A Positive Start Matters

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.

What do you need to start the school year?

Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

No, really, what do you need to start the school year?

Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:

  • A roster of students who should be attending
  • A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
  • Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
  • Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
  • Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
  • Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
  • Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
  • If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
  • Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver

Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days

For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.

For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.

High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.

The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress

The Big Bang Implementation Approach  (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.

Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.

Controlling What Students Can Access

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Recently I have been discussing multiple new security measures for academic networks. From these discussions with other schools, engineers, and suppliers, I have created set of goals to help keep the development of network security on track and within budget.

Physical Access

Physical access can be managed without a great deal of expense. The goals to reach for are:

  • We allow only the devices we have confirmed and labeled
  • We can control the number of concurrent devices a user is using on the network
  • We can identify by IP, Serial Number, or MAC Address (or a combination of the three) the owner of a device
  • We can remove a user from network access, and restrict their devices, with minimal effort
  • We have processes and procedures to register devices; users can switch devices through these processes
  • Users can only circumvent the processes by giving their login IDs, passwords, and hardware to another person

These goals do not imply the direct management of equipment; nor do they capture user data. These goals ensure that devices on the network are approved, registered, and can be clearly identified.

Achieving these goals is the first step towards the concept that accessing the network is a privilege not a right. Privileges can be revoked. If revocation is not possible, then the concept/policy cannot be enforced.

 

Read More @ The International Educator

Browse This My Way- Low Tech & Free Browser Standards Implementation

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Without directly managing software on student laptops, sometimes it is frustrating to implement simple standards, such as, which browser should students use.

I decided to take the simplest approach possible and consider users on Apple laptops, Windows, and iOS devices.

A very common technique when designing a website is to detect the browser, and then load a css style sheet or some other pieces of code that is designed to work with the users browser.

Many people do not realize that Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and the versions of those on iOS devices, are different. They have varying standards. When buying services, the service will normally be compliant with the top 3-4 browsers being used. However, when developing internally for multiple browser, as one does for privacy or because they might happen to live in China, is time consuming. Remember, most Ed.Tech people are not full-time developers, regardless of their skills set they simply do not have the time.

The script below is running on the schools Drupal content management system. However, it will work on most content management systems (WordPress, Joomla, etc.). And it can be written in other languages using about the same exact logic.

This script does nothing when the student is using the correct browser. When they use an incorrect browser, it directs them to a page that kindly reminds them which browser they should be using.

The script is easy to beat if someone is determined, but I have found being slightly annoying tends to eventually wear down the majority of users. The goal is to make sure everyone has equal access, and that teachers with a set of instructions can provide some universal support.

The script checks for Chrome and various versions of Internet Explorer, so if you love Firefox you need to adjust it. Here is a list of Browser User Agents to support anyone trying to do this.

I took all this code straight out the PHP API, it is nothing special or clever. However, it is simple and free, and it is just another way to set standards in an open BYOD environment.

Happy Coding!

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 19.33.22

GET THE CODE HERE


Tony DePrato

http://www.tonydeprato.com

http://www.intslead.com/

Stopping Entitlement Part II : The Gaming Matrix for Earning Technology at School

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Not long ago I wrote a post concerning a new plan for managing when and how students access technology. This plan is based-on a boarding school model, where year 6-10 go home on the weekends, while the older students stay for the duration, or until a school holiday. The original article is posted here. The basic premise is that students do not get to use the school network or BYOD until they complete certain tasks. They must earn enough points to gain technology independence outside of ICT class. Without wasting time, here is the scoring plan.

Years 6-9 Scoring Plan

I have made this list compact. There are details for the faculty and staff to explain how the verify something has been done. We have created a “passport” that goes inside each student’s homework diary. I personally think we should track this on a game type platform that shows scores every hour on the TVs around the campus. That is my next mission.

Mandatory for all Students

Points Available 20

  • Review Acceptable Use Policy
  • Activate Email
  • BYOD Device is Labeled
  • BYOD Device Registration Complete
  • No Windows OS on BYOD Device
  • Library Clearance
  • Positive Effort Grade Report with Housemaster Approval (End of Week 2)

Please Note: Students can only get 0 or 20, they cannot simply do a percentage. This is all or nothing.

Community Activities – Three out of Four are Required.

Points Available: 20

  • Join a club.
  • Join a sport.
  • Clean Up the Cafeteria – Team of 4 or more required.
  • Learn the names of All the teachers in your house.

Please Note: Students can only get 0 or 20, they cannot simply do percentage. They actually only have two choices because joining a sport and club are required. However, this incentivises them getting involved and choosing their sports and clubs within the first or second week of school instead of procrastinating.

