Stopping Entitlement & The Arbitrary Security


This is one of those posts that I may regret writing in a few months. It is more of a plan than a post, and a plan I intend to sell with significant confidence.

Starting in the fall, when students roll out of the bus and into the boarding school I work for, they are going to find that technology is simply not available (unless they are in the IB program which will be less than 80 students).

Students in years 6-10 are going to have to wait and to earn their technology. For some, for a few weeks, they will be taken back to into the past, where “always on” was only in science fiction movies, and only Michael Knight could use a smart watch.

Here is the plan to stop the initial entitlement of technology and access to the internet:

Years 9-10, and the IGCSE Program

These students are in a BYOD program. They will not have their devices activated on the network for at least two full weeks. During this time they have to settle into the board school routine. Their network activation and device privileges will be based on reports from their house masters, their joining of at least one sport and one club, and their completing of a one hour seminar on digital citizenship. During the seminar the AUP will be fully reviewed and signed by all of them.

Once all these steps are completed, they will have a weekend to activate their email, join the school LMS, post a reply confirming they are connected, use their cloud and share a file, and finally access a flipped classroom lesson set.

Unless all these steps are completed, week three will be technology free for them; but teachers will be allowed to start requiring technology. Weeks one and two are designated as technology free in all lessons, however, once week three begins some work will require the use of a laptop.

Years 6-7-8, Custom Bilingual Curriculum

Year 6-7 use school own devices. Year 8 is on BYOD, but their laptops are not allowed to be stored in their rooms. This is the introductory point to the BYOD program.

These students will not have their one-to-one devices for 4 weeks. I know, how can they live? How can they be people? How can they traverse the world without mindless games and WeChat?

These students will have to achieve points to get their devices. The campus will turn into one massive game board. Points can be earned by helping people, earning effort grades by the end of week 4, and completing a series tasks. This group also has to join a sport and club, have good dorm behaviour, attend a workshop to review the AUP, and eventually activate their email, cloud storage, etc.

Because the Year 6 students do use iPads, an additional task will face them during their first week of having the device. They will need to demonstrate competence in the APP CYCLE. That is what I call the insane series of apps needed to complete mundane tasks.

I am not pro-iPad, but I am working with a pro-iPad group so I have to make sure the devices are as effective as possible, yet, I like mocking them whenever possible :).

That summarises the removal of the device entitlement, the next part of this plan is eliminating arbitrary security. In a school tightly managing devices and internet access normally results in students waiting to get home to work on their own equipment.

In a boarding school there is no home to run to for technology freedom. Since the students need to feel at home, locking them down like a Denver Boot is not fair and does not help them develop responsible technology habits.

The plan is fairly straight forward. Students in years 8-11, who come out of week two with shining reviews from their house masters, will only be restricted via out network policies. Students who have poor reviews will have their BYOD machines bound to our hardware management system (this includes a firmware lock and removal of all boot options). This binding will be review at the beginning of semester 2, and if the student is doing well, the binding will be removed.

By all current estimates, this will be about 30-40 students by the end of the second month of school. That leaves around 320-330 students free to work and manage their own technology. This will not increase our staffing requirements, nor will it affect our budget.

This plan only impacts students who are negatively impacting their whole community. Students who are working in class, staying within normal teenage boundaries in the residences, and who are participating in the community will have freedom to be on their devices and use all the other technology resources the school offers.

As the new year approaches, the IT department is acquiring new devices which connect to laptops. These devices, all of them, require administrative rights to use. Without a BYOD program in place, we would not be able to effectively connect all the students to these resources without adding more people to the staff headcount. I prefer to spend money on resources, than security, whenever possible.

If anyone is interested in running a program like this, please comment. I need ideas for the year 6-8 group. I really want to build a game like atmosphere that has multiple paths to success. I would love it if a student could earn their device in a week instead of four weeks by beating the system.

Tony DePrato


The Devil’s Advocate Part 2: Tech Integration Should Stop

Please note: These “Devil’s Advocate” posts are not my views or daily practice. However, as an exercise I think we all need to slow down and ask ourselves if we are doing the correct things in the correct ways. In order to do this, we need to take another position and argue against our practice. I am good at fighting with myself, so I hope my intent helps anyone in a technology or educational leadership role do the same.


