cell.

  • A1 = Entry Number
  • A2 = Assignment Name – (see if you can figure out how I wrote the word Name below the word Assignment)
  • A3 = Date
  • A4 = Possible Points
  • A5 = Points Earned
Step 2 - Set up the first half of your gradebook.

Step 3 – Add the dividing line

To better separate the top half from the bottom half we will add a black dividing line.

This is very easy to do.

Click the Row Number 6 – this will highlight the whole row.

Then click the paint bucket button in the toolbar and select the color black. This will make a black line separating the two sections.

Step 3 - Add the dividing line

Step 4 – Create the Totals section

This section will tell us how many total points there are and what our final average is.

This section is very easy to set up.

Add this information in each corresponding cell.

  • A7 = Total Points Possible
  • A9 = Total Points Earned
  • A11 = Final Average

We will add equations to A8, A10 and A12 later, so leave them blank for now.

Step 4 - Create the Totals section

This is what your spreadsheet should look like now.

I have some done some formatting like centering text, adding a grey background to the cell, increasing the size of the font. Format your gradebook however you like.


Step 5 – Adding Entry Numbers

This is a simple step. We want to add entry numbers. To do this start typing in 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . 20

Again, I centered them and made them bold but you can format as you like.

Step 5 - Adding Entry Numbers

Step 6 – Adding Assignment Names, Date, Possible Points and Points Earned

Now we can start adding in assignments.

Make up the assignment name, date, possible points and points earned for your 20 assignments.

*Helpful Tip: You can automatically format the date by selecting the dates and then clicking on Format —> Numer —> More Formats —> More date and time formats*

Step 6 - Adding Assignment Names, Date, Possible Points and Points Earned

Step 7 – Total points

Now that we have a bunch of data in the top half, we can start to work on some calculations on the bottom half.

In cell A8 we need to calculate the Total Points. Here we will need to add all the cells in Row 4 – the Possible Points row

In cell A8 we will type this equation: =sum(b4:u4)

Step 7 - Total points

Step 8 – Total points earned

Now we will add up all of our total points earned.

In cell A10 type this equation: =sum(b5:u5)

Step 8 - Total points earned

Step 9 – Final average

Now that we have our total points and our total points earned – we can calculate our final average.

To find our final percentage we need to divide the total points earned into the total points possible.

In cell A10 write this equation: =A10/A8

You should see a decimal. That’s OK – we will fix that next.

Step 9 - Final average

Now I see a decimal but changing it into a percentage is very easy.


Highlight the cell with the decimal in it.

On the toolbar there is a percentage button (%). Click that


Now you have a final percentage!


Optional steps

If these 9 steps were easy – test yourself by adding this functionality to your gradebook.

  • You can use conditional formatting to highlight assignments that are 0’s
  • Create a final grade that changes based on the final average (this is completely new)
  • Create a row to show averages for each assignment
  • Create conditional formatting for each assignment to highlight low grades
  • Create a way to lookup assignments to get all their information quickly (challenging)

Good luck!


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Grading should be transparent!

Good day reader. Today, I’m going to write an opinion piece about something near and dear to many of our hearts – grades. I believe that grades should be transparent. Doesn’t that sound nice? You bet! it does but what does it mean? Here is what I’m talking about. Of course, I’m still not a fan of weighted grades, but that doesn’t mean I hate all grades.

Students, parents administrators, and, of course, teachers need to know how grades are collected and calculated. It sounds simple enough, but you would be shocked how many of these stake holders have no idea how grades are calculated. This ignorance can cause big problems when parents or students question their grade and the person or institution who is reporting it can’t explain how it came to be. It’s also a little embarrasing too.

I’ve worked in a fair number of schools and in all schools, without exception, there have been a substantial number of people who have no idea how grades work. Shocking – but true. Here are some questions I’ve had to field.

  • If I don’t turn this in, what will happen to that grade?
  • So, this assignment is worth 10 points, does that mean that the final grade will go up 10 percent?
  • When I calculate the grade I get something completely different – is there something wrong with the gradebook?
  • I got this grade on an assignment and my friend got the same grade, but his grade went up more than mine. Why did that happen?
  • I have weighted grades and I got an A- on my quiz and my grade dropped even though I had an A!

The list can go on, and these questions have come from students, teachers, counselors, administrators and parents. It really doesn’t matter who asks the question, the fact that they don’t know boils down to that this person wasn’t taught or didn’t bother to learn and what’s worse is that they are stake holders. So let’s dig deeper.

Don’t point fingers!

When people don’t understand something and it affects them, they become confused, often frustrated and don’t know who to turn to for help. It’s easy to point fingers and start blaming people but this is usually counter productive. Check out the blame game below.

