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.




Google BuzzGoogle Buzz has been out for a while now and has been slowly making its mark on the social-networking scene.

As I’ve been investigating Buzz (a.k.a. playing with it…but investigating sounds so much more important!) and how it changes social-networking, it hit me the other day how this might just be the communication tool I’ve been looking for in schools ever sense Twitter came out.

I’m hoping that Google brings Buzz to the Education Apps soon. There are a lot of schools (including mine) that are embracing Google Apps and taking a serious look at using the set of tools as the default mail, calendar, contacts, docs application for the school. Doug Johnson has been writing about Google Apps a lot lately and his latest post is a must read if your district is considering the move.

I don’t know about your school but at my last two schools the ALL MAILS that get sent around are frustrating to many. Like a lot of schools teachers already get close to 100 e-mails a day and adding a couple ALL MAILS that are someone looking for this book or that supply, someone who lost their keys, or a jacket for a trip to cold weather (OK….this one might be Bangkok specific). You name it, it’s probably come through in an ALL MAIL.

Buzz Update

There has to be a better way to handle these right? Like many schools ISB created a “Public Folder” that was suppose to be a place for people to post such requests. The problem is nobody goes there unless they know that something new is there to look at, but how do you let people know there is something new…..you got it….you send an ALL MAIL.

It’s a frustrating circle that Google Buzz might just solve. Think about having a Buzz type program running at your school. A place that you check off and on to see the “back channel” of your school. The latest social gatherings, the 1st grade teacher looking for Paper Towel tubes for a project. or the high school teacher sending a reminder about the art show. What if the school used Buzz as a social back channel. That was there, but not in your daily inbox. A place to share resources, links, and have conversations as a school community.

As excited as I am to see Google Groups get added a couple weeks ago, I hope we’re not to far away from seeing Google Buzz. I really think this could be a communication channel that schools have been missing for awhile.

Update: Thanks to krea_frobro747 on Twitter who pointed out that Google released a blog update stating that Google Buzz will be coming to Google Edu Apps “in the next few months“.
View from our condo looking south at Mt. Rainer. Can't wait to get back there this summer!
View from our condo looking south at Mt. Rainer. Can't wait to get back there this summer!

Have you ever seen a cat do one of those really long wonderful stretches after a good nap? Well that’s how I’m feeling now after having the last three weeks virtually off the computer as we worked on our condo in Seattle over the holidays. Of course being in the US nobody wants to give you Internet access just for three weeks, it’s all about signing the contract…everyone wants to lock you in to long term deals….very frustrating!

That and the fact that now wireless router companies sell their routers defaulted to be secure rather than unsecured leaves very few open networks to leach off of for a couple weeks. 🙂 So we checked e-mail only when we needed a coffee.

What frustrated us the most though was how much we were use to using my iPhone or cell phones in general to get around, to find things, to get directions, basically to live. Only being in the US for three weeks I didn’t want to have to pay $70 plus a $30 activation fee for my iPhone…that’s just a lot of money. So I decided I could do without it for three weeks…….well….not sure that was the right move either (Just for comparison…in Thailand that same connection for three weeks would have cost me about $50 total depending how much I used the web).

My favorite story came when I went to drop my wife off at Pike’s Place Market to do a little shopping. The plan was simple, I would drop her off, find a place to park and then call her and we’d meet up. Simple except for the fact that I didn’t have a cell phone. Of course this hit us only as she’s getting out of the car. So there we sat in the middle of the road, two highly educated people trying to figure out how to meet up without both of us having a cell phone.

I ended up dropping her off, not parking but rather driving around for 15 minutes and then picking her up again in the same spot.

Of course we could have planned this but sitting in the middle of 1st Ave on a Saturday near Pike’s Place is…well…pressure. 🙂

Then of course there were the countless times we needed directions somewhere and had no way of finding out the best route our even which direction we should head. We both know downtown Seattle OK due to our time there over the last couple of summers, but anywhere out of downtown and we’re lost.

So we ended up writing down addresses, going to the coffee shop pulling up google maps on my laptop finding the directions to the places we needed to go, and then saving those tabs. We would then read the directions to each other as the other one was driving.

The past three years I’ve made a prediction about what I think the new year will bring in the education/technology world and before I started my holiday I was thinking that this year was going to be the year of the mobile web, but afterwards, I’m now convinced it is.

There are three things that make me believe we’re going to see an explosion in the mobile web this year.

1. AT&T and Verizon commercials
2. Google, Apple, Cell Phones Manufactures
3. Media

AT&T and Verizon Commercials
I have a couple of advantages only being in the states about 3 months a year. All those commercials that Americans see over and over again….are fresh and new to me…and we actually like watching them.

