There is No App for That



By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

“Read every line item until you get it.” ~Michael Burry 

During the last four weeks I have been reading literature, academic studies, and news articles on finance. I have studied graphs, looked through numerous sets of data, watched Youtube videos, and read two full books on asset allocation.  I am doing this research in my free-time, because I want to make a new investment. I want to fully understand how to manage the investment, and the longterm risks involved. There is No App for This. This is work, and it will only get more complicated as I get more involved.

Adding to my research, I watched a few fiction and non-fiction movies about the 2008 economic crisis. Studying humanity’s failures on a grand scale is always enlightening. Through my reading, and viewing, of this event I learned that Dr. Michael Burry discovered the market problems by reading 1000s of individual mortgages. He instructed his staff to read 1000s of records as well and to interpret the data. There is No App for This. This is work, and it only gets more complicated as it develops.

The systems and tools that allow a few people to manage tens of thousands of data points, to connect the community, to inform families, and to track what is happening formatively are not trivial systems. These systems have Apps that allow for a few conveniences, but all the power and value is in the strategic and creative development of these systems by the schools that use them, not the companies that own them.

 22353 Points of Data

In one semester, at a school with less than 600 students, 22353 points of academic data was collected in the school information system. This data spanned ten subjects, and was surrounded by long form formative comments.

There are pre-built reports that show median and modal representations of the data. However, if an administrator or teacher would like to apply a trend line or percentage change to such data, they would need to clearly define and model the parameters. Designing parameters to report on this data, to compare it to the comments, to graph it, to learn from it…There is No App for That. 

6908 Words on a Map

A single grade 5 science curriculum map contained 6908 words. Many of the words linked to evidence. Each thought, link, and comment represents a point of data. Each standard matched against to an assessment represents someones belief in progress, or lack thereof.

Running a true analysis on curriculum data goes well beyond using simple menus and pre-made options. True analysis requires spending time creating questions and hypothesis, and then devising clever ways to answer and test those. There is No App for That.

Curriculum mapping software is only useful when it is driven by the intellect and creative mind. No shortcut programmed in the menu can help anyone to truly understand the trends in the curriculum. The construct and definition of a curriculum report are the path to the answers, not the links in the menu.

9263 Documents in an Archive

An organization collects all the practices, policies, procedures, and artifacts that equal the sum of its existence. Using this trove of information an outsider can understand how the organization has evolved, where the organization is going, and if the organization is going to achieve its mission.

Those responsible for absorbing and interpreting this information must ultimately articulate their ideas and findings into a report that can be easily disseminated and applied. In other words, 10,000 documents, reduced to a few dozen.

This process requires both technical and intellectual tools that are varied and chaotic. There are tools available to aid in the process. These tools must be used when needed, and set aside when they are a distraction. Some of the work is analog, and other parts are purely digital. There is No App for This.

The Myth of Simplicity

The lines are getting blurred between ordering a car with Uber, and analyzing 10,000 points of data related to student performance. Difficult jobs, requiring technology solutions, are still difficult.

School administrators, teachers, and students still need real tools and the skills to master those tools.

The software and services powering a modern educational institution are full of the information needed to make better decisions in all aspects of the organizational structure. Accessing this information and using it still requires a plan, time commitment, and a deep understanding of the systems used to collect and curate it.

In order to create a meaningful outcome, someone has to make a decision and set parameters. The question should not be, what App is easiest for this job? . The question should be, what are the best tools for this job? .

Leading change and improvement is not a simple task. Growth and improvement take a plan, time, creativity, and organizational resilience. Simply put, There is No App for That.

About Tony DePrato

Tony DePrato has a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University and has been working as a Director of Educational Technology since 2009. He has worked in the United Arab Emirates and China where he has consulted with schools in both regions on various technology topics. In 2013, Tony DePrato released The BYOD Playbook a free guide for schools looking to discuss or plan a Bring Your Own Device program. Tony is originally from the US, and worked in multimedia, website development, and freelance video production. Tony is married to Kendra Perkins, who is a librarian.
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