Episode 210 – Linux for all

After a short break – Tony and Patrick are back! Not only are we talking about some ed tech goodness. Check out all the talking points below and be sure to subscribe to us on your favorite podcasting app.
  1. Welcome back basketball fans!
  2. What am I drinking?
    1. Beeracuda from Abita
    2. Bells Black Hearted Ale 
  3. It’s time to start over- EdTech is dead – Tony’s quantlet to the world or Elon Musk, or anyone with a lot of cash…
    1. App culture is taking over
    2. Linux based curriculum
    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4L8Oci_2Bs 
  4. Why I don’t blog anymore, just when I was getting the hang of it
  5. Best book for people moving from teaching into leadership, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
    1. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018FHCPDO/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 

Tech Savvy, Are Your Sure?

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

There are many uncomfortable situations people in technology leadership have to endure annually. Normally, uncomfortable situations are created because someone did not understand the far reaching ramifications of a single bad decision. Often, these are not isolated incidents. Too often, in meeting rooms or private conferences, these words hang in the air when such uncomfortable situations occur, “Tech Savvy”.

What Does it Mean to be Savvy?

savvier; savviest
: having or showing perception, comprehension, or shrewdness especially in practical matters

the quality of having or showing good powers of judgement.

I think something often ignored in a definition, is how it connects to other concepts. If savvy has a relationship with shrewdness, then a savvy person needs to be shrewd in order to be savvy.

Being savvy does not simply mean being informed, it means being able to make decisions (often tactical decisions) in very difficult circumstances.

Defining Tech Savvy

I have been working in some type of technology field, or technology skill related job, since I was 19 years old. In 24 years, I do think I have ever said I am tech savvy. I would need to review many thousands of words I have published, but I am certain that day-to-day I avoid using the term.

I have tried many times to define what Tech Savvy means. I have often thought having a “Tech Savvy” certification for teachers would be an interesting idea.

Unfortunately, every time I try to define the term, outline the metrics, and make a public statement for people to comment on, I pause.

Technology is a generic term for a massively diverse universe of things, concepts, solutions, and industries.

Educational Technology, EdTech, would seem to be an area of technology that is easy to define. Being Tech Savvy in EdTech should be easy to define, and T-shirts should be printed in mass.









Even EdTech, is hard to define. Some core areas of EdTech many teachers and administrators do not fully or completely understand:

  • Data standardization
  • Assessment Data Collection and Analysis
  • Data Privacy
  • Transcription
  • Scheduling
  • Network Security to align with Child Protection and Academic Honesty Enforcement
  • Admissions Processes and Withdrawal Processes

In international education each one of the above is more complex, and they often need to meet multiple language and governmental requirements.

To not completely understand, means, there is a lack of shrewdness. So, who should be making these decisions? Sitting in these meetings? And, who knows everything?

No One is Tech Savvy

There is a Japanese proverb I studied many years ago. It states: Even the Monkey can Fall from the Tree.

Even though I spend hundreds of hours a month working on multiple EdTech projects, I take time to pause and plan each project. I do make mistakes. I also take steps so I can revert my mistakes. I expect to make mistakes. Maybe I am Mistake Savvy?

I research projects, even if I have done similar projects multiple times. I look for new models, and methods. I consult dozens of professionals, and open the door so they can easily consult me. Writing a consultation for a third-party, is one of the best ways to measure knowledge, and ignorance. Can you make a plan, that someone else can follow, but you cannot direct? 

I am never going to be confident enough to say that I am universally Tech Savvy.

I would rate myself as an expert in some areas of EdTech. However, for each of those areas I continue to study. The more I study, the more I realize there is to learn. Maybe I am a Savvy Student?

To have a good culture in a school, or any organization, I believe in avoiding labels. No one should be left making decisions alone, especially when student data and learning is at risk. Being shrewd and tactical is powerful in a leader, but it is even more powerful in a team.

Fix Your Mission Statement

I firmly believe in good mission statements. I have seen many mission statements, but have seen very few good ones. Leaders need missions statements. Everyone in leadership feels isolated at times, and, they often believe they need to be shrewd to stay relevant.

To avoid bad decisions, and to neutralize bad labels, add this to your mission statement: Do No Harm, Now and in the Future.

Students leave. They move on. That is the purpose of education. All present decisions, impact students after they leave. I have found no better way to plan long term than to plan to support students after they leave, and never to impeded them.

