Single Missions vs Swarm Logic

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


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

Avoid Tech Zealots and Fanboys


zeal·ot  ~ A person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.

fan·boy  ~ A fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person with a liking and enthusiasm for something. 

Do I really need to explain this? For the sake of the blog, I will, but as briefly as possible.

This week someone asked me what kind of person they should hire to lead technology for their BYOD(bring your own device) program. I told them to look at the ISTE Standards, and from that build their criteria. Then I said, “Make sure to avoid Technology Zealots.” I received a strange look, so I had to explain myself.

I breaks down like this:

  • You believe in BYOD
  • Therefore you believe in choice guided by standards
  • Therefore you believe in a flexible and personalized work environment for students and teachers.

So why would you hire someone who only:

  • Believes in Apple
  • Believes in Microsoft
  • Believes in iPads ( literally as the answer to everything including Fermat’s Enigma)
  • Believes only in 1 design to fit all needs

If you support BYOD concepts, then you need people leading technology who are focused on curriculum standards and the technology required to help students meet and excel passed those standards. If brandname comes into the conversation, then there is a problem.

Obviously the school has to buy specific products for specific jobs; and often the school is limited by the suppliers they work with. That is the school though, and the shared resources the school is buying. Those rules should not apply to a BYOD program based around equal opportunity and freedom of choice.

Everyone needs to remember that technology changes and companies change. Good judgement needs to be applied to all problems, projects, and road-maps. The choice should always be the best tool for the problems ahead, and not the brand that makes people feel like it is the best tool.

So fanboys, stick the blogs and stay out of the schools.

Tony DePrato


BYOD and Printing, What You Should Be Doing

BYOD and Printing, What You Should Be Doing

Why are you printing if you are BYOD teacher? Printing and writing are not connected. This is something that everyone in a BYOD program needs to be aware of.

Here are the rules you should follow and communicate to your students:

  1. All assignments will be posted online, not emailed.
  2. All students are expected to have a copy of all online materials during class time on their laptops. These materials should be downloaded to avoid any conflicts with the network.
  3. During timed writing assignments or quizes, students will use their laptops for reading the assignment/questions. They will then answer on paper if required, or electronically if allowed.
  4. In some cases the internet access will be suspended to prevent anyone from doing unauthorized research during an assignment. See #2 and follow the directive.
  5. If a student needs to work off of paper, they must print it at home and bring it to school. This needs to be communicate in advance to the teacher.

Here are the rules you should follow as a TEACHER:

  1. Allow all work to be submitted electronically, but not on email. 
  2. Start grading electronically. It is slow only at first but once you can use the tools it is much faster.
  3. Audio based grading and feedback is so common that is now native to systems like TURN-IT-IN.  Stop writing and start talking. It is faster and requires the student to listen and then revise. A much better process than reading red marks.
  4. If you must grade on paper, then print the student work after it is ALL SUBMITTED. If you are not using email this is easy. You can print the entire class at once and then start grading.
  5. Use online feedback, do not write on the paper. As you are reviewing work online you can make notes and comments on the work itself. When you are done reading you are done with the feedback.
  6. Learning to work in 2 tabs or 2 desktops(Mac) -your gradebook should be in one and the work in the other. Mark in real time.
  7. Save heavy printing for exams, unless your school can serve a secure exam. If they cannot it is about a 700 USD investment to be able to do this and not allow students any access outside the exam, even on their own laptops.

If you read this and would like to know what tools are needed to achieve a paperless classroom, email me directly or post a comment here. The tools are free and require
only a commitment to use and organization, they are easy to use.

You can be proficient in online marking after doing one set of documents. Printing is not going to grow, it is going to shrink. It is expensive and unfortunately heavily abused by teachers.

If your students are BYOD this means they are learning a new way of working. When they move out of your organization, the most likely scenario is that they will be working purely online and only printing if they choose to pay for it.

Universities are not only following this model, they are even moving away from normal textbooks for similar reasons. Prepare your students for the future. It is worth the initial inconvenience for them and you.

I have been paperless, at least 90% paperless, since 2005. In 2005 it was difficult, because I had to serve and manage all the technology to facilitate the process. Now it is seamless and easy for people to stop wasting time and resources on printing.

Before you reply, think about how much time is invested in printing and then in marking. If it was not more efficient, I would never have gone for it. And I did it even at the IB level where case studies exceeded 50 pages. 

