The STEAM Room

We have all heard of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Great things are happening to support STEM activities all the way from the federal government down to the classroom teacher and students doing it every day. Another major focus has been to add the arts to STEM, thereby creating STEAM! This can include language arts as well as the fine arts rounding out STEM and adding a little proverbial right brain to the mix. The combination is a powerful force capable of giving our students the opportunities and experiences they’ll need to be successful communicators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Continue reading “The STEAM Room”

Bucket Seats

I made these for Julie’s classroom. I had asked how Meadowlark used their outdoor classroom/treehouse and she said it doesn’t get used too much because there’s no seating and hard to bring classroom materials, etc., etc. So I got to thinking and designed these bucket seats. Each kiddo has one they can put their supplies, books, whatever in there and not only use them as a seat but for their stuff as well. They have a whiteboard to use as a writing board or a lapboard for other projects/writing/drawing/etc. There is an organizer in there for pencils/markers/erasers/whatever. You can either sit on the bucket or sit beside it and use it as a desk. So many options. Continue reading “Bucket Seats”

EdTECH in 2017

So here we are! 2016 has passed – with all of its ups and downs. From El Chapo getting arrested to a new president that will undoubtedly shake up politics as usual. From a 1.5 billion dollar Powerball to the deaths of many many media figures, police officers, and civilians alike. We saw the effects of cyber hacking as well as the proliferation of autonomous vehicles and other scientific breakthroughs.

And what about education? Edutopia recently curated a list of research on education topics for 2016 that included topics such as laptops to improve student scores and that the majority of parents believe that computer science is just as important as math, science, and English. We learned that students (and adults) have a difficult time telling real new from fake news. We also learned that kindergarten students (and probably all grade levels) are not spending enough time on art, music, and play. Continue reading “EdTECH in 2017”

Kids Should Code!

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.13.45 PMOur students have the opportunity to change the world, and there are many many ways they’ll be able to do that. From building skyscrapers to figuring out our pollution problems. From curing cancer to developing the next social media platform. We don’t even know what jobs will be available for our students when they graduate. Who would have thought you could be hired to be a Digital Marketing Specialist, Blogger, SEO Expert, or Cloud Service Specialist 10 years ago? No one! They didn’t exist! Continue reading “Kids Should Code!”

9 Learnings by Maria Popova

As you run through this finish line of a workweek we call Friday – out of breath and tired because of the hard work and impact you have made – here is a little perspective that may be worth investigating. While I don’t read every article from Brain Pickings, this one is a great summary from the author on what he has captured in his 9 year journey of writing this blog. Below are the bullet point highlights, but I encourage you to visit the link below to read and reflect on each. They each have a power to them that I know I can appreciate and strive to better myself.

9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings

  1. chiemsee-243701_1920Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.
  3. Be generous.
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.
  5. When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
  6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
  7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.
  8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist.

Have a great Friday and a fabulous, refreshing weekend!

Today is Monday!

coffee-791045_1920Yesterday was Sunday… and I heard some very inspirational words yesterday that I’d like to share and believe are applicable to our work. The context: new pastor being installed at Kearney eFree. His mentor, Tom Shirk of Calvary Bible Church, was giving him advice on how to lead the church. (Listen…)

[Note: These are my notes – not necessarily exactly what was said… more what I heard!]

  • “There is danger in knowing more than you can apply.” Take it easy and apply what you know and learn. We all have massive amounts of skills, talents, and knowledge but maybe too much to actually apply.
  • “Failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” Relationships should be first and foremost in all we do.
  • “We are bigger than the present.” We are going to grow and the seeds we are planting and nurturing are what really matters.
  • “What we are doing is a BIG deal!” We are shaping and nurturing the future of teachers and students. It’s a BIG deal! Be well prepared! Our influence is immeasurable. We should act and prepare accordingly.
  • “Lift up our leaders.” More can be accomplished by lifting others up and recognizing their strengths than criticizing their weaknesses.

So go make a difference this week! What you do matters!

Nebraska ELA Draft Standards – Word/Phrase Frequency


As ESU 10 and consortium schools embark on a new endeavor of working with the new English Language Arts standards, I thought it would be interesting to see what they would look like from a different perspective. What are the most frequently used words or phrases in this new draft document? Let’s see!

From the downloaded PDF at the NDE website, I converted the file to a text document so I could copy and paste the contents to a frequency counter. Word indicated there were 15,465 words in the document. I did clean it up and modify the text to remove some common words such as: and, to, of, in, a, or, etc.

