It’s Trendy- So Just Pay for It



By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

 I try not to rant. However, I saw some terms of service a few days ago that made me angry. I was reviewing program that another school is running. Within the bullet points was this one:




Tuition, for this program, is one price. I cannot elaborate more because I do not have permission to re-advertise this program, and I need to keep it anonymous. The program is not in question, nor the price. The issue is that a school will pay a fee per student and that fee will cover 40 to 60 hours. Let’s look at what that means.


40 or 60 Hours
Curriculum Hours Hours Per Week Number of Weeks to Complete
40 2.66 15
45 2.66 16.875
50 2.66 18.75
55 2.66 20.625
60 2.66 22.5

Based on this chart, if a student can participate for 2.66 hours per week (2, 80 Minute Sections) , they will need 15 weeks to complete a 40 hour course. A school year is usually 36 weeks long. Therefore they will need about 50% of the school year to complete the program. If they are in a 60 hour program, they will need 75% of the school year to complete the course.

So what is the school paying for? A 40 hour course or a 60 hours course? The tuition is the same, and there is only a minimum guarantee on the hours. Planning for a 40 hour course and 60 hour course would be very different, and therefore, the price should be different. The outcomes will be different.

Obviously, the company is charging for 60 hours. If they were to only meet 50 of those hours, students would lose almost a month of instruction.

So why would anyone consider this contract without heavily amending the terms and conditions? Because the program is trendy.

The school wants to advertise they are running a trendy program- parents will respond positively. Administrators or teachers with KPIs around innovation will go with a trend because it does not need to be explained. Also, trending programs usually have resources and personnel readily available. These programs are easy to start, and, schools are paying for convenience.

I get the logic for going with a trendy program. I do not get the logic for being ripped-off.

There is always an opportunity cost when money is appropriated. Investing in a program should mean investing in a sustainable program. This program would not pass a basic audit. It is a bad deal, and probably a bad value if the plan can fluctuate in providing an opportunity for 50% or 75% of the year. This is not something students can do independently. They are tethered to the program, and this program does not scale easily.

As it scales it gets increasingly more expensive; the value remains uncertain; and the outcomes are difficult to measure. The worst part is, if someone questions the deal, and it falls apart after the contract expires, the next similar program will probably be denied based-on the previous experience. That again, is opportunity cost.

Just because and expert walks into a school, does not mean common sense should walk out. Good third-party programs are not cheap, but they do not have to be economically unbalanced and unaccountable.

Problem Solving with Technology: A List of Topics and Standards









By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Core Concepts and Definitions

Digital Native is a term that refers to children who have been born after the advent of the modern personal computer and affordable personal laptop. There is a belief that these children have a very high aptitude with technology. This curriculum plan completely disagrees with this belief and reaffirms that all children need a solid foundation in problem solving in, and creating with, technology. The normal life of the average Digital Native is one of a consumer and user of things others have created.

Read More @The International Educator

Curriculum Mapping, Your Biggest Mistake

REPORT2By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Curriculum mapping is not a mistake. However, schools seem to make the same mistake over and over when implementing and using curriculum mapping tools. How do I know? Because I always hear different people, from different schools, make the same statements. These statements are not accurate, and I know they are not accurate because everything that is apparently impossible to do, I can do. The reason I can do the impossible is because when I was a baby, my mother held me by my ankles and submerged me into a flowing river, and then Zeus…

No, actually, the reason I can do the impossible is because I put reporting and reporting goals first, and data entry and interface navigation last.

When schools focus on how to click through menus, instead of empowering a small team of people to view thousands of data points, they have essential made data entry more important than data usage. Data driven, does not mean people should be focused on typing as much as possible. Data driven means using data to make decisions. These decisions should be stronger than those originating from rumours, speculation, or anecdotes.


Entering data is like chopping wood. It provides instant gratification, like when people give a thumbs-up to a picture of your cat on social media. Unfortunately, simply entering data is about as useful as that picture of your cat.

