It’s Trendy- So Just Pay for It

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

 I try not to rant. However, I saw some terms of service a few days ago that made me angry. I was reviewing program that another school is running. Within the bullet points was this one:

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Tuition, for this program, is one price. I cannot elaborate more because I do not have permission to re-advertise this program, and I need to keep it anonymous. The program is not in question, nor the price. The issue is that a school will pay a fee per student and that fee will cover 40 to 60 hours. Let’s look at what that means.

 

40 or 60 Hours
Curriculum Hours Hours Per Week Number of Weeks to Complete
40 2.66 15
45 2.66 16.875
50 2.66 18.75
55 2.66 20.625
60 2.66 22.5

Based on this chart, if a student can participate for 2.66 hours per week (2, 80 Minute Sections) , they will need 15 weeks to complete a 40 hour course. A school year is usually 36 weeks long. Therefore they will need about 50% of the school year to complete the program. If they are in a 60 hour program, they will need 75% of the school year to complete the course.

So what is the school paying for? A 40 hour course or a 60 hours course? The tuition is the same, and there is only a minimum guarantee on the hours. Planning for a 40 hour course and 60 hour course would be very different, and therefore, the price should be different. The outcomes will be different.

Obviously, the company is charging for 60 hours. If they were to only meet 50 of those hours, students would lose almost a month of instruction.

So why would anyone consider this contract without heavily amending the terms and conditions? Because the program is trendy.

The school wants to advertise they are running a trendy program- parents will respond positively. Administrators or teachers with KPIs around innovation will go with a trend because it does not need to be explained. Also, trending programs usually have resources and personnel readily available. These programs are easy to start, and, schools are paying for convenience.

I get the logic for going with a trendy program. I do not get the logic for being ripped-off.

There is always an opportunity cost when money is appropriated. Investing in a program should mean investing in a sustainable program. This program would not pass a basic audit. It is a bad deal, and probably a bad value if the plan can fluctuate in providing an opportunity for 50% or 75% of the year. This is not something students can do independently. They are tethered to the program, and this program does not scale easily.

As it scales it gets increasingly more expensive; the value remains uncertain; and the outcomes are difficult to measure. The worst part is, if someone questions the deal, and it falls apart after the contract expires, the next similar program will probably be denied based-on the previous experience. That again, is opportunity cost.

Just because and expert walks into a school, does not mean common sense should walk out. Good third-party programs are not cheap, but they do not have to be economically unbalanced and unaccountable.

Posted in Educational Technology, Instructional Technology, Opinion, Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech Integration: Are you mapping it?

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

A few weeks ago I was on a campus, but not my campus. I was speaking with some technology teachers. They would prefer to be called tech-integrators. After a short and very succinct speech about their beliefs in the technology integration model, I ask them two questions. In both cases, the answers were not what they should have been.

Question 1: Is the integration scheduled, or do you wait for teachers to come to you? 

The answer was a very common one, teachers come to us. This model has some very defensible merits. The driving force is that a few technology integrators can focus on class projects, over longer periods of time, and use their own initiative to improve technology in the classroom.

This main issue with this model is learning accountability. The is no accountability for what students need, and no metric stating what students need.

For example, the IB Design Technology SL programme recommends 150 total teaching hours. This indicates that a group of people looked at the entire course experience and the desired outcomes can concluded that students need 150 hours.

A technology integration model needs the same discussion and it needs some metrics. Since technology integration is not a new concept, determining how many hours students need to be engaging with a differentiated curriculum in a “knowable thing”.

Read More at The International Educator

Posted in Instructional Technology, Tech Integration, TIEONLINE, Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 134 – Omar with open arms

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Omar is back in the latest episode of the IT Babble podcast. He and Patrick talk about what Omar has been up to with his beginning programming class, wrapping IT curriculum around big budget hardware and Patrick talks about his latest computer purchase.

1) Welcome back Omar!

2) What has Omar been up to

3) Wrapping IT curriculum around big budget hardware

  • Not the most creative way to go
  • Good experience for kids

4) Patrick’s new computer

You can download this episode HERE

You can also subscribe to us on iTunes and Podomatic

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tis the season in the US for some turkey, football but more importantly a time when family gets together to be thankful for all that we have. We here at IT Babble wish all of our readers out there a happy Thanksgiving and if you’re not American then a happy November 24th!

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Episode 133 – Interview Tips

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Yet another awesome episode of IT Babble. This week Tony and Patrick talk about interviewing for international schools, hypocrisy with data, Prodigy a math game and the fact that Skype is free.

