Author Archives: Tony Deprato


How to make an area counter in Google spreadsheets

Google sheets is pretty powerful – heck most spreadsheets program are pretty powerful. This guide will show you how to create your very own spreadsheet that will automatically calculate area. Area is not terribly difficult for students but it is always nice to have a little something in your pocket to check your work.

I’m going to do this for with my grade 6 math class this week and thought I’d share it out! Feel free to change or get in touch with me about any questions!

  • Rectangles/squares
  • Parallelograms
  • Triangles
  • Trapezoids

Step 1 – Create a new spreadsheet

Before you can start working on a spreadsheet – we need to create it. This is very easy

  1. Go to
  2. If it asks you to log in – go ahead and do that
  3. Click on the New button
  4. A drop down menu will appear. From here select Google Sheets


Google spreadsheets

Step 2 – Set up the spreadsheet

Here is our brand new spreadsheet and we are going to set it up.

  1. Name the file
  2. Copy the information you see on my spreadsheet onto your spreadsheet – make it look exactly the same!

We can format it later to make it look better.

Google spreadsheets

Step 3 – Area of rectangles and squares –  length x width

Let’s add the formula for the rectangles and squares.
When writing formulas in a spreadsheet program (any spreadsheet program), you will need to start with the equal sign (=).
Now we are ready to start adding in some formulas. This is where the magic happens. We will start in cell B4.
Copy the following in B4


When you do this and hit enter you should the formula replaced by the number 12.
What is happening is the spreadsheet is taken the number in cell B2 and the number in cell B3 and multiplying them together.
When you hit enter you should get an answer of 12!

Google spreadsheets

Step 4 – Area of parallelogram – base x height

This formula is going to be very similar to the rectangle/square formula.
This time we will be typing our formula into cell D4.


When you hit enter you should get an answer of 42
Again, what is happening is the spreadsheet is taking whatever number is in D2 and D3 and multiplying them together.
When you hit enter you should get an answer of 42!

Google spreadsheets

Step 5 – Area of a triangle – 1/2 x base x height

Now that we have the rectangle, square and parallelogram taken care of, let’s try the triangle.
Since we are doing more than just multiplying two numbers our formula will look a bit different. We will be typing this formula into cell F4.


When you hit enter you should see the answer of 20!

Google spreadsheets

Step 6 – Area of trapezoid – 1/2 x (base 1 + base 2) x height

Now we are to our final and most complicated formula.
We will be typing this formula into cell H5.


Everything must be copied perfectly! If not it will give you an error. If you do this correctly you should get an answer of 15!

Google spreadsheets

Formatting (if you want)

Now that it is built you can type any dimensions of those shapes and it will automatically and correctly calculate the area of those shapes. Below is an area calculator that I’ve been working on.
Google spreadsheets
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Education Work

Why I bought a Microsoft Surface Book for teaching

I’ve been in the market for a new computer for a while. I was looking at five different computers but it boiled down to the 13″ Apple MacBook Pro with Touchbar (yeah-I like to adopt early) or a Microsoft Surface Book. By the title you clearly know what I chose but I thought I would go through my thinking and my thoughts after a few weeks of every day use…

What I wanted

I was looking for a computer that could be actively involved in my teaching, so the ability to draw and write equations on the screen was important to me. Also this is will be very helpful when making tutorial videos for my students or colleagues. I also wanted a computer a little bit quicker than my MacBook Air but all of my choices met that criteria. The Air has been great-the best computer I’ve ever owned – period, but it is starting to show its age being nearly four years old. Finally, I wanted a computer that I felt would still be good to use 4-5 years from now and again and again, I felt that all five of my choices probably would meet that criteria.

Why the Surface Book?

The touchscreen and the built in stylus made the Surface Book a natural choice. Have you ever written on a smart board? It sucks. Your back is usually to the students, if the pen isn’t callibrated correctly you can get some weird results and if you don’t have a short throw projector – then you are blinded by the projector shining write in your eyes or your shadow may block what you’re writing. It’s a bad experience.