Planning only for now, or until a student moves from grade-to-grade (or class to class), will do harm.

A long term view of students, and their academic and professional lives, is a defense against the short term bad decisions individuals and teams can make.

A person can be Tech Savvy right now, but rarely, as Tech Savvy in the near future. Take the long term view.  Do not try and be savvy in something that is always changing, and often filled with false promises and overstated features.

Be a savvy planner. Be a savvy researcher.



Support vs Service: Technology and Everything Else

keyboard and two persons on white background
keyboard and two persons on white background

Currently, my main leadership role is in technology. One thing I have begun to notice and understand is that there are two dominant perspectives among people with regard to the department of technology: Support and Service. In a school, the later can be devastating to teaching and learning, and the former can be empowering.

Support implies that the end-users know their jobs and can do their jobs most of the time. It also implies they know when to ask questions. Users wanting support often have ideas, and need help making those ideas into a reality. They need instruction and training, but they can see their own ideas through to the end.

Service implies, regardless of their role/title, the requesting employee will not do the work. Meaning, they might have an idea, but they cannot implement a solution. Service also implies that all phases of any problem, including the planning and resource allocation, will be provided by a third party.

Most schools have to prioritise their headcount to be heavy on those in the areas of teaching and learning. This means those focused on providing IT service (meaning they do not work in the curriculum), are small in number. Problems are often solved by people in multiple roles helping the community; and solutions come from small groups of specialists and often hobbyists.

A support model, and a community viewing those who are leading technology as support, is an excellent model for schools to follow and maintain their mission to focus on teaching and learning. However, if people start to see everyone who can help drive change as providing a service, then basic operations start to break down. Dependency by the many on the few creates the famed 80 20 Rule (Pareto Principle). This is not healthy in a school, and all school leadership should strive to drive the learning community away from the idea that certain people are a third-party, and at the campus to provide a service.

I am never shy to point out to people that –This is not TV. This is not Best-Buy. This is not Amazon. I am not here for service, I am here to support you.

Tony DePrato



Contracts and the Reality of Using AUPs in an International School


Recently a friend of mine had a battle with a staff member over an Acceptable Use Policy(AUP). It is common to fight with students over these, but rarely with staff.

My friend was not asking for anything unrealistic in his well drafted AUP. He actually took the time to produce one AUP for the community, and it was not negative or aggressive.

The battle went on for weeks. The teacher refused to even take a school laptop. The teacher even launched an internal email campaign that involved telling the parents the AUP was disruptive to learning.

Here is the worst part of the AUP story, the AUP does not matter. It is a completely unenforceable document in an international school. Often, it is unenforceable for students as well. Here is why.

The Local Law Surrounds the School

International schools are bound by the laws around them. This includes human resource law, liability regulations, insurance practices, etc. Having an AUP say something is not permitted, when it is either permitted or not enforceable in the host country, is a waste of policy. Explaining to the community the local law surrounding the school is always a good idea, and using the law when needed is a good idea. Trying to create your own rules that are not aligned with the law is a bad idea.

Assuming the School is in a Sellers Market

A sellers market implies that demand is high, and supply is scarce, therefore businesses can charge whatever they want to consumers. AUP language often assumes that a school is in a sellers market, and therefore, can remove teachers and students from the community. Thus also assuming that these people can easily be replaced. The fact is, this is hardy ever the case. Once the staffing is done, and the year begins, schools do not want to try and deal with an HR problem unless it puts the children or community at risk.

Many schools have contracts that protect the employee (due to local regulations) and the only way to remove them (assuming they have not broken local laws) is to pay out their contract and/or wait and not renew their contract.

Students pay tuition. In most situations, a student gets a pro-rated reimbursement if they leave the school early. In many countries the law forbids the expulsion of students, and forces the school to cope with the problems. Removing students in places like the Middle East can even require numerous lobbying efforts to the ministry of education. Sometimes, legal services have to be paid just to get the paperwork done. Again, many schools will cope with the problem until a point where they are legally allowed to transfer the student out.

Schools need tuition to function, and if they are not-for-profit, they certainly do not want to reimburse fees (or pay fees) to have a student removed unless that student is breaking local laws and/or is a danger to themselves or the community.