Using data can be complicated, and it requires that the end-users follow a set of criteria. The goal needs to be something known as Data Normalization. Despite the name, it does not mean data all needs to be the same. Data normalization is a process that attempts to reduce redundant data, or data points that are going to waste time. Data normalization makes it possible and efficient to search the type of data classrooms create.

Unfortunately, the majority of people reading this post probably have been doing some sort of curriculum mapping, and are not starting from scratch. I feel your pain, and I know how it feels to look at a huge set of data and wonder, “How can I fix this?”.

I have good news, and I have one tip. Follow this advice and your data analysis can find new life. Enter the concept of the hashtag (#).

Twitter commonly is associated with hashtag based content tracking. For example #curriculum, #edtech, and #goodmemeofthedayphotos. Hashtags are just characters, and characters can be searched by any modern database. Therefore, it is fairly easy to hashtag your curriculum map. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. On the map template choose an existing box or section that allows you to type plain text, or going forward, have everyone include the hashtags in the unit/project/assignment names. It is so much work to rename units. This is best to do at the beginning of the year as policy.
  2. Create a set of hashtags for the people entering data, and post these publically so people can copy and paste them. Do not use email for this. Post them online so they can be centrally managed and updated. A small sample might look like this:
    #literature (Always use Lowercase and No Formatting)
    #16thcentury (Always All One Tag No Spaces)
  3. When it is time to run reports use normal filters. School-Grade Level-Subject. Once the filters are applied, you can search for tags. Using hashtags in unit names is the most effective way to do this, but searching in the template boxes should not be ruled out. Once a set of horizontal curriculum data is on the screen, the hashtags in the content can help people visualize data.

Here is the process below, displayed graphically, from Atlas Rubicon.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.30.16 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.32.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.38.03 AM

For more ideas on using curriculum data, please comment on this post or email me directly. Workshops online or live person-to-person are also an option for those needing more support or starting out with curriculum mapping.


Tony DePrato

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


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

What Education Technology People Know About Curriculum and Why You Should Listen

Businessmans hand drawing an empty flow chart

I often find myself in meetings about curriculum projects. I am usually invited to either share my thoughts on the technology components or explain the technology options for tracking the curriculum. Sometimes the topic is sharing resources and making sure core documents can be managed and properly versioned. In all cases, I am required to have a broad overview of the K-12 curriculum. I am also required to have an understanding of the end-users and how they will apply the curriculum content to their various specialities.

Aside from two or three other people, I generally find I have the most objective overview of how things are connected and the areas that need the most support. In fact when I speak with anyone who is a technology coordinator or manager, I tend to have better curriculum discussions than when I speak to people working in more traditional roles.

The problem is because I am working within the department of technology, my opinions of curriculum topics are often politely disregarded.

All opinions aside concerning who may have the most objective outlook on curriculum, there is one fact that is nearly impossible to argue. As a technology coordinator or director I spend many hours working with data. I spend many hours managing the school’s data systems and creating reports. I spend countless time tweaking and adjusting information so it becomes useful to people who need to see one page summaries of thousands of data points.

Running algorithms and spreadsheet formulas to determine modal frequencies and trends in open responses is also a common practice in the life of an educational technology professional. Survey designs and survey data flow through my department and that data too is studied and reported. My department is the nerve center for  managing data and processing data.

Curriculum mapping is also a core aspect of educational technology. Curriculum mapping technology is not just something most educational technology professionals use, we are also often certified to train others how to use this type of technology to make accurate reports. Being trained to use technology to make reports, means that a person must understand the data and how to organise the data so that it is useful.

Those educational technology professionals who run integration or tech-coaching models are usually completely read in on the curriculum in their division (year groups and subject groups). They have actually read all the documents and plans. These people know who is doing what and when, and they have identified weaknesses that technology can help to strengthen. Clearly, they are more well versed on the curriculum compared to most other teachers.