However, connecting my Surface Book (SB) to the proejctor allows me to write and accurately, keep my eyes on the kids and not be blinded or have to get Writing with the pen is quite accurate. It certainly isn’t as a good as pen/pencil and paper, but it is really good. I have dabbled with the Apple pencil while that is a truly great stylus, the iPad isn’t a full laptop and cannot be used for what I need it to do.

Also, detaching the screen and using it as a tablet is something I use everyday. I was surprised about how often I did this. While it’s on my desk, I use a wireless mouse and keyboard and flip my screen around to maximize the space on the front of my desk. Again, something I didn’t plan for but has been a pleasant surprise.

Why not Mac?

This is a good question. The new MacBooks are great computers – they are. They are fast, light, have a great screen and have good battery life (I am convinced they will fix that problem  that some people have).

The first is the price. $1500 for a computer with only 2 USB-C ports? I don’t have anything on USB-C yet. I carry my computer to and from work and would hate to be have realized I forgot my dongle(s) and couldn’t connect my computer to a project. With my SB – that is not a case. I do need a dongle to connect it to my projector, but this is the only place I need it, so the dongle stays here locked up every day.

Next, there is no SD card slot. You may be aware, we have a podcast on IT Babble – you should listen to it [Ed: You should!] I record the podcast on a Zoom H6 and then take the SD card out of that device and plug it into my computer and transfer the files then and edit, publish and upload.

With the new MacBook I would have to buy a dongle. I would even need a dongle or new cable to connect the Zoom H6 to my new computer! It just didn’t fit into my life. I do prefer the Mac operating system and I like their computers, but this was not the best option for me right now.

Plus – I really like technology and wanted to learn (not just experience) Windows 10.

It’s not perfect

There are things about the SB that aren’t perfect, so please don’t get in your head that it’s all rainbows and sunflowers. I do not find Windows to be as stable or as easy to navigate through and the amount of updates I had to go through the first couple of days was bonkers (like 2 hours worth).

There are other oddities that show up, sometimes the keyboard stopped working, but after closing some programs it came back. The pen is very good, but not great. There is a little bit of lag but for some fine detailed writing it’s not great and if you have bad handwriting (like I do) I find I have to take it slower.

Some of the programs I used on my Mac, I can’t find something as good for Windows. Screen capture programs and image editors are a good example. There are more options for Mac and the options for Windows are usually more expensive and in some cases not as good.

Wrapping it up

I am excited about this computer. Not only did I get a good deal with the computer, but I also was able to pick up their wireless keyboard and mouse and the Surface Dock (brick more like it) for an extra $50, which lets me easily connect to the projector and charge my SB at school. I love the versatility and I don’t mind students coming up and using it to demonstrate how to do some math for their classmates. I find myself detaching the screen more often and I can say, for me, it’s not a gimmick or novelty. It enhances my work and it is easy and fast to detach the screen and keep working.

Also I can effortlessly annotate PDFs which is great for me.


Read more from Tony on his blog and listen to the IT Babble podcast too.

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Schools need to think before they buy their IT

I worry about  how schools spend their money concerning programs. It comes from personal experience, but this isn’t about my school.
This is how I think this all came about. Some people from my school district went to a conference and went looking for a program that the district can set up but that students can use on their own for practice and, oh yeah – it needs to align with our standards.
Think of IXL math but it covers middle through high school (maybe even a little of elementary too) and tracks and gives loads of information on a bunch of customizable reports.
The company pitched it to the district, the district liked what they heard may even have had access to a demo account for a period of time to “try it out.” Then voilla! The deal was made. Our IT department linked it with active directory, so students could sign in easily and then the actual educational implementation was handed over to a group of people or a more likely a single person.
Oh no.
You see this is where things go wrong. This is where no thought of how to implement this system was really attempted. In this particular system we were given (no joke) a fifteen minute demonstration and phrases like “All you have to do is select your students to make a class and [redacted program name] will do the rest.”
We were also given a handout, which showed us the teacher a few things about assigning particular modules, even though we were told we would not have to. Needless to say, eight weeks later and we are still struggling with how to properly leverage this program. Nothing wrong with the program, nothing wrong technically on their or our side. It is just the implementation that fell flat that has made the difference.
More from Tony DePrato on his blog and on the IT Babble Blog and Podcast.