The fact is that we need to start building IT spaces again. Maybe not labs, but spaces. The concept of sending someone into a classroom to “support” thirty students while they are suppose to be studying is flawed. The idea that some 20-30 minute activity during English class some how expand their minds and technology skills is horribly flawed. There was a time when students went to space that we designed for them to focus and do some real work. A space designed for projects that took time and planning. A space that may have had rules and controls to force them to work within a framework, as most people do in their day-to-day life.

Now, we have only the chaos of tables and laptops with small amounts of technology being infused to achieve Wikipedia searching and interactions with low-powered online or iPad apps. A movie a student can make on an iPad in English class, is not even in the same pedagogical realm as a movie that can produced on a specialised workstation.



The ability to build and tell a story with video should take a student weeks, not 45-60 minutes. Real stories are complex and require serious time commitments. Having students do everything on a Twitter-like scale is not going to produce any deep learning.

Robotics and engineering work best in spaces that are purpose built for them. Additional materials make these activities powerful. Materials require storage and management, and cannot be floating around on a campus. Projects within the discipline of engineering again take weeks to complete. They require students to put order to chaos, and they cannot be completed with an iPad or any equipment that is fragile. Computers controlling equipment need to be configured properly and should be standardised. Calibration is essential, and if students use their laptops, then every day they will need to re-adjust or re-calibrate. Instead of walking into a space and working, they will waste 10-20 minutes just getting setup.

Writing is another area where technology integration and push-in programs of all kinds have failed. Students do not need to type in school. Yes, they need to submit digital copies of work and it must be typed. However, since 90% of their third party external exams (IB, AP, SAT, etc.) are all hand written, they should be constantly writing by hand. Until the third party external exams change, schools need to prepare students to manage the given format.

Software licensing is still designed for school own spaces. Companies prefer to be able to audit specific devices in specific locations. Once a student takes a laptop home, regardless of the laptop program model, they have the opportunity to pirate software. Why take the risk? Do they really need to be using Photoshop at home? Probably not. They need to be focusing on the endless projects requiring typing and primitive online research. This is something students can accomplish with fairly low-end equipment. If they need to do a special project with media, they can work late at school.

It is time to just acknowledge that the model everyone believes in is flawed. Teachers and administrators secretly want to voice this as their opinion. Students are wasting time on small projects that have little to no scale. Students are not truly given the time and resources to master anything complex. Let’s change the model. Let’s look to the past. Let’s start making spaces and stop trying to turn every room into technology hub.

Tony DePrato

Homework in a 1:1 Classroom – It is Time to Re-Define The Terms

curvilinear relationship
Curvilinear Relationship

This is a graph that means something very odd. This is a graph many research get when they study homework. What this graph means is this: Doing some homework is better than doing none at all, but doing larger amounts of homework is actually less beneficial than doing smaller amounts of homework.

Does this mean anything about homework? No. Not really. What it means is the way we approach and study the topic, apparently since the late 1880s, is flawed. I suggest starting over, and in 2014 starting over can be easier than in 1914 because many educators are lucky enough to work in 1:1 programs. These programs allow schools to redefine the keyword in the compound word homework- WORK.

I have been asked to be on a panel about 1:1 programs and homework and to make a presentation on the topic. As someone who always assumes what I know is flawed or outdated, I re-read some homework research. I re-read some Roger Schank who I feel is usually ignored by K-12 educators but is in fact one of the worlds best experts on human learning. I looked passed the politics and the concept that in many cases homework is babysitting and a tool for punishment.

In conclusion, I have decided that when working with children above year 7 in a 1:1 school, schools need to stop saying this is your homework, and start saying this is THE WORK.


When students begin a course of study they need to know what is expected. The first 1-2 weeks should be spent explaining and exemplifying where they need to be by the end of the course and why they need to be there. This should be broken down into the estimated number of hours the average student needs, and the resources and skills required, to complete the course.

In addition students should understand the payoff. Is the course designed to simply level them up? It is designed to prepare them from some third party assessment? Is the outcome actually meaningless for academic purposes, but meaningful for other reasons?

This is the work. This is what they need to understand.

Hours of time to complete something are finite. Students can understand that. If they are not reaching a certain goal in a certain amount of time then they will know they need help or they need to study more. Adolescent children lose track of time all the time. They also lose track of value, money, and many personal possessions. Giving them some metric they already understand to help maintain their space in a course, is a good idea.

