I partner with organizations in helping to understand the changing nature of learning by working together in long-term, embedded professional development that prepares us all for our future, not our past.


Jeff Utecht


A few weeks ago a Bill was introduced here in the State of Washington that would make teaching cursive writing mandatory in elementary schools. Not keyboarding….no in 2016 that should still be optional. But cursive writing…that should be mandatory in 2016. Below is the report from the local news station here in Seattle.



I can’t tell you how frustrated I am we are still having this debate to the point that we’re willing to make it mandatory at the state level! If you want to make something mandatory to learn in 2016, I mean true foundational skills that students need to have in order to be productive citizens, let’s start with:

  • Know how to type at 60 words per minute by the end of 8th grade
  • Know how to compose an email to a variety of audiences

typingThose are two way more important skills that need to be taught in our schools. In my opinion, these are worth taking valuable class time for. I have been talking about this since before 2009. Why are we moving backwards? Why are we talking cursive in a state that is moving towards the state standardized test being only computer based!

To take this a step further, I happened to be subbing in a 5th grade class on Monday (Feb. 1st). I was lucky enough to be in a class where the teacher basically said….they are your’s today..have fun! I love subbing with freedom!

I asked the class this question:

Should you be required to learn how to write in cursive?

We had a discussion about it. Then we watched the above video, did some thinking routines and got to work writing our persuasive pieces on why they thought they should or shouldn’t have to learn cursive writing in school.

The school I was at had iPads that were so locked down that they frustrated all of us (teachers included). There was no writing app on them except the built in Note App, which was buried in a folder called “Not to play with”. Once we all got on the app and starting writing (that took 10 seconds), I couldn’t get them to stop. It’s amazing what happens when you ask kids questions that they feel really matter to them and that they can have a voice in. Of course I ran into an issue when it came time to get their writing off the devices. There was no email connected to the iPads so they couldn’t email me their writing. This also made me have to adjust my original thought which was; we were going to email all of their thoughts to their representatives (seeing in Social Studies they were learning about the revolutionary war and the Sugar and Stamp Acts I thought them having a voice in their learning was a great tie in).  They couldn’t print it as there was no printer hooked up to them. So this cart of iPads was pretty useless….don’t worry they all had installed and easily accessible on the home page the testing apps the district uses.

Here’s the thing…none of this bothered the kids. They were so happy just to get to use them for something else besides testing that they didn’t care what for. Of course there’s always a way to get your writing off the device. Thanks to this thing called a smartphone that has a camera we solved the issue rather easily.

So instead of me telling the Washington State Congress how crazy of an idea this is…I thought I would let 5th graders make the argument for me.








As you can read not every student thought that they shouldn’t learn cursive. Some thought it was still worth learning. Actually it was 2 out of 20 in the class that believed they should still learn cursive. Oh…that was our math learning for the day. They were learning fractions so we learned that 2/20 or 1/10th of the class believed we should still learn cursive or 1 out of 10 in ratio terms.

So we spent our day learning around one simple, compelling question….and to quote the students “Cursive? So 1700s!”

I wanted to share this documentary that I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of. Nate Becker, a high school student in Marysville, WA, asked me to sit down one day while I was there doing work as part of our Eduro Learning contract with the district, to talk about technology and education. I had no idea what the questions were going to be or where he was going with his line of questioning. Below is the documentary he created based on his own knowledge and research and how he views the use of technology in his own school system and life.

When we talk about creating meaningful stuff to share with the world. This is the type of stuff we are talking about. This isn’t an assignment that can be done in a class period or even a week. This type of learning and creative works takes time and a lot of energy.  Kudo’s Nate….I hope this is the first of many documentaries in your future.

Whether your students have Chromebooks or use Chrome as the default browser, understanding that Chrome is an operating system as much as it is a web browser is important. Because Chrome is based on the open-source Chromium project, it allows developers to create extensions that “extend” what the browser can do.

