Am I Too Old or is This Actually Better

In 2001 I was at a conference. One of the presenters showed both Apple and Microsoft operating systems on his screen. He said, and I am paraphrasing from memory, “Apple stole their OS from Xerox. Microsoft stole their OS from Apple. What if Xerox got it wrong?” I was very thought provoking. I flashed back to all the science-fiction I had seen and read. I realized in everyones view of the future, the mouse just wasn’t really part of the equation.

It is now 2014, and I have to say, I think OS’s are worse than they use to be. At work I use Apple and Windows. At home I am devoted Linux User. I often switch versions when one takes bad turn. I work in the terminal often. I prefer to do updates, configuration, etc. via the command line or through text files. I like to see the errors, and I like to know that I can force remove problems and reset things.

In 2002 I had a big Apple tower running OS X server. It was about 1000 USD for the license. The server software was great though. Last month I bought OS X server for Mavericks. It is horrible. It doesn’t do very much at all, and what it does, it does badly.
Why is a company which is producing a massive number of clients, killing the services we all need to really make them work seamlessly?

I use cron jobs all the time on Linux. Cron jobs let you run programs on a schedule. Normally I use them to make little utility programs. Apple used to have a normal cron setup, now, it is bloated and strange. Almost as if, they are discouraging people from using cron.

Windows 2000 and later versions of Windows NT were good operating systems. I did thousands of hours of video editing and compositing on a dual pentium 3 windows NT machine. It was far more efficient and reliable that any current Dell or Lenovo desktop running in my school. How is that possible?

I realize that with mobile markets growing, things have to change for mobile devices. However, laptops and desktops are not mobile devices. Being portable should not impact the operating system standards. The use or potential use of the machine should dictate the operating system scope.

I worry about students depending so much on following pre-defined gestures and patterns. Students love using iPads, as I have stated before, this is a good way to engage them. At what point should we be concerned that students often choose a path that works on the iPad but is actually poor practice rendering bad results?

Recently I have been working with one of the biggest school management systems in use today in K-12 education. My school is going through the initial implementation. I have stopped trying to go through the hundreds of screens and slow web-forms. I immediately realized that if I wanted to get work done, and do it quickly, I needed direct database access. The best part about this, the direct database access is not even part of the menu. You have to know a secret URL to pull up the interface.

Doesn’t this means that the creators of this system have hidden the most powerful feature because they do not believe people can learn use to use a database properly? Should we be promoting a culture of dumbing-down systems or should we be prompting the training and development of competent users?

My final thought on this concerns the term hacking, which is changing for the worseStudents are very curious. Many go through a phase of experimenting with school laptops or their own laptops. They attempt to use command line, or various other non-traditional pieces of software (many hidden but already inside the OS). This leads them to detect certain features of the OS that are not secure. From there they often branch out and find security issues on the network. Often these issues are on printers and other devices that were never secure. Lately, people have termed this hacking, after a student has reported what they found. Is it hacking? Or is it learning?  What is this teaching them?

Maybe I am too old to appreciate all the swiping and tapping. But, I do think being able to control my system is actually important. I like being able to work quickly and not waiting on screens to change. I feel empowered knowing I can sit down and do something new, without a visual guide to help me. I also believe that these are the topics we stress to students all the time in virtually every subject taught. Why are we [educators] not talking about changing the way technology comes together to improve learning first and access to materials and media later? Why are we choosing technology based on ease of this or that, instead of its potential to improve a student’s ability to master their environment and customize their experience?

Do you believe in the no-win scenario? Do you believe the box when it says “NO. YOU CAN’T?”

Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
Saavik: What?
David Marcus: He cheated.
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test; got a commendation for original thinking. I don’t like to lose. ~ The Wrath of Khan

1D0n7 :).

Tony DePrato

Please Don’t Call Me!

Dont call me for a quote or demo…just gimme instant downloadable trials!

I don’t post much here on ITBabble and Patrick rightfully makes fun of my anemic post count. So, what better way than to jump in again with a rant.

When evaluating tools, Patrick and I often at the complexity of getting started. Is there a complicated or confusing sign up process? Is there something you have to download? Do they make it easy? Is there a sensible and easy to understand pricing structure? All these are important considerations.

Today I wanted to evaluated Matlabs from Mathworks for possible use in our school’s robotics program. I wanted to download a trial, plug in my NXT Brick (the robot’s main device) and start playing around with it. I knew I would have to spend some time going through the manuals and tutorials but was ready to get started. Continue reading “Please Don’t Call Me!”

Podcast Episode 27 – March 28, 2012

Man, it is a great podast even though we are down Tony this week (he’s out watching the Hunger Games). Omar and I though are super excited because it is the Final Four weekend, we’re on Spring Break and . . . we have officialy unveiled out one-to-one program at our school, so that’s what is we are talking about. We also mention the Flutter video (the new Twitter). You can view it here.

We would also love it if you subscribed our podcast on iTunes. You can click here to find it.

1) We are going 1:1 but why now?

2) BYOD vs school provided devices

3) Reasons why 1:1 can fail

4) What we are doing to help it succeed

5) PD what will this look at our school

6) What will IT classes look like after the roll out?

7) iPhone app of the week – Graphs

You can also listen to our podcast right here.

Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?

So we chatted about educational games in our latest podcast, more specifically DimensionU. I’m working on a longer post about educational games but in the meantime, I found an awesome video that exemplifies gamification.

Click on the break and watch the video. Did they accomplish their goal? What effects did the “game” have? Continue reading “Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?”