But who is listening? Who is allowing educational technology professionals to help truly drive the curriculum with data analysis? Who is promoting the idea that the people who understand the end-game should be designing the game?

Here is a test. One of the most popular curriculum mapping tools is Atlas Rubicon. If your school uses this and you still have teachers make daily lesson plans in some form of text document or online web-form, then you are using Atlas Rubicon inappropriately. In Atlas Rubicon, on a single webpage, you can see what everyone is doing every week. Administrators using Atlas can have a weekly standards and alignment report, so that strange anomalies can be part of a weekly agenda. Weekly, so that students are not going through a bad process that is only discovered at the end of the semester.

And one more test. If a school’s analytics suggest more than 85% of the standards are being met, then those are probably wrong as well. The goal is not to hit the highest number, but to find the divergence where planning did not reflect the actual outcome. Posting high numbers usually means adjusting the plan but ignoring what the actual outcomes were.

If that last paragraph did not make sense, go find your educational technology people, because they can explain it and probably graph it.

Tony DePrato 

Opportunity vs Experience

I was in a meeting. I dislike most meetings. Not because I dislike people or discourse, but because most meetings seem unfocused and more for ritual than utility.

In this particular meeting, we were presented with some self-guided learning options for students who need to be challenged more. That means they are working below their level.

Looking at the courses, I noticed that there was no curriculum. Meaning, there were courses only, and nothing formally connected.

So I thought, “I am a student. I want to d0 more science. I will take a single course. I pass the course. What do I get? Who knows about it? Do I have to take the course at my own school a year from now? Do I need extra work for only the experience of doing it?”

In some cases, such as being part of volunteer group, building something with a team, or collaborating on a single project, experience is all the reward someone needs. The reward of experience is truly great when connected to something unique and singular, something that is also an experience.

An opportunity is comprised of experiences, but experiences do not always lead to new opportunities.

As I was pondering the options, I remembered the logic I apply to all educational choices, and asked the guiding question that continually corrects me when I stray from the path: Am I creating a real opportunity for a student or am I just filling a gap in time?

That question lead me to see the list of options differently. I realised if I applied basic backward design to the list I could easily create a curriculum track that would connect to a new opportunity coming in the near future.

I proposed that we inform the students who qualified for the program, that we would have a summer program focused on environmental science and data logging. This means sampling the environment and doing research related to water, soil, air, and the local plant life. The program would also teach the students how to use new equipment, sensors, technology, etc., and to apply the scientific method. For those students looking for a pay-off in the end, it would give them the skills needed for IB Science courses 1-3 years in advance of other students. Making lab time less, and in class work-time more productive.


No actually. Fail. Not an insulting “Fail!” or “You’ve been Pwn’d!”, but the idea was rejected. It was rejected in favor of choosing only one of the courses and trying to convince at least 12 students to join. The course would start and end with the experience only. If a student happened to some how move the USA, they might be able to claim a high school credit for it, but the chances of any of these students moving to the USA are very low.

The main reason for this decision, was it seemed like an easier way to begin and an easier goal to achieve.

I felt a bit upset and troubled. At that moment I had basically failed as a student advocate.

If we are encouraging students to go beyond the classroom, they should have a reason. There should be more value in the process than just the grasping a new concept before their classmates.

Tony DePrato

A Time to Stop and Think About : STEM, Programming, & Feynman


In a single day, three pieces of media influenced me to write a post. This is one of those times when I hope people involved in curriculum planning and long-term education planning read IT Babble. Of all the things I have written this year, this one is the most important.

First, I read a post on Slashdot, Coding Bootcamps Already 1/8th the Size of CS Undergraduates. This is talking about crash courses in programming and how they are going to be producing more programmers than university programs.

Second, I watched the movie The Challenger Disaster. I should have known all about this, and was upset with myself for not knowing. The movie highlights Dr. Richard Feynman’s methods for determining the cause of the accident in the face of a huge bureaucracy.