This only works though if the teachers understand the work. I firmly believe many teachers assign work that they feel should take an hour, but actually takes much longer. I do not believe most teachers simulate the work to make sure their plans and expectations are aligned with reality.

The Work in a 1:1 Environment

If the course and course work has been defined, then leveraging the 1:1 environment is the next step. Weather flipping-out a classroom with media or simply organising all the materials for digital distribution, the next step is to give the students everything. A friend of mine use to call this giving them “the brick”.

Every student should have everything the teacher has. This includes but is not limited to old exams, samples of work, teaching notes, links and resources, search terms for databases, etc. Anything that is not illegal to share with students, should be shared, in mass, and immediately.

This immediately makes the 1:1 program a real resource. It allows students to have immediate access to information and new opportunities for learning. This process eliminates the ubiquitous and time wasting “Googling” students get lost in, which I find to be a core waste of classroom time.

The teacher must be able to initially help students organise material, or come-up with strategies for organising the material. The teacher also needs to review the skills needed to use the material. However, shouldn’t they be doing that anyway? Instead of doing it in small pieces, the tools and skills are given up-front.

Day-to-day there are topics that have to be covered. At the end of a 2-3 day cycle teachers should be aware of how much class-time has been used effectively. If class-time has not been sufficient, then students immediately can be prompted to do the work on their own until they are at, or close to, where they should be in the course.

The Work Outside the Classroom

If students are aware they are behind, especially as a class, then teachers can easily assign tasks to them to keep them moving on their own time. Because students have the materials and resources at the ready, teachers merely need to have a strong grasp of the time needed to cover material and master skills.

Asking students to “read for the next class”, is not going to influence them to actually read and pay attention. However, looking at 30 students, dividing them into groups of 5, and dividing the reading by 5, means five groups get to make 5 discussions and lead the learning. The assessment for something like this would be in realtime, done in the classroom, and can easily be explained to the students.

This technique can literally be used all the time with reading. Students can team up, open their materials, and start working. They can work in groups at school, online from home, or asynchronously in numerous ways. They all have equal access to resources and communication. Communication strategies for this type of work can be suggested or modes of communications can be strict and monitored. The options are there, and the problems are easy to resolve.

When students need to do key assessments such as mid-terms, final exams, mock exams, etc., reviewing in class will often lead them to believe that the content in class, is the content on the exam. Working outside the classroom and using the material they have and tools for group work, they should be able to collectively create exam-like questions, and answer them. The teacher can provide oversight and correction during class-time.

I use these two examples as they seem to be the most common types of activity that teachers and students engage in- reading, discussing, preparing, and assessing.

Everyone always likes to throw this around as a great educational theory~ Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.

If I had a dollar everytime I heard someone say “UBD”, I would have a bunch of dollars. Like many things though, schools and teachers tend forget this little gem by Wiggins and McTighe~ THE SIX FACETS OF UNDERSTANDING . In summary those are:

  • Explanation
  • Interpretation
  • Application
  • Perspective
  • Empathy
  • Self-Knowledge

Just to be clear, this means when students are working and learning, they need to be able to explain, interpret, and apply information and skills. They also need to be able to see around the concepts, find errors, explain the errors, and understand other points of view.

Applying a traditional model of studying for tests by doing homework, does not meet this standard. Students should spiral through explanation to self-knowledge often. They may never achieve self-knowledge, but they need to always be heading there.

Following the path of homework to test, is a circle, and those who master the circle, can master the appearance of achievement. UBD does not seem to be possible without including the six facets. Yet, they are often ignored.

In a 1:1 program the students should be able to use their own time for the initial exposure to new material, skills, and ideas. They should be able to use the class-time to engage with the teacher. The teacher can use the class-time to push the students further into the spiral of learning, and use the out of school time to move from regurgitation of content to actually creating something or proposing something new.

Walking The Path vs Jargon

A few days ago a friend of mine when to a job interview. When it was done he said, “I am not sure what they are doing at the school, but they use alot of jargon and buzzwords.”

Much of what has been written could be construed as a rant, a theory, or an untested philosophy. I would like to admit to teaching and running my classes in the manner listed in this post since 2005.

