Software in a Suitcase vs The Learner Profile










By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

The Problem

Curriculum in a Suitcase, this is a common term and point of discussion in international schools. For anyone not familiar with the reference, it addresses the common practice of teachers arriving at a new school and bringing with them a curriculum they are comfortable delivering.

The current practice around curriculum planning and mapping is to avoid this practice. A school should have a curriculum that students and families can depend on, regardless of the staffing.

In Educational Technology there is similar practice known as Software in a Suitcase.Using the word software is being simplistic. Software, subscriptions, services, and even computer brands and operating systems are included.When teachers move from one school to another, they often try to avoid the new school’s technology plan, and attempt to implement an ad-hoc technology plan they are familiar with.

Technology plans can be flexible, but if a school is a Windows 10 Tablet school, or if they are using PowerSchool, those core structural pieces are not flexible. In fact, they are required from the first day. Usage is not negotiable.

Read More at The International Educator

Problem Solving with Technology: A List of Topics and Standards









By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Core Concepts and Definitions

Digital Native is a term that refers to children who have been born after the advent of the modern personal computer and affordable personal laptop. There is a belief that these children have a very high aptitude with technology. This curriculum plan completely disagrees with this belief and reaffirms that all children need a solid foundation in problem solving in, and creating with, technology. The normal life of the average Digital Native is one of a consumer and user of things others have created.

Read More @The International Educator










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.


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.

Behaviour, Non-Negotiables, and Devices

I had a meeting recently about some behaviour issues related to students using iPads. These meetings are not unusual for me, or anyone who manages technology. For that matter, this is common for anyone working in education. Students have “things” and “do things”. Everyone has issues with behaviour.

During the meeting, I was able to articulate something that I understand, but often do not say enough: “Do not connect behaviour rules to devices or things, connect them to behaviour and actions.”

I asked the group to make three statements that are non-negotiable, and can easily be followed by all teachers without interpretation. An example would be, “I have warned you twice, now you need to go to the office.”

I encouraged them to focus on statements that do not connect to a “thing” but rather to the behaviour or action. My reasoning is that if the school connects non-negotiable policies to an object, when that object changes the reinforcement may also change. People associate logic and reasoning to objects. In many NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) models, objects are used to anchor memories and feelings. One does not have to be a master of neuroscience to acknowledge that by not setting an anchor, board consistency is more likely to remain when change occurs.


I am certain everyone understands the concept of a non-negotiable statement or practice. However, not everything can be a non-negotiable, and I do not see the need for many of them. These statements (which is the context I am focusing on) should be universal within the school and easily applied without interpretation. The application by a teacher merely moves the students and situation to another level of discussion. A non-negotiable does not need to result in a severe action, but some action must be taken.

I believe all schools running any type of 1-to-1 device program should have these statements and have them clearly posted and communicated to the entire community.

Here are some structures I believe are useful and practical:

  1. You have been warned (X – Number of Times), now, (Action).
  2. Personal privacy is not a flexible issue. (Action).
  3. Unauthorized content, or use of unauthorized content, was clearly explained. (Action).
  4. Everything here (define) indicates plagiarism or academic dishonesty. (Action).
  5. This appears to be a potential risk or threat to personal safety. (Action).

The power in these statements is that there is no discussion. Once communicated, the student will immediately move to the action phase. The behaviour is being addresses, without mentioning the “how and what” involved. Those details may be discussed later after the student has been moved to the next level of action. They need to know what they have done is not only against the rules, but something the teacher simply refuses to discuss alone.

Tony DePrato


Lesson Plans : Essential and Often Forgotten

Last week was a transition point in the year. After introducing a new position at the campus, my time has finally be able to shift away from pure technology, and back to educational technology. This has been a struggle for me for more than two years. The work was needed, but now, I welcome the change.

A teacher was absent last week, and I heard some rumblings about lesson plans. As any administrator knows, no one ever says anything great about lesson plans. The norm is a nonverbal look of piercing annoyance when lesson plans are mentioned.

I actually created the school’s lesson plan archive, so I decided to explore the contents. I found many inconsistencies. I realized that unless this content translated clearly down into the classroom, outward to the parents, and internally to the curriculum mapping, it just was not worth doing.

I cannot mandate lesson planning for most departments. However, I did go to the head of the school and request that I be allowed to lead the ICT department in a brief project to clean-up lesson plans, plan for long term leave, and develop a system to help non-ICT teachers deliver ICT lessons. I was given a green light.

I met with the ICT coordinator (in my school structure I am not the head of the subject), and reviewed the issues. She agreed, and she had even better ideas than I did. The department is small, so the plan came together quickly. I formally sent an email saying that as Head of Technology and with the direct support of the Principal, all ICT lesson planning will follow this plan, etc. and here is a template. I added the words non-negotiable, to make sure I was clear.

Why People Hate Formal Planning

Here are the reasons I think most people dislike lesson planning:

  • They feel like they know the material, so why does it need to be written out in detail.
  • They might want to make changes, and adjust during the week, therefore it is a waste of time.
  • Time. Lesson planning is time consuming.
  • Plans are written for other people to read, which adds a level of formality not needed by the person writing the plan.
  • No one ever checks the lesson plans, so they are a waste of effort.
  • IF the school has curriculum mapping or an online class management system, lesson plans are redundant.