Here are my 10 must have Chrome extensions to start 2016:

Diigo Web Collector

Social bookmarking has been around for years now. Yet I’m still surprised how few students know and use powerful bookmarking tools like Diigo. Even if you don’t teach the bookmarking part of what Diigo can do, there are so many other features available. Being able to highlight text on webpages, leave sticky notes on any web page for yourself or for a partner you are collaborating with changes the way we view the web. The video on the link above will help get you started in understanding just how powerful of an extension this is.


A great note taking app that opens up a side panel and allows students to take notes about a webpage as they read it. The app backs up all the data to dropbox so if a student’s Chromebook crashes or if Chrome crashes on your computer, all your notes are saved and reconnect via dropbox. I have been using this for a few weeks now and love being able to add quotes from a webpage. I can then go back and use it for blog posts, trainings, and keynotes. Students might use it for papers or class discussions.

Note Anywhere

I love extensions that do one thing and do them well. This is a simple sticky note extension that allows a user to leave sticky notes for themselves on any webpage. When they come back to that webpage the sticky notes just appear. Another great research tool for students.

Goo.gl url shortener

URL shorteners are not just for teachers. Students should learn how to use them as well to create quick short URLs to share with their partners, the world, or their teacher. The Goo.gl shortner has two functions I really like. 1) It connects to your Google Account and tracks how many times your link is clicked on. Right away giving you data about the links in your writing. 2) It instantly creates a QR Code that you can download to easily view the webpage on a phone or tablet.

Google Tone

I love walking into classrooms where you hear tones flying back and forth between students collaborating on an assignment. If you haven’t used this yet…have a go. Both people need to have the extension installed. But once installed you can quickly and easily send a webpage to anyone with a device in hearing distance of your computer. Having a student create a google doc, share it with 3 others in the class and then just tone the link out saves clicks for everyone. A great extension that saves time in the classroom.

Speak It

As someone who listens to more webpages and books than actually reads them, this app is a must for every student, not just those with learning disabilities. A great app that is highly customizable and easy to use. You might need to talk to your IT Director to get some things unblocked at your school so that this works properly. But it is so worth it. In 2016 every student should show up every day with a computer and earbuds so extensions like this can be used when they are needed by students.

Stay Focused

I’m not a fan of blocking websites from students at school but rather teaching them how to use their time more wisely and how to use tools to help them focus on a task. Stay Focused allows a user to block a site for a time within your browser. If you know once you go to YouTube you’re there for an hour, block it for 15 or 20 minutes. Teaching students to focus on work for 20 minutes and then taking a 5 or 10 minute break is not only teaching them to stay focused but also teaches real productivity skills.

Panel View for Google Keep

For notes or ToDos that you might want to access on another device, Google Keep is the go to app. This extension is a shortcut to Google Keep. Allowing you to quickly add notes and ToDos via the web that instantly sync to your mobile device. Personally, I use this extension and Google Keep all the time for ToDo lists. My wife and I have one that we share for a grocery list. To be able to share a list with others again allows for collaboration in and out of the classroom. Installing Google Keep on your phone is where you really see this extension become useful.

Google Dictionary

An extensions that allows you to quickly look up the spelling or definition of any word. The extension has some great options to program hot keys or double click a word to open the extension. It works on any website and within Google Docs.


Sure you can open a new tab, type in calculator and use the built in calculator in Google, or install this extension and have a calculator when you need it on the webpage you need it on with just one click. This extension saves so many clicks, simple and useful, the two things I look for in Chrome Extensions.

That’s my list of must have apps for students to start 2016. What would you add?

[box type=”info”] This blog post was originally written on the Eduro Learning blog on January 11, 2016[/box]

You know the four Cs right? I mean everyone is talking about them. The four Cs that are going to change education in the 21st century? They are amazing! Do a Google Image Search for 21st Century Skills and you get a beautiful display of the four Cs. Great colors, wonderful wording and multiple ways to explain:




Critical Thinking

I look at this list from the lens of a 4th grade teacher, a tech coach, a consultant or a substitute teacher and I can’t help but think…really? This is new? There is nothing new in this list that educators haven’t been teaching and focused on for years. Don’t get me started on these being “21st century skills,” a phrase I gave up over 7 years ago. So why do these things keep coming up?

As I work with schools and educators, we do focus on these four Cs. They aren’t new…but in a way they actually are new. How we view them is new, what they mean is new. In 2016 these four Cs have a different meaning.

