Fun Holiday movies

Only a few more days until the winter break and the end of 2018 so I thought that some teachers might like some holiday movies that they could show some of their students. Here you go!

How the Grinch that Stole Christmas

Yep – it’s a classic and no I am not talking about the latest animated version or the terrible Jim Carey version. I’m talking the 1966 original with Boris Karloff. You can find it on YouTube and it is less than 30 minutes and a lot of fun.


Toy Story

The first Toy Story changed everything and it was released pretty close to Thanksgiving (making it a holiday movie) in 1995. The movie holds up and it is pretty remarkable to see just how far Pixar has come with its animation. It’s also pretty interesting to see just how mean Woody was in the first movie.


Song of the Sea

I’m cheating here. This movie released in the US around the holidays but the movie itself takes place during Halloween. Hey – it’s my blog I can cheat a little if I want 🙂 At any rate, this movie is great! It has a wonderful story, beautiful animation and the voice acting is top notch.  It is far better than Big Hero 6 which I believe won best-animated movie that year.


Arthur Christmas

Another Christmas movie but like How the Grinch Stole Christmas this is also not very religious and addresses more of the logistical practicality that surrounds Santa Claus. It’s fun, enjoyable, has a nice message and is through and through a good movie.


Adam Sandler made an animated holiday film titled 8 Crazy Nights. It is terrible. Everything from the voice acting to the animation to the writing. It is PG-13 for adult language but it is just bad.

There you have it – what videos would you think to be a good idea for the holidays?

It’s Time to Regulate Social Media in Schools

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions.

All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?

One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.

These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.

Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.

I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.

Social Media for Education Explained

The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.

The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.

For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).

Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.

Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.

It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation

It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.

In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.

Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.

Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.

Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?

Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media

Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.

Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.

If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.

I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.


Omar’s basket weaving haiku challenge – IT’S ON!!!

If you listened to podcast episode 80 you now know that we have laid down a gauntlet of literary proportions (I don’t think that makes sense does it?) It is time to write your own haiku.


Submit your haiku by filling out the Google form below. The deadline is June 19, 2014 and the winner will receive a handwritten haiku poem signed by Omar (the master himself) and a mystery prize that hopefully won’t suck. Get those submissions in!

For the record – won’t do anything with your email address except contact you (if you’re the winner that is).

This is what happens Larry, when you misuse technology….

If you do not get the reference made by the title, then you you can spend the day trying to figure it out. Improve your Google skills, or whatever. I know that my fellow podcaster, Preston, will get it, and he is the inspiration for this post.

In fact, he said something this week that was so funny, Patrick made a meme using Preston’s likeness. Here is a sample of that meme:

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 8.39.30 AM

I invited Preston and some others to watch the premier of Star Trek: Into Darkness.  The premier was in 3D, and so Preston said, “I hate 3D. I am not going.” Even though he likes Star Trek, he refuses to watch 3D. He feels, and rightly so, it is over used. Apparently he has had one too many bad 3D experiences in the last few years.

Yes, we can blame James Cameron for this, he did bring back 3D from the dead with Avatar, but, that is not really true. He did not bring back 3D, he literally reinvented it. He had his teams building hardware, software, and special computers to create a movie that was designed from storyboards to be 3D. That is why it is a great movie, 3D was the planned medium.

The Star Trek film was also designed for 3D. As I predicted, the 3D was not distracting, it was just part of the film. A film designed to be in 3D.

Then there are films such as the much overhyped and widely loved Harry Potter series. I watched one of the films in 3D. It was awful.  Obviously, they converted it to 3D in post production. Researching this topic, I found this was attempted on another Harry Potter, but the results were so bad they canceled the plan. Unplanned technology, creates a bad experience. Misused technology creates a bad experience.

In grad school we looked at some research, and this was ages ago back in 2001-2002, but it has stuck with me. The stats read that people had the same neophobia with technology that they did with food. If someone has a bad experience, it could take up to seven, and sometimes as many as ten, more exposures to get them to move past their first initial bad experience. As I have been working in educational technology, I have found that this theory is very accurate.

