Tag Archives: Apps

Negative Effects of App Attachment

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I was speaking to a friend recently about an argument he had with a teacher. The teacher was adamant that if they could not use one particular app, their classes would come to a halt, and learning would immediately be suspended until further notice.

Obviously, I cannot think of a single application or subscription that is that critical to learning. I am not referring to a complete environment like Google Apps for Education. I am referring to people getting angry, and going into a panic, over a single application or service.

More and more I see these conflicts among teachers and schools (similar to the Curriculum in a Suitcase problem).

Schools and teachers need to be aware that being a fanboy or fangirl will not be rewarded. In fact, the odds are that being too connected to a particular solution will more than likely lead to a lack of resources and very real disappointment.

Cancelled Without Notice

This is an excellent page to look at: Cancelled Google Services

There are 43 services listed that have been cancelled, even though many were used by numerous people. Google Wave was hugely popular with schools, and then one day, Google closed it down with very little notice.

In 2017, the popular library service RefMe was bought by a competitor and shutdown. This service had a popular paid version, and customers still lost access to the product they wanted.

The fact is many of these companies are funded by venture capital. If they do not meet their required metrics, they lose their funding and are quickly shutdown or sold. Often when companies are sold, the services they provide are shutdown. The intellectual property and user data is more valuable than the actual application.

Where does all this leave a person who has built their entire practice around a single service or product? Desperate and angry.

A Basket of Solutions

A basket of currencies is an interesting model to reflect on when setting asset management policies. A basket of currencies helps set a value, so that if one currency happens to plummet in value, the value of the target currency is not impacted significantly.

Applying this to educational technology asset management, schools would:

  • Make a requirement that departments have a defined set of resources they are using
  • Complete a regular review of those resources
  • Develop a process to allow teachers to regularly propose and pilot new resources

The influx of a few new solutions will buffer the school against big changes made by products and services they are using. Thus, not allowing a single company’s decisions to shift the learning, purchasing, or culture of the school.

In addition, there must be an annual expectation that technology will change and training will happen. Having a culture where people expect stagnation is dangerous in a technology driven environment that is based on companies constantly cannibalizing one another.

Brands Do Not Care About Learning

I have been recommending Apple laptops for many years. However, after the recent round of Apple changes to their base laptops, I am no longer recommending Apple without a discussion about the current downside of the new designs; and a review of the briefly held negative status of the Macbook Pro published by Consumer Reports.

The truth is, there are many options now that are better for many types of schools and users. Apple changed. They changed to meet their market. They did not make decisions to improve learning at K-12 organizations. Apple chose to make more money.

This holds true for all the big players in educational technology. Their decisions are focused on growth and profit. They want to take as much of the market as possible. Sometimes that means creating innovative new features, and sometimes it means making a cheaper product to increase margins.

Hardware is normally purchased in cycles of 3-5 years. That means, every year 2 or year 4, a platform review should occur. The practice of always buying the same brand without a critical analysis of that brand is the equivalent of letting the brand dictate the options available for teachers and students.

Schools should make good choices and be able to adjust to the market. Teachers should be aware that change is always on the horizon, and using technology is an agnostic endeavor.

Buy into the school. Buy into the curriculum. Buy into people and ideas. Do not sellout to software, services, and nicely branded machines.


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.