Communication: Teaching to communicate the way the world communicates

Not sure if you have noticed, but we no longer write letters to each other. We write Facebook updates, Facebook messages. We write emails…lots of them actually. We write LinkedIn updates, Tweets, Snaps, and Grams. I’m not saying it’s right…I’m saying this is how the world, both socially and in the business world, communicate. So where are we teaching this in schools? Where are we teaching:

Yes…communication isn’t new to education but how we communicate has changed. Are we teaching these new forms of communication? Where do they belong in our curriculum? At what level should we start and how do we assess these new forms of communication? Those are the questions we should be trying to answer in 2016.

Collaboration: Across space and time

Collaboration isn’t new. I remember doing group projects in elementary school in the 80’s. We collaborated on projects, on worksheets, on reading and science projects. Collaboration….getting along, working with others…has always been a part of education. So why is this a “21st century skill”?

In 2016 collaboration means across space and time. How are your students collaborating across periods in the school day (2nd period and 6 period working on a project together)? How are they collaborating across schools in your district or across schools in your state/country/continent/world?

I think about this every time one of my friends that work for Amazon talks about getting up at 3am to be on a conference call with India, China, Singapore, name-your-country. Or every time I have to get up early or stay up late for an Eduro, COETAIL, or Learning2 meeting. Collaborating across space and time is how the world works today. It’s how business gets done. I was talking about this with a gentleman sitting next to me on the plane today who instantly went to understanding cultures. How his company was doing business in France and failing until they started looking at the culture of France and accepting that they have a different way of operating. Once his company accepted and embraced the culture, it became much more successful. Collaborating with other students in your class in so 1990’s. We need to start creating ways for students to collaborate across space and time.

Creativity: To a global audience

It’s one thing to create something for your teacher or even a presentation for your class where everyone knows who you are. It’s something completely different to create something for an audience that you don’t know. Whether that is a YouTube video, an update on a Wikipedia page or a comment on an Amazon book review. Have you ever noticed how students try a little harder, do a little better, when their creations go beyond the classroom? In 2016 when we talk about creativity we do not mean creating something for a closed audience but rather we’re talking about creating something for a global audience. We’re also not talking about just “putting something out there” but rather finding a community that will appreciate the creation that the students worked so hard to produce. Create a google map of the Oregon Trail? Share it with your local community or local government. Create a recipe? Share it with one of a number of recipe sites on the Internet today and see how others rate it and improve on it.

It’s not just about “putting stuff out there” but rather creating content that has a purpose, has an audience, has a community.

Critical Thinking: Creating Problem Finders

When we talk about critical thinking skills we usually talk about problem-solving skills. We want students to be good problem solvers. I’m not saying that’s a bad goal. But time and time again I’ve been told that what we really need is Problem Finders. That’s a different skill…that’s a different type of critical thinking. We need to be able to find the problems that need to be solved.

What about giving students a mathematical equation that has a mistake in it. Their job….find the mistake (problem finder) and then solve it correctly (problem solver). Where is the bug in the code, or a bug in the production line, maybe it’s a problem with a science experiment. Whatever it is….how are you creating opportunities for students to be problem finders not just problem solvers?

The “C” word of education:

The C word that doesn’t make the list and probably is at the root of a lot of things we’re talking about these days in education is the word CONTROL. It’s a nasty word that many educators struggle with. When we talk about giving up control in the classroom we do not mean giving up structure. If you are going to give the control of the learning over to the students it means you need more structure in place not less. Routines need to be in place, timing needs to be clearly delineated, and a system needs to exist so that students can have control of the learning. Giving over control of the learning to students does not mean less prep-time, less work for the teacher…..at the beginning it actually means more work as teachers learn a new way of structuring their classroom around student interest, student questions and take on a new role as a facilitator and coach of learning.

The four C’s are not new…they are different. We need to come to a new understanding of what these mean in 2016 and beyond. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but your grandkids are not going to write you letters, they are going to Skype or Facetime you. Your next employee might not work in the same room as you, and your next project might have you focused on finding the problem and then handing it off to someone else to solve. Your next job opportunity might come through a LinkedIn connection or via something that you published publically. This is how work gets done in 2016. This is how we need to start defining the four C’s for our students.