Preston had a bad experience with 3D. More than one. He kept attending movies that he was genuinely interested in, but still left those movies feeling annoyed because of unplanned and misused technology. He was motivated by the content, yet, he still had an adverse reaction.

Preston is not alone, because 3D technology being misused and abused is just a small percentage of technology that is often injected without a plan into educational technology. Obsession with QR codes, time-consuming presentation technology, apps that do not allow for any creation only consumption, wikis, Twitter for backchannel chats, expensive analog response systems, and of course the Coomber potable audio recorder (which looked like it was made in 1975 when sold to schools in 2009).

All of these technologies have legitimate uses in education. Even the Coomber would be useful in a school based in the Arctic or in one of those towns that prohibits wifi technology.  However, most of the time, the uses for these technologies would be considered niche. They would plug-in to enhance a larger plan or project, if that project was designed for plug-ins.

Keeping people of all ages interested in learning can be challenging. Impacting learning negatively with extraneous unplanned technology is only going to stifle educational technology initiatives. The curriculum and the educational goals should naturally lead people down a path to appropriate technology.  It is true that technology can create new insights and new directions, but that is only true if those things exist in unity with educational process.

Wrapping this up, a word to Preston. The use of 3D in “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is appropriate. In the first scene, the entire theater shifted to the right to dodge a spear moving at high velocity. Wait, and watch it in 2D. Then, watch it in 3D if you liked the story. Avoid all 3D TVs and other 3D technologies until you have done this. 

And remember, when planned appropriately 3D abides.

Tony DePrato




spam, Spam, SPAM!!


One reason I really like WordPress is that they block a lot of spam from entering our hallowed comment section. Blogger also does a nice job too for the record. Just between you and me, I like to go to spam section and read some of the comments and I thought – what the heck! It doesn’t have anything to do with education and not much to do with technology, but it makes me smile. I thought I’d share them with you, the happy reader. Just scroll on down. I hope this leaves brings a smile to your face and brightens your day a little.

Contestant #1

I love how this site (I’ve blurred the link on purpose) suggests that I am his reason for living. Very touching and concerning. I was writing about copyright at the time which often brings out such emotions. Thanks guys! And don’t worry too much. I only possess a few blogs too.

Contestant #2

I’m this guy’s dude! Sweet bro. What problem with my RSS feed? Let me click on your link right away to find out what that could be. Yep, notice how it wanted to leave a comment on a page with 0 views. Not too smart.

Contestant #3

Holy crap! I have no idea what this spam bot is trying to convey but the words “jail”, “frightening” and “threatening calls” are all thrown together. Well it must be serious. I’ll make sure to add that to our podcast agenda for episode 64 and hopefully inform our viewers/listeners. 🙂

Contestant #4

You can’t disappear completely either! Here I was thinking I was the only one! Now I have reason to live. Oh how did you like our podcast episode?

Contestant #5

Chuck Norris can have that affect on people. I don’t blame you my man. I don’t blame you.

If you have some funny comments you’ve ever run across feel free to add them to our comments here!

Video Games – Can they make learning fun?

So can video games make learning fun?

Tall response: NO!

Grande response: No, because…

  • Edutainment games are clunky
  • Edutainment games are not multi-million dollar franchise games
  • Our students are very diverse with some people play first person shooters, other play RPGs while some play puzzle games, basic games or no games at all
  • You cannot differentiate in one model without spending an enormous amount of resources in creating a one-size fits all solution
  • One game can only have so many lessons
  • In one year, students have around 6 subjects…do they play 6 games?
  • In a MS/HS setting you have 7 years and about 5 major subjects. That would require 35 variants or 35 different games!

Venti response:

Edutainment – That just seems like an oxymoron…a fun educational game!

When asked by me, “How would you feel if your FPS game required you to answer questions to pick up ammo or guns or to engage an enemy?

Bob (name changed), an actual student of mine and typical gamer, responded without hesitation “I would quit!”

Why? He plays the game for the action and to “get away

Ok, that’s not fully fair as there are several companies out there creating engaging games that kids play in the classroom to learn all sorts of skills. It works especially well with the younger kids. But as they get older, it gets harder and we discover a disconnect.

