Today, I want to explore the power of making collaborative learning transparent.

What do I mean by that? Well for any of you who have ever been partnered with others on a project, think about that experience and reflect on the following questions:

  1. What structures or supports were in place for you to be able to seek out thought partners on your project team?
  2. What frameworks helped you calibrate your working pace?
  3. What prompted others to come and seek out your perspective?

When I talk about making collaborative learning transparent, that’s what I’m talking about: setting up scaffolding that helps all learners network and learn from one another.

The resource from the free guide that correlates with this theme is our KANBAN templates. If you’ve never used the Kanban method before, essentially it is a system that helps a team visualize where each other are at, on a given project. It often has the following columns: “to do”  “in progress”  “testing” “done”

If students were co-authoring a podcast script they might divide and conquer a to do list: some students might be researching online, others might be interviewing other students, others might be writing to the local library as part of the ‘to do.’ When each member of the team has updated their progress, they update the Kanban board so they know where each other is at. What does this do for teams? Well, the first thing that might come to mind is accountability–and yes, this is great for each member to stay accountable to their team’s goals. But in my experience the truly big win by using this system is that it starts conversations during the collaborative process. One of the biggest pitfalls for students working on a team is that we don’t intentionally make time and space for regular check-ins. I’ve made this mistake as a teacher–and the stakes are high, when we don’t help teach the skills and structures of collaboration, students end up seeing collaboration as an obstacle for learning when we want them to see it as a catalyst.

I even have a few teacher parent friends who have adopted this method for their household set of chores. Why? They tell me it creates a better sense of how their kids can jump in and help out when they have extra time, and it also models to them how much is involved in keeping the house clean, the fridge stocked, and the family taken care of. 

For me, when my team uses the Kanban method it also helps us make sure we really think through our priorities first. When you co-author a to-do list, you get the collective wisdom of others. For young learners this is huge. Even for an essay, asking students to all share their ‘to do’ starting place this will look different student to student, and when we invite them to learn from one another’s different starting places, they gain new entry points into that task. I think one of the most overlooked questions we need to remind students to ask each other more regularly is this one: “How do you get started?”

When I was a young learner, whenever I had a research assignment, I didn’t always know how to get started. And you know what? When that first step is cloudy, motivation drops. I had no idea how much time my classmates spent on their research or how they went about doing it. That’s a barrier for learning. The more we can make the learning process transparent, the more welcoming the process becomes.

I use a lot of sports metaphors. Here’s why I think they work for our educational context: athletes are so used to the idea of slowing down their technique. As a baseball player, my hitting coach would have me take hundreds of practice swings–and these were without a pitcher, sometimes with a bat, sometimes without it. My hitting coach wanted me to be able to memorize the motion, and really understand the exact position my elbow needed to be in, to feel the proper pivot on your back foot. We need to give students learning to collaborate more opportunities to slow down and isolate the moves needed inside of collaborative teams. When we do this right, we help lessen the anxiety about working together, we help students build their confidence, and we help build a sense of belonging.

I am excited to talk about one of my favorite shifting schools resources. If you follow us on social media, you may have seen us sharing custom made Jamboard templates. We have a collection of them in our resource library, and we’ve received so much feedback from educators. Why? Well, my guess is because Jamboard leverages collaboration. I think of it as a space to build an archive of ideas. The specific Jamboard template I want to dig into is called ‘Momentum From Mistakes.’ On the template you find four quadrants. Each quadrant is a space for the class or group to reflect on learning they’ve come to by way of a mistake. For example, one quadrant asks students to complete the following sentence: “Now I know to spend less time on (X) and more time on (Y).”

Why would I recommend you consider having a collaborative space to reflect on mistakes? In my experience, when we start a dialogue that reminds us that none of us are perfect, and that all of us can learn from mistakes, we take some of the shame out of mistake making. If you know me well, you know I love geeking out on new technology. Guess what, whenever I am trying a new edtech tool, I get to know it through mistakes. 