I then copied the text of the document to the clipboard and pasted it into the website WriteWords. This is where I thought it got interesting. As I read it, the top words were: text, information, appropriate, use, apply, and writing. The next significant five are:  students, mastered, digital, variety, and multiple.


I’m not sure what this means but as an EdTech advocate, I can see where my focus needs to be – appropriate use of information as students read text and apply writing techniques to share their mastery of digital knowledge in a variety of ways. Obviously this is over-simplistic but it may be a starting point.

I then churned out a couple of phrase frequency reports. Here is a two word frequency chart:


Lastly, I used the old tried and true Wordle2014-06-06_10-12-34

What do you take from this?

Ed Tech Leadership: C.A.R.E

community-pictureYou have a passion for education. You have a passion for using technology in your classroom or district. To be more effective and efficient with the students you serve. To grow and use the skills, knowledge, and understanding you have to give students the best opportunities possible. You are the ed tech leaders not only in your classroom but in your district. You are the one others come to for advice, tips, help and support. You have a responsibility to your students and others in the district and community. So many hats, so little time! How do you manage all of this? Let me propose a framework of C.A.R.E.

C – Community
Help build community through communication and collaboration. Be intentional about setting aside time at staff meetings and providing opportunities for building community outside the school day. Find hashtags in Twitter to support your curricular area and/or areas of professional passion. (Google search “educational hashtags“.) Seek out Google Plus communities or build one of your own. Like ISTE, ASCD, or Edutopia on Facebook. Share with your classroom, colleagues, and others in your community. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Start building and using your communities today!
A – Assessment
We all enter into education and especially technology at differing levels. Assessing where you are and focusing on goals for your professional growth is key. There are many roads to travel and trails to blaze in the ed tech world. Don’t be overwhelmed by the many paths you may take – just pick one area to focus on and go! There are many tools to help you and others in your district self assess and set priorities for growth. ISTE has NETS for students, teachers, administrators, and coaches. Atomic Learning has free and paid resources you can use. Krista Moroder has the that you could use as a framework to help you focus. Find out what is important to you in your classroom and/or district and assess your level of skill for future growth. 
R – Resources
You have run across hundreds if not thousands of resources to help you and your students be more efficient and effective with technology. Building your resource library can seem daunting but there are many tools to help your organize your digital resources. First, find out what your district supports. Are you using an LMS such as Moodle or Schoology? Does your district use Google Apps for Education or eBackpack? Next, lean on your ESU and find out what they have to support your resource library. Safari Montage is a great media library at your disposal. And then, if you must, create your own site of resources for yourself and your students using WordPress, Google Sites, or Wikispaces. More and more educators are also turning to social media to create Facebook or Google Plus pages and communities. Start collecting and organizing your digital resources – you won’t regret spending the time to be more effective and efficient.
E – Education
Keep growing yourself and learning new things! Education and technology are changing at break-neck speeds and the only way to stay on top of it is to participate in professional development opportunities. PD is changing and there are so many new opportunities to fit your busy life. There are still the traditional inservices that your district or ESU’s provide. NETA is also great resource and is growing to reach more and more educators by providing not only the spring conference but the fall conference as well as membership benefits throughout the year. You’ll also find websites, webinars, online courses, MOOCS and more. The key is to find out where you are and align PD opportunities with what works best in your life. 
I couldn’t be in a better place. I love the ed tech field for all it’s challenges and even more, the educational leaders who are passionate about providing our students with the best learning environments so they may flourish when they spread their wings and make their mark on the world. 
You make it happen! #YouMatter
Jason Everett
NETA President

Evernote: My Second Brain

I love productivity apps and software to help me get things done. Whether that be at home or at the office, I’ll try just about any new utility that claims to help one be more productive. But I have never found one with as much flexibility and that works like this. Welcome to my second brain: Evernote. It’s with me pretty much all the time. Whether I am sitting at my computer, doodling on my iPad, or running errands around town. It’s that app that is on my computers, in the cloud, and on all my devices. 
So what do I use Evernote for? Here are a few of the top things I use it for:

  • Random thoughts and ideas. I keep my ideas, blog posts, writing prompts, and just about anything that comes to mind in an Evernote notebook.
  • Meeting Notes. I sit through a lot of meetings. Way too many! Although I use Google Docs more when real-time collaborating, I use Evernote for my personal notes. It’s just like my paper notebook, only electronic. And great to be able to tag and organize all these meeting notes in an intuitive way.
  • To Do lists and Checklists. Being able to easily create lists is a bonus for me. And an added perk is being able to set reminders and due dates!
  • Weekend Planner. There is always something to do around the house. Evernote keeps my projects at home organized and at the ready.
  • Travel Planner. Whether I am going to a conference across the country or a NETA meeting in Omaha, Evernote helps me keep my confirmation numbers, directions, reservations, interesting sessions, and anything else I need at the ready. And I always know where to find it!
  • Bookmarks. With the help of the Evernote Web Clipper, this is my bookmark manager. It works in my workflow. I store bookmarks as ideas for certain projects I’m working on so keeping them organized with tags or in a project folder works well for me.
  • Paperless Office. At home and at work, every piece of paper I have (bills, letters, drawings, paper notes, etc.) goes through my ScanSnap scanner and into Evernote. When I am away from my scanner, I take photos of documents, business cards, Post-its, and whatever ever else I may need. These are then searchable documents that I can go back to where ever I am in the world. 
  • Collaboration/Communications. I not only share certain notes with folks but also use a shared folder with my son. Either of us can add, remove or edit notes but its a great way for me to share his chore list or projects that he is working on.
  • Reading List. I like to think of this as the electronic version of the basket of reading material next to my Lazyboy at home. It’s that place I can store PDFs or websites I want to go back to and read more about. 
  • Email Important messages. If I need to deal with an email message, I forward it to my To Do folder in Evernote. Evernote really becomes not a part of my workflow, but THE workflow.
Tips to make Evernote more useful:
  • Use it on all your devices: computer, web, tablet, phone. Evernote automatically syncs with all of them.
  • Install the browser plugins: Evernote Web Clipper, Clearly.
  • Save your Evernote email address as a contact in your phone.
  • Be consistent – use it regularly and make it your workflow.
  • Use Notebooks and Tags to help your organize your notes and ideas.
  • Turn on location tracking – more useful than you think!
  • Use other apps like Penultimate and Skitch that integrate with Evernote.
  • Take pictures of documents, business cards, Post-it’s, and hand written notes.
  • Share notes and notebooks with friends, colleagues, and family. 
Evernote can be so much more than just your electronic notebook. Planning a conference? A trip? Collecting ideas?What will you make Evernote do for you?

Visits with Daisy

This story is a story I recently wrote for the Kearney Area Animal Assisted Programs. Daisy has (or rather Dad has…) taken this year off from volunteering but hopes to be back doing pet therapy work after other obligations are finished. I wanted to share it with you…

Daisy VisitIt starts with the morning bath. “Daisy, time for a bath!” She jumps in the tub full of water and lays down for a good scrubbing. When done, she jumps out and shakes her tall, black, sleek labradoodle frame and sprays water in every direction. She is so excited because she knows she is going on a visit! She runs through the house rubbing on everything she can. She runs to the back door wanting to get in the car but she’ll have to wait until she is fully dry!

Dad packs her purse full of goodies for the visit and she dons her red Therapy Dogs, Inc collar, her red bandanna, and her red pet therapy leash. Striking against her black fur. Into the car we go and she sits in the passenger seat  looking so proud and majestic. Her tail giving the occasional thump, thump as we ramble into town for a visit.
Dad has a huge smile on his face knowing there will be many kids at the library that just love to read to Daisy and the other dogs in the reading program. The visits to the library always start in the parking lot as there is usually someone coming up to ask to pet Daisy. She obliges with a nudge on their leg or by laying down for the little folks to give her a scratch on the head. Into the library we go…
It usually takes about five or ten minutes to get to the reading area of the library. Daisy seems to know everyone there and likes to socialize before snuggling up to someone wanting to read her their favorite book. She sniffs here and there to find the best spot and invites children over to read to her. The children are will usually sit down next to her with their legs crossed and introduce themselves by petting Daisy and Daisy returns the favor with a nudge and a sniff. She then settles in by laying her head in the child’s lap as they read to her and simultaneously stroke her fur.
I am amazed each and every time Daisy lays there and enjoys her new friends reading their books. Children of all walks of life and energy levels are literally transformed when they sit down to read to Daisy. They read and pet, read and pet — until the book is finished. And they may sit for  a while with Daisy or get up and read to another pet therapy dog. It is truly a moving experience.