TechPointMatrix – Students may choose a combination of activities in order to reach the required point total. 

Points Required: 60

Green = 5 Points

Blue = 10 Points

Orange = 20 Points

Red = 40 Points

  • Help a student in class learn something new.
  • Help a student in the dorm.
  • Help a teacher with a lesson.
  • Help a teacher learn a new tech skill with iMovie, Excel, or PowerPoint.
  • Help a teacher with their duty.
  • Submit a new website students can use without VPN.
  • Recommend an App for Year 6 iPad students.
  • Use your Discovery United Streaming account.
  • Recommend free software for students.
  • Teach a teacher a useful Apple laptop shortcut.
  • Write a school song (lyrics only).
  • Be on-time for first period for 10 consecutive school days.
  • Fix something that is broken, for someone else.
  • Show a math teacher how to use the protractor in the Promethean software.
  • Share your iPad screen to your teacher’s laptop using AirServer.
  • Write a poem/haiku and have it placed on the TV system.
  • From the free throw line, hit 5 shots in a row.
  • From the three point line, hit 3 shots in a row.
  • Draw one of your teachers, and convince them to hang it in their classroom.
  • Create a hashtable of comic book information or movie data. All code will be checked for originality.
  • With your Parents, update your emergency contact information on PowerSchool.
  • Help the IT Team do Inventory.
  • Help the PE Department do Inventory.
  • Volunteer in the library for 2 periods.
  • Make a presentation or video on cyber bullying – 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • Make a presentation or video on MLA formatting- 2 minutes or longer.
  • Learn the full name of every person (Student and Teacher) on your floor.
  • Receive a clean dorm room report for 3 consecutive weeks.
  • Draw and decorate the glass outside the fourth floor IT Office.
  • Create a tech support team to help other students.
  • Write a school song (music and lyric). Teams of 2-4 are allowed.
  • Learn the full name of every person (Student and Teacher) in your House. Then demonstrate it to the whole house.
  • Without spending any money, find a better way to recycle PET bottles, and implement it.
  • Without spending any money, start a new sport and get approval from PE to do it during season 2 or 3.
  • Choose an international charity, approved in China, and gain approval for a partnership.

Please keep in mind all of these points need to be completed by a certain time for each grade level. Grade 9 only has about 3-4 weeks. After that, their teachers will actually assign work that requires their BYOD device. I was going to make this a 20 point game, however, I know that students will be clever and find loopholes. I am hoping some year 6 student is able to get all 100 points by the beginning of week 2. It would be great to have some students with their BYOD privileges weeks ahead of their curriculum schedule.

Curriculum Schedule

A timeline has been created based-on various curriculum requirements. Year 6-8 use the Shanghai+ curriculum. The only technology required is delivered in their ICT courses. Everything else is outside of their curriculum. These students will be expected to do additional technology work after week 4.

Year 9 will be expected to be online between weeks 4-5 with their BYOD devices.

The year 10-11 students also have mandatory tasks they must complete. However, they do not have the TechPointMatrix. Their requirements will be achieved during the first 2 weeks of school. Because they are doing IGCSE and IB, we cannot delay access to resources.

The older students have a check list that makes sure their BYOD devices are compliant, their required software is setup, and they have reviewed the acceptable use policy and academic honestly policy with a teacher.

Final Thoughts

This could be a huge waste of time. I can see the end of it though, and I believe it will be a good experience for everyone. I like that it involves the teachers and students in something connected to technology, but the process itself, does not require technology.

The matrix is differentiated enough, and students can get all their points doing the easy 5 point items. Students who have been working on big projects in the past (such as recycling) can start with those and get big points up front.

Game On. 

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com

Stopping Entitlement & The Arbitrary Security

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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
www.tonydeprato.com

 

The Whitelist vs The Blacklist (Not the TV Show) and Your BYOD Implementation

WhitelistVSBlacklist

A whitelist is a a list of users, IP address, etc. that have permission to do something, and a blacklist is just the opposite. For example, organizations routinely blacklist websites that employees should not use.

In a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, schools are often faced with the issue of how much they should or should not manage devices and user access. Due to the cost of many management solution, and the choice of BYOD for the sake of resources and budgets, schools often cannot afford corporate level BYOD security systems.

Many schools choose to use their firewalls, Wifi Controllers, and other core components to create user access lists using MAC addresses, leased IPs, and whitelists/blacklists of users. Most of this work is done manually, so having a good strategy is extremely important for efficiency and human resource management.