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Why AI is coming to your school

Artificial Intelligence is big news right now. Facebook and Microsoft have unleashed bots, Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistance is pretty impressive and now Google has just given the world a glimpse of their new and improved personal assistance. Guess what? AI will come to the classroom. It will take some years but it’ll find its way there and it will change the school.
So let me introduce you to Dewey – a new AI for schools. He’ll tell you all sorts of important information – you just need to ask. Is this real? No, Dewey’s not real, but I think someday AI will find itself in schools and be a part of the everyday process.
Sure, it sounds fantastic and a little beyond the realm of possibility and of course there are those who would say Why would a school want to have this thing in their school? Well allow me to present some arguments. First, remember that all schools run a student information system (SIS). This thing is a big database with all sorts of demographics, grades, behavior reports, medical reports and any other info that the school wants to record and keep track of.
For the staff, getting a hold of this information isn’t too hard. It can be a little tedious, but it’s sitting there and that’s the problem. There is so much information, for a teacher to comb through it would take hours and as everyone out there knows. Since it takes so much time and since teacher’s are always fighting against time, that data just sits there.
If teachers had access to Dewey, they could ask questions, get that information in a timely manner.
Now let’s take a look at how different people within a school can leverage Dewey.


As a teacher, here is how a digital personal assistant could be really helpful. Pretend that every teacher has their “own” AI personal assistant. Everyone has access to Dewey but they can only access information related to their students and classes. Now pretend the teacher can access this assistant from multiple devices in their classroom (cell phone, tablet, bluetooth speaker or computer). OK – that’s a quick set up now let’s talk what this teacher could do.
An obvious one is communication. What if a teacher wants to send an email to all parents about an upcoming event. Maybe they just say “Hey Dewey! Can you email all the parents about the field trip? Tell them that all permission slips are due to the school before Friday. Now send it.” Dewey will go through the SIS, find those email addresses, compose the message and send the email to each parent. There are already ways to do with other third party programs, so that’s not too unrealistic.
Now, let’s say a teacher wants to let all parents and students know who is missing assignments. You could say “Dewey! Can you send a text message and email all parents and students about missing their missing assignments?” Again, Dewey will go through the SIS and the gradebook to find anyone who is missing any assignment. Then it will find the email addresses and phone numbers, then it will compose the email and add the necessary information. This is pretty handy and brings more transparency and accountability to the class.
What if a student suddenly acting up in class. A teacher could start a behavior report that all teachers/counselors would be notified about. As it turns out if a student is acting up in one class, it is probably happening in another class. That way this student’s teachers and counselor are all alerted and looking for new types of behavior. This is a much more proactive strategy until waiting until this grows into a larger problem weeks down the road.


Administrators (I’m looking at you too counselors) could use this to quickly bring up a list of students who are not doing well after the first two weeks and have counselors meet with those students.
If one of these people needs to meet with a parent, they could easily share information about their child before the meeting to give them a heads up of not just what the meeting is about, but why they think there is an issue.
They could also look for trends with specific students for example if Johnny seems to slack off at the end of November, then teachers, counselors and parents could be alerted of that fact at the end of October and Johnny’s educational team could encourage Johnny to be more vigilant and stick with it.
There are plenty of other options out there but what do you think? Is AI coming, could we see a Dewey educational assistant in our classroom? Is this just a pipe dream? Leave your comments below – we love them!
More from Tony DePrato on his blog.

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Why grading should be transparent – and how to achieve it

Students, parents administrators, and, of course, teachers need to know how grades are collected and calculated.
It sounds simple enough, but you would be shocked how many of these stake holders have no idea how grades are calculated. This ignorance can cause big problems when parents or students question their grade and the person or institution who is reporting it can’t explain how it came to be. It’s also a little embarrassing too.
I’ve worked in a fair number of schools and in all schools, without exception, there have been a substantial number of people who have no idea how grades work. Shocking – but true. Here are some questions I’ve had to field.