Check out the talking points below.

1) Interviewing overseas and some interesting questions

  • Take many interviews
  • Having job offers help
  • Gets rid of extraneous questions
  • Common questions
  • What is your vision of technology?
  • How do you deal with difficult people?

2) Data driven hypocrisy

3) Prodigy online math game – https://www.prodigygame.com/

4) No account for Skype anymore – https://blogs.skype.com/news/2016/11/14/now-anyone-can-use-skype-right-away/

Download the episode HERE!

Subscribe to us on iTunes or Podomatic.

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I’m getting a new computer!

Yep, it’s been nearly four years and it is time to make that all important purchase and boy has it been exciting. I haven’t decided yet (but I’m close) and I’d like to share the journey I’ve been on so far.

Right now

A this moment, I am writing on my current machine, a 2013 MacBook Air (not unlike the one pictured above). It’s awesome. I love this computer and it has been my favorite computer since I started buying computers back in 1994. I love the for factor, the weight, the variety of ports, the MagSafe adapter, the battery (holy crap it’s been great). About the only thing I could really wish for is a higher resolution. Even in 2013, this resolution was a little behind the times, so when the end of 2016 started to roll around, I started to look and what I thought would be a simple decision became a little more complicated than I thought.

What I need it to do

This is what I have been asking myself and what anyone who is in the market should ask themselves. You shouldn’t just buy a computer based on its brand, but how it fits into your workflow and your life. At the time my MacBook Air was a perfect fit. It had enough power to do what I needed it to do back in 2013 and in 2017. I needed a computer that could last and it has.

That’s a little vague, so here is a more specific list of requirements.

  1. Light image editing/creation – Basically it should be able to run Photoshop or another image editor like Affinity/Pixelmator.
  2. Light video editing – I enjoy making video tutorials for my students and staff. That’s basically a screen capture program and then basic editing (adding titles, transitions, annotation, music and voice overs).
  3. Blogging – Yeah, that goes without saying.
  4. Decent battery life – In this day and age, it should last more than 9 hours (based on company claims)
  5. Live writing – I teach math and being able to hook it up to a projector and do math problems is very helpful.
  6. Future safe – I didn’t say future proof. I need this thing to be like my Air and last at least four years. I would still be using my Air, but my wife needs a computer for much of the same thing and she is really looking forward to using this thing, so I get a new computer (thanks baby!)
  7. Light weight – I would like it to be around 3.5 pounds or less.
  8. Screen size – I would love for it to be a 13″ screen. Anything more becomes pretty bulky carrying it to and from school.
  9. Resolution – At least 1080p, but with a lot of screens going 4K out there that would be a bonus.

Budget

This of course is important. I’ve got around $1500 with which to work. I can stretch that a little but of course would love to pay less. This is why my decision was so difficult. I was hoping for an upgrade to the MacBook Air and just stick with what I know, but Apple screwed that up for me. Man, how could they be so inconsiderate to me? Tim Cook, I hope you’re reading this🙂

You see Apple did not update the MacBook Air and only update the MacBook Pros and then gave them a substantial price hike. So I started looking across the pond at Microsoft. This is where my journey began.

Apple Options

My budget is the obvious limiting factor here. My MacBook Air is basically the same spec wise as the one Apple is peddling and they are doing everything they can to keep people from buying it. So this leaves the base model 13″ MacBook Pro ($1500) and the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar ($1800).

I have a Wacom tablet so even though there is no touch screen I already have a solution, but it still feels like too much money for the same product and then there are the ports. I would need a new dongle in order to read my SD card, connect it to my classroom’s projector or even charge my iPhone. This makes my head hurt.

Windows options

I had a bunch but have narrowed it down considerably to four and they are good choices.

Dell XPS 13″

The price is right, the battery life is exceptional (more than 13 hours) and meets all my requirements. Again, the Wacom tablet I have would allow me to draw on it but Dell does offer a touch screen option that still falls under my $1500 budget. Oh yeah, the screen on this thing has almost no bezel and is re-donk-u-lous.

Lenovo Yoga 910

This is a 2-in–1 computer. Meaning the screen can rotate completely around to become a “tablet.” The screen is great, the hinge is great, the keyboard is OK and it’s a touch screen. It is hard to beat Lenovo’s quality, customer service and customization options. This “laptop” meets all my specifications and is right at my price point. It looks good too boot.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (with touchpad keyboard)

Then there is the Surface Pro 4. This is a very attractive option. The price point is under my budget (even with the keyboard) for what I want. It has a pen that works directly on the screen itself and is actually pretty nice to use. It is crazy light – less than two pounds and just as powerful as most 13″ laptops. The screen is great. It definitely ticks all my boxes (at least most of them). So what’s wrong? The battery isn’t that great and typing on the keyboard feels hollow since it is raised off the surface and I’ve heard it’s a little awkward to have on the lap.