Finally, I read an article by Deborah K. Fitzgerald- At MIT, the humanities are just as important as STEM. This quote from the article will sum it nicely, and hopefully stick with anyone who reads it: ..”the world’s problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities…

I think everyone needs to take a breathe and step back. I am concerned that art, music, literature, philosophy, the study of language, etc. are being considered insignificant to computer programming and other STEM subjects. The STEM term has grown from a buzz word, to business model. It is being marketed by non-profits, publishers of textbooks, and online services for schools. It is being driven into the public eye by a media frenzy. This is simply a huge mistake.

Science and technology education opportunities should be developed in all levels of education, and they should be kept current. But the people who choose to follow a science or technology career need to be connected to the world in order to understand the problems before they propose solutions. Human beings tend to connect to the world through religion and philosophy, art, music, media of varying types, and of course writing and publishing.

Many STEM projects are pushing computer programming, but I do not think anyone is paying attention to what type of programming students are learning. There is a huge trend going-on right now. Students are being directed to build apps and make webpages that do something entertaining. App building is creative, but it is done with code that is already part of someone else’s design. It is regulated by companies. It is not truly original thought, nor is the process of developing a world of app builders going to benefit the future of science and technology. It is only going to benefit a handful of people enjoying short-term profits.

Teaching kids to make apps or webpages is not the type of curriculum that drives the universal benefits that are derived from studying programming. Programming can be studied as a topic, but it should not be seen as something the masses need to master.Not everyone can be a programmer, nor should they. Programming should be part of a project, such as in robotics, but it does not have to be the whole project or topic. Programming is a tool, and knowing that it is a tool means that other skills are required to make it truly effective. Students must learn these other skills as well.

What education needs to do is reach back in-time and refocus on what is important. The world needs professionals who can use tools and teach themselves new tools as they evolve. Society needs as many people as possible who are aware they need to be responsible to be equipped in the same way every carpenter knows they need a t-square. Doctors, Engineers, Artists, Teachers, and other professions must understand more than the single dimension in front of them in order to face unknown problems or problems that violate known theories.

Using canned curriculum and programming libraries   ,and calling those things new and innovative, is sending the message that applying knowledge is limited to what is being provided and what already exists. Having a society of people focused only on what already exists, is not going to solve the next Challenger Disaster, raise a Russian sub-marine from impossible depths, create the equivalent to a supercomputer in a garage, revolutionise the way films are created, save millions of people from evil regimes, or improve infant mortality rates by 100s of percentage points.

All of those things were achieved by teams of people from varying backgrounds who did not have Google and who did not have tools given to them. They were achieved because there was a problem, and everyone involved simply believed that they could solve the problem, and if needed, create the tools.

Unless STEM curricula are designed to put a few students in a room with a box, and help them learn to turn that box into something better than a box, then those curricula will fail. Unfortunately, when they fail the world will know about it 10-15 years too late.

Students need learning opportunities in as many subjects as can be afforded. Humanity does not know enough about how our individual mind goes from seeing a glass of ice, and then deriving the inspiration to solve a problem that has hundreds of engineers at NASA confused. Because we do not know, we should not assume that the things we are removing from curricula are insignificant. We should only assume that we need to keep questioning and keep searching. We need different types of people doing that questioning and searching, because obviously we are doing it wrong.

Perplexing the future is.

Tony DePrato



A Reason not to Hate Curriculum Mapping in the New Year

middle earth

I never thought I would write this.  First off, I am not a fan of software or solutions that dumb-down, over-complicate, or impeded the evolution of good practice. I have always felt that teachers need to track what they do in a simple format, such as a blog, and use TAGS to connect what they are doing to the community of practice. Wikis are ok for this as well.

My reasoning is that this can be done by everyone very easily and inexpensively. A handful of people are required to add higher level functions and search, but the job is always, and only, part-time. This type of tracking also works for students, and they can even use the same platform, which saves time and resources.