But here’s the change. Last summer AT&T commercials were focused on the iPhone, Verizon was focused on their coverage area. This winter all I ever saw were commercials about 3G coverage. The conversation has changed, what they are selling people has changed. No longer is it we have better coverage than those guys or we have a better, newer phone. No, today it’s about the fastest mobile web browsing you can do from your phone. 3G has nothing to do with dropped calls, or the quality of your call, it has nothing to do with SMS (text messaging) and it has everything to do with mobile web access. They are putting all there advertising dollars into selling you the consumer the mobile web.

Google, Apple, Cell Phones Manufactures
Of course you need a new phone that will use that mobile web, and that’s where Google, Apple, and the rest of the cell phone manufactures come in. Google is do to launch it’s own cell phone here in January and already has it’s own mobile operating system that competes head to head with Apple’s iPhone. Apple continues to improve on the iPhone and I can’t wait to see what they roll out this year. You then have Nokia and their N series mobile web phones and Motorola gets in the mix with the Droid.

And this is only the beginning. Again what the consumer is going to get hit over the head with is not how great the call reception is, it’s going to be about how cool it looks and how fast it loads mobile web pages.

Of course all of this is being and will continue to be driven by the media. Whether through advertisements like AT&T and Verizon, or through TV shows were more and more shows feature web enabled phones, or through every TV News, Show, Reality TV, etc ending with Twitter, Facebook, Websites, or some other mobile way you can interact with their product or show.

It’s all about connecting, and this year it will be about connecting via the mobile web.

Of course this is my prediction, which means absolutely nothing, making it all the more fun to predict what I think this year will bring. 🙂 (But I don’t think I was to far off in ’07, ’08 or ’09)

What does all this mean for education? It means were probably about two or three years out before every one of our students is coming to school with the entire web in their pockets. They’ll all be upgrading over the next two to three years as their contracts run out and the service providers allow them to upgrade. With new mobile web phones at the $99 price now in two or three years we’ll see them even lower and they just will be what we expect.

In the mean time lets work on getting every student in every school a laptop which I still believe should be our ultimate goal. Giving every student the power to access information as they learn is what learning is all about!

Bring on 2010!

So maybe I’ve been reading to much Lifehacker lately. But I got to school this morning and some how got thinking about how I could hack-up the Google Doc Application that you get from Google when you install Google Gears to work with our school educational Google Apps domain.

So here are the steps on how to do it for your own school domain.


1. Download the app by clicking here.
2. Control+Click on the app and select “Show Package Contents”

Google Apps
3. Navigate to Contents-MacOS-launch.sh file

google doc launch

4. Control+Click on the file and open with TextEdit
5. You will see the value http://docs.google.com/a/yourschooldomain delete that and copy and paste the web address to your google apps. It should look something like http://docs.google.com/a/yourschooldomain

google doc shortcut

6. Save your changes to the launch.sh file
7. Drag the app into your application folder or to your dock and launch.

While in the launch.sh file you’ll also see the code to launch your web browser. You can change this to be the web browser of your choice. Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome. I set it for Firefox for all our teachers at school, but use Google Chrome on my own computer.


If you are on a PC Google just creates a shortcut for you on the desktop to the web page.


Teachers at our school have really started to use Google Docs; from team meeting notes, to creating unit plans and sharing them out. The problem was that teachers didn’t want to have to remember one more URL, and for many they have so many mismanaged bookmarks that they can’t find things they have bookmarked.

So what this does is “reduce the clicks” as I’m always preaching. Now it’s one click and you’re to your docs! The simple app for the Mac just makes it nice and simple with a little design feature added in and easy to attach to an e-mail and send out to the staff.

I’ve found myself lately looking for posts on ideas or concepts that I know exist and not being able to find them. As I’ve been looking through the blogosphere I’ve been interested in how few people put a search on their blog so that others can search their content. So I thought I’d write a post on how to create a Google Custom Search for your blog.

There are a couple things I think every blogger should do when they get started to help others find their content.

1. Sign-up at Technorati.com for an account and go through the process of registering your blog with them. Technorati is a blog search engine that tracks blogs and tags on blogs throughout the Internet. It’s a great place to go to search for blog posts and a community every blogger should belong to.

2. It you have a Blogger Blog I don’t think you have to worry to much about Google indexing your site…as Blogger is owned by Google. However, if you have a self-hosted WordPress Blog or a blog at WordPress.com or Edublogs.org, I suggest you use the Google XML Sitemaps Plugin. It creates a Sitemap of your blog that Google and other search engines can use to easily index and keep your site up to date on search engine results.

http://www.yourshortestpath.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/custom_search_google_homepage.jpg3. Every blogging platform that I know of comes with a search widget….but I have found the Google Custom Search Engine to be more reliable in returning results on my own sites. I use it constantly to find posts, pictures, and comments left by others on my blog.