Tony DePrato

Is your IT Resource Management ready for BYOD?

Before overloading a campus with people using individual devices, everyone knows they need to make sure they have “enough” WIFI. They also know they have to have enough bandwidth.  These points are usually the center point of discussion, but really before BYOD can occur the IT resources need to be in-line with a simple three step policy:

  1. People should not be living in server rooms.
  2. Everything should be remotely managed or it should be removed.
  3. Managing things remotely means data and reporting not just IP ADDRESS configuration.

These three core concepts are key because non-IT administrators can ensure they are being followed through normal testing and observation. The following is guide for people who are not in IT, but need to make sure their school is meeting the IT requirements for the 21st Century Learner.

Step 1 : The Server Room

IT people tend to hide in the server room. They will have no motivation to create a better IT management system if they are allowed to do so. Most schools tend to be under staffed. This means IT needs to be mixing amongst various groups of people on a regular basis.

With BYOD this is critical as the number of users is too great to manage without some scheduled contact away from the server room and email.

The first thing to do is to make sure the entrance to the server room is visible and that the door is transparent. The simple thing to do is cut a 1 meter long piece from the center and insert glass, or just get a door with glass in it.

Next, clear the server room of all furniture. The server RACK should have a build-in tray that slides out to reveal a keyboard, mouse, and screen for working on the machines. Anything else needs to go, especially personal items and food. I also suggest making sure it is not carpeted for heat and dust management.

Finally, take all server room keys from everyone and change the locks. Get 3 copies for keys made that must be signed-out from administrative offices and security. This is allows for 24/7 access but forces the IT people to record when they enter and leave.

If IT personelle do not have an office, then they will need one , and it cannot be a closest. IT work is demanding and having natural light, and some good ergonomics makes a world of difference. Improving your success in BYOD means changing more than WIFI and LAPTOPS it means changing your environment.

Step 2: The Network Diagram Request

Give the IT team one week to get all their servers, printers, and wifi access points mapped out onto paper. Tell them you want to see a diagram of what the network looks like. Tell them that: WIFI, LAN, Printers, SERVERS, all need to be on separate VLANS.  Just tell them you were informed this is the most efficient way and you require a plan of how it will look if they are not already organized in this manner.  Tell them the plan will be vetted by IT networking professionals to confirm it has been done well.

The goal is to force them to take stock of the network and find the flaws. They cannot manage things remotely without a good network segmentation plan.

You do need to find a 3rd Party to consult. Usually the school will be affiliated with people who can do this. It is essential the plan gets feedback. During this time the server room needs to be inhospitable, and it is important that IT has done this planning in another space.

Step 3: Implementing the VLANS and/or Changes

Once the 3rd party network consultant has given feedback. Have them list all the required changes in bullet points.

Above their list of changes include the following:

IT personelle are required to create remote access for all devices on all VLANS. Any device should be able to be managed from anywhere on-campus. Access to the server room should be restricted. This includes developing a comprehensive plan to backup data remotely and manage the power. The initial changes and VLAN devices that must be managed are listed here: INSERT BULLET LIST. 

The optimal design of the network should get underway following the policy. As an administrator make sure the 3rd party is available to confirm the plan was executed properly.

Step 4: The TEST

Once the implementation is finished, ask IT to meet with you in your office or neutral location. Require they bring their laptops.

Once in your office look back at the diagram. You will see the VLANS listed as LAN, WIFI, etc.  Have them demonstrate how they can access various things. You want to ask specifically to see:

1. Printer and Access Point Control Panels.

2. Webpages that show the STATUS of the network, printers, etc. Basically any and all reports they can share with you. You need data to make decisions in the future.

3. Servers running applications. Ask them to login to the server and you will see the desktop etc.

4. A computer owned by the school in a common area.

Doing this in a non-IT space will demonstrate how well they have accomplished their goals, and what is left to do. It will also be clear that even though you are not an IT engineer, you can plan and follow-up on complex IT changes.

Do not be afraid to set deadlines and push for results. All of this is not only possible but good IT management that should be part of the core architecture you have purchased. Most of the time people have just not taken time to turn things on and set them up properly.

If you find you are missing functionality, then you will need to get it. There is not chance of BYOD success if you cannot manage your network properly.

Tony DePrato