  • If I don’t turn this in, what will happen to that grade?
  • So, this assignment is worth 10 points, does that mean that the final grade will go up 10 percent?
  • When I calculate the grade I get something completely different – is there something wrong with the gradebook?
  • I got this grade on an assignment and my friend got the same grade, but his grade went up more than mine. Why did that happen?
  • I have weighted grades and I got an A- on my quiz and my grade dropped even though I had an A!

The list can go on, and these questions have come from students, teachers, counselors, administrators and parents. It really doesn’t matter who asks the question, the fact that they don’t know boils down to that this person wasn’t taught or didn’t bother to learn and what’s worse is that they are stake holders. So let’s dig deeper.
Don’t point fingers!
When people don’t understand something and it affects them, they become confused, often frustrated and don’t know who to turn to for help. It’s easy to point fingers and start blaming people but this is usually counter productive. Check out the blame game below.

  • Parents can blame teachers for not explaining it to them
  • Students can blame teachers for not explaining it to them
  • Counselors can blame the IT people or the Student Information People for not explaining it to them
  • Administrators can blame teachers for not properly communicating with parents
  • Parents can blame administrators for not forcing or standardizing how grades are reported
  • Students can blame the school for not making it clear how it works
  • Teacher can blame the administrators for not explaining it to them

It can go on and on but one thing that we all know here is that this only makes the situation worse and angers people. It doesn’t work towards the goal that everyone wants – which is a clear explanation of how grades work.
First move – write a policy
Decide what type of grading system you want. Is it going to be weighted, averaged points or a set number of points that all teachers must use. I am sure there are other options out there, but the school needs to settle on one and the entire teaching staff must abide by and use it. No odd one’s out. That way students, teachers and administrators know the basics of all grading in all classes.
This way if there is a parent meeting about grades, the “how question” has already been answered, understood and can quickly be addressed. Even if the parent isn’t familiar, if the administration can point to documentation sent home and visible policies regarding grading, it will move the conversation onto more important questions such as “Why?”, “What can be done?”
Next – Identify an expert
Now that policies have been set there needs to be an “expert” in the school. Someone where students, parents, other teachers or administrators can go to ask about grades and handle these unknown questions. This person should have the ability to at least view everyone’s gradebook. In short it this person is a point of contact.
They should also be someone who is very available to all stakeholders. I tend to think that counselors should be this person, if not a counselor, then an IT coordinator or principal. Definitely an educator for sure. Someone who knows the kids and is familiar with working with parents.
True story. I was at a school and had to mark a students quarterly grades as incomplete. I didn’t know how to do it and emailed a few people, but no one got back to me, so I went ahead and submitted my grades thinking that someoone would catch it and fix it. The next day I received no less than seven emails telling me to change it and was visited by five people telling me the same thing. When I asked how to do this – no one could answer. I was upset, frustrated and the knowledge base for the program did not address this issue. In short, I was being asked to do something from a group of people and no one could give me an answer. I later learned that I needed to go to the IT department. Since no expert had been pointed out, something that should have been answered in an email took three days to figure out.
Training and testing the staff
Yep – you read it correctly – training and testing the staff. I’ve sent out all staff emails with important information before only to have that important information ignored. You can’t trust people to read their email or follow a set of directions. There needs to be a workshop and accountability. This should be run and organized by the “expert.”
It should not just be a workshop where someone walks the teachers through the grading policy. There should also be a test. This is to ensure the administration that the teaching staff not just knows but understands the policy and how it applies to their specific class.
Communication – with students
Students need to also understand how grades are calculated. Again, it shouldn’t be a handout or a teacher standing up there talking at the students. They should be shown how to access their grades (if that is an option) and make sure they actually can.
They should also know who to go to if they lose access to that system. That person is should the grading “expert” or maybe it is an IT person since it deals with an IT system.
Students should also be given or shown how to create their own gradebook on a spreadsheet. While having access to their grades online is good, it often does not give them a deep understanding of their grades. Having them to keep track of their own gives them a deeper sense of ownership and the ability to “play” with their grades to see how certain assignments can benefit or hurt their grade in certain situations.
Also, if students understand how grades work, they can work with their parents, thus making their parents a larger part of the educational and learning process. Usually a very good situation.
Communication – with parents
Parents also need access to the online grades (if your school has it). This is usually done through email, but there should also be an opportunity when parents can come after school for a workshop. Again, this should be organized by the “expert.” It gives a face to a name and is a gesture that is quite often appreciated by the parent community and this goodwill goes a long way.
Parents also need to know how to calculate grades. Trust me, this will save a bunch of emails later on in the year if parents understand how grades work.
Post info online
Finally, guides should be created and posted online. These guides should be available to anyone. If you can point parents, students and others with basic questions here, this will save lots of time and confusion.
This is a long post, I know, but it’s important. This is a lot of work to be done at the beginning of the year, but if everyone knows where the expectation is and if people know what they are expected to know – it gets a lot of procedural questions out of the way and lets everyone get down to the important business of teaching and learning.
More from Tony DePrato here.