Contracts and Equipment

When employees or students contract to join a school, they are usually told, “We will give you xyz.” Maybe that is a laptop. Maybe the school is BYOD and people get software. Regardless, most schools give teachers and students something, and that something is part of their contract. I have yet to see the initial agreement for new teachers to say, “Before you take this job you must agree that if you break the school’s AUP you will be financially responsible for xyz.”

Schools looking for staff are already vetting people as much as they can. They would never consider not hiring someone because that person had a philosophical disagreement with a liability clause on an item worth less than $2000.00. Not having a teacher, means not meeting the contractual obligation the school has with families, and the families are paying tuition.

Simply put, as with many things relating to IT, people just do not care. They only care that the majority of teachers work with IT well, and that 100% of the teachers work with children well. They will maintain their agreement to equip the teachers and students unless something very drastic occurred.

A Great Teacher Can Skip the AUP

Right or wrong, a school with a strong subject teacher or department head, is not going to strictly enforce policies that they see as trivial.

An adult, with an excellent track record and IT, proficiency should be allowed to manage their own computer. They most like manage far more complex things, and they should not need IT to install software. These are the expectations of most modern professional. Most AUPs cause conflict when they limit access or workflow. What have just written is the opinion of most administrators who are focused on finding good people, who are professional. Reflecting, many AUPs would now seem trivial.

Therefore, fighting over the AUP is not the answer to achieving what most Technology Directors want, which are standards that protect the network and equipment. Another approach is required.

Is this just Anarchy without Hope?

If I loan you (the reader who is not captivated by the heading) my car, and you damage it, you know there is an expectation that you will compensate me for the damage. We do not need a written agreement. Socially, the expectation is applied.

Teachers and students know what they own and what they do not own. Therefore, they are aware if they damage something, some compensation is required. The school may wave this compensation, but the expectation is there.

As far as network usage goes, if the school cannot afford a filter, then all users will have open internet access. Teachers, as a profession, have an expectation to not expose students to inappropriate content. Teachers breaking that expectation would fall into a different category than those violating IT procedures. An AUP is not where this type of policy should fit, as it connects to the concept of harming children.

So what should the AUP be? In a recent post by Roberto Baldizón , he argues that it should be visible, interactive, and memorable. This is what that means to me:

  • The AUP should be something people can easily refer to make decisions in gray areas. Such as:  How should I properly email parents?
  • The AUP should contain indicators or examples of behaviour that is consider inappropriate for the community. For example, the community might always insist that in group meetings all laptops are put away.
  • The AUP might list areas that will be evaluated in a end-of-year teacher evaluations.
  • The AUP needs to connect to the mission of the school and the vision of the Technology Department. The language should be consistent. This joins the policy to other policies.

What about MY AUP?

My Staff AUP is filled with liability jargon. It is not fun, and mainly it is used to notify people that they are responsible for breaking things. I do this out of habit and have a very hard time squeezing money out of staff for damage under $1000.00 USD.

The best tool I have for managing behaviour is my IT Ticket system. It has, in great detail, data that allows me to go to a senior administrative meeting and identify individuals who are abusing resources, not responsible for their classrooms, and who repeat the same cycle of break-it/fix-it. This is the data principals need to have conversations with staff, and use for end-of-year evaluations.

My Student AUP is not as bad. It is connected to the student disciplinary policy and was written by committee. At no point does my AUP indicate it has the power to remove a student from the academic program, it only allows for network management and/or banning of services, to be decided by the academic office. The AUP is actually to help the academic office make decisions.

Writing policy is important. Writing unenforceable policy is a waste of time. Find the balance, research your local laws and guidelines, align with other people, and use the community to manage the individual.

Tony DePrato


How to Help Your Dude Named Ben

If you are not aware, “A Dude Named Ben” refers to the generic and often ignored systems administrators who work at/in organizations.

When the IRS lost all their emails, they claimed total ignorance, and had no idea who their tech people were. This video is entertaining and can explain the origin or the term, but has very little bearing on this post. Enough background! Let’s get into it.

Every school has at least one “Dude Named Ben”. I often find in times of crisis, such as massive hardware failures, Technology Directors and School Administrators do not know how to support the process and procedures needed to literally save critical technology infrastructure.

In many situations, the school administration and the head of technology do not have the professional experience required to deeply understand infrastructure, therefore, they avoid managing or being directly involved in situations related to critical infrastructure.

The fact is a good manager or leader can always help a person who is working on a tight timeline and is highly stressed, and often feeling totally isolated with the problem. Here are some simple steps to take to assist any Dude Named Ben, without getting in the way.

