Tag Archives: Problems

The Solution to No Solution

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

Not every problem has a solution. Maybe a better way to express that idea is not every problem has a solution within its current construct.

Sometimes, the rules, the structure, and/or the environment are opposed to the solution. Trying and trying again will be an endless cycle; and gains will be replaced by more and more losses.

If you cannot win the game, you need to change the game you are playing.

Finding the Correct Question(s) to Ask

Recently I was reading a comment thread about a housing situation. The situation was ridiculous. I could not think of a single country or job situation where this type of agreement would be acceptable. In fact, it seemed illegal, and more like a scam than a contractual housing issue.

The person in the situation was asking, “What can I do to manage my financial loss in this situation?”

That was the wrong question to ask. This person was focusing on the result of a bad contract. The question they should be asking is, “How can I get out of this contract?”

The contract is/was the issue. If you beat the financial loss with a loophole, another jab will come from another direction. How do I know this? Because the contract is a scam. The scammer needs the scam. The scammer will not take a loss.

In another recent situation, I had 100s of devices start to fail. The software just stopped working. Initially, I was trying to fix the devices. That seems normal, but my choice was wrong.

I only attempted to fix the problem for about 45 minutes. Then I took a step back and asked myself, “What causes 100s of stable devices to systematically fail?”

There was pressure to keep trying to fix each device. I resisted. I knew that if I fixed them, they would fail again. I knew this, because a system wide failure is not created by something on one device. It had to be external.

The problem was external. It took two weeks of paperwork and the support of a two external companies to correct the issue. There was no way for me to solve the problem. The problem was unsolvable within my environment. I had to change the process, and the entire workflow, to bring everything back online.

Avoid Being Locked Into the Past

Many people get locked into a process or workflow. They get so locked in, they never look-up, the never reflect, and they always want to carry their environment with them into the future.

When this happens they spend all their time trying to make their past work in the present.

Technology can be fascinating. It is one of the only areas of the human experience where older solutions are often actually better and more evolved than current solutions. People who are locked in on a process are not always wrong. Their older solution is better compared to the new solution.

The problem is, technology solutions are often abandoned. Developers stop developing. Companies stop supporting. Licensing stops being available. Eventually, the solution does not work unless you bring the entire version of the past into the present. The software. The hardware. Everything. Not only is this not practical, eventually everyone involved is alienated except the “time-traveler”.

I have seen a school running a version of PowerSchool too old to be viable outside of the school’s local network. It was so old, it could not be upgraded using new releases from PowerSchool. So old that PowerSchool would not provide support. And, so old that it eventually did not meet data security standards for any of the other partners the school was using.

This particular implementation had amazing features. It was customized beyond normal limits. It was also something that no parent or student wanted to use anymore. The largest user groups wanted a change, and the only solution was a completely new information system. That also means the school had to hire a new department of people. Those who kept their system living well beyond its life were too entrenched to change.

Reflecting on decisions on a regular basis, and having critical input from others, will prevent these scenarios. And this type of complete rebuild scenario is common. It is far too common, and it is destructive.

A Bad Deal, is a Bad Deal

Education is often seen as an industry that does not follow common business strategy. In many cases, this is true and unavoidable. Schools do not get to choose perfect children. Schools work with students, and sometimes at great cost, to help them grow and develop.

However, the business processes, procurement planning, and infrastructural systems do not need to operate irresponsibly for educational goals to be achieved. Planning to be inefficient, and being content to lose, is not a benefit to any child.

I have seen many bad deals, bad contracts, and predatory vendor relationships. These situations create unsolvable problems. The game is rigged. The school is often getting a poor value with a low to zero return on investment.

I had the unfortunate luck of managing a bad printing contract for a school. The school had made a deal with a third-party for Xerox solutions. Xerox has their own sales force and service, so why would anyone need a third party?

The contractor not only could not manage the hardware, they had no idea how the software worked, they were not aware of all the requirements needed for an Apple Computer environment, and they did not understand the accounting system connected to the service.

What was my solution? Remove the contractor. Instead of trying to fix the printers, I spent every moment collecting evidence and documenting breaches of the contract. I eventually made a strong case, and the school switched to a direct partner relationship.

There was no win-win. The contract was bad. The situation was impossible.

No matter how much we want something to work, or be a solution, there is a point in the process where we need to step back. We need to ask, is this worth it? Is there a better way? Are we driving the process, or is it driving us?

Problem Solving with Technology: A List of Topics and Standards

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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.