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Education Work

If your school cannot afford the accessories, it cannot afford the project

One of the biggest mistakes schools make when they order equipment is that they do not budget for hardware upgrades, optional accessories, licensing requirements, and services that are in-fact not optional for success.

Here is a pattern of thought you should use when looking to buy a solution, or looking to reduce a budget.

  • Computers- Laptops, Desktops, Hand Helds, etc are completely useless machines that have no value in and of themselves.
  • Value is first derived from having all the software needed to run a class or complete a project, software is in fact more valuable than hardware.
  • Software is useful only if the user can connect to it and use it to create or manipulate data.
  • Connecting to software often means advanced hardware integration and buying accessories such as scanners, firewire cables, video/audio capture cards, card readers, drawing tablets, accurate laser mice, large screens, advanced video graphics cards, etc.
  • The computer with software and all the proper additional hardware is still useless unless the environment it is in is condusive to the work being done. Not all spaces can serve as work spaces, and not all spaces need to be private or quiet.

When looking for a solution or talking to someone about new technology, make sure to ask the following questions:

What do we already have to allocate to this solution?

What kind of software does this project require?
a. Is the software open source? If not have you search for an open-source solution?
b. Is the software an annual license or can we own it out-right?
c. Is there an educational discount, and do we qualify?

What additional hardware do we need? Have you looked into the accessories needed such as special cables, input devices, etc?

If this is a multimedia project and you are working with cameras of any kind have you confirmed the cameras we currently own will work with the solutions you are looking at?

What benefit does this have in terms of learning over the current solution we have?

What benefit does this have in terms of administration and time usage over the current solution we have?

Will adopting this solution create a significant strain on the training/ professional development budget?

Do we need a consultant to implement the solution?

Would you say this solution is modern and meeting curriculum and IT industry standards at similar institutions? If yes please give examples.

Do you know anyone or any place that has implemented this solution? If ‘Yes’ have you consulted with them on their experiences?

I find this flow of questioning reduced the excitement that often surrounds new projects and helps me focus on the true foundation of the project and its implementation.


More from Tony DePrato here.

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How to hire an IT consultant for your school