Make the Timeline and Targets

Unless the situation is dangerous or hazardous, the first thing that should be done after the briefing is to set the timeline and targets. Many people want to just start working, this is not a good idea. People need to talk out problems. Most people relate well to time and urgency.

  • Start by asking what steps have to be taken to get the status quo back.
  • Then ask what needs to be done to determine what caused the problem and prevent it from happening again.
  • Then start inquiring how long each step should take, in a normal situation.

Now there is a set of goals and a general understanding of how long it should take to complete them all. If time is actually lacking, then start asking the tough questions such as, “Which of these steps could we skip, and be operation but not perfectly operational by our deadline?”

This is where leadership matters. This is where ownership of the consequence can shift, and the system administrator(s) can work and feel supported. There is always a chance of failure, and people working in fear are not going to work as well as someone who is being supported by leadership. Also, this process builds confidence. When administrators take time to listen and understand, the barriers come down and an honest explanation and list of issues will surface.

Set Some Rules for Health

Yes, I know how it sounds, but it is important. If you have a team that must pull a 12 hour plus shift, or work in some adverse conditions, then make a plan to keep people healthy. Provide food, drinks, and mandatory breaks. Set points where everyone steps away from the problem, reviews the targets and timeline and reflect on the work. This is a great time to make adjustments and reconsider some priorities.

A manager or leader can control and manage all of these things for the team that is handling the problem(s). It is one less thing the team has to worry about, and they will appreciate it. Odds are, the problem will be more complex than it seemed initially. So having a team that is willing to go that extra mile without being asked will make all the difference.

This is an Opportunity, so Seize it

When things break, and have to be rebuilt, it is an opportunity to make improvements.
It is critical to know why the failure happened, and to mandate that steps be taken to prevent it, not to fix it. Fixing can imply that the old system needs to be patched and kickstarted back to life, only to once again fail.

Seizing the opportunity could cost some more time, but the benefits often outweigh the loss of time. Identify those who will suffer the most for the lack of the resource(s). Explain the problem, and that the idea is not to fix but to expand and improve. Use the word opportunity often, and get the stakeholders to agree.

Your Dude Named Ben is a person. Remember that. If you can form and manage teams, you can help in times of crisis. Trust me, it is not fun being that guy -sitting alone- and knowing everyone is waiting for you to pull-off a miracle.


Tony DePrato



Options Lead to Issues

“Walk on road, hmm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later… get squish just like grape.”~ The Karate Kid, 1984


I am a strong proponent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for students and personal ownership of the tools needed for professionals to get their jobs done.

However, in any successful organisation policies, procedure, norms, and culture eventually become established. Within the culture, standards around technology are formed, and hopefully those leading technology have taken the time to write these standards down for others to learn.

This structure does impeded on some freedom. It does say ‘Yes’ to somethings and ‘No’ to other things. Maybe it is evolution, and maybe it is a mistake, but it is how must organisations define themselves.

Lately I have had some conversations with technology leaders who are facing challenges with people reverting to practices that have been removed through policy. It is frustrating and time-consuming to re-hash issues that were settled in the past. The fact is, technology leadership often enables this type of behaviour by proving or allowing too many options.

Here are a few examples to outline some common scenarios where allowing people choice can cripple an implementation.

First off, cloud storage. For the most part, I love using cloud based systems. I am not going to explain why, but I am pretty good at selling people on the benefits. It is easy to sell people on things that I personally use and see the same benefits in. However, it is common for people to try and delay migrating to cloud storage in favor of using their old network shares.

Most of these delays  are related to departments not wanting to manage all the garbage files and illegal files they are using. Garbage is not referring to quality, but to age and file duplication. Within most organizations their are quotas and rules set for file storage. However, most organizations make exceptions to these rules over time. A few departments get so bloated with content, that they cannot move everything to the cloud easily. Nor can the technology department help them, because the time to migrate is days not hours.

Allowing departments more time is a common reaction to the problem. This, unfortunately, is bad for everyone else (usually the majority of users). The people who were initially compliant will continue to access their old network shares. The access was not removed because of the delay caused by a few departments. This flexibility in the plan allowed the community to revert to an old plan and model. The option enabled more bad practice.