The obvious downside to this system is that the people providing oversight have to look through blogs/wikis occasionally to see who is on/off track. It is not possible to run a report and create a flat map or view of the curriculum. Being someone who reads often, and is very skilled at finding things online, this seems like a trivial task. It seems like a required skill in 2014.

My world of being simple and bluntly correct has been up-turned. I ran into a situation recently as an administrator, and as a by-stander, that made me actually email the company my school school contracts for curriculum mapping software. I actually asked them for more licenses, it was a tough thing to do. My name is Tony, and I am a curriculum map hater.

I was reviewing data, which I always do, and helping show some teachers how to use spreadsheets to view grades in different ways. While doing this I noticed some areas were blank. I inquired, “Why do these classes not have grades”?  Answer #1- the teacher does not FEEL that grading is needed for this subject. Answer #2 – there is no way to grade these classes, no standards or methods.

I then let them know that when a transcript is made, this is going to show-up as BLANK and universities are going to wonder why this subject is BLANK, but for other schools it is graded. There was no answer, only a BLANK stare into the abyss.

The second event was not related to me or my work in anyway. A friend of mine is doing an online course at a well known and very respected Canadian University (This is one of those times I REALLY WANT TO MENTION THE NAME).  She had two assignments for an English course. The first assignment came back as a C-, and there were about 10 comments on it. Every comment said, “awkward”.  That is all the teacher wrote. No examples of why, or ideas for improving. Upon asking for clarity my friend receive a response just as vague as the comments, which somehow determined the paper was a C-.

My friend let others read the paper, including myself. We all made corrections and input ideas. The revision read better and had a clear thesis. Assignment two was now upon her. She completed it, it was 25% of her grade. She received another C-, and a single comment,”You have not shown any effort or improvement at all.”

This is/was just a tenured professor simply deciding to hate or like papers in a second year writing course and not giving feedback to help students improve. Students who are paying money and are on various degree tracks.  In the world of non-academia this sort of behavior would get a person fired immediately, because they are single handedly alienating all the clients.

I realized at that point, in both these situations a proper and aggressive implementation of curriculum mapping would allow for immediate oversight and action by department heads and administrators.

Many people argue, as I once did, that the curriculum mapping process relies on teachers inputting good data. In other words, garbage-in-garbage-out. However, this is only true if the foundational structure of the software is defined by the departments. This is often the case, and the practice should be suspended. It takes longer to setup, but the end result is better metrics and more a powerful use of data.

The foundational structure is in the standards and assessment criteria. If third party standards are used, and assessments are required to be entered on frequent intervals, then oversight can be done in a simple exception report. Meaning: show me all the people who have not added any assessments in the last month; show me how many people have not met at least 30% of their standards in the last four months.

In addition, terms (tags) can be set by the school to ensure all departments use the same language when adding any information to any field. For example, any lesson pertaining to World War II must be referenced as WWII. Terms such as wwii, WWii, The Second World War, etc. are not acceptable. This is known as defining taxonomy, it is a common practice when building data driven websites, and it is easy to implement for most curriculum mapping systems.

Of all the projects I have to finish by June, this one is now rising in importance. Although I enjoy setting up websites, implementing cloud driven initiatives, and building gaming servers for students, I am first and foremost a responsible educator. This type of careless behavior and disconnection from standards is bad for students and bad for the school.

My name is Tony, and I am a curriculum mapping hater, but I am trying real hard to be the Shepard.

Tony DePrato

Content is KING just ask Gordon


I can say without any hesitation that every school leader, guidance counselor, technology developer, and soccer mom needs to spend a marathon weekend watching nothing but Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.

I have watched probably 125 episodes of Kitchen Nightmares. I did so originally because my brother said watching Ramsay beat down restaurant owners was awesome. And he was right. Then I stayed a fan because I love cooking, and I realized that if most of the people on the show could cook the recommended food, I probably could too. So I learned more about cooking without being bored. But then I went further. I started to ask myself, “What patterns emerge in the show?” .