I think the question, Can you make learning as fun as video games?, is being raised in an effort to engage the XBox generation. Why can a kid spend 7 hours straight on a game yet struggle with 15 minutes of Chemistry? Because Chemistry is not being presented in a 3-D virtual world with high stakes gaming mechanics at play.

Ntiedo Etuk, founder and CEO of Tabula Digita is doing just that. He is attempting to bridge that gap.

I think there is a fundamental problem here. Test subjects are brought together in a fun, energetic environment to act as a focus group where they all play the same game. The kids are excited to be part of this event. No one else is playing Halo3 or ModernWarfare 3 so they don’t feel shafted.

They now approach the game like any other game that they play when not in front of their game console. These kids will waste time playing silly flash games – but would they go out and pay $70 for it? Nope!

So these kids are primed to give positive feedback. They have just spent time playing games with other kids in a festive environment and their initial responses will be “sure, it was kind of fun”.

“Do you think you would enjoy doing Chemistry more if you could play this game instead of reading a book?”

“Yeah sure!” says Timmy. But he has been primed.

But these responses are skewed. The question asked should be more along the lines of: How would you rate this game compared to your favorite console game?

The other question is: Did you feel the same tension, excitement and exhilaration when playing your favorite game?

The answer will probably lean heavily in favor of the popular games.

The problem is that the popular games are skill based games that have a huge hand-eye coordination component and the enjoyment is derived from honing those skills. In other games like World of Warcraft, you have a different component. You have a roll playing game (RPG) mechanic combined with a social one. There is no real skill acquisition here other than patience and social skills.

The kids playing these games would probably never get involved in a game like Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, a game that uses clues, geography and interesting characters to help you track down the villains. This sleuth game was popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s and taught me a little about geography. I loved the game! But that was back in the 8-bit days and the game was colorful and had cool graphics since they only had to be images and not 3D renderings.

I believe the biggest problem is the content delivery systems that we use. It is an enormous challenge to create engaging and multifaceted strategies in a classroom. Some teachers do brilliantly at this and others struggle. The other issue is, are kids going to be motivated to gain subject level knowledge to succeed in the edutainment game in front of them? Is a game going to appeal to our diverse student body? My gut feeling is that there is major disconnect.

My recipe for success:
1) Get the top teachers who have created engaging, differentiated and discovery-based lessons
2) Get LOADS of funding
3) Get Blizzard or another major game company on board
4) Create a commercial-level game with cut-scenes and clips using the fodder from the superstar teachers to add hints and clues. Create challenges and levels where this knowledge will have to be utilized. Provide resources in game that are deeply embedded into the theme of the game (a la Minecraft or Fallout). Create different game-plays for different tastes
5) Promote game
6) Distribute to schools and “gift” the students

Will this succeed? Possibly? How much Chemistry can you cram into a game? Can you add multiple subjects like Physics and Chemistry and mathematics? Can you incorporate knowledge levels for various grades? Which curriculum are you going to use?

The answer here is NOT a kick ass video game that would engage the gamer generation. The answer lies in creating colorful lighthearted games that end up being an alternative to the worksheet. Think app games or flash games and not huge 3D games. Will students play these simpler games and get super stoked? No! Will it make dealing with the content a little more fun and provide a change in pace? Sure. And that spells success.

Now who wants a coffee??

Gone in 60 seconds

Log on NOW

Check out this infograph from This is what happens when you unplug for 60 seconds. It is pretty amazing to see so much happening in such a short time. The reason I post is because not too long ago Scott McLeod (a guy I love reading) wrote a pretty cool piece about being on Twitter. You can read that post here. So take a look at the graph, read Scott’s post (and the many many comments that accompany it) and weigh in.

Aaaaaand action!


I started a unit on video production today with one of my middle school classes. We have been preparing for weeks for the day that we would get to use the coveted Mac lab. Learning about the different cameras, the Mac operating system (AKA Snow Leopard), and how the two interface. Needless to say the kids were very excited. I don’t know if it is working with a cool looking computer, the size of the screen, making videos, but whatever it was, it was a real roller coaster of a class. Read on past the break for what happened.

Continue reading “Aaaaaand action!”