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

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

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

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

The Right Place


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

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

Key Indicators of a Problem

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

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

Technology Can Help

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

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

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

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

Tony DePrato


Technology & Connecting to The Environment

Today I am at the 2012 NESA (#NESA) Leadership Conference in Dubai. I was looking over the sessions, as you may remember from my previous email, and have revised my original plan. I am doing 4 hours of “School Security and Threat Assessment”. 

I am involved in planning and implementing technology, and that connects me to every person and department regardless of their use or perceived use of technology.

The other reason I decided to commit to this session is that models and plans that work in some areas also will work in my area. The perspective is very different, which helps to generate fresh ideas.

I find that often when I speak with people about IT and resources, they only consider things like laptops and software. I try to encourage them to look for new solutions instead of “technology”. I remind people that everything can be technology- such as the cotton-gin or the steam engine.

I am a firm believer that connecting to the environment around learning, the physical environment, is one of the most effective ways to impact learning in a positive way. Ergonomics, natural lighting, etc are very important. Sometimes just changing furniture and access to power is more important than buying tech-gear.

In addition to the physical space, the feeling in the space is important. People do need to feel safe, be able to express themselves…but aware that there are limits and crossing the limits that invade or damage someone’s personal space should be addressed swiftly.

Looking at the material ahead of me today I am sure I am going to have some dark thoughts when it is over. What is occurring to me now is to encourage people looking to improve their schools to start with physical environment. Consider technology when it makes sense as a tool or a means to provide more opportunities.

And remember throwing money and technology at a problem will not solve it. Just as adding a new floor to a building with a bad foundation will not make the building any better.

Tony DePrato


Time to change course

New blog strategy ahead


Blogs are pretty damn useful. Some teachers run their class through it, posting homework and setting up a drop box of sorts so students can turn their homework in. Others use it to organize special events, and some use it as a bulletin board to communicate what is happening in the class. The bottom line is blogs are flexible and can be used to help accomplish many, many goals. This year, I’ve started using a blog and it’s been good. There have been some ups and downs and now I have realized that there must also be some changes in order for the blog to continue to be effective in my class. Read on past the break to see how I am use my blog and what I’m going to change about it.

Oh and if you’re thinking of making a blog and want a crash course you can read my how-to’s for, Blogger, and Posterous.

Continue reading “Time to change course”