The Beauty of Repairability

At my school, we are trying out Chromebooks instead of iPads for our 1:1 program. I’ve written about it here and here. I still feel it is too early to see how Chromebooks fair and so I’ll reserve those observations for another time.

Today, I’d like to point out a nice little nugget of info is that the Chromebooks we purchased are very repairable. How repairable you ask? I have the opportunity to replace everything in our Chromebooks from the keyboard to the WiFi card to the battery to the screen to the USB ports. I “can” repair it all. I put can in quotes because I am no technician by any means, so actually doing all this stuff has yet to be seen.

I do want to make it clear that a Chromebook repairability was not a deciding factor though I imagine a school or district on a tight budget this may have more weight.

Before purchasing Chromebooks I was wondering how we would repair them and could we get parts. Well a quick Interwebs search turned out a number of results. However, the top result was iFixit. iFixit is a website which has guides on how to take apart and repair or modify your devices. They also sell toolkits and parts as well. This site had pretty much any part we needed to repair so I figured we could try to repair these in house as opposed to sending them off. They also had guides on how to tear down our model and I found a number of YouTube videos as well.

Fast forward a number of months and our first damaged Chromebook came into the IT office. It was a busted screen from an accidental drop. We ordered the LCD screen (since that was all we needed) not from iFixit (they were sold out at the time) but from a website called Screen Surgeons. They sell screens specifically for Chromebooks. The screen came and it also came with a tiny little repair kit. The repair took less than 10 minutes and with a minimal cost we had a Chromebook that was working as expected. GREAT! No new device or long wait time to send off a device for repair and wait for it to come back. We just ordered the screen and in three days had a working Chromebook again!

Tiny Repair Kit
Tiny Repair Kit

The next damaged Chromebook was an accidental sitting. Someone had sat on the Chromebook and busted the top cover (as you can see below).

This also made the broke the LCD screen as well. So we are looking at a not just a screen repair but a full top cover repair! Luckily we had a faulty Chromebook lying around and its top cover and screen are fine so I figured we would use that one for parts.

I took the back of the Chromebook and unhooked 3 connections (that was all, just 3) and unscrewed the two hinges that holds the top cover securely to the base and that was it!

The top came off with no fuss and I was able to replace with another top from that faulty Chromebook. Long story short – it worked! The whole process took less than 15 minutes and it cost us nothing (since we had a Chromebook to cannibalize). Here is picture of the base and the top cover.

I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous but the simplicity of the device quickly abated those fears as I got the back off and saw what I saw that needed to be done.

iPads

Sure, there is a little pride knowing you can repair your equipment but the big draw here is the cost and time savings. With iPads it is almost always the screen that is damaged.

The iPad screen is pretty resilient, beautiful and very responsive. We don’t repair this as it takes a bit more work and parts are not as easy to come by. We send our damaged iPads off to a local Apple Authorized Repair center here in town. Screens without a fingerprint sensor cost $50-$65 USD. Screens with the fingerprint sensor cost a whopping $195 USD. We do not have any iPad Pros at this tiem. It usually takes about two weeks for the repair to happen and to get back to us. During that time we try to provide a loaner to the student, but there have been times when we had no loaners on hand.

Not one of ours - https://www.flickr.com/photos/wangsy/6105610975
Not one of ours – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wangsy/6105610975

Another fact is that we currently purchase iPads for $300 USD a piece and if it costs two-thirds of the original price to repair the screen. We need to ask ourselves do we just buy a new one?

Like all schools, we want to do good by our budget and even leave a little wiggle-room for unexpected situations, but it makes you question if you want to continue buying a product that costs so much money to repair. Would you buy a car for $20,000 USD knowing that five years later you would need to get it repaired for $13,300? It doesn’t seem to make sense. You would probably look for a new car. I think that is what Apple wants us to do, just buy a new iPad (especially if it has been repaired once already).

Apple is pretty open about what it costs to repair these screens on their website.

It just feels … wrong though and when we repaired those Chromebooks it felt good and right. If we had the parts on hand we could (in theory) repair a Chromebook and have it back to the student the same day!

What do you think about all of this?

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I Did the Hour of Code, and then I Did Three More Hours of Coding


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Every year I take a few minutes to express slight annoyance at “The Hour of Code”. In my professional life, I will support any teacher wishing to participate. However, if anyone does happen to ask my opinion, I would explain to them my reservations about the event.