It is bet365’s application for android to know what they are getting when they recruit someone to lead their IT programs and/or manage their IT infrastructure. After all if the person comes with a good reference then they probably can do the job. However this may mean out sourcing every school project to a third-party. Administrators often hire people, who simply hire people. This practice causes budgets to sky rocket as every project comes with it’s normal cost plus a consulting mark-up.
Choosing a person can be done more strategically by profiling the type of person you need, and this need of course should have been determined by people in the community who have voiced their opinions on the where they feel the direction of IT should be heading. Often this comes by way of complaints and ranting emails, but all the clues should be somewhere in the community.
First and foremost you need to know if you need someone to build or re-build your infrastructure. This person will not be a long term contract. You will bring them in for 2-5 years. This is not someone who is going to patiently sit around and manage printers and order software. This person is a builder, someone with big ideas and they will have a “hands-on” sense about them. The knowledge to plan a new infrastructure, or up-grade an aging one, comes from making mistakes. It comes from understanding how problems in networks cascade, and how data needs to be structured, maintained, and archived.
The next type of person you might be looking for is the day-to-day status quo administrator. This person needs to be someone who the community can relate to, they need diplomatic skills for managing users and service agreements with vendors. These people also need to know how to integrate technology into the class room. If you do not see a need for a major network or system overhaul within 2 years of hiring them, then they will have plenty of time to do research and find a good solutions partners to deliver upgrades and changes.
The third type of person to seek out is the IT coordinator. This person is usually supporting an IT manager and the teachers and students in the classroom. They need to be an extreme hobbyist, with good research skills, creative problem solving skills, and the ability to translate between the IT Department and the rest of the school.
No matter what type of skill set you decide on or come across you need someone who cares about education. You need someone who understands the irrational demands created by students, stressed-out teachers, and parents. You need someone who can relate to people who are not solely motivated by money and stock-options. Trust me on this, your IT People need to be the beating heart of your institution. Not everything in a school will be about the bottom-line, and many problems are created from the challenge of trying to help others achieve something new. A good IT leader will on occasion make a risky budgetary move, gambling on the un-known educational returns. They will not always measure the ROI on money alone. They have to to care about learning, helping people, and creating opportunities for a community.
More from TonyDePrato here.

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Curriculum Mapping? This is the mistake you're making

Don’t get me wrong: curriculum mapping is not a mistake, not in itself anyway. However, schools seem to make the same mistake over and over when implementing and using curriculum mapping tools. How do I know? Because I always hear different people, from different schools, make the same statements. These statements are not accurate, and I know they are not accurate because everything that is apparently impossible to do, I can do. The reason I can do the impossible is because when I was a baby, my mother held me by my ankles and submerged me into a flowing river, and then Zeus…
No, actually, the reason I can do the impossible is because I put reporting and reporting goals first, and data entry and interface navigation last.
When schools focus on how to click through menus, instead of empowering a small team of people to view thousands of data points, they have essential made data entry more important than data usage. Data driven, does not mean people should be focused on typing as much as possible. Data driven means using data to make decisions. These decisions should be stronger than those originating from rumours, speculation, or anecdotes.
Entering data is like chopping wood. It provides instant gratification, like when people give a thumbs-up to a picture of your cat on social media. Unfortunately, simply entering data is about as useful as that picture of your cat.
Using data can be complicated, and it requires that the end-users follow a set of criteria. The goal needs to be something known as Data Normalization. Despite the name, it does not mean data all needs to be the same. Data normalization is a process that attempts to reduce redundant data, or data points that are going to waste time. Data normalization makes it possible and efficient to search the type of data classrooms create.
Unfortunately, the majority of people reading this post probably have been doing some sort of curriculum mapping, and are not starting from scratch. I feel your pain, and I know how it feels to look at a huge set of data and wonder, “How can I fix this?”.
I have good news, and I have one tip. Follow this advice and your data analysis can find new life. Enter the concept of the hashtag (#).
Twitter commonly is associated with hashtag based content tracking. For example #curriculum, #edtech, and #goodmemeofthedayphotos. Hashtags are just characters, and characters can be searched by any modern database. Therefore, it is fairly easy to hashtag your curriculum map. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. On the map template choose an existing box or section that allows you to type plain text, or going forward, have everyone include the hashtags in the unit/project/assignment names. It is so much work to rename units. This is best to do at the beginning of the year as policy.
  2. Create a set of hashtags for the people entering data, and post these publically so people can copy and paste them. Do not use email for this. Post them online so they can be centrally managed and updated. A small sample might look like this:
    #literature (Always use Lowercase and No Formatting)
    #16thcentury (Always All One Tag No Spaces)
  3. When it is time to run reports use normal filters. School-Grade Level-Subject. Once the filters are applied, you can search for tags. Using hashtags in unit names is the most effective way to do this, but searching in the template boxes should not be ruled out. Once a set of horizontal curriculum data is on the screen, the hashtags in the content can help people visualize data.