Dad Shoots Daughters Laptop Over Facebook Comments

The headline,”Dad Shoots Daughter’s Laptop…” seems sensational but it is very true. It is referring to a viral video on YouTube where a gun totting, good old boy with an IT background finds a post by his daughter on Facebook despite her attempts to block her parents. The comments were, well, quite immature, bratty and disrespectful.

Here is how it played out:

  1. Daughter posts nasty “open letter” to her parents but blocks them
  2. Dad, an IT guy, gets past block and finds letter
  3. Dad reads post on camera and proceeds to respond to it
  4. Dad executes daughter’s laptop, wild west style with his 45mm
  5. Dad goes so far as to explain what bullets he is using and bills his daughter for them

I can understand how a father would be frustrated in a situation like that. But the headline should really read…

How we as parents imagine handling situations but think better of it!

Kids will be kids. If this girl did not have Facebook, she would have ranted and raved the same way to her friends at a sleep over or at the cafeteria. But venting to friends does not have a “paper trail” that the Internet is so good and keeping.

How many of our kids went off on us without us knowing when they got frustrated about chores or were simply having a bad day; or felt pressured to join the conversation?

But with the Internet comes a whole new level of “digital citizenship” that most of us are not prepared for, both kids and adults.

The daughter aired out her dirty laundry for all to see. Her dad caught her and did the exact same thing but took it too far. This father has obviously written his child off and probably does not care about the ramifications of this video. He posted it with intent. he posted it on her Facebook wall for her and her friends to see.

The dad has also now propelled himself into Internet infamy by doing what he did. His present or future employers may not be fans of his actions (vengeful, violent and more). Will he do the same in the workplace? Will he air out his dirty laundry if he finds runs across a colleagues email venting about the IT guy? It’s all kinds of bad.

Sure we think it…”Man I would love to smash her laptop on camera and show her!” But most of us take the high road. And I’m sorry, despite the bratty and spoiled comments of his daughter, she will remain his daughter. She is 15…not 18. It is his responsibility to teach her and guide her and be there for her.

Yes it is very painful to hear those words coming from your own child and worse yet to know that they were “semi-public”. But we as adults need to take the high road. Not to mention he wasted a perfectly good laptop that he invested money in.

Post a well crafted response to his daughter on her Facebook wall, letting her know how disappointed he is in her actions. He can post a link to the ebay page (a private auction) that will allow her to buy back her laptop. The money can then be donated to a charity.

Or, post your comments to your daughter and post a link to the charity that you will donate her laptop to but that she has the chance to raise money for the charity and that if she matches the cost of the laptop in donations, she will get her laptop back.

Podcast Episode 20 – February 8, 2012

What can I say, we’re a little tired this night, but that doesn’t stop Omar and I from turning out another quality podcast. Remember leaving comments will help us make our podcasts in the future even better.

1) Tony’s post about Setting Goals Without Making Loopholes

2) Omar’s post Distracting Gadgets in the Classroom

3) iPhone app of the week (

4) review

5) BYOD (bring your own device) the pros and cons (an article I saw in learning & leading with technology)

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and if you can’t wait, then listen to it below.

Distracting Gadgets in the Classroom

Facebook fans following friends forfeit focus

Top that one people!
This article ends in a poll…read through or skip to the end to partake…

In a recent article in the Economist  about “Radio Silence” talks of the controversy brought about by a Yale professor’s decision to hold his lecture in a “dead spot”.

Nemerov, a art history professor was in search of a darker venue to project the works he would be lecturing about. He found a space that was not ideal in terms of lighting and seating capacity – yet he jumped all over it when he found that it had no wi-fi and cell phone signals were very weak to none in there. He chose this venue, despite excluding around 200 students (it seats 270 and avg attendance used toe in the 400+ range), because he felt it would provide less distractions for students.

Of course, the tech pundits jumped all over this attacking for being “old school” and thinking that a 60 minute lecture is any way to conduct a class. Some said that people who were distracted with Facebook were the same people who would be doodling or talking to friends or passing notes.

I totally disagree. I don’t have any scientific proof, but a laptop or device with connectivity is much more distracting than an empty page on your notebook. Further to that point, you can doodle while listening. You cannot update your status and check your wall while paying attention to a lecture.

The critics of his decision also state that there should not be a lecture conducted in the manner that he does and that his lectures should be online with open discussions. Some went as far as to say that if his lecture cannot captivate his audience then no amount of tricks will help.

As a high school teacher, and a tech teacher for that matter, I am very concerned with how distracting devices can be. When I walk around my lab I often catch kids trying to SMS or BBM their friends. Those working at a computer may look like they are working but in fact they are playing chess, checking scores, or youtube. They have learnt the shortcut keys to minimize their windows and I often hear furious clicking at the last second as I pass by someone I suspect to be distracted.

A notebook and book cannot provide the same amount of distraction. How many kids have you caught flipping to the next chapter to read what Napoleon is up to? What was his status? We would award that kid medals for reading ahead….”Good job buddy! I’m glad you are taking an interest in this unit”

Is there a middle ground? A proper use of technology in the classroom that is limited to what we want them to see and do? Yes. There’s gotta be an app for that 🙂 With Apple’s new digital text book move, I can see this as being a very good middle ground. An iPad with textbooks and organizational tools but no games or social networking and you now have the best of both worlds!

So I would like to know whether you feel laptops and mobile devices are more or less of a distraction in class and whether you feel students at the high school level can control their impulse to check FB status and more…