Often when someone tells me they don’t have the confidence with edtech, we talk a little more, and I realize–ah! They think those of us with confidence never make mistakes. And I feel it is my responsibility to let them know that I make mistakes with Edtech all the time. And it is because I’ve made hundreds of mistakes that I have a stronger sense of digital literacy. Whenever I think about all the mistakes I’ve made with technology, the memories of being in college and working on my wife’s Windows 3 computer. She used to hate it, cause I’d be geeking out and would have to reinstall the operating system at least once a week…..and of course always right before one of her papers where do…ah those were the days!

For too long there has been too much silence around mistakes in learning. We see someone who appears successful in a given subject area and we make assumptions. Even the phrase ‘natural leader’ is in my mind a misguided notion. In my career I’ve led a number of teams. I’ve even been told I am a natural leader. Guess what? I’m not! I work really hard at it. I look for feedback, I reflect, and I consume a lot of media about leadership. One of my favorite bloggers and thinkers when it comes to leadership is Dorie Clark. In a recent piece here’s how she defines great leadership:

“It’s about leading others consistently and allowing them to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment.”

Dorie Clark ~ Forbes.com

That’s exactly why I love our momentum from mistakes jamboard template. It says let’s make room to discuss the different mistakes we are making. It asks us a fundamental question: How do our mistakes in the past and present help us navigate future learning?

When you check out the template in our free guide, you might decide to change the prompts we have—-and I want to always reiterate that our Shifting Schools templates are never meant to be prescriptive–they are always meant to inspire even better ideas. So if you find yourself coming up with other sentence frames, I would love to hear how you have taken our template, remixed it and made it better. You can email me about that via info at shifting schools dot come. 

In closing I want to share two of my favorite quotes from Baseball and consider what they tell us about the significance of mistakes. Ready?

Quote number one is from Babe Ruth who famously said:

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Quote number two is from Reggie Jackson who said:

“You can’t steal second base and keep one foot on first.”

As an educator how would you take those words of wisdom and apply them to your classroom context?

If you are a big baseball fan like me, you may already know that in 1923 Babe Ruth struck out more than any other player in the league. The more well known fact about Ruth’s career is that he was the first player to ever hit 60 homers in a single season. Is he defined by his mistakes or by his success? 

Reggie Jackson is legendary for many things-and again if you know your baseball history you may know that he was the first to strike out 2,000 times in a career. That’s a lot of swinging and missing. And you know what else Reggie Jackson did in his career? He found himself on the American League All Star list 14 times. He was on the world series winning team FIVE times. 

In fact, watch any baseball game and you’ll see mistakes all over the field. A mistake pitch from a pitcher that ends in a homerun, or a swing and a miss. Why do I love baseball…it’s pretty much the only thing you can be successful 30% of the time and considered an All-Star.

And the mental mindset you need to have to make that many mistakes and continue to be strong mentally is exactly what we want to work on with students. 

Making mistakes, making many, many many mistakes is part of the journey. As I often say in my trainings, failure is everything that happens right before you become successful. We fail our way to success…that’s life. We have to change the narrative about success. Being successful isn’t about being perfect. For both Jackson and Ruth–their experiences of success were most likely linked to being on a team where others encourage them, and where their mistakes were taken as opportunities to learn to get better. And that’s exactly what the fifth resource in our free guide intends to do for students. Let’s be open about making mistakes, let’s learn from them and allow those mistakes to lead us to success.

Can’t tell you how excited I am that our program COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) has joined forces with the Google for Education team to offer educators the ability to complete both your COETAIL micro-credential and your Google for Education Certified Trainer (GET) certificate at the same time. As one COETAILer put it.

It would be like the best of both worlds – COETAIL’s pedagogy and Google App for Education Suite make a formidable force to have in your teaching toolbox! ~ COETAIL Graduate

If you haven’t heard of COETAIL before. You can head over to our about page for more information. For a real look at what COETAIL is all about, make sure to check out the homepage where you will see blog posts from current COETAILers.

We are in the process of gathering data of who might be interested in completing both the COETAIL program and their GET certificate at the same time. If you are interested please fill out this form and we’ll keep you in the loop.