I worked like this, because it is how I would want to work. I always resented not being able to know what I was going to do next in school. Sometimes, playing the numbers, I knew I could slack off during a semester if I only knew what was coming and when. In high school I was very busy with more than school. In university, even more so. I wanted to do things, and sometimes I just could not do my homework. Sometimes, somethings, were bigger than homework.

Even with year 5 students in robotics I would post videos showing what the next robot could look like, and more importantly, what it could do. I would post pictures of robots and the homework was for the year 5 students to go home and find problems with those designs.

Even with adults doing professional development I use these techniques. I send people required to do PD after work information and tasks. If they get those finished, they can go home. If they have more questions, I speak to them during the event while others are doing things for the first time. Every teacher has a laptop so I expect them to be able to use it for learning not just showing presentations.

Do The Research

I encourage everyone to spend a few hours, yes hours this is not Twitter, to read the following resources. This is important, because after doing the research it will be difficult NOT to agree with me. 🙂

Flipped-Classroom by Cara Marlowe 



Does Homework Matter by Alfie Kohn


Classrooms are a Terrible Idea and Trial-and-Error by Roger Schank




Tony DePrato

Replying to the Replies of “Don’t Ban Laptops in the Classroom”

Don’t Ban Laptops in the Classroom, is an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education. I read it. It was pretty good. However, the comments were so outstanding, I had to write a my own comment, and that comment was so long- it became a post.

The bad part about this IT BABBLE post is that you need to:

  1. Read the article. It is short and sweet, but read it first.
  2. Scan the comments and read a few. You will find a TREND among them.
  3. Finally, read my comments, located below.

To entice you here are a few gems written by university professor types:

I don’t ban them because students distract themselves—I ban them because students who use them to distract themselves distract others who already have the self-discipline not to distract themselves.

Being in class is not the same as being at home. Why would you expect your professor or your boss or your colleagues to enable you to maintain the exact same cocoon that you enjoy at home? You don’t dress the same, you don’t speak the same, you don’t pay attention to the same things in these different settings. Should a life guard be allowed to zone out while he/she struggles with building will power? No? Well, that’s an example of a setting with clear expectations for your attention as a pre-requisite to inclusion. Every social setting outside your dorm room has them. Grow up.

Good notes include connector arrows, spatial arrangements, diagrams, and even doodles to help retain semi-consciousness and semi-focus while waiting for significant inputs. Those who just type words are at a severe disadvantage

My Comment to the Commenters

This “study” –…

Does not prove nor indicate anything. I hope no one reading this sees the experiment as valid, or even reasonable. The study has an invalid design, and the sample is equal to a cola taste test at a local WalMart.

I have been working in international schools where kids are doing IBO courses. Every IBO school producing students with high scores and top university placement, is a laptop school. (At least the 75 or so schools I have been in contact with.)

In fact, before I was working in administration, I was teaching 150 students a year. My students would not be able to parse the amount of information required by the IBO without a laptop, or regular computer access.

Students still takes notes, but they take them anyway they want. In fact, students between 16-18 seem to know what methods of note taking work well for them, and as a teacher/administrator, I monitor their note taking and make suggestions until a method that suits them is found.

I have had students who did everything by drawing. Others used programs that were designed to focus note taking by locking all the windows and applications away until a password was entered.

Many use services like Google Docs and do comparative note taking and group note taking with friends.

Every subject the students have to complete requires an immense amount of file and data management.

Math, Science, Art, Computer Science, and Music all have multiple software packages required to complete the curriculum.

Over an 8 year period, I have had many students come to visit or write from university. Universities in Canada, the USA, the UK, Asia, Australia, etc. Most would say they found the transition into university life, and the pace required, on par with their senior year in high school.

The main issue I have with the comments in this post, is that I have helped plan and prepare educational technology programs for the last 8 years. I have designed programs that have required technology for 1000s of students. These students are now headed to university, and apparently, they need to learn to slow down and close their laptops.

Some curriculum topics do not require technology. However, many do, and if you are requiring students to write, I can only assume they are sometimes submitting work electronically. If they are using software to make final content, then they should have the ability to use software to make drafts and notes.

In this article, “Laptop use lowers student grades, experiment shows”, the description under the photo reads, “Laptops are now commonplace in classrooms, and its not unusual for students to be on social networks, playing games or watching movies during class. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)” .