Microsoft Surface Book

This is just like the Surface Pro, but the screen can detach and become a tablet or “Clipboard” as Microsoft calls it. It will have a dedicated GPU (at least the model I’m looking at). It also has a pen, and a dedicated keyboard which will make it much more comfortable on the lap. It’s crazy innovative with a solid battery  but it is definitely higher on the budget coming in around$1800. OUCH!

 

So which to choose? My decision is coming soon. Feel free to vote below.

Posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley | Tagged | 1 Comment

Episode 132 – Election Episode

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Tony and Patrick are back with a compelling election edition! We talk about the historical 2016 US election (of course) and how it should be the ultimate teachable moment. We also talk about Patrick’s quest for his next computer, why the Hour of Code is not enough and is being locked into Google a bad thing. Check out the talking points below and ENJOY!

1) President-elect Trump

2) Patrick’s computer choice

3) Tony topic – Hour of Code is Not Enough * http://blog.tieonline.com/hour-of-code-it-is-not-enough/

4) Patrick’s topic – I’m chained to Google – Is that bad? * https://itbabble.com/2016/11/01/im-chained-to-google-is-that-bad/

You can download the Episode HERE

Subscribe to us on iTunes or find us on Podomatic.

Posted in Google Apps, Podcast | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It’s election day!

It’s finally here and for you people out there who have been following the election and are soooo happy it’s finally over today, it is always a good reminder of how the Electoral College works. Here is an excellent video that covers the basics. It’s less than 5 minutes but does a good job of breaking it down.

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Hour of Code: It Is Not Enough

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

The Hour of Codeis a very popular event and activity hosted by Code.org. Millions of students around the world participate in the large coordinated events, and continue to use the website to learn programming. Code.org is a good resource to get students and teachers interested in programming.

In the last year I have listened to numerous educators and administrators comment how their school participated in The Hour of Code. In many instances, I felt that these people believed this single event, and or uncoordinated participation of classes on the Code.org website, constituted a real effort in problem solving, computer science, design, and programming. I have news for everyone, an hour of programming, or even a month on Code.org, is only a half-step on a very long journey.

Read More at The International Educator

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I’m chained to Google – Is that bad?

Hello from the Interwebs. I came to a realization recently. It is a little unsettling and I’m oddly OK with that. I decided that I am all in with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). That may not sound like a bad thing, in fact it may make you scratch your head a bit and think Patrick, what’s the big deal? Well let me explain.

First, let me give you a little background here. I teach middle school math and was looking for a free website that allowed students to practice specific math skills. Not a big deal, I mean there are a bunch of those websites out there. Here is the catch. I wanted the website to be able to track their progress. Again, plenty of options out there, but I kept looking and looking.

What was I looking for you may ask? You got it. I was looking for Google integration. I didn’t want to set up accounts, I didn’t want to set up classes, I didn’t want to invite students or give them a code. I wanted to click a few buttons and have my classes set up and give my students immediate access.

I eventually found what I was looking for with mathgames.com. I logged in, took a look around, synced my classes with Google Classroom and within 20 minutes had all my classes set up and my students had access.

However, there is something that irks me about this website. It’s not the best one out there. Not by far. It’s not terrible and it does do what I would like (even if it’s not great). You see, the my conern is that I traded functionality, options and ease of use for my students for my own convenience.

I know – shame on me, but it’s hard to say no to such convenience. Consider taking about a day or more of setting it up as opposed to twenty minutes? Like I said earlier, it’s not a bad site, it’s just not the best one and it had to be free. I have no budget for anything and I don’t need to tell you that time is more valuable than gold to most people in education.

This site (review coming soon) isn’t going to be the crux of my lessons. It’s most likely not even going to be used for any grades. It is just a supplemental site so that parents can help students work on an endless supply of questions or that students can practice on their own.

As I said my concern is how much am I willing to sacrifice for this Google integration? In this case, it’s not a terrible trade off, but what if I find a great website or service and it has no Google integration? What then? Will I pass on it for a lesser service just to save some time? What if I find something great but just don’t look any further than the Sign in with Google button.

What do you think? An interesting question is it not?

Posted in Google Apps, Opinion, Patrick Cauley | 1 Comment