Here is the official announcement:

Announcing a New and Exciting Collaboration


It is with great excitement that we write to you today to tell you about a new and exciting collaboration to benefit COETAILers past, present and future.

We have worked with the Google for Education Team to bring an exciting new collaboration to COETAILers. A collaboration that will allow COETAIL graduates priority access to apply to the Google for Education Certified Trainer (GET) program and future COETAILers to complete the COETAIL program and at the same time earn their Google for Education Certified Trainer credentials.

We are so excited that Google for Education chose to collaborate with COETAIL. COETAIL has always strived to be a leader in supporting educators in authentically and purposefully integrating technology into the classroom. The rigor and reflective nature of COETAIL and the GET program have many overlapping objectives and outcomes making this collaboration one that will benefit COETAILers past, present, and future.

Aligned Mission

COETAIL and Google for Education Certified Trainer program

Foster a network of globally connected educators

Support members in authentically and purposefully integrating technology into their classroom and the school as a whole

Support members in being seen as technology leader within their school

Help create a culture of ongoing, sustainable, professional development program for all educators

If you are a COETAIL graduate and are interested in becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer please fill out this form by Thursday, March 9.

If you know someone who might be interested in completing COETAIL and the Google for Education Certified Trainer certification, please feel forward this email and have them fill out this form as well.

In the coming weeks, as we finalize the collaboration we will be sending another email with specifics of what will be required for past, present and future COETAILs to earn their Google for Education Certified Trainer credentials. For now, sign up to become a Certified Trainer and forward this opportunity to fellow educators who might be interested in completing COETAIL featuring Google for Education Certified Trainer.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thank you

Jeff, Kim and the Google for Education Team


I always look forward to Google’s I/O conference to see where the future of technology and innovation is headed and today, once again, didn’t disappoint.

This was the 10th I/O conference for Google. This is where Google shares what it’s working on so developers know where the platform is headed… and what they see as the future of technology.

daydreamsetThe theme of this year’s conference could not have been more clear. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was definitely the theme of this year’s conference. Whether it was their new device Google Home, their new apps Allo and Duo or their new Virtual Reality (VR) device, the future belongs to AI and machine learning.

Machine Learning, or where machines teach themselves, to me, has the greatest impact on education. The idea that a student could soon be sitting at home and simply ask their Google Home device “How do I solve this problem?” and instead of the device giving the answer, it talks the student through how to solve the problem. It will ask the student questions, respond to those questions and actually teach the student. Now….yes….this is what parents do (and should do) and I’m not saying I want students talking to computers all the time. But it does open up some interesting possibilities for the future.

As usual, it’s the stats that get me really thinking about how we in education will continue to evolve.

300 million people were online when Google was founded.

3 Billion people are connected via mobile today.

Think about these numbers.
When you think that roughly half the world’s population is connected via a mobile device, you can’t help but think what that means for education on a global scale.

Or, what that means for your students and their ability to connect with people from…well….anywhere. What are we doing in schools and classrooms to better understand that we need to be on mobile devices? Really grasping that these devices are where people spend the majority of their time.

Over 20% of Google search queries in the US are done by voice.
Over 50% of all search queries are done on mobile devices (both stats from this year’s keynote).

Take one second and ask yourself, how does this change your classroom?

Now, figure this layer: Google states that they translate over 100 languages and over a billion words a day. Many world language teachers are still frustrated with this technology. Is it perfect?

No. But it’s getting better…every day….and every time you use it.
It’s not going away. And it has forever changed languages globally.

So, how do we embrace this new technology and make it part of our teaching? Where do we use it? When do we allow students to practice with it? When do we discuss where it’s useful and when it fails?


What a great quote from today’s Keynote:

What if we can achieve a lot more in education with technology assisting us than we previously thought possible?
What if it changes the way learning happens? What if we had to rethink teaching and learning because these technologies exist today?

We need to understand in education that the world is adopting and adapting to these new realities. How are we doing? Are we taking time to step back and think bigger than this assignment or that activity to truly consider what is happening in our phones today?