This year I want to take a new approach. Let’s skip the part about how an hour of coding is not a practical amount of time to plan, draft, built, and evaluate a creative solution or idea. Let’s move beyond the fact that the majority of the programming environments children are using are telling them what to do and how to do it (because they only have an hour). Finally, let’s completely ignore the potential disappointment students will face when they decide to actually try and build something on their own.

The first important fact I would like to address is that I have taught children as young as  grade three how to code something meaningful. It was a slow, and often painful process, that seemed to be futile. However, the children always surprised me, and after 6-8 hours of work, there was usually a working program that connected to an idea. I would like to stress that I am aware many students are not able to simple open an IDE and begin creating the next Mario Kart. Coding/Programing is tough. It takes practice. Students need to learn and evolve. Doing an Hour of Code ONCE to get them going is fun, and I would support that.

Why Are We Still At An Hour of Code?

My rant this year is on this simple question: why do we still just have an hour of code?
It seems like since many schools have been doing this for a few years that there would be another, possibly required, track that regular participants would need to follow.

For example, Three Hours of Code. Or maybe Two Hours of Code, the Wrath of Python. Anything beyond on hour for those who understand the mission, and have mastered an hour of code, would be preferable.

Maybe if it is the first time coding with students, schools do one hour, and join the movement.

Since those schools have a full year to prepare for the next challenge, how about level it up a bit? Why wait all year to just do one more hour?

If we are saying the mission of the project is to get students interested in coding, then shouldn’t the continued mission require more  levels of participation?

An Hour of Code year-after-year is not a going to make an impact.

Are You Really Serious About Coding and Project Based Learning?

If you are serious about working with young learners, then you need to find programs like AppJamming. These types of contests connect all the aspects of the Systems Life Cycle , to the student experience. Working with a program like AppJamming allows students to experience the various phases of creation from the idea to the end-product.

Makerfaires are another outlet for getting students involved in true project based learning initiatives. These types of events are excellent. Coding is part of a tool kit instead of the sole focus. Students who may “like” coding, but do not “love” coding, would be more likely to participate. Students would learn to integrate coding as a process into a larger product.

In Summary

Support teachers and students who want to do new things. Do not keep allowing people to easily do the same thing over and over. The learning becomes less and less when the goals are easy to achieve. Encourage people to challenge themselves, and take some risks.

 

 

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Episode 159 – Virtual Nope!

Tony and Patrick are back and right before the US Thanksgiving holiday. It is another great show where we talk about the confusing Apple hardware lineup, a virtual reality headset and Google’s news of getting into the LDAP game. Check out the talking points below and as always be sure to subscribe to us on your favorite podcasting app or on iTunes.

  1. Apple’s New Hardware
    1. MacBook Air – https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/
    2. Mac Mini – https://www.apple.com/mac-mini/
    3. iPad Pro – https://www.apple.com/ipad-pro/
  2. VR Headset
    1. My Hands On Experience
    2. Lenovo Mirage Solo – https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/virtual-reality-and-smart-devices/virtual-and-augmented-reality/lenovo-mirage-solo/Mirage-Solo/p/ZZIRZRHVR01
    3. Not ready for mainstream anything
  3. Google and LDAP
    1. https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/identity-security/simplifying-identity-and-access-management-for-more-businesses
    2. Pricing – https://cloud.google.com/identity-cp/
    3. LDAP – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightweight_Directory_Access_Protocol

You can listen to this show here or download it HERE!

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Apple products in schools? It’s complicated

Apple just unveiled a new MacBook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro. Much of this news should get schools excited. I want to be excited so why am I not excited? To oversimplify my issue is price. I am not sure the new MacBook Air is worth $1200 and I am not sure the Mac Mini is worth $800 and then to have Apple compare its iPads to laptops (kind of undercutting the MacBook Air a little) it makes me a little worried. So let me ramble a bit more below.

MacBook Air


This MacBook Air at one point was arguably the best laptop period. It didn’t matter if you were comparing it to a Windows device or not. It had incredible battery, pretty powerful and for the price probably the best laptop you could buy. That was 7 years ago.

Now they have a new MacBook Air starting at $1200. It has a much better display, a fair amount of RAM, a new Intel Y processor, a fingerprint sensor for easy logging in and some others bells and whistles. Sounds good but the problem is that Windows laptops have come a long way since then and if you’re spending $1200 on a laptop and you decide to look across the aisle at Windows, well you can see some compelling arguments to switch over.

