Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Not sure how it got to be December already…and the end of December at that. Where did 2015 go? It’s been a year to remember for me as many things continue to change and grow as we make our home here in Seattle. This is our 3rd full year living here…one more and we match our longevity record of Bangkok. So we’ll see if that holds true.

As I have been thinking about writing this blog post I can’t help but think what went wrong with The Thinking Stick this year. By far the fewest blog posts I have written since I started the blog in 2005. Yes…10 years of blogging this past September and that didn’t even dawn on me until just a few weeks ago.

Why haven’t I been writing more here? Does it mean that I’m not creating content anymore? I’ve been thinking about this over the past few weeks and I think I’m producing as much as I ever have, it’s just not all in one place. For better or for worse there are now four different companies that I am a part of and each of those have me creating and producing content in some way shape or form for them. Maybe my goal for 2016 should not be to blog more here, but to make sure that more of what I produce in other places ends up here as well?

So here’s 2015 by the numbers.

117,000 miles flown

I’m really liking this first number. A far cry from the 250,000 miles I flew in 2013…and I’m really excited about that. I would like to keep this down to around 100,000 miles a year if possible. That’s a good number for me. 14 countries and roughly 100,000 miles is a good goal for 2016 as well. As I continue to do more here in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region in general the less traveling I’ll have to do. I still want to travel and I know the opportunities will continue to be there. It’s just nice spending more days at home than traveling.

29 Blog posts

15 here on The Thinking Stick and 14 over on the Eduro Learning Blog which honestly surprises me a bit. I really didn’t think I had written that many blog posts. If you missed them here are a couple of my favorites from this year.

Understanding Wikipedia in 3 clicks

The Millennials are here

Where do we teach email?

The death of cursive writing

Citizenship and Chromebooks

8 Podcasts (COETAILcasts)

CC-profileEvery year I find a way to continue to podcast. The last couple of years it has been over on the COETAIL site. Our COETAILcast is approaching 30 episodes for COETAILers and everyone alike to listen to us discuss some of the pressing issues in education and educational technology. It’s a global crew that gets together once a month to just talk and learn together. Find us in all your favorite podcast apps as well as on YouTube. Hangouts continue to get better and so do we with producing these monthly discussions.

87 Days of Training Delivered

I delivered 87 days of training over the year from what is in my calendar. This still is where my passion lies in helping teachers learn how to authentically and purposefully use technology with students. I’m excited as I look at my calendar that I’ll probably end up right around this number of days again in 2016.

3 Days of Substituting

mruOn days when I can, I substitute for teachers at the school my wife works at. This past year that was 3 days total. Not a lot, but 3 days that I got to be in a classroom in front of kids and allow a teacher to take a sick day, or do some PD training themselves. Just a small way for me to give back to educators that do the day to day hard stuff of teaching students.

Day to day running of 4 companies

Who starts four companies? All this means is four bank accounts to manage, four company taxes to keep track of and a host of talking with lawyers and accountants to keep things going. By far my greatest learning this year and where all my “downtime” was spent was learning about businesses. Everything from Eduro Learning with stockholders to Learning2 which is now a Non Profit 501(c)3. Each one of these companies (COETAIL and my personal consulting being the other two) serves a different purpose and all of them have different needs. I have learned more about business law, accounting and taxes than I ever really wanted to know. However as I look back on what I’ve learned this year, it truly has been a journey of learning something and learning that has not always been fun or what I have wanted to spend my time on. To that end however, all four businesses seem to be doing well moving into 2016. What does it take to make it as an educational consultant today? It means having your hands in many different areas of training.

83 more COETAIL Graduates!

CIRCLE-RGB-300pxBetween our Online2 and our Online3 cohorts we’ve graduated another 83 COETAILers. This program continues to be some of the best professional development that educators say they have ever had. Why? Easy…it focuses on classroom practice, reflection, and doing meaningful work with students. If you have some time go check out some of the final projects and if you want to join COETAIL or know somebody that might want to our next online cohort starts in February so register today!

6 more online classes start at Eduro Learning

google-plus-profileOver at Eduro Learning we created 6 online courses for educators with more coming online soon. Over 100 people have already taken the courses and our goal for 2016 is to continue to build these courses and create courses that teachers want to take and are meaningful to them and their classrooms.

1 School District in Transition

MSD Logo_Only_MSOfficeBy far the biggest announcement of 2015 and where the majority of my time has been spent and will be spent for the next few years is with Marysville School District (MSD). Eduro Learning signed a five year contract with Marysville in early 2015 to take roughly 450 educators through three years of training on teaching in a connected classroom. This past October/November the school district rolled out over 5000 Chromebooks to all of its Middle and High schoolers. Now it is our duty to help the district and the community understand what that means in the way of learning. It is a long slow journey but one that I am very excited about. You will be able to follow along with us over at the Eduro Learning PD training site. We have made all our training materials open to the web to help others and to see the training we are taking this district through. More to come on this long-term training over the years, however 2015 marked the beginning of this incredible journey.