I would approach this problem by giving the angry few 24 hours to move all their files to their personal laptops, and then remove their network shares. Why? Because they caused this issue, and they need to decide how much of their data is really going to be worth moving to the cloud. They need to audit the illegal content and find a way to share it so that the technology department is not using official organizational resources to manage illegal data.

Another issue that often surfaces in technology is when a school switches to a new database system, but old sets of data are scattered around in offices. Although the new database is up-to-date and functional, a few offices will always be sitting on years of old spreadsheets. These are not shared or even fully accounted for, they are, however, a threat to maintaining data integrity.

Some people will email data from old spreadsheets instead of generating new spreadsheets from the updated database. Often the solution is to set a data usage policy and hope that people comply. Setting policies and hoping people comply is diplomatic, but it does not keep them from reverting to their old habits and beliefs they may hold in the old system.

I think a better solution would be to create a 14 day period where all work has to be done on new hardware with the new software, and no access to old user profiles and documents. This will not only prevent the bad data from flowing, it will also expedite the training. Nothing is being deleted. Access is merely being regulated.

Working in technology leadership,  I spend most of my time saying ‘No’ or ‘Yes, but not that way.’.

I rarely find myself approving good ideas without providing some structure. I think it is very easy to slip into a comfort zone of trusting people to voluntarily transition out of their comfort zone.

The truth is leadership often involves not being popular. It involves thinking about the whole organization, the stakeholders, and the people depending on longterm success.

Setting a plan in motion and choosing a direction is always a risk. However, once a choice is made it needs to be followed. If the choice is wrong, the momentum will stop and the damage will be assessed. A new direction and choice will be set, and the process will begin again.  A plan can die right out of the gate is it is not allowed to move and evolve down its planned path. A bump along the way should not create forks and decision trees.

Choose and move, and find a path. Stay in place, and wait to be stepped-on. Those are really the only two choices.

Tony DePrato


Opportunity Cost

According to Wikipedia – Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone (that is not chosen). It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone

Basically it means that you could have done one thing, now you are doing something else…and with all choices there is a cost to you or someone else for making that choice.

In the last week many things have happened in my small part of the Educational Technology-verse. I have had conversations about bad printing schemes, mismanaged ordering, grading, reporting, online learning etc.

As I looked at all these unrelated events, I realized that most of them had a very high Opportunity Cost, that negatively impacted the school and learning. I even mentioned to some people in a meeting that, “their process has a high opportunity cost”.  They just looked at me, and stared.

The reaction was expected. I am aware that people think opportunity cost is just about using time; but in fact it is a financial burden that should be calculated into every plan. The reason people do not factor it in is usually because they feel justified in the time they are using, or because they want to avoid doing the other choices that were available to them.

But We Have to Do IT! 

Normally someone believes or is told that they must do something and, possibly, do it in a certain way. Not only must they do it, but if they do not there will be unknown consequences. Let’s be clear: No You Don’t, and No There Isn’t.

The one thing I know about consequences is that they are clearly defined or they do not exist. Randomly creating consequences, which I am guilty of at times due to lack of planning, does not work. All that happens is loop holes are created, and the consequences mean nothing.

Always remember you do not have to do anything, especially if it is bad for your organization. I know this sound insubordinate, but I guess that is because it is. It is also a responsible stance for people in leadership positions to take. Taking a few shots to the professional portfolio is worth protecting the integrity and inner workings of the community.

When a person is tasked away from their primary task, or told to complete a job without the needed minimal set of resources, a very high opportunity cost is created.  So the timeline for anything other than a real emergency needs to factor in a change management process to minimize opportunity cost. In addition, when people are asked to do something, those people need to be consulted on what tools they need to complete the job.

I once was asked to collect some data for a group of people outside of my school who were working closely with management. They sent a spreadsheet over that was so large it would not scroll on an Imac with 4 gigs of ram. And ..for the non-technical readers – that means it was the world’s worst spreadsheet. No one even tested it out. It was so badly designed that I just made mine own spreadsheet and used it instead.

So not only did I have to use time to collect data, I had to re-create the tool needed to collect it. Does that sound like a good plan? A well thought out process? As a leader, I try to get things done when they least impact other things. It is not an exact science, but I make an effort and normally succeed.

Engineers Cleaning Toliets

Studies have been done and published in books such as Slack that highlight the importance of management doing management, engineers doing engineering, and secretaries doing secretarial work. A common sense division of labor that human beings seemed to evolve to in every culture on Earth. So why is that when I look at schools I see principals calling parents about tardiness, IT engineers (these are people with degrees and certifications) adjusting projector focuses, and teachers repairing printers?

