Random Thoughts

In 2014…..

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year2014I’m frustrated….it’s 2014 people! We’re 14 years into this century and the Internet turned 25 years old today. It’s here…it’s part of our culture…part of our daily lives…it’s time we stop fighting it and embrace it!

In 2014…..

  • School wide wifi that works should be a given…if school wifi was as fast and reliable as Starbucks…we wouldn’t need Starbucks!
  • Every school should open up that fast and reliable Internet to the public after 5pm every day and all day on weekends. 
  • Youtube, facebook, and the rest of web should be unblocked at schools. They have 4G phones in their pockets you’re not blocking anything anyway!
  • Every teacher should have a laptop
  • If a school does not provide a device students should be allowed to bring their own
  • Teachers should be held to the NETs for Teacher standards
  • Administrators should be held to the NETs for Administrator standards
  • Wikipedia should be considered a valid source and we should teach students how to use it
  • Cyberbullying/Digital Citizenship should be part of the main curriculum not an add-on curriculum
  • Coding should be offered as a Modern Language Class
  • Every student should have a place to publicly share their knowledge, creations, ideas
  • Teacher evaluation should include the use of their PLN
  • Every teacher should be required to have a Skype/Hangout account to access professionals in the field
  • School libraries should cut their non-fiction book budget and put that money into creating an inviting place to do research (see Starbucks), have devices to read on and check out for students and community. 

Help me out by adding yours to the comments!

In 2014…….


I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Schools should work on BYB. Bring your own browser. Many portable devices can be use to access the web. Why not let kids use their DS or other portable game devices. Same rules apply as cell phones keep it on the desk.

    Typing should be added to all schools scope and sequence docs. It is a life skill.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Agree on the typing….let’s start it in first grade so we’re learning to type our letters as we learn to write them and then develop those skills together.

      Why in 2014 is typing now just what we do?

  2. Great thoughts Jeff. I would go further on the “coding should be offered as an modern language” point though. Rather than coming at the expense of languages (which are important too), Coding (really computational thinking) should be more embedded into how we teach mathematics from a much younger age. Rather than spend so much time with numeracy and memorization of times tables much younger students can be engaging in algebraic reasoning that is implicit in all computer programming.

    I would add in one more thing:

    Schools should intentionally build in time for professional development and collaboration during the academic year. Doesn’t have to be 20% time, but something “structural” that signifies the need to contentiously learn.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      I can get on board with both of those…….still think offering coding as a language in HS would open up access to students taking it more often.

  3. Great points Jeff! Agreeing with Justin, proper PD would help dispel many of the ‘fears’ that teachers and administrators have about changing. So much of this involves a loss of control. Allowing the students to actually take control of their own learning. Putting the student in the driver seat, with the teacher as the guide. How many educators are confident enough to allow this to happen? Bottom line: if we allow the students to take control of much of their own learning, many of the ‘issues’ simply go away because they are engaged in their own learning!

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      ….and by proper PD I would say that every teacher needs to have their own PLN. We need to stop relying on schools to “give us PD”.

      Hate it when teachers say “Well….I was never give PD on that.” Go Learn something! It’s called being a self motivated life long learner. If you have access to the Internet you can learn anything you want to learn if you want to.

      So it’s not only putting the students in the driver seat of their own learning but putting teachers in the driver seat of their own learning as well. Allow…well…we do allow…force teachers to take control of their own learning too.

  4. What about every child expected to communicate in two or more world languages? (not programming) What about every child having time and guidance in exploring a passion? What about every child developing a better sense of the world? What about every child striving to make the world a better place? What about schools taking on societal issues of guns, poverty, violence, etc… What about chucking standards and individualizing PD/learning for all teachers and students? What about learning happening year-round? What about less focus on technology and more on developing compassionate and empower students?

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Agree with all of those…..and most of them can only happen if we have open WiFi and devices to access the wealth of knowledge on the Internet.

      How many of those things listed….and I agree with all of them…..could you not do if you didn’t have the Internet…or would be way less interesting if you didn’t have access to the Internet?

