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Crazy Crawfish’s Blog: inBloom is the IT Equivalent to the Hutzler Banana Slicer

When I read the latest story about a crazy eyed education reformer that was preaching the inBloom gospel I couldn’t help but remember an absurd product I was forwarded on Facebook to by one of my friends about the Hutzler Banana slicer.

Like inBloom, the Hutzler Banana slicer is a real product . . . except the banana slicer is actually more useful.

This is one of my favorite reviews of this product:

5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012

By Mrs Toledo

What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!” These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!

People actually need to slice bananas occasionally, whereas the problem inBloom addresses is an entirely self-inflicted wound that won’t actually be dressed by the inBloom bandaid, it will actually be made worse.

Companies always try to make their products sound indispensible to consumers, and the arguments being made about the benefits of inBloom to parents and districts is no different than any number of ridiculous claims and fixes you can see advertised on TV after midnight.

Like using a spoon like a human and not a chimpanzee. . .

Or pouring a drink for the family without spilling soda over your entire family. . . again. . . Oh Mom!

Cynthia Stevenson is a perfect example of someone creating her own problem and then looking for a magic solution to a problem of her own making and incompetence.

Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.

What kind of superintendent or leadership purchases dozens of systems to track student information, let alone dozens of systems that are incompatible and can’t communicate with each other? Not only is that practice extremely wasteful (and a little crazy), but enabling that to continue sounds like complaining that your head it too itchy because you have too many head lice and believing the solution is to get a larger skull to reduce your lice per square inch of skull ratio, than to simply get rid of the head lice.

In fact, there were so many information systems — for things like contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district’s 86,000 students — that teachers had taken to scribbling the various passwords on sticky notes and posting them, insecurely, around classrooms and teachers’ rooms.

There must be a more effective way, Dr. Stevenson felt.

Uh, yeah, you would think that wouldn’t ya?

Do you ever talk to your IT folks, Cynthia?

You don’t buy dozens of incompatible systems for starters. If you do, you don’t buy another system to send all the data from your dozens of systems to, at additional cost and without any security for your parents and students. You link your passwords and logins together using Active Directory if you are using Microsoft products, or you use OS X Mountain Lion or later for you Apple systems. Once a teacher has logged in to any system with a single password then they are logged into all their systems for that day. If you have 2 dozen systems that are simply collecting data entered by your teachers and staff, guess what, Cynthia? They still have to do that. Now your IT staff has to build XML export files for all of your systems and load and verify that data on inBloom in addition to all their other projects you have them doing. You have to use system resources to extract and submit those files or you need to allow an external vendor access to all of your servers and databases to pull that information whenever they want. You have to continue to maintain that framework when any of your 2 dozen systems is updated, and if you don’t the new fancy reports you rely on from inBloom will be worthless or at least less accurate than the reports you get from the source systems.

There Cynthia, I just saved you half a million dollars in annual inBloom fees, not to mention a lot of angry parents and legitimate lawsuits.

Do you really have no IT staff that told you this?

Do you think that just because you think you have the best of intentions, anything you do must be right and you can ignore everyone who disagrees?

Were you impressed by the flashy lights and fancy sales people from inBloom who told you what a brilliant visionary you were for agreeing to pioneer this inBloom Hustle, which is little more than a romanticized Hutzler Banana slicer?

I know many people are dazzled by new technology and want to be thought of as technologically savvy. I’m sure inBloom came in and gave you a line that sounded pretty good, and made you think you really needed their stuff and you really knew your stuff for agreeing with them. I imagine the presentation went something like this presentation of the Hutzler Banana Slicer to an assortment of curious wild monkeys.

At least, I sure hope that’s all that is going on here. Because Cynthia, if you were not simply out of your league on the IT aspect of this project, then you are intentionally misleading the parents you serve and harming the children you are supposed to protect. I would withdraw from this real life IT infomercial you’ve landed yourself in and work with you IT folks to build some real solutions. Whoever is buying dozens of incompatible software packages is costing you a lot of money and lost productivity. If that is you, then the best IT decision you can make going forward is to not make any more IT decisions and leave those decisions to someone more qualified. . .like a monkey.

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Crazy Crawfish

Crazy Crawfish is the blog name of Jason France. Mr. France is a former Louisiana Department of Education employee. ...