Why Administrators and Heads of Department Should Ignore All These Reasons

I also hate lesson planning. Only after heading a department and being an administrator did I see the value. Only after having a colleague take emergency long term leave did I realize how negatively missing lesson plans can affect an entire division of teachers and students. With this experience under my belt, I no longer support lax planning.

Let’s start with a current educational topic that seems to be part of most of the conversations I have been having in the last six years, curriculum mapping. Although a curriculum map can contain lesson plans, and although the building of a map can be done in such a way that people can search for plans down to a given day, curriculum mapping is not a process designed for day-to-day lesson tracking. The data can be very difficult to read, since it should be connect to longitudinal information spanning the entire school.
Technology should always be applied to the scope of it’s design, and the concept of a single perfect solution should be clearly avoided. Tools are used when needed, and technology is a tool. Hint: Single Sign-On, Not Secure, but It gets rid of many complaints.

Online course management systems can easily hold a lesson plan, but the breakdown of links and activities is not a lesson plan. I am often guilty of using this as an excuse for not adding a formal document to explain, in detail, a particular area of an online course. Systems like Edmodo move chronologically and the content can shift down quickly. Lesson plans get lost in systems like this unless there is a very strict standard for where the go and how they are referenced. Therefore, lesson plans can be included in online learning systems, but they probably need to “live” somewhere else.

After winning the redundancy argument, you can ignored everything else, because lesson planning is not about being convenient. It is about being accountable to the students, families, and other people in the school. It is about having something that can allow a person to subtract themselves from the equation that is the school, without leaving a huge damaging hole in the educational pathways that children follow day-to-day.

Administration and Oversight

If lesson planning is a requirement, a non-negotiable, a strain on everyone’s time, and a important- then make it important. I believe Stephen Covey said, “Do the important things first.” As an administrator or head of department that means read the lesson plans and occasionally make sure the lessons in the classroom matched the plans.

Make sure teachers know plans are being checked. Comment on good ones. Have meetings about bad ones. Make planning important by making it come before broad conversations around curriculum mapping, homework, etc.

Remember, technology for lesson planning can and should be simple. Do not over complicate your processes. If the school has some software or platform that has organically developed a smarted lesson planning process, then stick with it. However, if people are comfortable using normal documents and a shared folder, then maintain the simplicity. The second the focus shifts from good planning to high tech solutions for planning, problems will arise.

The Standard

Everything needs a measurement or a standard. For lesson planning, that standard is simple: If a stranger (Teacher-Administrator-Parent) were to read the lesson plan would they understand the learning objectives. 

Not the HOW. Not the WHAT. Just the WHY and the OUTCOME.


Tony DePrato

Some people have 10 years of experience. Other people have 1 year of experience 10 times.

Some people have 10 years of experience. Other people have 1 year of experience 10 times, I wish this were my quote. However, it came from a source on Slashdot – which I always recommend everyone read a few times a week.

There was an article titled, Lessons From a Decade of IT Failures :The takeaways from tracking the big IT debacles of the last 10 yearsThe quote actually came from the comments about the article.

It struck me in a profound way. I immediately, and sadly, thought of many of my co-workers who fall into this category. I also thought of key institutional indicators which could be warning signs that decisions are not being made from the “right place”.

The Right Place


There are many schools that run teacher centered, adminstration centered, and community centered models of education. These can all be reviewed at another time, but what they all have in common is that the needs of the student are not the priority.

Research in Education in the last twenty years overwhelmingly supports student centered learning. To be in the right place a school should be following student centered approaches. This requires fairly frequent adjustments to scheduling, assessment practice, learning support, etc. Being student centered means supporting a culture of change. Not always large swooping change, but often small adjustments that ripple influence like a stone hitting the water.

Key Indicators of a Problem

If change is supported in a student centered environment, a school administrator would not see the following (would not, think negative, think dark):

  • The same schedule being followed for more than three years
  • No curriculum revision cycle
  • Lack of data for moving students to different levels
  • A small number of PD requests from teachers
  • The absence of a formal school improvement plan
  • No effort given to defining of hours related to subject completion or academic success
  • People in non-leadership roles running programs from a “playbook”
  • Teachers and Administrators without improvement indicators attached to their annual review

Technology Can Help

Of all the things we can use technology for in school, nothing is easier and more clear cut than using it to collect and study data. From basic Excel implementations to Powerschool, there are many options to allow a small group of administrators to collect and study data.

This process, and hopefully a regular one at that, would quickly flag trends leading to the negative list of key indicators above.

Finding the problem after it has occurred is not going to be enough. The only way to have a real solution, is to stop the problem before it reaches a critical mass and becomes embedded in the culture.

Like a video game with flaw or loophole: If you detect it before you launch the game then it is classified as an error; if you detect it after you launch the game it is classified as a feature.

Tony DePrato