At first it was all the surface stuff. Obviously being an Italian, Greek, or any Mediterranean family meant you had to have epic battles in order to decided anything. Also people would cry.

Then I asked another question, “Is there a common issues among all these places which vary ethnically, economically, geographically, educationally, etc? ”  And I say, “educationally”, because some places are staffed with proper chefs and others with line cooks who have life experience.

As I was in deep thought about this, I was talking with my brother, who said, “The problem with all these places is that their food is horrible and they are in denial.”  He was 100% correct.

I started reviewing episodes. I found that only 2 episodes I had were outliers. In these two cases the restaurant had good food, but the personelle were literally running the place down.  So it was 123 out of 125 episodes that fit the common problem of having bad food and being in denial. Being in denial is a very important thing to add, because the majority of the places had at one time had good food.

TV magic aside the Ramsay formula works like this:

1. He shows-up and eats food.

2. He honestly and aggressively says the food is bad, if it is, and then beats the person over the head with this fact continuously. He sometimes vomits for dramatic effect.

3. Then he watches a service, checks the facilities, and talks to people. Mostly this is to buy time because he needs to be able to come-up with a menu the employees can manage in about 24 hours. Also he tries to find various tasks for people to do to further break down their will power. This usually includes steam cleaning refrigerators etc.

4. The next step is to make people cry or explode in anger, and do some type of exercise that forces them to admit the food sucks.

5. After they admit the food sucks, he gives them the new menu and then helps with other details such as restaurant management and personal skills they may not have. Basically he will not give-up the menu until they admit their food is horrible.

If you look at the problems all of these places face, the problems fall into a few categories:

  • economic
  • personality conflicts
  • poor professionalism
  • re-occurring errors
  • business mismangement
  • making food and services that no one will buy

All of these problems begin when the food starts to become bad. The food is the content. Not the building. Not the customers. Not anything else. Good food means a good business and bad food means a bad business. Good food also means when a new customer comes in the first time they have good food, and not food that is “not ready yet” and “will be good eventually”.

If that customer has an initial bad experience they probably will not return. If they are forced to return, due to a social commitment, they will likely focus on the cheapest option and wait until the event if over. Then they will eat some where else.

Think about that. They are in a restaurant with the means and opportunity to eat, but they choose not to. They choose to use their own time to find another source, instead of one that is provided.

I find that we often get hung-up on talking about platforms and brands – Should we use Moodle? Should we use Edmodo? Should we be an Apple school?

It goes on and on.

What we should be asking is: is our content good? , is it deliverable? , and how can we get better content and use it?

I find that most people invest in the platform and then have little resources left over to buy in content. This would be ok if they had a method to assist people in their community in developing content and then sharing it. Usually, they do not have that either.

If you look at the problems that commonly occur in learning, educational technology, and teaching you will find most things go back to a lack of content or a lack of deliverable content.

People think spending more money on things, space, and brands can solve these problems, but the fact is that the content of the curriculum and the supporting resources of the curriculum can either strengthen or weaken every aspect of the community.

The other underlying issue is that the content needs to evolve over time. It may have been relavent and good at one time, but over time it becomes like the bad food that is wading in a sea of denial.

School leadership has to assume that human nature will strive to not make changes to resources that required effort to develop. Administrators must make it a requirement for teachers to review not only the content but the way it is delivered.

This is especially true in private schools where students are supposedly paying for an all inclusive education. The content is suppose to be what the students need to achieve and be competitive. If students occasionally need an outside resource, that is totally acceptable. However, if students look at the major platforms, software solutions, and collaborative tools a school has invested in and find that those resources are not useful; then the school has failed to meet the contractual needs of the student.

The point to take from all this, and from any episode from Kitch Nightmares, is that you can always change the menu. Of all the things you can do, it is the one thing you can usually do within the existing cost and framework of the business.

I have often read that revolution starts in the middle. Or another way to say that is to remember that change needs to take place at the center. In a restaurant that means with the food and in a learning environment that means with the content.

Tony DePrato