The key issue is to decide what your philosophy is. Are you going to punish or are you going to reward? Another way to state that would be, “is good network behavior going to earn a student freedom?”.

I believe if a school chose BYOD, and they did so for reasons other than saving money, the school should adhere to the principles that BYOD supports, such as independence, self -management, and self-reliance. If the school adheres to these positive principles, then the goal should not be to directly manage devices, unless a student violates school policy. The goal would be to use a blacklist system to manage those students who continually fail to manage their devices and fail to behave properly.

Deciding, without cause, to lock down the property someone else owns (even a student) is not a core principle of a good BYOD program. That is a core principle of  program that needs resources and simply does not want to buy them. Locking down systems also means focusing massive amounts manpower into a process that is disconnected from teaching and learning. Anytime people in a school spend most of their time not working toward education, there is going to be an opportunity cost paid by the students.

As technology diversifies, and students are flooded with entertainment and pointless apps, the options for regulation become limited. Access to the Internet at school might be a privilege, but students equipped with small high-speed mobile devices can choose to by-pass a school network in order to achieve whatever goals they have.

Obviously this type of circumvention will disconnect them from their teachers and learning resources. Choosing to whitelist students by directly managing their personal equipment, will spark their urge to deploy their mobile options.

Allowing student freedom, until they push to the bounds of the school’s AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) to far, is normally seen as a reasonable response by most students. The student community as a whole will always want some management and protection from theft, fraud, and other malicious behaviour. Therefore blacklisting students who act maliciously and giving other students as much freedom as possible will strengthen the BYOD community and various initiatives,

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com

Don’t use the  Watch in your classroom

I’m not kidding damn it. Don’t even think about it. If you are, then you need to splash some cold water on your face, shake your head vigorously from side to side or visit your school nurse and breathe in some smelling salts. In other words wake up!

Despite the title, I’m not just talking about the  Watch either. I figured with the big Apple event the other night the title was timely. No, I’m talking about Android Wear or any other smart watch out there as well.

The good news is, I don’t think many of you out there are even foolish enough to consider about incorporating such a device into your classroom – good for you. Now on for the arguments.

Fitness? Give me a break

The most obvious use of smart watches in school is for PE class. Whatever-I’m not against wearables in class. I think using a heart rate monitor in PE class is a valuable, but you can get them far cheaper than the $350 USD the  Watch goes for or the cheaper $200 USD Android wear watches are going for these days.

Also, read the reviews on these watches – they all have accuracy issues. Whether it be heart rate, distance, altimeter, they all seem off by a bit. Why invest all that money in something that is going to return less than precise data?

Even if schools do go for a fitness device, there are plenty out there that are $100 or less.

Charging will be a nightmare

These devices usually have their own proprietary charing cables. Which means if one goes kapoot or ends up missing, you have to order one. You can’t just jog down to your local Wal-Mart and pick one up. This will be leaving you out in the cold for a few days.

Also, the batteries on these devices are not very good. You’ll be charging them … allthetime. This is a pain and one must have constant vigilance with this too. If not you will find yourself needing them and they won’t be ready. Take it from someone who has managed laptop carts.

I can use it as a stopwatch


I won’t even engage in that argument it is so ludicrous. NEXT!

I can control my presentations

OK – how lazy are you? Really? Maybe you’re not lazy, but this is lazy. Just use a wireless mouse, your smartphone or time your presentation. There are plenty of other, more sensible solutions to clicking the spacebar on your computer.

They are sooooo pretty

I will say this – as a device they are fairly attractive and small and I can see kids “accidentally” walking off with them. Ooops! It’ll happen – trust me. It will not matter if your students are rich or poor – someone will get bold and try to steal one. Being small, all it will take is someone with a good plan, a good distraction and some quick hands to walk away with one.

It’s a personal device

With computers and smartphones there are ways you can engage groups of people or quickly share information. Smart watches are not that device – at least not yet. You are extremely limited what you can do and how you can communicate with a group of people. The main audience of a smart watch is the wearer in most cases. Not for a group of people.

My students want to use it as a BYOD


No, no, nononononononon. Two questions for you. Can they type on it, can they render a full webpage on it? Argument over.

Wrapping it up

These devices are pretty impressive and it seems to me that industries are trying their hardest to find the “iPhone for wearables”, but it is very far from being a meaningful device in a classroom. I know there are plenty of you tech lovers out there who are shaking your head as you read this, but all I have to do is ask myself this. How does this help my students learn and is that learning meaningful? If I struggle to find an answer or have to convince myself of that the answer is a good one, then I probably should be looking elsewhere.

Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever.

This post is focused on a post I read on Slashdot. The link and excerpt at below.



Why the New Guy Can’t Code

Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever. Certificates and degrees are not accomplishments; I mean real-world projects with real-world users. There is no excuse for software developers who don’t have a site, app, or service they can point to and say, ‘I did this, all by myself!’ in a world where Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services have free service tiers, and it costs all of $25 to register as an Android developer and publish an app on the Android Market.”


I have always told my students, even as young as Year 9, that they need a portfolio. That they need original work, no matter how lame it may seem. I have always forced students to use legal music, images, etc., if they are working with media. I have pushed them to realize the benefit of being able to say, “I made this. And it might not be great, but it is mine.”

Many times students want to use an established piece of media for their projects, because that piece of media is clean and polished. It makes their work better, or at least makes it feel better to them. I understand that, but in the same way a DJ is not a musician, a student re-mixing someone else’s creation is not really creating.

I personally work with open source resources all the time. I implement solutions developed by others; I re-work them to fit my needs; and I occasionally have the time to take it and make something new, something it was not designed to do. However, I never advertise myself as a programmer, because most of the time I am implementing solutions and not building them from scratch. To a novice, I am creating- but to an expert – I am just a user.

However, I do have things I have made. Things I have created out of need. Whenever I need to reference my programming skill set, these projects are what I use.

I agree with the comment above that there is really no excuse for students not to have the tools they need and the online presence required to share their work. However, the main issue with students, and even with teachers, is that schools still have a culture of “we own it and we let you use it.” This culture has to change. Many schools have started to shift to BYOD but even with the shift many still seem to hesitate. They seem to worry about control.

If control and software management are the primary goals of an educational institution, then they need to review the meaning of the term, education.

Students need to not only create original content, they need to be able to work with it when they want and how they want. They need to be able to move it around, and where ever they go, it needs to go with them in a usable and demonstrable form.

If students are programming, they need full access to the computer they are working on. Running virtual environments and emulating systems within systems is actually very common. Anyone doing web-based programming knows that tools like MAMP and XAMPP are now required to allow students to develop seamlessly without worrying about a live webserver. These tools require full access to the platform in the same way a carpenter requires access to all the tools they need.

Once a student has worked on a few projects offline, they need the real-world experience of uploading this so the world can use it, test it, and criticise it. It is better for them to face harsh comments when their work is nothing more than a hobby or experiment, than when their work is determining their career. The only way to do this is to make it possible for their creation(s) to live out amongst the griefers, haters, and fans.

What is the cost of this access and opportunity? If the student can own it outright, which is ideal, $10-20 USD a year to have their own name and address online and about $50-100 USD a year for them to have access to a server to run whatever they wish.

Google Apps allows people to write code and publish Apps for free, and it is viable. However, I think going all in for an individual Apps for Business Account in the last year of High School helps make the transition from this is what I enjoy to this what I want to do.

When people invest, even a small amount of resources, they tend to own their work and increase their effort. Like BYOD, personal ownership creates a sense of freedom that all people need to truly reach their potential.

For the record- teachers need to BYOD too. This is another discussion, but it is time to acknowledge that professionals in any other field own their tools and invest in their own work. Learning to manage the tools is part of a life long learning process. A process we profess to students, and often as educators, tend not to follow as rigorously as we should.

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com

 

Defining BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Defining BYOD

Everyone always asks me if I have evidence that BYOD is a good model. I used to say, “Not really.” Now, I just ask a few questions in response to that question, such as:

  1. Do you want to trade cars?
  2. Do you want to trade phones?
  3. Do you want my laptop for the day?

No one has ever said YES to any of those questions. The reason being that ownership is an innately powerful concept. If it is yours, you will master it, care for it, and depend on it.  This is one of the main reasons BYOD programs are gaining popularity.

A problem with BYOD is that many schools believe they are heading down a new path, but in reality they are simply putting a different spin on an old paradigm. Instead of me telling you what BYOD is, let me tell you what it is not. If any of these statements are true then the school is not running a BYOD program:

  1. The school owns the laptops or devices and gives them to the students.
  2. The school requires all the students to buy the same laptop.
  3. The school requires all the students to buy the same laptop, and the purchasing is done through the school.
  4. The school allows students to buy anything they want, as long as it has wifi. (Yes they are bringing their own device, but this is equivalent to telling people they can bring buckets of water to a forest fire.)
  5. The school allows students to choose devices in a specific range of quality and performance, but then requires school-owned and-managed security software to run on the machine.