We might not like it, but we live in our phones. Not just us…everyone! Students, parents, our community at large, everyone lives in their phones. Once we accept that, then we start to harness these devices to:

  • Remind students about upcoming school work and events
  • Engage parents in students lives
  • Inform parents about what is happening in the classroom
  • Engage and inform our communities about the work that educators are doing

If we are not in their phones, they aren’t hearing us.

Often I have conversations with schools about their new website and the thousands of dollars they spend in making it easy for people to navigate through it.

What I rarely see is a school website that truly engages people in the conversation of education, that connects the school community in social conversations that lead to deep links back to the website.

People don’t “go to websites”…they go to web pages…that they click on from a social update. If your website does not include social, you are not engaging your community and, in fact, I would argue, you are disconnected from it.

In the end, what today’s announcements meant are nothing more than we continue to march forward into an unknown future and breaking barriers faster than we ever thought we would.

In our lifetime we’ll see electric cars, self-driving cars, and even flying cars become mainstream. Things that were only seen on the Jetsons years ago. That is what we’ll see in our future.

But what about our students? What will they see?

  • The only phone they know is a smartphone.
  • The only car they will drive will drive itself.
  • And the only jobs that will be available are ones where people are working with computers or machines in harmony.

Their world only gets more connected from here.

And we need to prepare them for that future.

Not our past.

This post is cross-posted on the Eduro Learning Blog

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]

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?

What has becoming somewhat of a tradition….ok…it’s really just my geek side coming out (yes this would imply I have another side….not sure what that is though), I sat down on Thursday last week to watch the Google I/O conference. For years now I have watched the Google I/O conference as well as the Apple’s WWDC (coming June 8th) for no other reason (or so I tell myself) than to fill in teachers at my school what was announced and how it might impact them. When living and working in China and Thailand this meant staying up until 2am or so to watch it live and write an email that would be in every teachers inbox by the next morning. Now living in Seattle it means a cup of coffee, four devices and watching it on my TV.

flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

It also means I no longer work in a school or have teachers to send this to…so you get my thoughts this year. Basically a brain dump of things I’m thinking after watching Google layout the next year and beyond of the future of technology.

Education was at the front of this year’s talk. I say that every year of course because I hear and see things through an educational lens. For example, Google’s new Photos app (Android, iOS) had nothing to do with education…or they just made it even easier for students to take pictures, create movies, stories and share those photos with their classmates and teacher. A common photo app on both Android and iOS devices with unlimited upload and storage space for all the photos and video you want to take. Yes…this can and will impact some classrooms.

“Please take out your phones and record via videos and photos your experiment today please. One person in your group needs to be the recorder for the experiment and I expect to see written notes along with video and image evidence of what happened.”

Google Expeditions

One of the biggest educational announcements was the release of Google Expedition. A virtual reality toolkit for educators being released, I’m going to guess, in time for next school year. Using Google Cardboard and any Smartphone (again both Android and iOS) you turn every classroom into a 3D immersive experience. This is very early stages but if you think 2 or 3 years down the road what this means for classrooms it could be very powerful.

“OK class….please get out your cardboard and we’re going to go live to Martin Luther King Jr. speech today. Group A  you will be viewing it from the back of the crowd. Group B I’ve put you in the middle of the crowd and Group C you are towards the front. I would like your group to experience the speech from these different perspectives and then discuss how your view and angle of the speech impacted you and notice the people around you within Cardboard. How did it impact them?”

What if we can “be there”. Instead of saying “Oh…you had to be there to see it, or to feel it” can we get one step closer of actually being there?

Google Sidestepping Universities

However, the announcement that has me still thinking and still blowing my mind is the announcement Google made about teaming up with Udacity to offer an Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has been rolling out these Nanodegrees for awhile now and this latest announcement from Google just adds to what could be a real movement in higher education.

The “NanoDegree” offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it. (NYTimes, 2014)

nanodegreesThat motivation being both AT&T and now Google are backing these degrees saying they will consider graduates of these degrees as being qualified for hiring within their companies. So instead of going to University and having to take all those classes you don’t want to take or you know don’t really point you in the direction you want to go, you get a Nanodegree instead. $200 a month for 8 months or so? Basically I get a degree for $1600? That’s a lot less than any public University where I live.