Computer Science is not programming, although programming is required to practice the discipline. Computer Science is a field of study which seeks to automate processes using algorithms, and to solve problems using algorithmic based strategies. Computer Science often involves simulating outcomes using data-sets, after creating a hypothesis. A person who studies computer science may not be able to creatively express themselves through the mediums of web design, multimedia, game design, etc.

Programming (Coding) is a generic term used to categorize the actions taken to make computers, devices, websites, games, etc. function. Programming is not a single knowledge base. Programming is comprised of vast options which are explored based-on the type of outcome needed and the type of system that is being engaged. A programmer may have aptitude to perform computer science related work, or, they may not. Students can learn to program hardware that they set free to interact with the world. Machines of all types can be programmed. Limiting exposure to programming mediums limits opportunity.

Cloud-based educational technology resources refer to environments such as Google Apps for Education and Office 365 for Education.

Portfolios and Project Tracking

In an ideal world, at the end of each semester student work should be submitted to the school following this model:

  • Each student must submit three pieces of work (good, average, and below average) per year they have created, even if that work is only documentation. The work must be original and comply with all copyright laws.
  • The school will submit the work to a network/district wide repository that utilizes standard tagging and search techniques found in cloud-based environments. Think #hashtags.
  • Each school/district can then evaluate what students are doing.
  • Students participating in third-party curricula, such as the IB Program, will be required to produce work for internal and external assessments. The final marking of these assessments can be compared to previous projects to help internally moderate scores and performance indicators.
  • Students from Year 11 should have a personal repository to share their portfolio work outside of the school community. This public repository should be maintained for two years after graduation.

Problem Solving with Technology by Year Level

Year 3 (8-9 Years Old) :

  • Object Based Drag-and-Drop Trial and Error Systems (An Example would be SCRATCH)
  • Arduino Based Manipulatives (An Example would be Makey Makey)

See Standards

Year 4 :

  • Object Based Drag-and-Drop Trial and Error Systems
  • Arduino Based Manipulatives
  • Programmable Robotics (An Example would be Lego, VEX, or similar)
  • Mechanical Skills Challenge Based Competitive Robotics

See Standards
Year 5 :

  • Arduino Based Manipulatives
  • Programmable Robotics
  • Challenge Based Competitive Robotics
  • Mathematic Basics with Javascript.
  • Hyperlinking Concepts using Cloud-based Resources
  • Asynchronous Communication Concepts using Cloud-based Resources

See Standards
Year 6 :

  • Arduino Based Manipulatives
  • Programmable Robotics
  • Operating System Manipulation
  • Mathematics, Arrays, Functions, and External Referencing with Javascript.
  • Hyperlinking Concepts using Cloud-based Resources
  • Asynchronous Communication Concepts using Cloud-based Resources
  • Peer Review Concepts using Cloud-based Resources

See Standards
Year 7 :

  • Arduino Based Manipulatives
  • Operating System Manipulation
  • Computer-to-Computer Communication without the Internet
  • Mathematics, Arrays, Functions, and External Referencing- Language Choices Flexible
  • Peer Review Concepts using Cloud-based Resources
  • Team Base Projects Using Arduino, Robotics, or Client Side Programming, with Documentation
  • Story Boarding Concepts for Media and Games

See Standards
Year 8 :

  • Computer-to-Computer Communication without “The Internet” (This refers to learning simple protocols)
  • Game Programming with Story Boards – Language Choices Flexible
  • Tutorial and Documentation Development for Primary School Learners
  • Team Base Projects Using Arduino, Robotics, or Client Side Programming, with Documentation
  • Local Server Concepts with Pre-Configured Servers Hosting WordPress (An Example would be MAMP or XAMP)

See Standards
Year 9 :

  • Game Programming with Story Boards – Language Choices Flexible
  • Tutorial and Documentation Development for Primary School Learners
  • Local Server with WordPress and Customisations
  • Local Server to Live Server Migration with WordPress
  • Math and Program Control Basics with Java, Javascript, PHP, or Python

See Standards
Year 10 :

  • Robotics or Automation without the GUI
  • Java or Python Core Programming Libraries
  • SQL Basics with Java, Javascript, PHP, or Python
  • Math Concepts: Game Theory and Probability (To be Simulated with Programming)

See Standards
Years 11 & 12 :

  • IB Computer Science
  • IB IGCSE
  • Public Website Design and Development
  • Mobile Game Development or Flash Game Development
  • Design Technology- CAD and 3D Printing

See Standards