Creating a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) is pretty easy.

  • Go to http://www.google.com/cse
  • Sign in with your Google Account
  • Walk through the process to create your custom search engine.
  • When you are through Google with give you a snipet of HTML coding
  • In a WordPress blog you can paste this coding into a text widget on your sidebar
  • In a Blogger Blog you can paste this snipet of coding in a html gadget
  • Typepad users? Not sure….maybe someone can leave a comment and tell me what the process is?

Once you have the search engine code embeded on your site Google will index your site and create the search results. Adding this code also helps Google index your site and search results for the main Google search and Google Blog search.

I hope this helps…or reminds some bloggers out there add a search to their blog.

This is a must watch video for every educator. In grades 4 and above educators should then turn around and use these when teaching any lesson where students are researching information.

These…right here….are the new literacy skills that today’s generation need!

This text will be replaced

Just finished up a full day at UNIS-Hanoi and thinking about where the conversations focused today. I spent the day talking with groups of teachers; Math/Science, Languages, Humanities, etc. We talked about my opening session and then got into some ideas on what learning looks like in a 1:1 tablet program that they have launched this year…how does it change the learning landscape for students?

One of the 100 best companies to work for 2008.In about 20 minutes I’ll be in a taxi on my way to the airport to visit the United Nations International School in Hanoi. In preparing for the conference I’ve been up dating a couple of my slides and like to use Google as an example of what skills companies are looking for in today’s work force.

After all, Google was named a Fortune 100 best companies to work for in 2008. So why not see what one of the best companies is looking for in their employees. So I found the job openings for Google in Singapore. As this is pretty close to all of use here in the South Asia region.

Here’s the list of job openings:

google jobs in Singapore by you.

So looking at the list I tried to figure out which of these jobs you could have predicted would have been here say 5 years ago.

Not knowing what a “DoubleClick Rich Media Campaign Manger” would do I clicked on the link.

Here are the requirements for that job:



Which of these skills do students need a college degree for

If you wanted to do this job could you learn the skills without going to a traditional school?

What do we need to be preparing students for if one of the top 100 companies to work for has these skills/knowledge as their requirements?

Just some questions to ponder while I’m on the plane. 🙂

One thing is for sure. When you work with a powerful team like Tara and Kim you have conversations that end up turning into a lot of blog posts. 🙂

I have a sticky note I keep on my desk with ideas. I have an idea book that I keep in my backpack, and I have thoughts in my head that keep me awake at night. All ideas and thoughts that poor Tara and Kim have to listen to whether they want to or not. 😉

At a team meeting, with the above mentioned, a couple weeks ago we got on the topic of books. Now I’m sure I’m going to get some push back on this one, but I’m hoping it helps me to frame what I’m thinking (and it might be wrong) a little clearer…so please….feel free to push back.

Up until recently books are what we have known. They were the holders of knowledge, they were the all mighty, the all knowing. If you wanted to know something you went to a book. If you wanted to drift off into a fantasy world, you read a book. If you wanted to heart felt story…you could find it in a book. It a book didn’t have the answer you went to a divine power.

Today….we just go to Google

Books are great. I love them on planes, on the beach and by the pool. Yes, I think books have a niche in today’s world. I just think it’s smaller then what we believe it to be.

Simple questions:

When was the last time you read a book?

When was the last time you read a web page?

When was the last time you read a letter addressed to you in the mail? (A real hand written letter)

When was the last time you read an e-mail?

When was the last time you looked up a phone number in the phone book?

When was the last time you looked up a recipe in a recipe book?

When was the last time you used an encyclopedia?

When was the last time you went to a book before the web for non-fiction/relevant information?

When was the last time you used an IM client (chat)?

Now, take these questions and go ask them to your class, to a kid on the street, or the kid sitting next to you. Are the answers the same? Different? Why?

In a world of niche markets I believe that books have a place, but I think we need to take a step back and find where that place is. I’ve been asking these same questions to myself the past couple of weeks. Then I walk into classrooms to see students reading books for hours on end.

Now, I have nothing against this, just that I have a feeling that the skill of reading a book is practiced much more than say the skill of reading a chat or reading a web page. Yet we spend more time in society today reading chats, web pages and e-mails than we do books. Now I don’t have any research to support this (please add links if you find some) but I have read the Long Tail (audiobook version) and understand that newspaper subscriptions have been in a steady decline. That public libraries are seeing less and less book check-outs and more people coming to use the computers. I witnessed this particular one this summer in a 4 hour visit to the local public library because they had free WiFi. Of the 20 people in the library only one (a seven year old) was browsing the books. Everyone else was there for the free WiFi or to use the library computers.