Here is the process below, displayed graphically, from Atlas Rubicon.
For more ideas on using curriculum data, please email me directly. Workshops online or live person-to-person are also an option for those needing more support or starting out with curriculum mapping.
More from Tony De Prato here, and you can email him at tony.deprato (at)

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There is More to Learning than TEDTalks

I’m very keen on TED TALKS. I learn a lot from them. I even have the channel loaded on my Roku Box. However, lately I have noticed people think TED TALKS is not just a source for inspirational summaries, but is in fact all they need to watch in order to understand a topic.
TED TALKS are only a beginning step. They are a good medium for getting people interested in a topic. Used for entertainment purposes, TED TALKS can be watched back-to-back, and discussed among friends. Used in a classroom setting, they need to be planned, connected to other material, and be seen as the first 10 minutes of day-one of a project. TED TALKS should not be the project, nor should they be considered a legitimate source.
Any speaker who is doing a TED TALK, will have some original source for their information. Students should be encouraged to find the origin, and in fact, make certain the TED TALK is authentic. After all they are called TED TALKS not TED TRUTHS.
Last year I read a book called Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. This is a Pulitzer Prize winning book by Fredrik Logevall. The book is over 800 pages. To be honest, I had to read some parts of it multiple times. I read this book while I was traveling through Vietnam. The entire experience is something I will never forget, and my understanding of the Vietnam War shifted. The medium is not just the message, it is the roadmap and sometimes the vehicle. 
Educators looking at TED as a resource should be asking, where does this medium go, and how can it be used to form an experience that students will never forget? The experience the TED speaker has had, is not the same as the one the students should be striving to find.
More from Tony here.

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Don’t blame devices for misbehaviour, blame the students

We’ve all had the meetings arising from students misbehaviour with their devices. I had one recently after students did ‘something’ amiss on their iPads.

Sadly, these meetings are not unusual for me, or, indeed, for anyone who manages technology in schools. For that matter, this is common for anyone working in education. Students have “things” and “do things”. Everyone has issues with behaviour.

During that meeting, I was able to articulate something that I understand, but often do not say enough:

“Do not connect behaviour rules to devices or things, connect them to behaviour and actions.”

I asked the group to make three statements that are non-negotiable, and can easily be followed by all teachers without interpretation. An example would be, “I have warned you twice, now you need to go to the office.”

I encouraged them to focus on statements that do not connect to a “thing” but rather to the behaviour or action. My reasoning is that if the school connects non-negotiable policies to an object, when that object changes the reinforcement may also change. People associate logic and reasoning to objects. In many NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) models, objects are used to anchor memories and feelings. One does not have to be a master of neuroscience to acknowledge that by not setting an anchor, board consistency is more likely to remain when change occurs.


I am certain everyone understands the concept of a non-negotiable statement or practice. However, not everything can be a non-negotiable, and I do not see the need for many of them. These statements (which is the context I am focusing on) should be universal within the school and easily applied without interpretation. The application by a teacher merely moves the students and situation to another level of discussion. A non-negotiable does not need to result in a severe action, but some action must be taken.

I believe all schools running any type of 1-to-1 device program should have these statements and have them clearly posted and communicated to the entire community.

Here are some structures I believe are useful and practical:You have been warned (X – Number of Times), now, (Action).

  • Personal privacy is not a flexible issue. (Action)
  • Unauthorized content, or use of unauthorized content, was clearly explained. (Action)
  • Everything here (define) indicates plagiarism or academic dishonesty. (Action)
  • This appears to be a potential risk or threat to personal safety. (Action).

The power in these statements is that there is no discussion. Once communicated, the student will immediately move to the action phase. The behaviour is being addresses, without mentioning the “how and what” involved. Those details may be discussed later after the student has been moved to the next level of action. They need to know what they have done is not only against the rules, but something the teacher simply refuses to discuss alone.


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