4 Simple Rules for an Effective Presentation

Is he really reading these slides to me?” 
“What did he just say?” 
Why am I here again?” 
“How much longer can I sit through this presentation?” 
If you’ve sat through enough presentations, I am sure these are questions you have asked yourself. Numbed by the endless • bullet • points and lulled by the drone of the presenter. I’d like to share what I believe are 4 rules that will make your presentation worthwhile and engaging. With proper preparation and these 4 rules, you’ll hit it out of the park!

1) Share Your Story
Your presentation should tell a compelling story to your audience. What is the story you have to tell? Share your story with me as if we are sitting across the table from each other. Know who I am and why I am there. Connect to each person in the room with the story you are telling. 
2) Use Visuals Properly
Your slides should support your story. NOT repeat what you are saying. I can read. Limit the use of text in your visuals – unless it IS the visual. Use slides to share images, animations, and video that will enhance your message. Typical misnomer – don’t use too many slides. I disagree – use as many slides as you NEED to support your story! I’ve sat through one of the most compelling presentations that had over a hundred slides and presented in 50 minutes.
3) Keep Me Engaged With Activities
Give me something to do. Break up your presentation into manageable chunks that I can remember by having me do something or share my thoughts with the person sitting next to me. If there are only a few in your audience, try to get us up and moving. Blood flow helps retention! (And may keep me awake!)
4) Provide Me Resources
Give me something that I can put my hands on and walk away with. Give me a handout, graphic organizer, or workbook. If the group is too large or you want to go green, give me a website I can use or videos I can watch to help support what you are sharing with me. Providing only the sides as a handout is not an effective resource.
Bonus: Tie these rules together! For example, periodically use a slide with a visually interactive PollEverywhere question that I could take part in and be engaged in the presentation. Create a handout or graphic organizer that allows me to take notes or capture key concepts that also has a website listed for further resources. Pause in the middle of a video to allow for reflection or foreshadowing and share my thoughts with someone next to me. Enlist a social media moderator to monitor an official #hashtag throughout your presentation.
Good luck with your next presentation! Have other tips? Please share in the comments!

The Power of Connecting


Virtual Field Trip

I recently overheard a teacher, Jeff Paige, telling another colleague about his trip to ISTE this summer. He was describing all the wonderful opportunities he encountered and learned about in San Antonio and one statement popped out at me that inspired me to write about this topic. As he was pointing to the jack on the wall, he exclaimed, “If there is a network connection in the classroom, you are not the smartest person in the room!” That struck a chord with me. As I thought about it, there are 7 billion people in this world who can share their unique experiences with your students. And those students have more than 7 billion people they can share their unique talents and expertise with! A truly global and authentic audience to collaborate and learn with.

Making connections is really about growing relationships. Finding others with similar interests, or even dissimilar interests. Finding others who agree with you and who don’t agree with you. Finding others who can empathize with you, or give you a good kick to get going! Finding others who are willing to share of themselves and who are willing to let you share your thoughts, opinions, passions, or perspectives. Finding others to collaborate with, who help you grow as a person–and as a professional. To me, these are critical keys to making connections.

In the world we currently live in, the virtual connections are seemingly endless. You can tweet a fellow teacher or techie on Twitter. You can Hangout with a group of people in Google+. You can Skype with another classroom in a foreign land. You can dialog about a topic on a blog and you can share projects with teachers on Pinterest. The sky’s the limit.  Although it can seem daunting at first, start simply and just set a goal to make a connection. Talk to someone in your building, your district, or another NETA member who may be doing something similar. Then go out and do it!

Virtual field trips are an excellent opportunity to test the waters and get classrooms involved in connecting with the outside world. As educators, know that local or ESU distance learning coordinators are available to help uncover the hundreds of activities that may enhance curricular areas. In one classroom in Kearney, Graci sat riveted in her seat as she learned about Jesse James and his gang derailing a train in Iowa in 1873. Mike Irwin, from the Durham Museum, shows artifacts to the students, as they listen to the story of Engineer John Rafferty, dying in the crash and the outlaws taking $2,337 from the train. The students do a present day crime scene investigation of the incident to learn more about train robbers of the old west.

Another option is connecting with other classrooms, teachers or experts around the world using a webcam or other video equipment. A student, Fernanda, and her class have been studying different cultures in their classroom and have been preparing questions they would like to ask people living in different countries. After connecting and interviewing people in Brazil, Kenya, Mexico and other locations, Fernanda and her class shared that they loved meeting new people from these countries and enjoyed the many new things about where they live.

