Episode 143 – Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving listener! IT Babble is back and better than ever. This week Tony and Patrick talk about a whole bunch of good ed tech topics. Check out the talking points below. As always be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes.

  1. The Push for Education Programs that Pay People as They Learn by Lolade Fadulu
    1. Apprenticeships sound like a good idea
    2. Down sides?
    3. Does it take away a person’s choice?
  2. Does Educational Technology need to be its own discipline in universities?
    1. Contours of a New Discipline by Carl Straumsheim
    2. Disciplining Education Technology by Audrey Watters of Hackeducation
  3. Apple’s ‘Everyone Can Code’ initiative expands to colleges and universities outside the US by Jon Russell at Techcrunch
    1. Should high school be doing this?
    2. Problems with Apple’s Swift Coding
    3. https://www.apple.com/everyone-can-code/
    4. https://swift.sandbox.bluemix.net/#/repl
    5. https://developer.apple.com/swift/

As always you can listen to or download the podcast below!

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


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


Tony DePrato



Reflecting On: “9 truths that computer programmers know that most people don’t.” ~by Macleod Sawyer


This week I read a post called, “9 truths that computer programmers know that most people don’t.“, by Macleod Sawyer .

Below is a summary of Mr. Sawyer’s nine points about programmers and programming, and by the way, he is 17 years old.

1. …the funny thing about code, the website or program may work beautifully, it may run smoothly, and it may be absolutely beautiful on the front-end side (what the user sees). But, behind everything that makes it work it will have so many errors, and work arounds that barely work and that shouldn’t work, but do for some strange reason.

2. 25% of the time involved in programming …we have to sit back and think of how the end-user will end up MESSING it up. (Macleod used an unneeded explicative term, I kindly replaced it and hope in the future he chooses to reserve these for serious situations).

3. A programmer is one who deals with algorithms and design principles, not the one who repairs a computer. We may know how the internal workings of a computer work, how code fits together (or rather hacked together as I explained in Fact #1). But, that does not mean we know how to fix hardware.

4. Most of programming is spent sleeping, walking around, staring out the window, or doing anything else that helps you relax and think. Relaxing is a major key to programming, it’s not just sitting down and writing a thousand or more lines or code, and pushing out a program or app. We have to sit down, walk around, and just think.

5. This is important in every programmers life. Counting starts at 0 – your “1” is my “0”, your “10” is my “9”. The reason why this is because computer programming is all about efficiency, and even small improvements in efficiency can make big differences at scale.

6. Ever wondered why programmers are known as nightbirds? Why we stay up all night? Because it allows us to get into the zone, it allows us to focus on one thing and not have to worry about being interrupted by someone – because they are all asleep.

7. If you have a problem you are told to sleep on it, forget it, put your mind at rest. But, with programmers its the go to way to solve the problem not because it gets us away from it, but because it for whatever reason helps us solve the problem with our code.

8. Programs are written like a hierarchy. With the parent managing the processes below them.

9. Just as you’re usually not impressed when we brag about how much we know about computers, we’re not impressed when you brag about how little you know about them.

When I read these, and all the comments, I realized that I agreed with 100% of the points. I also saw many other experienced programmers commenting and agreeing. These points apply to any type of work related to programming or systems design.

As I pondered these, I reflected on education and curricula. I asked myself, as I am now asking YOU, “does [my] your school and curriculum actually facilitate students being able to work and solve problems?”

It is clear that the requirements are time, space, and distraction. The requirements do not fit into a schedule, yet, programmers work on intense personal deadlines.

In the past few years there have been massive initiatives related to programming. For example in Estonia, they are starting all students in programming from year 1. Next year in the U.S. State of Arkansas they are requiring programming at all public schools at the high school level. The question is, do these initiatives actually allow students to go beyond simple in-class programming structures and actually make something? Do they allow them to experience the horror and magic of putting a piece of code out into the world to watch it live, die, or thrive?

Anytime a student speaks-up like this, everyone needs to listen. In his article he has some good quotes to connect his thoughts to professional practice. For the before morning coffee crowd, that means he did research.

His 17 year old world view on this topic, is my view. I go to work every morning. Do I work? Yes. I do certain things in the morning so that I can actually start being creative in the late afternoon or evening. I can’t write a line of code, even HTML, before 10 am unless I have stayed-up all night and am wired in.

From 8PM – 3AM I can do more productive work than I can in 16 hours of a normal work cycle.

Admittedly, I only have to do programming certain times of the month. I have a diverse job, so I do not mind the schedule, and I work with people who must be ready to work by 7:30 am, so if I am to support them I have to be alert and ready.

I save big programming projects for holidays and weekends because I need to be able to slide out of the constraints of my contract and get lost in the problem. I wonder what would happen if just a few students had that flexibility and were allowed to see the whole year of curriculum in June (assuming an August start)? What if the solved it, did it all in the summer, and did it well? It is something to consider.

Also, most of YOU cannot count. When I help students with math, I tell them to count from 0-1. I also tell them if they do it correctly it will take them forever. I learned this from programming, and that single concept helps me reach students more than any other.

Enjoy contemplating that.

Tony DePrato