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are 1-to-1 programs, not BYOD programs. 1-to-1 has been around a very long time. It has created many opportunities for many students and such programs level the playing field in terms of educational technology standards on a given campus. However, 1-to-1 does not meet the philosophical and pedagogical standards of a BYOD program. More on that later.

Number 4 is what I have heard many under resourced schools in lower income areas attempt. This is a violation of the number one principle of a BYOD program, which will remain a mystery until the list is thoroughly criticized.

Number 5 is a good start, but then the paranoia slides in. The technology staff or the administrators are only wanting BYOD on the surface, probably to save money. They still will not allow users to have the freedom required for a successful BYOD program.

Enough of the foreshadowing;  let’s get to what BYOD should be about: creating equal opportunities.

The number one rule for starting a BYOD program is not to focus on the money. If the focus is on the school saving money then the program will fail. It will fail because there is only short term monetary gain.

The goal of any BYOD program is to make sure all students have equal access to the resources owned by the school, can create the content required by the curriculum on and off campus, and have the freedom to switch between life at school and life outside of school.

That is all there is to it. You should feel good now, because you should have felt the power of something simple.

Anyone who truly wants to serve the needs of students cannot deny that those principles should be at the center of every part of the educational experience. Unfortunately, they are often overshadowed by politics, greed, or laziness.

If you really want a BYOD program to work, it must work on the merits of opportunity, work ethic, and freedom.

Tony DePrato

tonydeprato.com

Single Missions vs Swarm Logic

Single Missions vs Swarm Logic
from “The BYOD Playbook” , available soon on the Kindle and iTunes stores

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In 1973 the Hughes Glomar Explorer was secretly commissioned to do one thing- raise a sunken Soviet submarine from 17,000 feet of water. The project was so amazing that if you watch a documentary about it, you would think it was the plot for a science fiction movie. I often wonder sometimes if we still have the type of people who can solve such problems. People who can do the impossible, without anything that currently exists or is known to solve the problem.

One fact I kept taking from the story was that the directive and specifics of the mission were only communicated verbally to a small group of people. They were as follows:

  1. You have to raise a Soviet submarine from around17,000 feet of water, or at least most of it.
  2. You have to keep it inside the ship afterwards so it can be studied.
  3. You have to do it in 41 months and no one can know.

And they did it. They built one of the most advanced machines humanity has ever conceived and under constant surveillance by the Soviets they raised about 50% of the submarine into the ship.

In the past everything was all about ONE BIG THING.  Even in education the focus was on doing one big thing like state test scores, putting one computer in every classroom, making sure every school had cable television, etc. One big push, and one big initiative.

Now, in 2013, we are in the era of swarm logic. Normally this is applied to the behavior of animals or to computer systems working together. The pop-culture media term for a type of common swarm logic is “crowdsourcing”. This is where a group of people, who usually do not know one another, contribute data to create some outcome.

For example, a blog site might have an app that lets people at a concert upload all their photos. Then in the background, some software organizes these photos chronologically to tell the story of the concert. The next step is this story gets connected to a social network and the people in the pictures start getting tagged by another swarm of people looking at the images.

This is the new way of creating and working. It is not about a few people with 300 million dollars of capital building a machine with tools that no other group has access to. It is about 300 million people with 100 dollars each creating something that is organic and owned by no one. Yet, this creation can be profitable to different people in different ways.

This model is already in the foundation of all the new communication tools available to students today. Tools often seen as not commercially viable, such as Google Apps for Education. Somehow these types of services have grown to accommodate 10s of millions of users. Users that are producing content faster than any other time in the history of mankind.  Not commercially viable? Naysayers, are you joking?

Swarm logic is powerful because it is never off, it always on. It is always at the fingertips of the individuals in the swarm. The future places power in the data the swarm contributes, and then the results of that data will be carried out autonomously by software and hardware. Am I crazy? No. This is already being done in mass transit, metro security camera systems, weather detection systems, etc.

If we want students to be ready for the future they need to be able to contribute, filter, and manipulate data. This process begins with them in a BYOD program. I had a parent say to me, “I hate computers.” I thought about it for a moment, and replied, “Yes but your child doesn’t, and this is their education we are talking about. Their opportunity.”

Personally I feel students are not born to use technology just because they are born at a certain time. They need education and training. They need to learn how to apply successful non-computer based paradigms to a world filled with devices.

Most importantly, in case their world faces an impossible problem, we need to make sure they have the skills to solve the unknown with the unknown. All our futures depend on that.

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com