Jeannette Carlson, from Bellevue, is introducing her students to entrepreneurship via experts on Google Hangouts. Alison Anderson is creating a global book club for her middle schools students. Will Deyamport is collaborating with other teachers on lesson plans for his class. Louise Morgan is participating in the International Dot Day project by sharing the World Museum’s World Dots Project Scratch animation with her students. Teachers all over are using the power of connecting to others around the globe to give their students opportunities they would never have otherwise experienced.

My challenge to you is to connect to someone outside your classroom walls. Learn and collaborate with them. Find a mentor who can help you traverse this virtual world. Then, begin connecting your students. Help them realize the power of connecting with others. Let them learn from experts all around the globe and give them an opportunity to share and to shine in this new, ever changing world.


Teacher Productivity Tools – Must Haves!

There are classroom tools and there are productivity tools. Some may overlap but this list is mostly for general teacher productivity.

Google Apps: A Swiss Army Knife and More!

You have all seen, if not used, a Swiss Army knife. The tool of tools. If you are going to carry one tool, this is it. Useful at home, at the office, or out on the trail. So many creative ways to use this ingenious, original multi-tool. That’s what Google Apps for Education is for the connected educator and the connected student. If you were to have one web utility, it would have to be Google Apps!

Swiss Army Knife

The core suite of utilities would be what I would call the original Swiss Army knife for Google Apps: Calendar, Contacts, Drive & Docs, Gmail, Groups, and Sites. With these few tools, you can survive almost any situation. These core apps should be the foundation of all productivity and collaboration for the school. Getting more done with as many folks as it takes.

Learn how to make these core services work for you in the classroom.

Then there are the additional services available to schools. This is the mega Swiss Army knife of web apps. With over 60 additional services, there is not much you can’t do with Google Apps for Education.  Here is a list of a few of the additional services that come with a Google Apps for Education account.

Giant Swiss Army Knife

That’s not to say there aren’t other web services that are great for education. There are! But if you have this Swiss Army knife in your pocket, you’ll be ready for just about anything!

Workplace Autonomy

How important is autonomy in the workplace? According to Daniel Pink in his new book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, it is very important. There are four parts of autonomy that “managers” need to address:

  • QuadrantTask: What we work on.
  • Time: When we work on it.
  • Technique: How we work on it.
  • Team: Who we work on it with.

Move to Motivation 3.0 – Start by allowing autonomy with those you work with. Watch motivation and creativity soar!

And the story continues…

40 CardI have written many chapters in my book of life. Today starts a new one! With the start of my 4th decade, there is much that has been accomplished and much left to do. I look forward to making an impact alongside the wonderful people I am blessed to have in my family and friends and those I work with.

Let’s blaze another trail!


ConnectionsThe Nebraska Education Technology Association is all about connections. What does that mean to you as a Teacher? Technology Coordinator? Superintendent? Principal? Librarian? It means we have incredible ways to connect ourselves to other professionals and we have unprecedented ways to connect our students to the world. 

Connections have always been a big part of our learning process. Getting together with others who share the same passion or are trying to solve similar problems. With today’s landscape, we have access to make connections like never before. And NETA is here to help you!

Face to Face: Join us at our Spring 2013 conference as we “Ignite Learning!” The conference is a wonderful time to connect with other educators. Where else can you get this many people together to learn the latest and greatest in education technology from Nebraska’s best? We also have two sponsored groups that meet regularly. They are the long standing Technology Coordinators and the 1:1 groups. Check out the NETA website to see how you can get involved with either of these communities. 

Virtually: With the ever growing electronic connections we have, NETA has grown right along with the mix. While we still use email as our primary source of outgoing communication, we also have many other tools to connect with the membership. Depending on your level of comfort and use, there are many options to connect with other NETA members. The first, and probably easiest, is to connect using Twitter. There are hundreds of Nebraska educators using Twitter to expand their network of connections. Try it out! Find others using the #nebedchat hashtag. You can also follow @yourNETA to get started. NETA also has a Facebook page you can “Like”. If you are already using Facebook and want to meet other educators using that connection, head on over to The latest addition to the social network is our Google Plus Community. This is a relatively new medium for our members that have Google Plus accounts. Jump on in at

Keep listening to the streams on these different communities as our members graciously share their teaching knowledge and expertise, tips and tricks, websites and new things to try, questions to ponder and problems to help solve. The connections you make are invaluable as you grow as an educator and for our students to succeed. You will find new ways to connect your students to THEIR passions and guide them to new learning opportunities never before imagined. 

