Apple in the Classroom, What’s Next on the Chopping Block?

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I just read the article, Apple planning to make original TV shows and movies as hardware sales soften. I decided to try and remember what I used to be able to buy for the school/classroom from Apple. Here is my list:

  1. Laptops designed for children
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  2. Powerful and Extensible Workstations
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  3. Servers with easy to use Management Tools, Media Streaming, and Podcasting
  4. Easy to obtain full sized keyboards
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My concern is real. I am an Apple and Lenovo owner. My Lenovo experience has only improved in the last 6-7 years, while my Apple experience has gotten worse. Am I the only one who agrees that iPhones and watches do not equal creation and learning?

I am hoping for a turn around. Sales of hardware are down. Schools tend to buy in massive quantities. #SalesTiptoApple

Schools also like to by integrated packages of computers, devices, accessories, support, and software. #SalesTiptoApple

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Posted in Educational Technology, Instructional Technology, iPad, iPhone, iPhone Apps, Opinion, Tony DePrato, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

I bought a Surface Book

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Not too long ago I wrote that I was in the market for a new computer. I was looking at five different computers but it boiled down to the 13″ Apple MacBook Pro with Touchbar (yeah-I like to adopt early) or a Microsoft Surface Book. By the title you clearly know what I chose but I thought I would go through my thinking and my thoughts after a few weeks of every day use, so read on!

What I wanted

I was looking for a computer that could be actively involved in my teaching, so the ability to draw and write equations on the screen was important to me. Also this is will be very helpful when making tutorial videos for my students or colleagues (or Omar – you know he loves them). I also wanted a computer a little bit quicker than my MacBook Air but all of my choices met that criteria. The Air has been great-the best computer I’ve ever owned – period, but it is starting to show its age being nearly four years old. Finally, I wanted a computer that I felt would still be good to use 4-5 years from now and again and again, I felt that all five of my choices probably would meet that criteria.

Why the Surface Book?

The touchscreen and the built in stylus made the Surface Book a natural choice. Have you ever written on a smart board? It sucks. Your back is usually to the students, if the pen isn’t callibrated correctly you can get some weird results and if you don’t have a short throw projector – then you are blinded by the projector shining write in your eyes or your shadow may block what you’re writing. It’s a bad experience.

However, connecting my Surface Book (SB) to the proejctor allows me to write and accurately, keep my eyes on the kids and not be blinded or have to get Writing with the pen is quite accurate. It certainly isn’t as a good as pen/pencil and paper, but it is really good. I have dabbled with the Apple pencil while that is a truly great stylus, the iPad isn’t a full laptop and cannot be used for what I need it to do.

Also, detaching the screen and using it as a tablet is something I use everyday. I was surprised about how often I did this. While it’s on my desk, I use a wireless mouse and keyboard and flip my screen around to maximize the space on the front of my desk. Again, something I didn’t plan for but has been a pleasant surprise.

Why not Mac?

This is a good question. The new MacBooks are great computers – they are. They are fast, light, have a great screen and have good battery life (I am convinced they will fix that problem  that some people have).

The first is the price. $1500 for a computer with only 2 USB-C ports? I don’t have anything on USB-C yet. I carry my computer to and from work and would hate to be have realized I forgot my dongle(s) and couldn’t connect my computer to a project. With my SB – that is not a case. I do need a dongle to connect it to my projector, but this is the only place I need it, so the dongle stays here locked up every day.

Next, there is no SD card slot. You may be aware, we have a podcast here on IT Babble – you should listen to it 🙂 I record thepodcast on a Zoom H6 and then take the SD card out of that device and plug it into my computer and transfer the files then and edit, publish and upload.

With the new MacBook I would have to buy a dongle. I would even need a dongle or new cable to connect the Zoom H6 to my new computer! It just didn’t fit into my life. I do prefer the Mac operating system and I like their computers, but this was not the best option for me right now.

Plus – I really like technology and wanted to learn (not just experience) Windows 10. I

It’s not perfect

There are things about the SB that aren’t perfect, so please don’t get in your head that it’s all rainbows and sunflowers. I do not find Windows to be as stable or as easy to navigate through and the amount of updates I had to go through the first couple of days was bonkers (like 2 hours worth).

There are other oddities that show up, sometimes the keyboard stopped working, but after closing some programs it came back. The pen is very good, but not great. There is a little bit of lag but for some fine detailed writing it’s not great and if you have bad handwriting (like I do) I find I have to take it slower.

Some of the programs I used on my Mac, I can’t find something as good for Windows. Screen capture programs and image editors are a good example. There are more options for Mac and the options for Windows are usually more expensive and in some cases not as good.

Wrapping it up

I am excited about this computer. Not only did I get a good deal with the computer, but I also was able to pick up their wireless keyboard and mouse and the Surface Dock (brick more like it) for an extra $50, which lets me easily connect to the projector and charge my SB at school. I love the versatility and I don’t mind students coming up and using it to demonstrate how to do some math for their classmates. I find myself detaching the screen more often and I can say, for me, it’s not a gimmick or novelty. It enhances my work and it is easy and fast to detach the screen and keep working.

Also I can effortlessly annotate PDF’s which is great for me.

Posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Episode 135 – Schools without work

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Patrick and Tony are back in another great episode (truly-this one is pretty darn good). We talk about a world without work and what that does to education and integration specialists and Tony’s take on how to make them more accountable and therefore more effective. OK, check out the talking points below.

1) A World Without Work – by Derek Thompson at the Atlantic

  • Is this possible?
  • Is technology to blame?
  • What would this do to education if there is no work?
  • Is this a good/bad thing?

2) Tony’s article Tech Integration: Are you mapping it? On TIE Online

  • Is it disastrous if a school doesn’t map?
  • What do you say to schools where the tech integrationist also teaches classes?
  • Should there be more documentation (student artifacts, reflections of teachers, etc.)

As always subscribe ot us on iTunes and Podomatic.

You can download this episode by clicking HERE!

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Predictions and FabLabs with Neil Gershenfeld

Anyone interested in STEM/STEAM spaces and equipment should watch this video. It is older, but worth a revisit. He says we need 20 years to make this feasible and affordable. I think we might be moving a bit faster. He compares the evolution of Fablabs (and personal fabrication) to the original development of UNIX which was done on a PDP-7.

I think the most interesting aspect is we can “go back in time” with his prediction, look at the current state of development, and confirm what direction the technology and pricing are heading.



By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Posted in Educational Technology, Instructional Technology, STEM/STEAM, Video | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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 | 2 Comments