  5. Thanks Jeff —
    Your infrastructure notes should be in place —
    Build the blended learning curriculum that leverages the combination digital and face-to-face affordance of K-12 education! True standards-based personalization for each student (does that make any sense?)

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi David….hope all is well…

      and agreed once we have these things in place then we can look at how curriculum changes. Problem is I’m visiting schools where there is 2 LCD projectors for the entire school, no wifi for anyone, and teachers running Windows XP computers and IE6.

      We need to have a2014 infrastructure in place if we’re going to teach like it’s 2014.

  6. Not only should building time be built in for professional development and collaboration regarding technology but a Teacher Leadership Program focused around using technology to increase student engagement should also be implemented.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      I think this goes to making every teacher have their own PLN. Once we have that and teachers take control of their own learning then we can structure social learning events that take advantage of learning socially with teachers in programs like this.

  7. Jeff, these are thought-provoking comments some of which make me relieved because our school is already addressing them but some of which got me thinking because we’re nowhere near! Thank you for focusing on this in the year 2014. How about adding to the list: Schools stop partitioning learning into tidy places like libraries and computer labs and instead think about designing and developing learning spaces which foster inquiry-based learning and collaboration?

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Totally agree…..was visiting a school district recently that is building a brand new High School that could have been built in 1950…..seriously they aren’t even building in a WiFi network into the school. No place for a server room, etc. How can we build schools in 2014 that do not look at learning differently? Blows my mind!

  8. Your Starbucks proposal is very well made. In 2004, I was sure that all major cities would be wi-fi-ed within ten years. I guess that for many, 3G cell networks blunted the urgency. But you point out what could be a major opportunity for local schools to reengage with the community, to reassert themselves as the neighborhood’s center of learning. Considering the mission of education, it is strange that right now it would be easier to convince a school to let me use their track than to get online on their network.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Working with a school district close to Seattle they passed their technology levy and part of the passing of it is to put wifi in all the schools and……after 5pm every day that wifi gets opened up for public use and all day on the weekends.

      Agree…..school’s can/should be the center of the community. You’re paying for Internet even when kids aren’t there and you’re paying for it with public funds…allow the public to use it.

  9. Hello Mr.Jeff
    My name is Roshawnda Thompson. I am a student enrolled in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama.
    I find it quite interesting myself that some schools have not adjusted to this ever changing technology that the world is based on. You gave some really great points that I hope gets into the minds of people who make the decisions on how a classroom should operate. I enjoy your blogs.
    Thank You

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Are you going to add your thoughts or just tell me you agree? You gave a compliment not a comment.

      I don’t mind you and your classmates commenting on my blog….I appreciate you liking the things I write. However commenting on blogs needs to be more than “You gave some really good points” and “I enjoy your blog”.

      What are you thinking? What would you add? What do you agree or disagree with and why?

      We teach students in 3rd grade the difference between compliments and comments when it comes to blogging and while we all appreciate compliments, comments are what drives the conversation forward.

  10. Here’s a possible addition:

    Problem: Research online can be difficult for elementary students because of limited sites with great quality information written/presented at an appropriate reading/conceptual level.

    Solution: The world(and education) is flat. What if graduate students were required to contribute some time answering questions or developing content for elementary age readers?

    Example: My wife teaches grade three and has students interested in learning more about how water is filtered and distributed. Most websites they go to are scientific and present the information at a level that is much too complex. She as a teacher can gather information and present it, but that is not student-driven discovery and authentic research. Plus, she might even have difficulty finding the latest, best research. Students could find an email and send questions or set up a skype interview, which is good authentic research. But perhaps we can shift the entire system to work to dissemination down to younger learners somehow.

    Maybe we can flatten the world of education a bit across age as well as distance.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Paul,

      Just wondering does your wife teach students search skills.

      Such as using Google.com:

      1. Do your search
      2. Click on “Search Tools” (gray button under search box)
      3. Click on “All Results”
      4. Click on “Reading Levels”
      5. Click on “Basic”

      This will give you websites written at around a 4-5th grade level. Something more that students might be able to access.