So, how are you growing your professional connections and how are you helping to grow your students’ connections? Jump online and tell us!

Technology: Inspire Learning and Creative Expression

 I love to learn! I have more “hobbies” and new things I get involved with that I can’t seem to keep up with them all. I enjoy working around the house doing DIY projects. I enjoy finding new books for our pet therapy reading program. I love taking photos and being behind a camera. I love water and being on the water. I love music and even try playing my guitar when I can. I have a great desire to learn and to continuously improve.

Brain GearsSo what does this have to do with technology? Not only with technology, but what does this have to do with education and learning? Technology has not only introduced me to some of these hobbies, but it has also enhanced them in ways never imaginable. Technology has also allowed me to think and express myself creatively using tools that make sense to me. Technology has this same power for you and your students.

How can you inspire your students to learn and be more creative? You can enhance their skills with the tools they are already using! Direct them to new and interesting ways to learn concepts in your class. Tie the content you are teaching to the real world and make it relevant!

Getting new ideas

Sometimes it just starts with an idea. A kickstart. You see or read something and think, “Hey! I can do that!” Or, “I can make that better!” Anything from recipes, to goodwill projects, to new ways of thinking about a math concept. It might even just be an inspirational quote or encouragement from a friend that pushes us towards learning a new concept or creatively expressing our thoughts and ideas. Here are a few tools that may help spark these new ideas.

  • StumbleUpon – A site that makes personal recommendations of websites for you based on your interests. For example, I told StumbleUpon that I like Woodworking. It allows me to stumble upon other websites that other woodworkers have shared and liked. 
  • Pinterest – A visual cornucopia of others interests pinned on boards for you to feast upon. Ideas galore here. And a great place to collect and organize little treasures on your own boards. 
  • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ – Any social media site is a great way to explore what others are thinking, feeling, and doing. Being able to synthesize the endless stream of communication found on these sites and use them as powerful learning tools is a skill all students and teachers will need to succeed. 

Learn new things

The way we learn new things is changing. We used to go to a respected adult and/or teacher and ask them to share their un-endless knowledge of a particular topic. Or we would go to the library and research our new interest. These things may still happen, however, if I wanted to know more about sailing, I am more likely to ask an “expert”. We can find an expert in just about any corner of the Internet! (Digital literacy is another topic for another article!) Really! They are out there and they want to teach us! Where might you ask? 

  • YouTube – From learning a new song on the guitar to how to create apps on your iPhone, you can learn just about anything on Youtube!
  • – Claims to be the biggest How To and DIY community where people make and share inspiring, entertaining, and useful projects, recipes, and hacks.
  • WikiHow – Wiki based collaboration site on a quest to build the world’s largest, highest quality how to manual(s).
  • Academic – And the host of solely academic related sites for learning new concepts or solidifying those taught in class.
  • – Social teaching and learning network.
  • Kahn Academy – Mostly focused on math but has other curricular areas as well.
  • Hippocampus – Multimedia instruction to help with homework or study.
  • CK-12 – Free textbooks for your class! And you can organize them how you need for your instruction.

Express yourself

Probably the most important part of the whole learning process is being able to share your creativity with others! Students don’t want to do worksheets or assessments that only the teacher will see (if even the teacher) and maybe a few other students. They want to be able to create a story, or create an animation of how gravity affects a pendulum. Or perhaps they want to create a photo slideshow representing their ideas on the topic. Maybe they would like to organize a news show and broadcast classroom topics to others across the internet. Not only will they be able to creatively express themselves but others will be able to give them authentic feedback in real time that will outlive the semester and grow into a force of deep learning and understanding. 

  • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ –  Not only are social media sites great for getting ideas, they are also great for sharing! 
  • – Create your very own blog and write about thing things that impassion you! Have others share comments to posts you create.
  • – Create and share an audio podcast.
  • YouTube – Create your very own internet video channel. You could have how-tos, news broadcast for your school, or interviews from folks on a community/national/global initiative. 
  • Picasa Web, Flickr – Share photos and organized albums for comment or create slideshows for your website or other projects.

 Inspire creativity in your students. Go where they are and give them the tools to be engaged and authentic with what they are learning in the classroom. Technology is a game changer for education and you are on the leading edge!