It’s that time again as we’re about a month out from another COETAIL Cohort starting. Excited that Ben Sheridan is the lead instructor for this cohort. Ben is currently in Kentucky doing his PhD in Online Learning…could you ask for a better pairing? To get a glimpse of Ben’s thinking in action you can check out our latest COETAILcast where he wastes no time at all getting into whether the “hour of code” movement is the right movement for education.

At the writing of this blog post there are about 20 spots left for this cohort. As we start 2016 think about starting a PD journey that time and time again educators have said this is some of the best PD they have ever done. If you need more convincing here are some final projects from COETAILers that just finished up in December and their final projects after 18 months of transformational learning.

Mark Mouck: Collaborative Notetaking in 9th Grade English

Mark has captured his students talking about collaborative notetaking in class warts and all. I really enjoyed and appreciated the variety of their reasonings for doing (or not doing) notetaking in this way.  His project is both student-centred and student-driven.

Annie Hall Paulson: Technology in PE Class

What I really love about Annie’s Course 5 project is that despite the challenges, she demonstrates a growth mindset and flexibility. Her students make cute appearances all through the video sharing their learning with us all.  This project will definitely inspire you to try technology in a curriculum area that you may not think you can.

Sonya terBorg:  Student Blogs in the Junior School

If you are wondering how to blog with students – especially in the Junior School, then you really need to watch Sonya’s Course 5 project! Even with a number of obstacles, often times, beyond her control, Sonya remained flexible and with her growth mindset, was able to work around those challenges.   You’ll hear from both students and teachers and gain some really great tips that apply to anyone working with students/teachers and technology.

Colleen McCabe: TourBuilder in Literacy

A very student-orientated Course 5 project! You’ll get to hear students talk about what they did in Colleen and Angela’s combined TourBuilder Unit. There’s great modelling of the tool and the task and what’s even cooler is that the students want to continue to learn in this way.  A great example of how technology can be integrated in powerful ways.

Ann Lautrette: The End but really the Beginning

Ann has done something “different” with the presentation of her Course 5 project (I don’t want to give too much away – but just so you know, I really enjoyed watching it!!).  If you’re interested in a redesign of the core of IB – using blogs instead of an exercise book for TOK, then you really need to watch this one!  What I really like about this project is that it is an awesome example of a student-centred, student-driven project that shows that the sharing of student work really reflects the power of blogging and how you can make it work for IB.

Erika van Vogt: Introduction of A Class Blog

It’s quite obvious that I’m a big fan of blogging with students. Erika’s student-driven (through roles) Introduction of a Class Blog has digital citizenship deliberately and authentically entwined throughout.  Her students explain what’s going on and it’s very powerful to see inside Erika’s classroom as the students work on their tasks.  The enthusiasm of the student interviews in this video presentation is fabulous to see!

Becca Allen: Making Thinking Visible

Becca did an outstanding job of not only sharing her learning from Course 5 (along with all of the other elements of this project like student feedback, student learning in action and student samples), but she also constructed her video in such an organized, clear and thoughtful way so that the viewer can really understand her entire process. Personally, I also always love to see examples of technology being integrated seamlessly into regular classroom routines like visible thinking routines. It’s a great way to see how technology can support good pedagogy without becoming a massive project.

Kara Cole: Minecraft in the Classroom

Kara did an amazing job of both structuring this project for student success and letting it be completely student centered and student directed. For me, this project is an outstanding example of the importance of being structured and organized, but how you can make that experience all about the students. I loooove the very first few seconds of the video where her grade 5 students are in the computer lab and the noise level is out of control with their enthusiasm and energy about learning, but when you get closer you can hear that they’re so engaged and purposeful. For me, this is what a classroom should be. Thanks for bringing it to life so clearly in your video, Kara!