I hope everyone realizes that as a school, it is not impossible to manage security and control things like social networks, movies, and games. Most school’s, including universities, simply work on a very old IT management model that does not allow the network to have flexible ways to manage the needs of various groups of people.

Usually, a school has most of the hardware and software it needs to implement what is required to stop entertainment and social networks. However, it only works if you plan and think like a school, and avoid planning and thinking like a company.

I challenge anyone who really believes that the core problem is technology to take real steps to prove it. I firmly believe the problem is in the curriculum, the lesson delivery, and the lack of adjusting to students as they change.

If proof is required, then this is what must be done. Forget about laptops. Turn off the Wifi. Turn off the internet access for students during lecture times and normal study times. Prove that success is possible with notes, text books, library resources, and all the things that were used to design the curriculum delivery. This includes no internet for teachers as well. Prove that the organisation can teach and learn with the knowledge and skills they possess, and the static resources they own.

As for myself, I know I can do it. Living in working in places that lack infrastructure force one to learn to construct a curriculum to meet the demands and limitations created by the situation.

If you take the challenge do it long enough for the students to take a 3rd party assessment of some type, and compare it to a school or group who has not taken the challenge. If you believe prove it. I think if technology is damaging students, the argument should be settled.

 Tony DePrato


Animal House 1978

This week I had an interesting experience. I received and email that was vague, but critical, about a project I had been working on.

Like anyone, I hate having to mull over everything I have done wrong. I do make it a point to spend the last few hours of work at the end of each week doing just that. To facilitate the reflection, I do inventory or something very mechanical while I think.

In this case though, I was confused about the comments. The reason being- the project was finished in October 2012.

I myself have to constantly follow-up on numerous projects. Almost everything I do is in the public view. This is one reason I document everything, write reports, and update the school’s IT Policy and Procedures Manual every 3-4 months. If I cannot deliver a criticism to someone within a short time after a project is finished, I just move on. The time between projects is short, so I never want to carry the negative energy from one project into another.

If I have been working with someone, and they seem to constantly repeat mistakes, I make a point to be prepared for that behavior, and deal with it while things are fluid and in progress.

As annoyed as I was, I had to admit that there was a problem. I was not sure what the problem really was, because the comments I received were very vague. I was not sure if the issues were from something else that had triggered some negative memories from October, or if, the concern arose since were approaching planning for the next year.

I dug into my Google Apps and found the IT report I wrote in November of 2012. This was a report to show the current state of IT after switching to BYOD and to Apple in the secondary division. Both projects, very huge, and they occurred concurrently.

The report clearly shows that I had summarized, with data and comments, where the school “was” after the two implementations.  The person who contacted me about the October 2012 issues, was the person I wrote this report for, and met with, in November.

I feel now that I may have been on Double Secret Probation for most of the year. What I mean by that, is, obviously for a very long time there have been concerns with the way I managed these two large implementations.  These concerns, were not voiced all year. I feel like they were not voiced because everyone was busy, and things were actually working fine when the implementation was finished.

I knew, at the time, the level of stress was high. I predicted a six month period of issues and adjustments with these two big implementations. The fact is though, we only suffered a three month adjustment period. The staff and students were amazing and adaptive. I assumed, which one should never do, that the stress among the school’s leadership team would be reduced after the staff and students had settled in. I was wrong.

I should have had more contact time with those who felt the most concerned about the projects, if they had failed.

As I have said, most of the things I do are in the face of the community, but I am not the face of community. It is easy to forget the people who are trusting the technology plan are also the people who have to be accountable for it. It was, and will always be, a mistake to not provide extra time for those whose support is the fuel for change. A lesson to not be forgotten- at least for me.

At the same time though, feedback has to come quickly to people who are working on projects. Projects require planning, budgeting, and are often connected. By not being up front, and even confrontational, about problems, the community can suffer. Mistakes can build up, and a bad project, following a bad project will lead to an exponential growth in problems.

At this stage, I am hoping last year’s data will help eliminate the stress, and get to the heart of the issues. I know one thing, I want to be off of Double Secret Probation as soon as possible.

Tony DePrato

Recording Your Grading Process

Accuse me of milking the flipped classroom post and Scott Meech’s lengthy comment and I would say – damn skippy!