NETA Connector Article

25-random-thingsLast year we celebrated 25 years of NETA! It was fun listening to the past presidents and folks who have been a part of the organization since the beginning. I am amazed at all the different technologies that we have worked with during the last 25 years. Bob share a few of these before the conference last year:

I remember when…

…the Apple IIe was introduced.
…the Internet was on the horizon and we were learning how to network computers together.
…HyperCard was introduced as a programming language.
…Palms were all of the rage and we couldn’t get enough of it.
…we had one computer per classroom.

Look how far we have come!  We are now elbow deep in technological change like we have never experienced in education. Driving the change are technologies schools are adopting at a rate like no other time: mobile devices, cloud computing, social media, and open content to name a few. Some of this is due to popularity, some out of budget necessity, and some both. 

More and more districts are investigating mobile one to one initiatives if they have not already pulled the trigger to go there. Districts (and teachers) are seeing the benefits of having cloud resources available to them. In terms of social media, administrators, teachers, students and parents are all leveraging this tool to communicate, collaborate and stay connected to those people most important to them. And open content is changing the way we think about classroom content, textbooks, and how we teach and learn differently. Content is free – Now how do we leverage it and organize it for our classroom?

And our future is full of surprises. We never know what is coming next year, let alone 5 years from now. The folks at COSN put together the Horizon Report every year and they have a few predictions. They predict the next big technological advances that will affect education are going to be game based learning, personalized learning environments, augmented reality and natural user interfaces. Are you ready?

Why is all of this important and how is it going to impact your classrooms? 

I believe it’s all about about being connected. Building networks of like minded folks who have the same passions. Being engaged and driving change rather than having it done unto us. What is the future you want for your students? How can you make it happen? That’s why I love NETA and the great folks who are a part of the organization. Always looking to better education in Nebraska. I look forward to working with you this next year and hearing all of your comments and suggestions. You are the change we want to see!

My Multi-Tool

For some reason I woke up this morning with a new outlook. A new energy. A renewed passion and focus to keep all aspects of my life well maintained.


As I was getting ready and thinking about things, I grabbed my multi-tool and thought to myself: you can really tell a lot about a person by this handy little guy! 

So, from here on out, I vow to carry my multi-tool in my pocket wherever I go as a reminder of the following:

  • Be resourceful
  • Build it if it needs built
  • Fix it if it needs fixed
  • Know what tools you have and how to use them
  • Think outside of the box – Be creative in how you might use them
  • Take time to carve something beautiful

Blue Zones Tips

Blue Zones LogoI have always loved what Dan Buettner has had to say ever since the opportunity I had to see him speak at NETA in 2006. At the time, I wasn’t sure how his message fit of longevity and healthy lifestyles fit into a conversation of education and technology… until I realized: it’s really all about living a happy and healthy life! We all have different goals and focuses but the one common denominator is that we should all strive to be happy and healthy and promote that for our friends and family.

With that said, Dan has shared 4 Blue Zones Tips to March You into Spring! Enjoy!

1) Invest in others:

One of the best bits of relationship advice I ever received came from Ed Diener, a revered happiness expert. He used to winter in Illinois, and many mornings, ice covered both he and his wife’s car windows. I remember he told me, “When I wake up in the morning, I want to scrape off her windows before my own.” His message: find the partner, or develop the mindset, wherein you get more joy out of doing something nice for them, than for yourself.

2) Eat your fruit:

Odds are, you need more fiber, folate, potassium and Vitamins A and C in your diet. To get these nutrients, stock up on grapes, apricots, berries, peaches, cranberries, pineapple, watermelon, bananas, raisins, pears, oranges, and clementines. If eaten daily, the many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and enzymes in these healthy treats prevent disease and promote longevity.

3) Sleep:

If you slept fewer than 6 hours last night, you were 30% less happy than you could be today. Note to self: The longest-lived, happiest people sleep between 7-8.5 hours per night. How much do you normally sleep? Is it enough?

4) Take a walk:

I recently met a 50-year-old executive who was earning mid-six figures at his job. But he hated it. Finally, he mustered the courage to quit. Shortly after, he began to walk every day. “I used to do it occasionally, but it was always a rushed workout,” he said. “Now, it’s my daily routine and I’ve never been happier.”

Make Your Day Great!

Inspiration from Kelly Croy, Chalk Artist

Make your day great by:

  • Surrounding yourself with positive people.
  • Smiling.
  • Having an attitude of gratitude.
  • Looking for and expecting the best in others.
  • Just looking in the newspaper if you think YOU have it bad.
  • Not just having a great day, but MAKING it a great day.
  • Planing something each day to make it great – Exercise, read a book, call your brother, walk the dog.