A Dell XPS 13″ is a great computer to compare it with. You can find almost the same specs for $200 cheaper. When you’re buying 13–20 laptops at a time – that $200 is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve played around with one and it is a really nice laptop. Also, when most of our work is in the cloud (including our SIS) it makes one wonder why stick with Apple?

I do like Mac OS and I do find it easier to work with but we’re talking a lot of money that could go back into the budget every year. Do we stick with Mac because that is what everyone else uses? How would the staff react? Those are questions for another time.

The OLD MacBook Air

Apple is still selling the old MacBook Air and I would be fine with that if they dropped the price since we are talking about a computer that is still using a processor three generations so it’s not nearly as powerful and they are still selling it for $999. At the price point it is a poor investment for schools. We try to get to four years out of our laptops and while we probably could get four years from the old Airs I wonder how it will be performing for our teachers and staff in four years? It seems like a bad investment.

Mac Mini


I really like it except it is very expensive for a $800 desktop. Still it is a good computer for running a small server (which we do) and will probably pick one up and then manually upgrade the RAM. You cannot upgrade the storage or processor as both are still soldered to the board.

iPad Pro confusion

OK – here is what worries me. Apple is clearly stacking the iPad Pro up against traditional laptops (including their own). It’s priced like a laptop. It is more powerful than most laptops. To me, Apple is clearly telling us to ditch our laptops for the iPad Pro. This only reinforces my opinion that iOS and Mac OS are going to merge one day and the device Apple would like to see that happen is with its own iPad. I have no idea what this would look like and if any company can pull it off it will be Apple.

I’ve talked with a couple of people in various different professions who use the iPad Pro as their daily device. They all said the same thing. It’s great but it takes time to figure out how to do some tasks that are pretty basic with my laptop. Such as finding and organizing files, not using a mouse, etc. This is not a good future in my opinion and I worry that Apple will continue to let its laptop line become more and more mediocre.

Right now we are budgeting to purchase the new 13″ Retina MacBook Air but it doesn’t sit well with me and we won’t make the purchase till the summer so we will see how it turns out.

Posted in Apple, iPad, Opinion, Patrick Cauley | Tagged | 2 Comments

Episode 158 – Trends? Maybe not

Tony and Patrick are back for another great episode. Check out the talking points below and be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon’s events
    1. Apple – https://www.macrumors.com/2018/09/12/everything-apple-announced-2018-iphone-event/
    2. Microsoft – https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/2/17923080/microsoft-event-2018-announcements-news-surface-laptop-windows-10-updates
    3. Amazon – https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/20/17882582/amazon-event-september-2018-echo-alexa-speaker-news
      1. https://aws.amazon.com/deeplens/
    4. https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/galaxy-tab-s4/
    5. New Apple Event – October 30th
  2. Chromebook
    1. Project Streaming – https://projectstream.google.com/aco/invite
    2. https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/01/google-gets-into-game-streaming-with-project-stream-and-assassins-creed-odyssey-in-chrome/
  3. Predictions, Patience and Observations by Patrick
    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/09/23/predictions-patience-and-observation/
    2. Beware of predictions and getting “caught up” in the moment.
  4. Tony topic: Scheduling – Don’t be a trendsetter.
    1. Steve Jobs Lost Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBh5_j4a1yo
    2. aSc Timetable: https://www.asctimetables.com/
  5. https://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/the-cj-cup-at-nine-bridges.html

Download this episode here!

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New Google Docs, Sheets or Presentation? Just type “New”

Well, sort of.

You see if you wanted to create a new document you could that out of Google Drive or go to Google’s respective Docs, Slides or Sheets website.

Those individual websites seem a little silly to me but hey, I just chose to only use Drive.

Now if you want to create a new document, Google has made it a bit easier. First, make sure you are signed into Google and then type one of the following URLs.
docs.new
sheets.new
presentation.net

BAM – you are ready to start creating and sharing.

Posted in Helpful Tips, Patrick Cauley | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Subscriptions: Get the Best Deal Possible

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I am often shocked and amazed at the prices people are paying for subscriptions/services. Believe it or not, schools pay different prices for the same products. There is usually a deal to be made, and here are a few simple tips to make certain you are getting the best deals out there.

Crowd Source

Make some online connections who also work at schools. Setup a shared spreadsheet. Have people add the products they use. Do not ask them to list prices, many terms of service prohibit publishing that type of data. When you see people using the same solutions that your school uses, privately confirm what pricing they are getting.