      Then go to “Any Time” and you can filter the information to be things that have been updated in the past 3 years by going to custom range. These two tricks allow students to access information on the web that they can understand.

      This is also why YouTube should be unblocked at every school so students can learn by watching videos as well as reading web sites.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      and a lot of schools are finding that a Facebook page is a great way to engage parents. They’re already spending a huge chunk of time on Facebook. Go where the community is!

  11. Tim Hutton Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    I want to make some comments on your final point about non-fiction collections and school libraries. Thoughtful acquisition is important (and usually occurs when a professional teacher-librarian is making such choices), but cutting non-fiction print purchases, presumably substituting them with online resources, is a mistake. To assume that students only want online resources is generally not true in my experience. Many of the most passionate learners want a mixture of the two.

    I am curious to know why you specify non-fiction. What about fiction? Rather than cutting it would it not be more valuable to develop a non-fiction collection that mirrors the finest qualities of what we value in fiction?

    And…I would love to find the school library with a non-fiction budget that if cut would result in enough money to buy more than a few pieces of Ikea furniture! Any transformation would require some capital investment.

    Thanks for the post and letting me add my thoughts.


    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Tim,

      This comes from the research out there that shows just how fast information…espceially in the science fields is changing. The latest statistics show that the half-life of knowledge is 18 months. Or in other words half of what you know is out dated every 18 months. If that’s the case a non-fiction book around say an animal could have false information in it…if that book is over 5 or say 10 years old most of the information in the book would be false as we know more about the animals today then we did 10 years ago….and that’s just animals.

      When it comes to factual information and if we truly want students to have the most up to date best information avalibe then that information is on the Internet.

      Hence the reason I still like fiction books….I’m not against the book reading experience. Just when it comes to factual non-fiction stuff…especially the stuff we teach in schools I want students to have their facts straight which means either replacing every book older than 3 years old every year or putting our funds into something different.

      That’s my thinking anyway and the way I’ve seen a lot of media centers go in recent years.

  12. stan berdinner Reply

    Jeff, I was at ncce2014 – prior to that had never heard of a PLN, had never tweeted, and this is my first response to a blog. I work in a rural alternative setting with (somewhat older) teachers who make a difference in many kids’ lives by building relationships over time, and by engaging kids in real world learning experiences, such as playing music, building boats, and restoring salmon habitat. I disagree with the idea that “every teacher should..” or “every student should..”. Of course, we do not have the 2014 infrastructure you speak of, which makes it moot anyway. But I wonder if there may not be many who have yet to hear of a PLN… and if so, what they will probably need is a helping hand to cross the divide, rather than a mandate.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Congrats on your first blog comment.

      I agree they’ll need a helping hand and it’s just sad that in 2014 when the term and idea of a PLN has been around since 2004 that there are a lot of teachers that haven’t heard the term or knows what it means. That’s the sad part…..and is why I belive in 2014 that it should be. I don’t blame teachers….I blame a system that hasn’t looked to change PD for……ever. Even with data coming back that one day workshops and conferences like NCCE really don’t change classroom practice we continue to do the same old thing expecting different results. It’s time to make the shift…it’s time to start living in this century instead of talking about it.

  13. Agreed, most of these should be a given.
    Can’t quite make it to the last one about libraries though. It seems common sense but actually it’s quite difficult to achieve for schools because eBook markets are no where near ready to support schools or libraries. Most publishers have locked down their product with DRM and most govts are in stalemate about how to change copyright legislation. Some large companies are making moves towards new financial models, e.g. Apple & Amazon, but for the most part a small percentage of all books are available in eBook format, and that percentage is minuscule if we’re talking textbooks. So, yes I agree with your sentiment and your frustration, but I think it’s too early to be recommending that schools start reducing hardcopy funding yet.