It seems in education there is an expectation that everyone needs to be flexible and pitch-in because there are not enough people to handle all the things that are going on. Or that people need more training and until they get it someone else has to do some set of basic tasks for them.

Often, when resources are given to schools, there is little consideration for training time and the loss of work due to learning something new. In fact I find many educational solutions focus on the user needing to “learn to use the system correctly”. This is a philosophy one would not find in top-end commercial solutions. Solutions designed for people with a given skill set with the goal of being intuitive for that skill set.

The reason for all of these bad assumptions and practices is that there is no real value placed on time in an educational setting; or saying that in a different way – no one accounts for revenue lost due to these practices.

I am willing to bet that if one were to tour through Boeing, Ford, Apple, or Microsoft they would not witness engineers cleaning toilets unless they were designing a new toilet with some awesome new features. Think about that.

Money Dirty Money

So far this is all just a rant, and although people will AGREE they will mostly AGREE with there initial thought of, ” we do the best we can.” It is in these moments I am glad I modeled my childhood philosophy off of Star Wars (the real Star Wars), because when people say -“We do the best we can.”- I say, Do or Do not there is no Try”~Master Yoda.

I digress…so I need to wake everyone up by showing you how much money you are losing by wasting time doing other things.

Let’s talk about Bob the water guy.

Bob is a logistics specialist. His job is to get large quantities of things from a central location to multiple sites as quickly as possible. In this instance his job is to move 1200 liters of bottled water to 6 locations.

His company was able to buy this water for  $ .30 a liter or a total of $360.00. The water has to go to construction sites, and it is not an optional resource. However, if the supplier delivers the water the cost would be $ .60 a liter or $600.00.  So obviously Bob’s bosses want to save money so they task him to use his time and their trucks (which are already going to the sites for other deliveries) to save $240.00 per order.

So Bob is planning the delivery. He knows when the water arrives he has to have a space for it to be placed, a crew to unload it, his trucks in place, and a crew to load it. Then there is the delivery time which needs to be at a point in the work day where people can help unload the water and store it.  Bob has a job, a specific project, and he is working. He needs about 3 hours.

As he begins planning, Bob’s boss asks him to review a plan for a new storage unit- 30 minutes.

Then he has to email some feedback to the boss- 15 minutes.

He reassess the water project and starts to plan again – 15 minutes.

1 hour before the delivery Bob is interrupted again and ask to join a meeting with the accounting department – 30 minutes.

Bob returns to re-assess what is left to do before the delivery arrives – 15 minutes.

He now has about 15 minutes left before the delivery arrives. He needed 3 hours to prepare, he has worked on the project a total of about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The delivery arrives.

Although the trucks are ready and in the unloading area, the crew to move the water is not on site yet because Bob did not notify them early enough. They have to wait. The trucks will only wait for 15 minutes, after that they have to charge a fee or leave. They have other deliveries. Since the money for the water had been paid in full they waited for 15 minutes they decided to leave and return.

The trucks depart.

In another 15 minutes people arrive to unload, and they wait. Each person actually has a variety of loading and unloading jobs to do, so these jobs are not getting done. Assume they wait 30 minutes for the trucks to return; the unloading crew and Bob’s truck drivers are each wasting 30 minutes. Assume that there are 6 people in total, that means a total waste of 3 hours not doing something else.

The trucks return and the water is moved – 30 minutes.

The project is about 1 hour over due. By the time the deliveries get to their destinations, the work site will be nearly closed. If the trucks show-up too late no one will be able to unload them. This would be a further waste of time and fuel. Bob decides the delivery will happen in the morning.

The next day the trucks disperse. They make their deliveries. A few days later expense reimbursements for water hit the accounting office. Bob is asked to come to the office.

When Bob arrives and checks the receipts, he notices that the day the delivery should have been made was the same date on all the receipts. Each receipt was about priced about $1.00 a liter. That means a total expense of $1200.00 due to the delay. Apparently the local site managers thought water was so important that they could not risk the delivery not showing-up.


If this happens one time, then the isolated incident is so small that it really does not impact the economics of the company. However, if it happens often, then site managers will start to buy their own resources just to be safe. So people will be buying items at a higher rate than the company can buy them. Yet the company will also keep resourcing the sites with identical items creating an unneeded surplus.