  • Parents can blame teachers for not explaining it to them
  • Students can blame teachers for not explaining it to them
  • Counselors can blame the IT people or the Student Information People for not explaining it to them
  • Administrators can blame teachers for not properly communicating with parents
  • Parents can blame administrators for not forcing or standardizing how grades are reported
  • Students can blame the school for not making it clear how it works
  • Teacher can blame the administrators for not explaining it to them

It can go on and on but one thing that we all know here is that this only makes the situation worse and angers people. It doesn’t work towards the goal that everyone wants – which is a clear explanation of how grades work.

First move – write a policy

Decide what type of grading system you want. Is it going to be weighted, averaged points or a set number of points that all teachers must use. I am sure there are other options out there, but the school needs to settle on one and the entire teaching staff must abide by and use it. No odd one’s out. That way students, teachers and administrators know the basics of all grading in all classes.

This way if there is a parent meeting about grades, the “how question” has already been answered, understood and can quickly be addressed. Even if the parent isn’t familiar, if the administration can point to documentation sent home and visible policies regarding grading, it will move the conversation onto more important questions such as “Why?”, “What can be done?”

Next – Identify an expert

Now that policies have been set there needs to be an “expert” in the school. Someone where students, parents, other teachers or administrators can go to ask about grades and handle these unknown questions. This person should have the ability to at least view everyone’s gradebook. In short it this perosn is a point of contact.

They should also be someone who is very available to all stakeholders. I tend to think that counselors should be this person, if not a counselor, then an IT coordinator or principal. Definitely an educator for sure. Someone who knows the kids and is familiar with working with parents.

True story. I was at a school and had to mark a students quarterly grades as incomplete. I didn’t know how to do it and emailed a few people, but no one got back to me, so I went ahead and submitted my grades thinking that someoone would catch it and fix it. The next day I received no less than seven emails telling me to change it and was visited by five people telling me the same thing. When I asked how to do this – no one could answer. I was upset, frustrated and the knowledge base for the program did not address this issue. In short, I was being asked to do something from a group of people and no one could give me an answer. I later learned that I needed to go to the IT department. Since no expert had been pointed out, something that should have been answered in an email took three days to figure out.

Training and testing the staff

Yep – you read it correctly – training and testing the staff. I’ve sent out all staff emails with important information before only to have that important information ignored. You can’t trust people to read their email or follow a set of directions. There needs to be a workshop and accountability. This should be run and organized by the “expert.”

It should not just be a workshop where someone walks the teachers through the grading policy. There should also be a test. This is to ensure the administration that the teaching staff not just knows but understands the policy and how it applies to their specific class.

Communication – with students

Students need to also understand how grades are calculated. Again, it shouldn’t be a handout or a teacher standing up there talking at the students. They should be shown how to access their grades (if that is an option) and make sure they actually can.

They should also know who to go to if they lose access to that system. That person is should the grading “expert” or maybe it is an IT person since it deals with an IT system.

Students should also be given or shown how to create their own gradebook on a spreadsheet. While having access to their grades online is good, it often does not give them a deep understanding of their grades. Having them to keep track of their own gives them a deeper sense of ownership and the ability to “play” with their grades to see how certain assignments can benefit or hurt their grade in certain situations.

Also, if students understand how grades work, they can work with their parents, thus making their parents a larger part of the educational and learning process. Usually a very good situation.

Communication – with parents

Parents also need access to the online grades (if your school has it). This is usually done through email, but there should also be an opportunity when parents can come after school for a workshop. Again, this should be organized by the “expert.” It gives a face to a name and is a gesture that is quite often appreciated by the parent community and this goodwill goes a long way.

Parents also need to know how to calculate grades. Trust me, this will save a bunch of emails later on in the year if parents understand how grades work.

Post info online

Finally, guides shou ld be created and posted online. These guides should be available to anyone. If you can point parents, students and others with basic questions here, this will save lots of time and confusion.

Wrapping it up

This is a long post, I know, but it’s important. This is a lot of work to be done at the beginning of the year, but if everyone knows where the expectation is and if people know what they are expected to know – it gets a lot of procedural questions out of the way and lets everyone get down to the important business of teaching and learning.

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AI is coming!

Let me introduce you to Dewey a new AI for schools. He’ll tell you all sorts of important information-you just need to ask. Is this real? No, Dewey’s not real, but I think someday AI will find itself in schools and be a part of the everyday process.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is big news right now. Facebook and Microsoft have unleashed bots, Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistance is pretty impressive and now Google has just given the world a glimpse of their new and improved personal assistance. Guess what? AI will come to the classroom. It will take some years but it’ll find its way there and it will change the school

Sure, it sounds fantastic and a little beyond the realm of possibility and of course there are those who would say Why would a school want to have this thing in their school? Well allow me to present some arguments. First, remember that all schools run a student information system (SIS). This thing is a big database with all sorts of demographics, grades, behavior reports, medical reports and any other info that the school wants to record and keep track of.