  14. Hi,
    My name is Ty Walker and I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I can’t even explain how refreshing I found this blog post. Technology is such an important aspect of our lives, especially pertaining to education, yet so many people are afraid to take the inevitable leap. Of all the suggestions mentioned, I especially agree that if schools can not or will not provide students with electronic devices for learning purposes that they should be allowed to bring their own. Here in Alabama, the Baldwin County School System is spearheading efforts to do just that. They have provided all of their students, K-12, with a Macbook or an Ipad. I feel that this is the direction in which all school systems should be headed and this post made it obvious that I am not the only person who feels this way.

  15. -typing skills (all 4 of my children do standard typing and do it WELL! I taught them through online typing websites each starting at the age of 8. It only took 3 weeks for them to get through the course. Then, they were off and running with it…)
    -Genius Hour in the school timetable
    -20% time for teachers to experiment with technology
    -Coding integrated in the elementary school curriculum. I’m trying to “figure my way through coding” so I can see it where it might naturally occur in the curriculum. It’s happening for me but it takes time. You really have to be able to “do it” to “own it”. From my short foray into the field of coding (See my blog where I blogged lesson notes for the 20 Hour K-8 coding course from Code.org. There are no lesson notes available for the online stages, so I created my own.), I can definitely say that traditional PD is NOT going to turn teachers into coders nor help them learn to embed it in the curriculum nor help them to deliver the content & skills. Thus, the need for 20% time.
    -Computer Science Certification (coding) offered in high schools

    I do believe that Coding needs to be in the curriculum but I’m not too sure it would help to make it one of the Foreign Languages. I know that for budgetary reasons, making it one of the Foreign Languages might mean Coding would stand more of a chance to survive as a curriculum subject and thus receive funding etc. However, I came across this article by Code.org that challenged this line of reasoning: http://codeorg.tumblr.com/post/75129943201/language

    It says Coding isn’t like a Foreign Language. It has a specialized role so deserves its own place. It should stand along side all the subjects (as well as Foreign Languages) in the curriculum and school timetable. There are compelling arguments in that article so that I no longer say coding is “another language”.

    I’m not one of those people with inclinations towards math or sciences, despite the fact I’m looking at coding so closely these couple of months. I’m really a humanities & music person 🙂 It’s solely because see the writing on the wall…

  16. Vivian,

    the code.org post you linked clarifies the important point to:
    “teach our kids computer science, not just coding …the fundamental concepts of computer science — like logic and problem solving — are universal.”


    I whole-heartedly agree with your list. For the Edtech crowd, it seems we’ve been pushing devices and connectivity for research, advice, and community since 2004 and the birth of web 2.0 or earlier. However, now it that it feels like the few schools on the leading edge are in danger of allowing experiences become too virtual (especially with younger ages) and could use a dose of tactile tech to put things back into balance again.

    Along this theme, a suggestion for inclusion to your list is integration of the Maker Toolset into the curriculum for much younger age groups. Where instead of simply consuming large quantities of ‘disposable’ information the internet allows us to drown ourselves in, we would be encouraged/assigned to design, prototype and problem solve with physical representations of a solution. Let’s make our learning more tactile again. Fortunately, 2014 has dramatically lowered the cost and technical barriers to students when exploring solutions with the tools of electronics, 3D modeling, coding and robotics.

    Major concepts of any curriculum to be explored through building a model, rough representation, or rapid prototype that a student can physically hold in their hand where a more thought-provoking tactile experience can occur.

    • Hi Jason

      That’s a good point about making Technology more tactile and not just virtual. I’m just learning about different devices: Makey Makey, Picoboard. My boys have Lego Mindstorm robotics but I have never looked at it personally yet.

  17. All content needs to be taught through 21st century skills. Creativity, innovation, visual/media/information literacy, collaboration, leadership are all components that should a part of every class. Students need an opportunity to become ACTIVE participants in their learning.

  18. Something I’d love to see is a much bigger emphasis in schools on the importance of people networking & the notion of diffused expertise.
    Have network development built into teacher PD, performance management & recruitment, and to pass that focus along to the classroom so students actually get some real experience communicating professionally.

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