Now I could go on and on about where I think this is going and the future of nanodegrees. What I really want to focus on is what do students need in order to complete one of these degrees?

If we go to the “Prerequisites and Requirements” section for the new Android Developers degree. We see a list of prerequisites including some background knowledge you’ll need in Java and other programs. All of which can be found on Udacity’s website of course. But the one that caught my eye was this one:

Dedication and Mindset

In addition to 1-2 years of prior programming experience and intermediate technical skills, students are expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that all problems in code are discoverable;

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when code breaks and tests fail.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Let’s make these just a bit less techie for a second:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that finding problems is just as important as solving them.

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when things don’t go as expected and failure is seen as leading to solutions.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Are we making sure that students that graduate from high schools all around the world this month are leaving with this Mindset? I hope so….because this mindset will get you farther in life than any degree no matter how major or nano it might be.

It’s 4:45am….I know this because the alarm on my phone softly starts to play its melody slowly getting louder and louder until I roll over, pick it up, and swipe to the right. I rub my eyes, stretch and look out the window. The sun is still hours from rising as I watch the Seattle Ferry, all lit up, make it’s majestic journey from Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle. Filled with the first commuters from the island on this Wednesday morning.

screenAs I sit up in bed and my feet hit the ground I pick up my phone to check my updates. Even though I have been sleeping for six hours my assistant Motoy (a Moto X 2013 edition) has been working all night. A notification from the Delta app tells me my 7:12am flight to JFK this morning is on time, a notification from Tripit tells me my gate is now A4 and Google Now informs me that I should leave my house no later than 5:22am to make it in time for my flight.

As I get dressed I strap on Motoy’s assistant 360 (Moto 360 watch). It’s 5:07am and 360 shows an updated notification from Delta confirming that my gate is now A4. I swipe the notification aside, check that my heart rate is a calm 57bpm and finish getting dressed.

I head to my backpack, slide Macky (MacBook Air) into his slot, wind up the power cord and along with noise cancelling headphones, and my Nexus 9 slide them into their rightful place for today’s trip.

Another quick glance at 360 to see it’s now 5:15am and a notification from Google Now reminding me to leave before 5:22am to be on time for my flight.

I finish moving my suitcase and backpack to the front door before taking Motoy from my pocket flipping to the Uber app and requesting an UberX ride to the airport. “One moment please” the app responds and then tells me that Omar, my drive, is on his way and should be arriving in less than a minute. I add my destination of SeaTac Airport and slide Motoy back into my pocket and this blog post starts forming in my head ‘How amazing is 2015?’ I think to myself.

I quietly walk back into the bedroom, give my wife a gentle kiss on the cheek. She wakes and rolls over to greet me.

“You have everything?” she asks without opening her eyes.

“I think so” I whisper, “Have a great Friday”. She smiles without opening her eyes. Even though it’s Wednesday it’s her Friday as a part time school counselor.

“Fly safe, K?”

“If they let me fly I promise I will” I say with a smile. A running joke between us as at one time I held a Microsoft Flight Simulator pilots license. Printed it off and framed it and had it hanging above my computer. The closest I’ll probably ever get to becoming a real pilot.

“I’ll Whapp (Term for using Whats App) you when I get there and call you before I take off.”

“K….remember to listen.” Always her last words of advice to me before I leave on a consulting trip.



I give her another kiss on the cheek as 360 vibrates on my wrist telling me Omar has arrived and is waiting for me on the street.

I make my way downstairs and find Omar waiting for me in front of our place. A quick glance at 360 and I know I’m right on time at 5:23am.

“To the airport?” Omar confirms.

“Yes please and can you take 99?”

Omar taps his phone and the route to the airport appears. As we start to move and turn the corner on to Wall Street, 360 gives me a gentle buzz again to let me know that I should arrive at the airport at 5:53am. How crazy is this I think to myself. My phone’s GPS knows that I’m moving, guesses where or knows where I should be headed and then sends a notification to my watch to let me know when I should arrive? The technology behind this is….well….it’s 2015.