But cute cows are not the focus of this post. The focus is technology in the classroom! More specifically, screen-casting (recording) your grading process for students to watch at their leisure.

This is a very interesting concept. Teacher has a set of essays. Sits down at their desk that is rigged with a camera pointing at the papers. The teachers starts grading as they normally would, but with the additional ability to sound out their thoughts for the student benefit. Comments that would normally be said under ones breath can now be vocalized and recorded.

“Woah, that sentence runs on for a while!” or “I’m having a really hard time following the train of thought here…you may need to reorganize your essay by…” or “Sandy, next time try avoiding SMS language such as lol, brb, and others”

This is really cool. The teacher is combing the grading process and the elaboration into one. This saves time theoretically since teachers have provided verbal feedback in the screen-cast

Here are the pros and some of the cons:

  • students gets corrections and teacher’s train of thought at the same time
  • saves time as it requires fewer conferences about the assignment
  • makes the grading process transparent
  • helps students understand how a teacher grades


  • requires a permanent set-up restricting the teacher to one grading area
  • requires additional equipment in the form of a decent webcam that would be good enough to show the corrections clearly
  • puts added stress on the process as teacher is always “live”… sure things can be edited later
  • how many kids would take the time to watch a 15 minute video of their essay being graded and discussed? in face-to-face meetings, they at least have to listen
  • 60-100 videos to upload to a server depending in how many students you have
  • a system needs to be in place to secure the graded works for the privacy of the students

Although I love the concept in theory, in practice it is a lot less practical. A good alternative would be to do as one of my colleague’s does – fire up the ol’ laptop and record your voice making comments about the essay/paper/project and upload. The comments are fresh and will come out quick and on point.

What do you think? Chime in and let us know how you feel about recording the grading process?

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??

Advanced Bulletin Communication Display (ABCD)

At school, there was a request that we show more student work. Uhm, ok…I teach tech classes like programming, digital video and digital photo. Operative word being “digital”. The students do their work and upload it to a blog or submit the code. Did they really want me to print out code and post that?

To comply, and to rebel a little, I created my wife created this bulletin board!

It is the envy of the school! (ok, maybe just Patrick) But I did not stop there. No my good people, I did not. I amped it up and posted digital works on an archaic touch screen kiosk that was saved from the scrap heap.

Ok, ours is not that sleek, but it works well.

It started to grow on me and I started to see more and more uses.

But, what was more interesting was how people were drawn to it like a moth to a flame, burnt by desire (sorry for the random Janet Jackson lyrics). Peoples’ arms would go up wondering “What is this?” “What is this for?” “Oh, look its Jonny” The point being, it worked SO much better than any printed work could have

That is not to say printed material doesn’t have its place. It does. But this pulled people in.

It is a touch screen too, albeit an old inaccurate one. In programming, I can have the top game of the quarter placed for people to play on Thursdays (last day of our week).  Video assignments and photos from Digital Photo can play in a loop, and much more.

Go digital, go green!

Now all we have to do is calculate which costs the environment more. Printing a dozen photos or running a kiosk all day. I smell an integration project 🙂

Textbooks of Tomorrow – Infograph

My wife is a librarian and consumes all things published. She reads books and her Kindle library is nothing short of impressive. She reviews books on her very popular blog ( and came across this infograph about where textbooks are heading. Whether you agree or disagree this infograph will definitely give you some food for thought. For the record I agree this is where they’re going, but when and with what device is another story. So check out this very well made infograph from the people at


My lesson plans are on my desk


For about 8 months I’ve been scouring the Internet for a free, easy to use, attractive, and easy to share lesson planning program. It didn’t matter to me if I could download it or use it online. I found only disappointment in my search (cue sappy violins). Then I came across this eHow article by Heidismiles (that’s her eHow username people) about how iCal can be used as a lesson planner. While this is far from perfect, it had more or less what I was looking for and beat the socks off the competition in my opinion. While Heidismiles’s guide is not bad, I felt it lacked some pictures, so I’m going redo it and throw in a video to boot! Read on past the break to see how iCal can be leveraged to help YOU out with your lesson planning.

PS iCal is only on Mac computers and the glorious video is at the bottom of the post

Continue reading “My lesson plans are on my desk”