For the staff, getting a hold of this information isn’t too hard. It can be a little tedious, but it’s sitting there and that’s the problem. There is so much information, for a teacher to comb through it would take hours and as everyone out there knows. Since it takes so much time and since teacher’s are always fighting against time, that data just sits there.

If teachers had access to Dewey, they could ask questions, get that information in a timely manner.

Now let’s take a look at how different people within a school can leverage Dewey.


As a teacher, here is how a digital personal assistant could be really helpful. Pretend that every teacher has their “own” AI personal assistant. Everyone has access to Dewey but they can only access information related to their students and classes. Now pretend the teacher can access this assistant from multiple devices in their classroom (cell phone, tablet, bluetooth speaker or computer). OK – that’s a quick set up now let’s talk what this teacher could do.

An obvious one is communication. What if a teacher wants to send an email to all parents about an upcoming event. Maybe they just say “Hey Dewey! Can you email all the parents about the field trip? Tell them that all permission slips are due to the school before Friday. Now send it.” Dewey will go through the SIS, find those email addresses, compose the message and send the email to each parent. There are already ways to do with other third party programs, so that’s not too unrealistic.

Now, let’s say a teacher wants to let all parents and students know who is missing assignments. You could say “Dewey! Can you send a text message and email all parents and students about missing their missing assignments?” Again, Dewey will go through the SIS and the gradebook to find anyone who is missing any assignment. Then it will find the email addresses and phone numbers, then it will compose the email and add the necessary information. This is pretty handy and brings more transparency and accountability to the class.

What if a student suddenly acting up in class. A teacher could start a behavior report that all teachers/counselors would be notified about. As it turns out if a student is acting up in one class, it is probably happening in another class. That way this student’s teachers and counselor are all alerted and looking for new types of behavior. This is a much more proactive strategy until waiting until this grows into a larger problem weeks down the road.


Administrators (I’m looking at you too counselors) could use this to quickly bring up a list of students who are not doing well after the first two weeks and have counselors meet with those students.

If one of these people needs to meet with a parent, they could easily share information about their child before the meeting to give them a heads up of not just what the meeting is about, but why they think there is an issue.

They could also look for trends with specific students for example if Johnny seems to slack off at the end of November, then teachers, counselors and parents could be alerted of that fact at the end of October and Johnny’s educational team could encourage Johnny to be more vigilant and stick with it.

There are plenty of other options out there but what do you think? Is AI coming, could we see a Dewey educational assistant in our classroom? Is this just a pipe dream? Leave your comments below – we love them!

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Episode 129 – Objection!


Tim and Patrick talk about our new robot overlords, Remix OS and the new Gboard for iOS. Check out the show notes below.

As always, subscribe to us on iTunes, follow us on Podomatic or subscribe to us with your favorite podcasting app.

The workers mass extinction begins:
a. Link: http://futurism.com/artificially-intelligent-lawyer-ross-hired-first-official-law-firm/
b. Who will be next?
c. When will curriculum change to match the future workforce needs?

Remix OS
a. Link: http://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2016/5/12/11662062/remix-os-all-in-one-pc
b. A better look this time c. Link to the company: http://www.jide.com/

1. Google releases keyboard for iOS
a. Link: http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/12/11662616/google-gboard-keyboard-iphone-ios
b. http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/12/11666614/gboard-google-colonized-my-iphone
c. What other keyboards to we use?
d. SwiftKey

You can download the MP3 file HERE.

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Episode 128 – Robot Food


Tony, Tim and Patrick talk about robot restaurants (check the show notes), an educational island, more info on Android and Chrome OS merging, Open 365 and displays in every classroom. Check out the show notes below for more info.

As always you should subscribe to us on iTunes, Podomatic or your favorite podcasting app on your smartphone.

Tony went to the Robot Restaurant in Japan
a. Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1066457-d4776370-Reviews-Robot_Restaurant-Shinjuku_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Google wants its own island
a. Link: http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/26/11512256/google-sidewalk-lab-smart-city-dan-doctoroff-larry-page
b. For experimentation
c. What would this look like for education?

Android and Chrome merging together
a. Link: http://gizmodo.com/its-time-for-android-and-chrome-os-to-merge-1772931738
b. Latest evidence
c. Is this good that Chrome OS will go away?

Open 365 – Tony’s dream come true
a. LibreOffice online
b. You can run your own server and truly own your own data
c. https://cloud.open365.io/applogin/
d. Currently in beta

SeeNote a. Link: https://www.getseenote.com/

You can download the MP3 file HERE!



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