I sit back, pull out Motoy and go through the night’s emails. Two new people registered for COETAIL Online4, an email from Kim Cofino on my Eduro Learning account, and I clean out the junk mail that filled the inbox overnight. I quickly scan the messages and head to the Flipboard app to get the latest news on everything I missed. I read an amazing article on what Audi is doing with self-driving cars at CES2015 and think to myself poor Omar here is going to be out of a job in 5 years time. I flip through a couple more stories before we arrive at the airport. I say thank you to Omar and he wishes me a safe trip.

As I enter the airport I pull Motoy from my pocket, open the Delta app and click on my boarding pass. A QR code pops up on my screen confirming my seat number and gate. Crazy just a few years ago I predicted these little squares would be something and now they hold all the information I need to get through security at the airport and board my plane. A notification appears with my receipt from my Uber ride and I swipe down, give Omar a 5 star rating and close the app.

I walk pass all the other passengers checking in thinking to myself…if only they knew how to use this stuff they could save themselves time and trouble.

I walk through the Pre-Check security line (Getting Global Entry Status a few years ago was one of the best decisions I’ve made) not having to take anything out of my bag and stroll through security. As 360 comes out the other side of the scanning machine I strap him back on my wrist and see the time is 5:56am.

My morning airport routine begins. I head to Starbucks where I pull Motoy out of my pocket and open up my Starbucks app. I have to earn 5 more stars for a free coffee and don’t have any other promo codes to use at this time. I click on the pay button and a barcode appears on the screen. I place my order and scan the barcode. I click the back button where instantly I see the money being taken off my Starbucks card and a notification appears that I have until 6:30am to leave a tip if I so chose. I start shaking my head as I realize I’ll spend the whole day purchasing things with my phone.

I stroll past other travelers trying to find their gate on the big screens and with the confidence of a traveler who flies close to 200,000 miles a year head to my gate.

Once at my gate I pull out Motoy, click on my Google+ widget, and start scrolling through the news. After getting 360 for Christmas (Yes, I have the best wife ever) I joined a couple Moto 360 communities on Google+ to learn how to use it, how others are using it, and to keep up with the latest things developers are working on. I find a cool new watch face that has my heart rate and steps on the watch face itself. A couple clicks of Motoy’s screen and the new watch face appears on 360. I then explore a developer I have been following who has been working on a Spotify app for 360. He’s released a new update for beta testers so I download and install it. Love the look and can’t wait to try it out later.

I browse through a few more apps and find a new one called Drink Well that allows you to track how much water you drink in a day. Something I’ve been trying to be better about. I scroll through the reviews and find people like the app and the biggest complaint is that it’s created by a developer in Australia and the app only works in liters…something I don’t mind overcoming and I think about how an app like this could help to teach students in the US about the metric system forcing them to convert on the fly. An interesting concept…….

As I’m browsing Google+ on Motoy, 360 gently vibrates letting me know there is a new notification. It’s an update from Tripit that my 7:12am flight has now been delayed until 7:23am. Shortly after getting the notification the gate agent starts to make the announcement that the flight will be delayed…I smile to myself having already gotten this information minutes before. As the gate agent makes more announcements, I open up the Delta app on Motoy and see that I’m #1 on the upgrade list with 5 seats in business class available. With five minutes until boarding I walk up to the gate agent.

“Excuse me….have you processed the upgrade list yet?”

“No….sorry about that….let’s see…..Mr. Utecht?”


“Is a window OK for you?”

“Yes…I prefer window seats” I say thinking to myself I wonder if they would have remembered to process the upgrades with everything else they have going on and how crazy is it that I can see up to the minute seat availability on my flight leaving in 15 minutes.

The gate agent hands me my new boarding pass as an announcement comes out that the WiFi on this plane is not working today. Ug….5 hours of work time gone. How fast I have come to expect WiFi on all my Delta flights and how I have even started to count on it when working. ‘Oh…I’ll do that on the plane’ I tell myself when prioritizing work.