Management cannot stop the process unless they can ensure the deliveries, because of legal and safety issues. We are talking about core and critical resources.

Distracting and retasking Bob was an opportunity cost of about 1 hour an 15 minutes. Yet, it caused a cascading loss and negatively impacted the work at six work sites. Leaving Bob alone to do his job, and making sure he was only re-tasked incase of emergency, would have prevented all of this. Bob’s job is logistics. He really does not need to make decisions about buildings nor does he need to advise accounting – unless his time is free and allows for it.

Take this scenario and apply it to your world / your community. Consider people who seem to do jobs that are not in their purview. Ask yourself what is not getting done when they are re-tasked , and look for cascading effects.

Whatever you? El Numero Uno? If you feel you are always out of scope, start saying ‘No’. Make the argument that you need to focus on your job, until your projects are done. If a system is so crippled that everyone needs to be re-tasked to complete a system goal – then the system needs to be replaced. Working within it, and appeasing it is not good for anyone. In fact I think history teaches use that appeasement leads to conflict, not resolution or improvement.


“I’m a Visual Learner! Please DIFFERENTIATE ME!”

Here is the situation. You are stuck in an elevator. There is a dim emergency light on. The circulation fan is off, and the power seems to be lost. You grab the handy emergency phone. A man answers, and asks what your emergency is. You explain. There is a pause, a long two to three minute pause that seem s like it is taking hours to pass. A new voice comes on. “Hello, this is Captain Smith of the City Fire Department. The computer controlling you elevator has stopped responding. You are on the 23rd floor and it will take us 2-3 hours to free you. You may run out of air before that. However, there is another way. We can talk you through the process of rebooting the elevator. It should take about 20 minutes to complete.”

I ask you – do you say to the fireman, “Sorry I am a visual learner.”

Only if you have a death wish, or wish to pass-out from lack of good O2 rich air. I bet 99% of people would listen to this fireman, and do their best to reboot the elevator.

If you listen carefully when people try and fathom reasons they cannot learn, it is always because some mystical ingredient is missing. You might have a chemistry text book, but they need a video series to watch as well. You might have a video series, but they need it to be interactive so they can control the pace. Whatever it is, it is an excuse.

Of course based on our individual personalities and physiology, we can “learn better” if the situation suits us perfectly, but in real life how often does that happen?  And when the stakes are high and we need to be people who can make decisions, do we stop and ask for the information to be re-presented to us in a way that we prefer? NO!

So why is it that everytime I have a meeting, go to a seminar, etc people keep claiming they need customization, and that the presenter of the information needs to create that customization? If you really feel like you need to arrange things in a special way to learn, shouldn’t you be the one to take on this task?

We all are seeing a trend in education where teachers are being asked to customize every lesson on a per child basis. Not only is this impossible, it destroys the learning process. That process being that the PROCESS of LEARNING and the EXPERIENCE of the LEARNING is more important than the content. Teaching students how to find ways to restructure their world is more important than doing it for them.

So how does educational technology factor into this growing cloud of ignorant destruction? Technology can not only make it possible for everyone to control their learning, but it can also give each person the responsibility of sorting out their own idiosyncrasies .

Instead of one person trying to please multiple groups of 15-30 people, the one person should be able to show each group different ways to approach learning. In a very natural way, each person in the group will migrate to solutions that are easiest for them. Some people will, for various annoying reasons, keep their practice very cumbersome. This is when the facilitator has to step in and influence the learning choices.

Notice I am not saying teacher and student. I am avoiding these terms because learning methodology should apply to everyone in situations where they are trying to learn. Adults and children are physiologically different, and thus appear to be different types of learners. However, all human beings follow the same series when learning: trial – error – trial – error.  The more tries someone attempts, the better their chances for mastery.

Technology needs to be seen and used as a tool, not a solution. The most important thing a school can do is make sure that everyone in the community has equal access to varying types of resources. Educational leadership needs to stop dictating that teachers customize learning for each student. True leadership should lead to a change in culture and positive learning outcomes. Asking one person to micromanage 120 people is not going to work and does not work in any other field. What works is teaching those people who are facilitating learning to distribute learning techniques that allow individual participants to customize their experiences. When we distribute we enable opportunity. Everything else is just filling-in the gaps while walking down a path of utter inefficiency ending in a pool of frustration.

Tony DePrato