The Maker Portfolio and University Admissions










By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I am always focused on the end-game. The end-game for students is the next level after they leave K-12. Preparing students to compete and succeed is difficult. There is always a huge debate over where time should be allocated, what subjects are more important, and what skills will be required ten years after graduation.

I do believe there are always trends, and finding those trends can be difficult. Most of the data we gravitate towards, is data that we are directed to look at. The trick to finding trends, is to find new questions to ask. In order to find those questions, I try and look at data through a variety of lenses.

College Admissions Data

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) publishes a report called the State of College Admission. I decided to research the 2014 and 2016 reports (data range from 2006-2015) after being very intrigued by a 2007 article titled, Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard. 

The author, 

Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

I started to wonder, aside from academics, are university admission processes valuing all the extracurricular work students are doing, and all the stress and time involved in this competitive process. Many extracurricular options involve technology, and require significant investment in time and money.

The data from NACAC was interesting. There are four common summary columns: Considerable Importance, Moderate Importance, Limited Importance, No Importance.

I decided only to review the change of “importance” in the No Importance category. The first three categories are variable. No Importance is not variable, it is absolute, and reflects a definitive negative statement.

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Back-to-School Night 2013 VS Back-to-School Night 2009

It is hard to measure progress sometimes. I often feel like I have moved technology forward, only to stop and question that notion when I run into an unforeseen problem.

This week, however, I was able to notice an improvement during back-to-school night. I had not even planned on being on-campus for it, but realized that I had failed to remind someone in IT to be on-hand for tech support. So I stayed.

As I was sitting quietly I noticed a few things:

  1. No one was coming-up to me with a problem.
  2. No one was calling me.
  3. I was not getting any emails.

This was a surprise, because back-to-school night means there are 100 teachers in the their rooms running presentations for parents. All of them, seemingly, were self-sufficient and not needing IT support.

I thought back to back-to-school night in 2009, my first year in this position. It was a living hell. I was at school from 3PM-7PM just helping people in their rooms. I was bouncing between presentations from 7PM-9PM trying to keep people afloat amongst the masses.

Four years later -nothing. Everything was working. Why?

I think the main reason is the implementation of a policy in 2011 that was specifically designed to develop a DIY attitude. The policy basically said:

  1. Everyday you need to disconnect your laptop and put it away or take it home.
  2. You must be able to setup your laptop, sound, projection, and interactive board in under 5 minutes.
  3. You must be able to manage display switching on your own.
  4. Ask your department before you ask IT if you have a question.

This might seem basic to many people, but in fact, the policy in place was to treat your laptop like a powered brick, and leave it on the desk. If there was an issue, notify IT, and have them come literally do everything. There was no responsibility on the teacher to master the basic tools they needed for their job.

In addition to this, we enabled teachers to manage their own laptops. We gave them full permission to install software and make changes. If something new came along, a video and pdf would go out explaining to them what to do. Watching and/or reading were required. IT would insist the teachers attempt things on their own, before asking for help.

Maybe common sense, but the culture was going the opposite way at the time. It took effort and time. I can say that I can check this off as a success. I would often note the statistics regarding the number of tech support tickets. They kept falling steadily. Some people would say that maybe the decrease was due to people simply not submitting tickets.

Having the back-to-school night experience reinforced the data that I had been collecting for years. The DIY approach works, and no matter how annoyed people seem to be when asked to address their own problems, they are alway more confident and on a more level playing field when it comes to dealing with those leading technology.

It is always important to remember that education is about creating opportunities for everyone, and not just students. Policies need to help teachers develop and learn, just on a more gradual incline than policies applied to students.

Tony DePrato