Kristy Godbout iStop Motion with the Who Am I? Unit of Inquiry

Kristy has done such a fantastic job of connecting hands on learning with visible thinking and technology in her kindergarten classroom. Kristy has so many great examples of her students learning in action, as well as their finished product. Her video is so well organized and thorough, including all of the elements required for the project in such an engaging and inspiring way. It’s always fantastic to see young learners using technology so purposefully, and for it to be so well integrated into the classroom environment, rather than an add-on.

Daena Greig: Animated .gifs in PE

I have to admit, I can’t stop talking about this project. It’s such a simple idea technologically speaking, but one that has such a far reaching impact, not just for PE but for so many other subject areas. Daena and David have worked together to use animated .gifs in PE (and David has worked with other subject area teachers along the same lines as well, so it’s not just great for PE, it’s great for lots of subjects), so that students are able to record very short, repeating, animated images of themselves demonstrating PE skills. The addition of an animated rubric for them to evaluate themselves takes this project to another level. I know this idea is going to spread!

Angela Spitzman: Tour Builder for Literature Circles

I love this idea from Angela! I’ve used TourBuilder a number of times, but never in the way that Angela describes it here. She has her students delving deeply into the stories they are reading to create animated tours of either the actual story or a possible continued version of the story. The students are truly interacting with the characters of the story as they plan and map the path of their adventures right on Google Earth.

Carly Thomas: Global Collaboration with Ning in AP Environmental Science

I am so appreciative of the fact that Carly took a risk and created a globally collaborative project for Course 5! I think we can all appreciate how hard it is to create a global project – and she did it from China with tons of restrictions on what kinds of tools she could use, in a very content heavy subject area as well. It’s great to see the value her students have placed on having that global interaction, as well as her ideas to continue to further the collaboration.


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!

Here we are in 2015. A year in which schools no longer buy sets of encyclopedias for the classroom and then the thing that replaced it….Wikipedia, we tell students they can’t use or trust.

As I have talked to educators during trainings on wikipedia over the last month or so, I realize when I ask them why you can’t trust wikipedia the answer falls somewhere on the scale of:

“I don’t understand it”

Fair enough….if we don’t understand how to use something in education our first reaction is to not use it and to tell students not to use it. To be fair nobody has ever taught us how to use this resource. The resource we were taught to use we no longer purchase!

We don’t understand how Twitter works so block it.

We don’t understand how to create learning communities on Google+ or Facebook so block it.

Instagram? It’s just pictures!

Of course the social networks are one thing but Wikipedia…really. I love asking groups of teachers how many of them have read and trusted what they read on a wikipedia article. Almost every hand goes up. So….what you’re telling me is we use it in our daily lives but when it comes to using it with students we should tell them………don’t trust it?

There’s a disconnect here that we need to face…..we need to stop teaching that Wikipedia is a bad resource and start accepting it and understanding it.

So let’s get started:

The power of the Talk Tab

It sits right at the top of every article just waiting to be clicked on and unleash its wealth of information about the page you are looking at.

So find an article that you want to learn just how trustworthy it is and click on the “Talk” tab.


Now you will see a yellowish box that has great information within it. Take some time to read everything in that yellow box. Don’t skim…..read and see what you find and notice. Feel free to click on any blue link that you want to learn more about. Go ahead….there’s all sorts of information back here about the page you’re on.

Find the page rating

Now that you have taken some time to read the yellow information box see if you can go back and find the “grade” or “class” the page you happen to be on has been given. Depending on the page you are on it will either look like this:


Or this:


Now what do you notice? There is a rating for every wikipedia page right here 1 click away from the article telling us at what level this page is rated….or in other words….how much this page can be trusted. Wikipedia tells us how much we can trust each page within 1 click!

Using the Quality Scale

Once you find the rating for the page, we need to know what that rating means. In my example here the page is rated a C-Class. Now I need to know exactly what a C-Class rating is. If you read the sentence next to your pages rating you’ll see a link to the quality scale. Click on quality scale (Click 2).

Welcome to the rubric that Wikipedia pages are rated against. Take some time to read the rubric. Click on the links and learn just how powerful of a page this is.


There is a rubric right here for teachers to use with students! Not a rubric to the teacher’s standards….but what if we used a rubric with students and have them write to the standards of Wikipedia….the largest body of human knowledge ever assembled in one place.