I board the plane, take my seat and call my wife to say I Love You one more time before taking off and let her know I’ll Whapp her when I get to the hotel about 2pm her time. I hang up, drink the water that was waiting for me at my seat and read on the label that it is 251mL (so much for having to convert!). I open up my newly installed Drink Well app and add .2 liters to my daily drinking amount. Thinking how great this app is going to be to remind me to drink water throughout the day. I’m excited to see if I use it and how it works.

rainerI sit back and enjoy the plane taking off….lifting through the morning fog at the airport and breaking through into a beautiful sunrise. Mt. Rainer appears out of my window, seeing the sunrise behind that mountain never gets old. I replay this morning in my head and decide that I’ll use my disconnected time on the plane to write this blog post. To write just how amazing of a time 2015 is and the technology I use everyday makes life just….wow! It’s not that I couldn’t live without the technology, this whole day could have been done without it, however I love that it’s here, I love that I have an assistant in my pocket keeping me up to date with what I need to know and now I have an assistant’s assistant on my wrist making things even more seamless.

As we reach 10,000 feet I pull out Macky open up Google Chrome and click on the Google Doc app. I’ll write this blog post offline here and as soon as I hit WiFi in my hotel room have it synced, spell checked, edited and uploaded to my blog in a matter of minutes. 2015…..what an amazing year this is going to be.

Photo Credit: MSH* via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MSH* via Compfight cc

I need to start checking myself when this question comes up during presentations and trainings. At some point someone always asks about privacy. In many cases they don’t even know…..I think anyway…..that they are asking a privacy question. The questions usually are posed as:

“If I put something in Google Drive is it safe?”

“If I put something in Google Drive can anyone see it?”

“Is it secure?”

“Can someone hack in and get my stuff?”

I’m finding the more I’m asked questions like this, the harder time I’m having keeping my frustrations in check….to the point I had to apologize to teachers a few weeks ago for getting a little too passionate about the topic.

So here’s what I believe…it’s my belief so take it as that.

“If I put something in Google Drive is it safe?”

As safe as anything you are probably going to put on the Internet! This is a good graph that shows how secure Google is compared to other online storage sites.

Can someone hack in? Yep…..if they get your info they can get in…but people can also break into your house….and people do….I’d like to see research of house break-ins verses accounts hacked in the US…that would be a fun comparison. So you tell me what’s more secure….your images backed up to a site like Flickr.com or the external hard drive sitting next to your computer?

“If I put something in Google Drive can anyone see it?”

Well….no…not anyone……but yes…..Google can see it. Here’s the thing….by using their service you allow them to see your stuff. This goes for anything on the Internet, not just Google. Can your bank see how much money you have? Yes. Can your credit card track your spending? Yes.

Our Love Hate Relationship With Technology

Here’s the thing that I tell everyone at the end of the day:

You have to trust somebody!

Photo Credit: mueritz via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mueritz via Compfight cc

You do…that’s it. Who you trust is personal but you have to trust someone and the issue right now is we don’t know who to trust. I trust my bank to keep my data safe. I trust Google to use my information wisely. I trust mint.com with all of my financial data. Now…you might not trust these places and that’s fine…..but you have to trust someone. Target is a perfect example. We all trusted Target with our credit card information until that trust was broken. Once that happened we all had a choice to make…..will I trust them again?

Some of us do….others of us don’t. No matter what you decide…..it’s a personal decision. Here’s the thing….if it’s not Target, then who do you trust? Where do you shop? Amazon.com, Walmart, Safeway, your local hardware store? You see….if you have a credit card….you trust someone with that stored information…..you just do….or you don’t have a credit card and you don’t….and that’s fine too. Most people do have a credit and/or debit card, so most people are making a choice to trust someone. I struggle then with those that say they’re worried about someone having their information. I feel like you have basically two options:

1. Come to terms with the fact that breaches of information (ie what happened with Target) are going to occur….welcome to the 21st Century


2. Get rid of your credit cards/debit cards, cell phones, and anything else digital.

I personally choose option one; I believe that companies are truly doing their best to keep information protected. Nobody wants to be in Target’s shoes. It’s not fun for anyone involved. Yes…every company should do everything in their power to keep your data safe…but will there be hacks? Yes…there will be. Just like their will be robberies and home invasions in real life too.