Dealing with sales people is easier if you already know the answer to the questions.

Ask for MultiYear Deals

Any service or subscription that your institution considers a core solution should not be on an annual renewal. Not only are you wasting time and paperwork, but you are wasting money.

Ask for pricing for one year, three years, and five years. Look at the terms of payment and cancellation. It is often very surprising what the final cost is compared to the simple annual renewal. I usually look at three year deals as they are usually more flexible.

Find Competition, and Make it Known

Regardless of how much adoration there is for a service, remember, business is business. Services close down and sell-out all the time. When a company sells-out, they do not call your school to ask what you think. Companies are in business to stay in business.

Schools should always look for competition for products and services they are using. Schools should always have someone doing research and demos before renewals. Schools should not pay invoices because of an emotional connection.

It is an excellent idea to inform companies that you are looking for other solutions and doing due diligence.

Sales people know the game, and know who they are playing against. Most good sales people tend to know their competition’s pricing models and margins. Sales people will make better offers, package additional features, and push for better terms from their bosses when they know a competitor is involved.

Avoid the Shopping Cart

The listed website price is rarely the best deal. In fact, many good products require a quick form/survey to be completed before they issue a quote. These companies want to have the chance to offer not only the best price, but the best options; options that someone buying from an online shopping cart may skip.

I am not saying this is always the case, but I always contact the sales team to reconfirm the pricing, and deals.

Skip the cart, send a message first.


Need help or more information dealing with a vendor/service? Have a service you need to move away from, but you feel locked in?

Send me a personal email and we can review some additional strategies. (tony.deprato@gmail.com)

 

Posted in Educational Technology, Instructional Technology, tutorial | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Predictions, Patience and Observation

I saw this article by Jamey Keaten in the Huffington Post titled Automation In The Workplace Means Machines Will Handle Half Of Tasks By 2025: Report. It basically says that automation will replace people at their jobs. So schools need to adjust right? I mean the future is happening right now so schools have to act right now! RIGHT!?!?! WE MUST CHANGE NOW!!!!!

OK, let’s take a step back, take a breath and look at this article (and others like it). The article claims (in the title) that half of all workplace tasks will be handled by automation. That is a pretty bold prediction right there. They don’t define what a “task” is nor do they offer what is a “workplace”. In fact, there are very little details that give any actual example. It turns out this is just a prediction. I have a problem with this prediction and others like but I’ll talk about that later.

Educational Impact

So, if you’re in a school should you be pushing for more coding, more robotics, more maker space opportunities to better prepare your students for this future? Well yes and no! You want more and better opportunities for your students. These particular areas challenge students to think creatively, critically and help build good team skills which in turn helps them learn how to communicate better with their peers and others. Nice – but that should be the push behind it not because an article says that this is the future. A less informed person may ask the question “Should these classes be mandatory?”

I personally don’t think so. You must remember that there are only so many hours in a school day and to make a new subject mandatory it must push something else out in order to make space. So what goes? Certainly not a core subject (English, History/Social Studies, Math, Science). So that leaves Physical Education, Art, Music and World Languages. So which one would you remove? Leave your comments below

I see the importance of coding and so forth but I just cannot pick another class or subject and say “Yep! That’s the weak link in our school. It’s time to replace it with something new!” It just doesn’t make sense.

Saying that every student needs to learn coding or robotics may sound progressive and forward thinking but I believe that it is usually a statement that is not fully thought out or that someone has not considered how it would impact the school itself.

Computers, systems and databases are getting simpler and easier for the common user. Computers are a great example. Computer operating systems have been becoming easier and easier to use. While they still have their head scratching moments (like the the Control Panel and the Settings page in Windows 10). Windows 10 is certainly a lot easier to find files, use programs and navigate than Windows 3.1 or even Mac 7.0.1. The point here is that computer interfaces are becoming easier and easier to use. The need to dive under-the-hood to fix something is becoming less and less necessary.

A lot people argue that students need to know how to code to learn how to build something. Sure, you can certainly accomplish that with coding, but you can also accomplish that with video or image editing software, a project art class, an experiment in a science lab or in just about any other class. One does not need coding to create or problem solve. There are countless other ways that children can learn to create, think critically and problem solve. Coding is just one way to go.