Good Article Criteria

Now the good article criteria is linked on some pages and not on others so you can click on this link. That is your 3rd click if you are counting and here we find the six criteria that Wikipedia has laid out that needs to be in place for a page to be rated. Again, take some time to read this page and see what else you notice here.


Now this is exactly the same steps I would take students through as we learn together how you can, what you can, and to what extent you can trust any Wikipedia page. As a teacher you can then decide what pages you want students to use.

“OK class today we’re going to be talking about XYZ and when you are researching if you come across a Wikipedia page I ask that you only use pages to gather information from that have been rated a B-Class or higher for today’s assignment.”

Now….we can use Wikipedia and know why and how we can trust every page within it.

If you need more convincing here’s some links to research and articles:

Wikipedia pops up in bibliographies, and even college curricula

Wikipedia is better than a history textbook

Is Wikipedia Really Such a Bad Research Tool for Students?

What resources do you use to teach students about Wikipedia? Can we finally just except that it has replaced the encyclopedia of yesteryears and even maybe…just maybe…..this one’s better!


It’s been an amazing summer here in Seattle. Amazing in the fact that we haven’t had much rain at all and set all kinds of records for temperature and days above 80(F) degrees.

As great as this summer has been weather wise, it’s the things going on behind the scenes specifically with Learning2 that excite me the most.

Learning2, the little technology conference started in 2007 by four educators and a committee of passionate educators has grown up.

The Learning2 Story

This summer has been a learning curve for all of us at Learning2 as we worked our way through the paperwork and organization of taking this conference global and turning it into a Not-For Profit (NFP) company.

I’m proud to say that Learning2 is officially a 501(c)3 corporation with a mission to:

“Innovate social learning globally”

With Learning2 becoming it’s own NFP it has given us the opportunity to create a board and hire staff in order to expand.

This coming school year we will be running three conferences:




That’s a great start for our first year as a NFP and we’re already looking ahead to the 16-17 school year and starting to have conversations with schools in the Middle East and South America.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend a Learning2 Conference I highly recommend it. I present at a lot of conferences around the world and still to this day have not come across a conference that puts social learning first and foremost. A conference that makes the presenters (all hand picked by the committee) to push themselves out of their own comfort zone and do Learn2Talks like this and this.

The conference schedule includes 3 hour long Extended Sessions as well as time to just talk and be social with others in your grade level or department. It’s a conference that understands that learning happens through social interactions and so the entire conference is created putting those interactions first.

Although Learning2 started out as a technology conference it has become a Learning and Innovation conference. We now have strands that have nothing to do with technology, technology is very rarely the focus of any of the learning and instead the focus has shifted to what learning should look like in 2015. What we can do when we have every student connected, and how we need to teach differently to this generation.

I hope you can join us this year at one of the conferences. I can’t capture the conference atmosphere into words, you have to just experience it. If you have been to a Learning2 conference in the past how would you describe your learning experience and the conference atmosphere?

It is my last training of the summer. Finish up these two days with MIT students from Whitworth University and then two weeks of not traveling or speaking. It’s 9am and everyone is slowly coming in and getting their laptops and iPads set up for the day. I too am getting set up, frantically trying to figure out the projector system, trying to link the two rooms together so that both projectors showed what was on my laptop.

wwmit2I’m introduced and for the first time I stop and scan the room. 43 future teachers sit in front of me. All of them preparing to enter a classroom that looks a lot different than my first classroom. In my elementary education program’s technology course, we were graded on whether we could thread a projector properly both to play and then know how to rewind it. In that same class we had to build a web page. You know…..it was 1998….and this Internet thing might have some purpose in education…so we built a web page from scratch…I mean coding HTML not the program scratch. 🙂

I digress…..I’m looking around the room excited that I get to help shape the thoughts and ideas of what education is in 2015 and in the future to the next generation of teachers. But this isn’t just the next generation of teachers……this is the next generation.

“How many of you are 34 or younger?” I asked.