I do believe that books are still important to our society today, although I do see them evolving with devices like the Kindle. But until that becomes mainstream paper is still the way to go. There is something in holding a paper book, the way it bends, smells, and reads on a sandy beach that just can’t be replaced with my Palm.

At the same time I see a growing disconnect between what and how we are teaching students to read and where we spend our time reading. Are our classrooms changing with the times? Should we be allowing forcing students to learn to read a web-page, an e-mail, a chat? Should we force them like we force them to sit and read a book for 30 minutes of SSR a day to do the same with digital print?

Are we doing this in our classrooms?

Is this a priority?

Are we doing our students a disservice?

Is all of this over stated because students will learn these skills in spite of us and our education system?

OK…your turn!

(I have to link to Mark Ahlness’ SSR 2.0 post every time I talk about this. Cause over a year later, I’m still thinking about this!)

Friday was a half day at school. A little extended weekend for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Our High School took part in a couple different sessions. One of those sessions was by me giving a talk on “The Flat World”. I would have titled it “Your World” but the title doesn’t really matter.

I had 20 minutes with every 9-12th grader at our school I started by saying, “You are very fortunate. You get to grow up in an amazing time in history.”

I then played Karl Fisch’s Did You Know presentation with the follow slides added.

  • There are 57 Million Blogs
  • 100,000 new blogs created daily
  • 1.3 million blog articles created daily
  • That’s 54,000 articles being published every hour.
  • Who’s verifying this information?
  • Who’s telling the truth?
  • Last year more students in China took the SAT in English than did so in the United States.

The information comes from the latest report of the blogosphere from Technorati and from this update from Karl Fisch.

After the PowerPoint was over we had a discussion about what all this information means. One student shouted “Shift Happens” the rest of the students laughed and I said “Exactly!”

Another student spoke up and said “Everything we’re learning now doesn’t matter.”

To which I said, “I know all your teachers standing around here are going to hate me, but you are absolutely right.” I then talked to them about the skills they need to learn while in high school starting with learning how to learn. We then talked about their generation. I asked the students “What’s the name of your generation?” a student spoke up and said “Millennials.” I then talked about the book Millennials Rising, and how in 1997 abcnews.com ran a poll on their website where this generation got to choose what to be called. They were proud of it, laughed, and thought it was cool. I asked them how many of them had a myspace.com account. To which over half raised their hands. I asked how many of them had a cell phone and a mp3 player. Every single student raised their hand. I asked how many had their own computer. All but a handful raised their hand, but when I asked who had access to the Internet in their house? Again it was 100%.

I asked these questions for one reason and one reason only. I wanted the 20+ teachers that were standing around to see the response, to understand where these students are, and what they want/can do.

It was a great 20 minutes. The most fascinating part was the students just looked at me like “We get it Mr. U, we think this is awesome, this is our world, this is where we spend our time and where we want to be.”

The teachers (many coming up to me personally after the presentation) had the opposite look. “This is scary, where do we begin and what do we do?”

It was fascinating to see the disconnect between the teachers and the students. Students understanding the 21st Century and teachers scared of it.

I had the head of our IB department stop by my office later that day. The first thing he said was, “Wow, if that doesn’t show that we need to be teaching skills and not content nothing does.”

Maybe, just maybe I’ve sparked something…now I just need the opportunity to turn that spark into a flame. If I can get some time from the administration to talk with teachers, I can start taking this to the next level. My fear is that this will be a one time thing. That I will not have an opportunity to follow up with the staff and that all those WOWs by Monday will be forgotten and we’ll go back to learning page 56 in the textbook.

I have to tell you, I was pumped after the presentation. We talk about there being something bigger, something needing to change in education. For 20 minutes while looking directly into the eyes of every high schooler, I saw it. I’ve said it before, this past year in the blogosphere has changed me, that 20 minutes in front of the students took it to the next level. It was verification that what I’ve been trying to do, trying to change is right. I could see it in their eyes. The wanting to be in a school, a world, where they could be connected. The students get it….we don’t. That needs to change, or education as we know it, is not long for this generation. We’ll loose them, and once we do…I don’t think we’ll ever get them back. Not when you can learn more from Mr. Google than you can from Mr (teachers name).

[tags]21st Century Learning, Karl Fisch, Did You Know, High School, Connections, Millennials, myspace, google[/tags]

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