Prediction problem

Now back to the prediction in the article and the problem I have with it. These articles are written with such an air of authority that how could anyone deny this is coming? How could this possibly not happen? It makes people jump up and want to take action. People like educators, parents, students and policy makers.

Let us not forget this is a prediction and nothing more. Predictions have been wrong before. Now let’s talk about what is wrong with this article and its very confident prediction.

I already mentioned the lack of details of what a task is and what a workspace is. Nor does it give a specific case of this happening. For example, saying that McDonald’s self-ordering Kiosk that will eliminate a traditional cashier position.

Now back to what is a task. This could be any type of action. Turning on and off a light. That is a task. A lot of schools already use motion sensors to perform this task. Does it replace an employee? No, in fact it actually creates some jobs for others outside of the school. How about using a card to unlock a door at your school?

At our school the parent/teacher conferences is now automated as we use an online service but this actually creates a little more work for the IT department as we set up the system, but it saves a lot of work for our teachers which is great. Again, no one loses their job.

So if this article is talking about these types of tasks I can agree that in less than a decade a lot of basic tasks could be automated. Would I go so far to say 50% will be automated? No, I think that is a little ridiculous. So at school are we teaching our students “tasks”? Sure, but that is a quick skill and nothing more. We don’t have light switch class offered in middle school. We do, however, encourage students to turn off the lights in rooms no one is in to save electricity.

Conclusion

Be critical of these articles (and of this one!) Think about what they are talking about and proposing and then see if it makes sense. Look at around your world, be observant and see if those predictions really seem like they could come to fruition. Driverless cars are a good example. Some have said that there will be plenty on the road by 2020. That is less than two years away. Does it seem that way to you? Has their been legislation passed to allow the everyday driver the ability to purchase these cars? Can it navigate through a dense urban environment? Has the ethical issues and the industry issues been tackled?

Virtual reality and augmented reality (sometimes referred to as mixed reality) was supposed to take the world be storm. Well, they are here and most people, most schools, most businesses and industries rarely use it, or use it meaningfully.

I am merely saying that predictions do not always go the way people have predicted them to go. Don’t be so eager to believe a prediction (regardless of where it comes from) and react to every headline, news report, blog or discussion around the water cooler.

Posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley | Tagged | 1 Comment

Scheduling , Why Wait?

 

 

 

 

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

If your phone battery is not at 100%, would you still use it? Or, would you sit and wait for it to charge?

If your water bottle is 50% empty, would you continue to use it, or would you immediately go refill it?

If a schedule is 70% ready to be built, would you start building it, or wait until you have 100% of the information?

Here are the correct answers: Use It; Drink It; Make It Now

Start Now, it is Never too Early

I have built many schedules. For new schools, new programs, residential life, and events. In my experience the most important rule about academic scheduling, PK-12, is to start now, because it is never too early. Literally, after the first week of the academic year, most schedule issues arise. Issues need solutions. Solutions need a process. Processes take time. Time is always the main currency of any PK-12 organization, and currency should not be wasted.

Scheduling is All About Percentages

Imagine  planning a very  traditional elementary school schedule. The homeroom kind of schedule found in many American Schools.

There are 50 teachers. In August the school is getting 10 new teachers. Do I wait for those teachers to arrive to plan the schedule?

Let’s state that another way. I have 83% of my team. Can I make a plan with 83% of my team? Yes.

Observable data and experience would easily indicate that very few people in a school want to be responsible for scheduling. This data would also indicate, that more senior staff are more likely to have the desire to be involved, as they are aware of the issues.

READ MORE @ The International Educator

 

 

 

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

Episode 157 – Welcome Back

Tony and I kick off the school year in style with a fantastic podcast. Check out the talking points below and as always subscribe to us on your favorite podcasting app or on iTunes.

  1. School’s back in session!
  2. Goals for this year?
  3. New tech for this year?
    1. Amazon App Stream
    2. https://aws.amazon.com/appstream2/
    3. Make sure you have educational pricing – contact Tony for support
    4. Laser Printer – https://glowforge.com/
    5. https://www.rolanddga.com/products/3d
  4. Apple Event this week – anything we would like to see?
  5. Windows Surface Go
    1. https://bit.ly/2NWySj3
  6. Lenovo YogaBook 2 https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/6/1/17416526/lenovo-yoga-book-2-pro

FYI:

They have a TEEN Program:

http://www.iub.edu/~iumakes/

https://www.fablabs.io/labs/acplgeorgetownmakerlab

You can download this episode HERE!

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