We Love/Hate Technology

We’re in a time period where we as a society are trying to figure out how much privacy we’re willing to give up. We benefit from giving up our privacy but it’s also a scary concept.

We love that when we do a Google search they know so much about us they give us exactly what we want…if they didn’t we wouldn’t use them.

We hate Google because they know so much about us that the adverts scrolling on the side are things we’ve searched for.

We love that we can go to Amazon.com and get recommendations of books, things to buy and things relevant to us.

We hate that they know our buying habits and it creeps us out a bit that they come up with exactly what we want.

We love Facebook and the connections it provides us and the specific information that pops up for us to peruse.

We hate that Facebook knows us so well the ads are tailored specifically for what we’re looking for.

We’re all in this love/hate relationship right now. Or you just hate it and you’re not reading this right now because you have chosen not to use the Internet!

Photo Credit: CBS_Fan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: CBS_Fan via Compfight cc

It’s come out in the news again just how not sure we are if we like this or not as a society. Google and Microsoft read emails of child pornographers, turned them into the authorities and had them arrested. Now…we like this…we like that bad people were caught….but we’re a little freaked out that Google can…and might, read our emails.

We’re not sure if we like this. We love it when technology allows us to catch the bad guys……we just hate it when we realize that means they’ve been watching us too. Here’s the thing…we can’t have it both ways. We can’t say go catch the bad guys without giving up our privacy to make sure we’re not one of them. The other options is we catch less bad guys and protect our own privacy. Personally, I like the idea that more bad people are being caught and if that means I give up some of my privacy, I can live with that sacrifice.

Changing our default from private to public

This is what we’re struggling with. Perhaps my life experiences have helped me to make this mind shift more quickly than some. The idea that privacy looks very different these days than it did a short while ago. That doesn’t’ mean that privacy doesn’t exist…it does. It just means you start with public. Everything you do is public and you work backwards from there. That’s a mind shift from where we were even just 15 years ago. Where we all started thinking our lives were private and we got to decide how public they were. That’s not the case! The moment you signed up for Facebook, bought a cell phone, or signed into an email account…..you became public.

Public is the new default……now……how you stay safe being public is what we need to focus on. How do you do the best you can to lock the windows and the doors; share what you want with whom you want and be as safe as possible? That’s the question we need to be asking. It doesn’t mean someone can’t or won’t try to break in…there have always been bad guys and there will continue to be bad guys…but we do the best we can, we trust who we trust, to keep ourselves and our families safe.

google+Funny looking back at my older blog posts of Google+ here on the blog. It seems like every year I feel like I need to blog about how Google+ really is turning into a large part of my PLN. In fact over the last few weeks I have spent more time in Google+ than I have on Twitter…way more. The conversation I feel is deeper, more engaging and the communities….the sharing that happens in the communities is amazing. Much like the hashtag communities on Twitter the Google+ communities are rich with discussion, sharing and helping.

[box] Blast from the Past:

Dec. 2011: Google+ Reflection

Aug. 2012: Why You Should Be Playing with Google+ Now

Aug. 2013: 7 Google+ Communities You Should be following[/box]

If you only want two PLNs….Twitter and Google+ get my vote!

If you are just getting started with Google+ or you are a Google Apps school. The best thing you can do is put all the Google Products into a circle. Every Google App has it’s own account and they all are posting interesting tips, tricks and updates all the time.

Here are direct links to a few to get you started. You can search for the rest on your own.





Communities are still where I find I spend most of my time that an in Hangouts…oh how I love hangouts! There are way too many to list (although here are 7 Google+ Communities You Should be followinghere but if you’re looking for a community chances are it already exists.

Don’t knock it till you try it…..and maybe this summer your goal is to start playing with Google+. If you want a really nice how to guide to get you started this is the best one I know of out there.

See ya on the network!