Overall, it was a whirlwind of a year. Looking back I did create content just not all of it in one place. My content creation is mirroring my work life for sure…..kind of all over the place. We’ll see what 2016 brings.

Happy New Year!

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The idea of using game based ideas in the learning environment or gamification continues to gain momentum with teachers…but more importantly with students.

Let’s not mistake “using games in the learning environment” with “gamifying the learning”. They are two different approaches to using technology within the classroom. Gamification is using the ideas that are found in games to motivate students in a fun, competitive and engaging way that speaks to their inner kid. Gamification really seems to be taking off in the later elementary years like 4th and 5th grade and middle school.

Hannah Kingsley in her COETAIL Final Project gives us a great look at gamification in action in a middle school spanish class.

You can visit her blog to get the full details along with links to the software she used and a unit planner outlining the process.

If you want to learn more about Gamification and Game-Based learning, join Robert Appino in his new course Gamification of Education.

Game-Based Learning Overview from Eduro Learning on Vimeo.

The course runs from June 22 – July 31st and is going to be a great way to do some summer professional development while you “level up”.

Photo Credit: flickr photo shared by chrisgj6 under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

As the school year comes to an end….and I know it’s coming to an end because all my teacher friends are busy monitoring, agonizing and stressed out about the testing happening this time of year….and those are the teachers…wonder what the kids feel like?

To help take minds off of the endless hours watching kids take tests, I thought I would share PD opportunities that I am directly involved with either in creating, organizing or advising on.


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Eduro Learning Summer Institutes

July 2nd – Eduro Learning Summer Institute in Seattle

BellHarborHosted at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, this 1 day institute looks to inspire educators to be creative. Check out this venue! We chose this place because too often we find that educational conference venues are dull and boring and do not spark that innovative, creative feel. Being on the pier on the Seattle waterfront you can not help but feel inspired. Follow Eduro Learning on Twitter and look for promo codes to save some money!

July 6-8 – Eduro Learning Wired with Wine Institute

whitmanhotelA brainchild of mine when my wife and I were wine tasting in Walla Walla a year ago, I just kept thinking that there is no reason why professional development for educators can’t be fun!  This 2+ day institute offering the same strands as the Seattle Institute just allows us to go a whole lot deeper in thinking and creating when we have more time together. Hosted at the historic Marcus Whitman hotel and within walking distance to 70+ tasting rooms this event will be fun on many levels. Check out the schedule and I really hope to see you there!

What’s the difference between a conference and an institute?


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Learning2 Conferences

Registration is now open for the fall Learning2 Conferences. This year Learning2 will be hosted in Manila, Philippines and Jo’Burg, South Africa in the fall and we’ve just announced Milan, Italy a year from now.

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If you have questions about any of these please contact me or leave a comment below.

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There has been a lot going on with my new adventure that is Eduro Learning. Kim Cofino and I, along with 5 others, founded the company last May. The idea behind the company was that there were many conferences, summits, and PD opportunities to learn about technology tools however very few focused on the change in classroom culture that needs to happen or the change in the mindset of educators that needs to happen to truly take advantage of what technology has to offer.

It’s 2015 if you hadn’t noticed, and we’re still in a place where very rarely is technology replacing learning in the classroom in meaningful ways. I believe that’s because “integrate” is the wrong word…the wrong mindset. In 2015 we need to start thinking about replacing

What skills need to be replaced in our curriculum because of technology?

You see replacing is a different mindset. It’s a different way of looking at technology. We don’t have a lesson created already and try and integrate technology into it. No…we need to start replacing the whole lesson with something different because of the technology we have available to us.

We’re not talking about small changes here….we’re talking about shifting the way technology is viewed. Shifting the way technology is used and thought about.

Of course this culture shift needs to be understood by the administration. It needs to be more than we’re giving every student a laptop and move into a deeper question of how do we change the culture of our school?

MSD Logo_Only_MSOfficeI’m excited that we found a school district, an administrative team, and a staff hungry for a new way of looking at learning in 2015 and beyond. Eduro Learning has entered into a five year contract with Marysville School District in Washington State to do just that….to take 450+ educators through a program that changes the culture of the way learning happens (Press Release).