All but about 8 hands went into the air. I smiled…..shook my head……and realized for the first time, they have arrived.

wwmit3I’ve been talking about and following this generation for awhile now. Heck, everyone has been. We have more research about this generation than we do about any generation before them. Here’s a White House report on Millennials, here’s all the Pew Research on them, or do your own search…..there is plenty to read.

The oldest of them graduated high school in the year 2000 and the youngest of them just last year. This generation is the first true technology generation. They have grown up through this amazing time of personal computers and the Internet. They are connected and being connected is a way of life. One student even proudly admitted to being one of the first million users on Facebook. That’s this generation! The generation that jumped from MySpace, to Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram without flinching.

Just as further proof of this generation’s way of thinking when it comes to technology, I set up collaborative notes in a Google Doc for them to take and use over our two days together. Now I do this a lot in my presentations and usually it goes like this: I explain what a Google Doc is, why we’re doing this, what implications this has for the classroom, and then wait, sometimes up to 5 minutes for people to volunteer to take notes.

And then there are the Millennials. I showed them the link and by the time it loaded on the screen in the front of the room 4 different people were writing on the document. Most of them had never seen or used a Google Doc before (No…they don’t know everything!) so to see each other writing in real time was just as cool to them as it is for a 3rd grader the first time.

Off they go….writing, deleting each other’s stuff…..talking….not listening to me and figuring it all out. I started to laugh, shook my head again and just let them go. By the time I got done explaining how we were going to use the doc to take collaborative notes 3 people had already put their name in the table to do it.

My two days with them were fantastic…..the conversations I had with others like me…..us non-millennials….were really good as well. Non-millennials for the most part have a different way of approaching technology. They want steps and procedures not chaos and discovery.

wwmitI’m excited to have Millennial teachers in our schools…as they are different in many ways from any other generation before them. I’m not excited about their technological know-how. That still varies greatly based on a number of factors. What I’m excited about is how they approach technology and the fear they don’t have about just trying things out and figuring things out as they go. That mindset when it comes to technology education is their biggest asset.

Of course I had to be put in my place as well. As I’m preparing to do the opening Keynote for 14 school districts here this coming month, I have titled the Keynote: Preparing for Doc and Marty; seeing that they arrive from 1985 on October 21 of this year. So I ended our two days giving them a sneak peak of the keynote….except…..the oldest of the Millennials were 4 when the movie came out….maybe only about 10 millennials had actually seen the movie. My whole message was ruined. The jokes fell flat and it was pretty much a disaster. Lesson learned.

There’s nothing like realizing you’re getting older when a movie that helps define your generation isn’t even known by the next. Wake up Jeff…..it’s 2015!

As another school year finishes up here in the Northern Hemisphere I find myself, like many educators, reflecting on this past school year. As we reflect we start to think about what we would do different if we had to do it all over again and luckily for educators we get that opportunity. We get to continually improve our trade, continually test out new ideas, new ways of doing things and see how they work.

Google created this little video of sound bites from students talking about how they would change the classroom if they were the teacher.

As I watch this video and listen to these students what I hear is that they want to have more control over their learning. Take the technology piece out of it for a second and what I hear is “I want to learn my way” and “I want to do things that excite me”. Technology just allows those things to happen easier than ever in the classroom.

So as I reflect and think about the year to come (I’m no longer in a classroom but I do substitute from time to time). I want to think about what these kids and millions like them are telling us about education and then come up with a list of how I want to teach next year.

If I were the teacher:

  • Every day, every student would feel special.
  • I wouldn’t teach from a lesson plan, I would make the whole day up as I go.
  • I would ask students what they wanted to learn about and find a way to make the standards fit their passion not their passion fit the standards.
  • I would have a conversation with students about how they want to be assessed.
  • I would give them the skills that unleash the power of the Internet so that they can learn anything, anytime in anyway possible.
  • I would give every students a voice in the world.
  • I would let my students know that I’m human and have bad days too.
  • I would make it a goal to ask more questions than give answers daily.
  • I would invite the world into our classroom and introduce our classroom to the world.
  • We would create and share something publicly daily.
  • We would all learn together; from each other and with each other.

What is your list….you probably are a teacher so as you reflect back on this year, on a career, or just what are you thinking about for next year what would you do if you were a teacher?