This goes beyond conferences, summits and institutes. Beyond one-off PD days and looks at long term embedded learning. Each educator who teaches 4th – 12th grade in Marysville will spend three years with the Eduro Team. This is the type of long term professional development that truly can change the culture of a school or district. Very few school boards and school leaders are willing to invest this type of money and resources into changing the culture of their school. Even fewer are willing to sell it to their community and make it happen. We’re looking for those type of schools, school boards, school leaders. Ones that truly understand that it’s 2015 and we need to start thinking differently about the tools available to us and look at how society operates with technology today and bring the education of students inline with the way technology is being utilized in our global society.

I have no doubt you’ll be hearing more about this project here and across the web as we get started in May.

Of course not every educator is lucky enough to work at a school district like this, so professional development opportunities in the form of institutes, conferences and summits is still the default way that schools support educator professionally.

Because of that we have been thinking how we take those opportunities and make them the best they possibly can be within the time frame we have.

How do we make institutes social, collaborative and in-depth?

It means moving away from a model of learning a lot of stuff and learning something really well. It’s moving away from 45 minute or 90 minute sit-and-get conference sessions to a full day of in-depth, interactive learning in a single strand.

Eduro Learning is launching four events starting this summer focused on in-depth, interactive professional development.

google-plus-profileSeattle, WA One-Day Institute:

The first thing you’ll notice when you head over to the event page is that you sign up for a strand within the institute. Yes…we make you chose what you want to spend a full day learning about. You do not go to this session or that session….you go to a full day, in-depth, interactive learning session on a given topic. The three strands will interact with each other and overlap their learning as social is a key component of learning for all ages.

Secondly you’ll notice that these are not big events. We’re keeping them at 150 people. Small, focused, intense learning sessions that allow us to differentiate the learning for the participants. When’s the last time you went to a conference or summit that tried to meet your specific needs as a professional learner?

Wired with Wine in Walla Walla Two-Day Institute:

This is my brainchild (OK….I give my wife 51% of the credit) and I’m excited to see if we can make this work. Why can’t educational professional development be fun? Be is beautiful locations and treat educators like adults and provide a little responsible fun with the learning?

The idea here is we spend two days going in-depth in learning while mixing in wine tasting in one of the great wine regions of Washington State. Learning is still the focus however, we’re infusing some fund wine tasting and wine knowledge into the learning experience. What if…for example we talk about how you can use a Google Form to collect data and get instantly results and then use that same approach in a blind wine tasting test to see which wine is viewed best by the participants. Not only do we talk about what you can do, we’ll actually do it…with wine of course. Once again making the institute interactive and learning focused in a fun and….OK….we’ll just stop at a really fun way.

Online Courses:

Of course if you don’t work at a school district likes Marysville or you can’t join us for a face-to-face institute we also offer online courses. These are six week courses that we are continuing to tweak and create moving forward. We have bigger plans of how these courses will all come together in the future to create something a bit different. For now…they are one off courses that you can use for recertification credit or if you are an International Educator (outside the US) you can take for graduate credit from SUNY-Buffalo State. Keep an eye here for more information and more ideas around these classes and learning experiences.

It’s amazing how far Eduro Learning has come in less than a year. What can happen when you bring together people who are passionate about what they do, about education and about providing the best professional development we can for educators. We’re off to a great start….and this is only the beginning.

Photo Credit: MaceyBuchanan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MaceyBuchanan via Compfight cc

Seeing that I’m fully invested in online professional development for educators through both COETAIL and Eduro Learning, I’m always on the look out for research on how to make online learning better. What is it that sets good online learning apart from the OK online learning systems? How can we use that research to start blending our classrooms more and more to prepare students for the universities that away them? Universities that more and more are requiring students to learn online.

New research out of MIT, Tsinghua University, and Harvard came to the conclusion that online learning…specifically MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) do work….or at least work as good as traditional teaching. An article overview of the the research can be found here

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google-plus-profileCheck out our online courses at Eduro Learning here.

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What’s even more interesting is in part because of this research, MIT released their Future of Education Report. There are whole sections of the report looking at blended learning and game-based learning. What I find most interesting however is their commitment to creating communities both online and offline. Personally this is what sets apart good online courses and why MOOCs work. MOOCs are about creating a community of learners, good online courses do the same. They create a community that allows everyone to learn from each other, to support each other and not rely on a traditional teacher to “teach” the course. That is the mindshift that needs to happen. Not only in our traditional classroom settings but specifically in online courses. Online courses work when a community forms and learns together. 

We continue to improve our systems both at COETAIL and Eduro Learning to be more community centered. Setting up the system to create a community is one thing….helping people to understand how to learn in a community and not from a teacher is tougher.

If you have taken online courses before. What aspects do you like and don’t like about them?