Steve Jobs: On Education

President Obama was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Steve Jobs in October of 2010. In that meeting, Jobs shared his opinions about the current US education system. As written by Walter Isaacson in his biography, Steve Jobs:

Jobs also attacked America’s education system, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform. Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were. Schools should be staying open until at least 6 p.m. and be in session eleven months of the year. It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time. (Isaacson, p. 544)

Education was something Jobs thought about often. Even in his final encounter with Bill Gates, Steve asked him about this subject:

Jobs asked some questions about education, and Gates sketched out his vision of what schools in the future would be like, with students watching lectures and video lessons on their own while using the classroom for discussion and problem solving. They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools–far less than on other realms of society such as media, and medicine and law. For that to change, Gates said, computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback. (Isaacson, p. 553)

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Image Credit: L.A. Times Technology Blog

Be the King…

In a fun series of article I ran across on “The Art of Manliness”, I found some very good advice. The article, The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The King, describes the great attributes of being a king. Near the end, a list of how to bless the lives of others seems quite helpful:

Mo Bro Health

More Movember Tips

Spread the word! 

I am wrapping up my last week as a Mo Bro. Come evening of November 30th, the razor comes out and all facial hair is back to normal. As I round out my last week, I would like to share the sentiments of the Mo Bro community in looking out for your health in 4 ways.

Don’t Smoke
If you do smoke… Stop! Compared to non-smokers, men who smoke are about 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths.

Be Physically Active
If you aren’t already physically active, start small and work up to a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

Maintain a Healthy Diet
Fill up with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, and look for foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

Stay at a Healthy Weight
Balance calories from foods and beverages with calories you burn off by physical activities.

In looking at these, I have accomplished much but still have some work to do also. I quit smoking at 28. I have loved that Nebraska has now gone smoke free. I try to be active when I can. I love the Body Pump workouts at the Y. If you are interested, I’ll take you along! The healthy diet is one I need work on. Chips and dip after work probably isn’t the best for my health. So will need to do something about that hiccup! And staying at a healthy weight. Well last year at this time, I was in the “over-weight” BMI category but am proud to say, have been in the lower range of my “healthy” BMI range since about February. As with anything, it takes attention. Get on the scale every day!

Well – if this little activity gets just a few men thinking about their health, it was worth the scratchy extra hair and all the razzing I received this month. So, in closing, look out after yourselves, bros!

Mo Bro Check up

Movember Tip #1

Get an annual check up and know your family history! 


From Find a doctor and make an appointment for a health check up. Getting annual physicals significantly increases your chances for early detection of illness and disease.

Also, knowing your family history can help you reduce your risk developing many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. {Besides, it’s a good reason to call and catch up with the family!}



Health Checks: So what should you talk to your doctor about? Depends on your age.

Check out the Movember Men’s Health Poster for more details.

20’s: Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Dental health, Eye health, Immunizations, Sexually transmitted diseases, Skin cancer, Testicular cancer

30’s: Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Dental health, Eye health, Heart health, Immunizations, Sexually transmitted diseases, Skin Cancer, Testicular Cancer

40’s: Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Dental health, Diabetes, Eye health, Heart health, Immunizations, Prostate cancer (baseline PSA), Skin cancer

50’s: Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Colorectal cancer, Dental health, Diabetes, Eye health, Heart health, Immunizations, Osteoporosis, Prostate cancer, Skin cancer

60’s: Abdominal ultrasound, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Colorectal cancer, Dental health, Diabetes, Eye health, Hearing, Heart health, Immunizations, Osteoporosis, Prostate cancer, Skin cancer

70’s: Abdominal ultrasound, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Colorectal cancer, Dental health, Diabetes, Eye health, Hearing, Heart health, Immunizations, Osteoporosis, Prostate cancer, Skin cancer

Mo Bro

It’s Movember!


For thirty days, I will be a walking billboard to help change the face of men’s health. As such, I will be growing facial hair on my upper lip to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other male related cancer and health initiatives. It’s a small act to support a great cause. I will not actively solicit donations but if you would like to make a financial contribution to my plight, please do! The funds go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, LiveStrong, and the Movember Foundation. What I _would_ like is for you to take a look at the issues surrounding men’s health. Click on the poster below to find out more.

Men's Health Poster

Would you like to join as a Mo Bro? Would you like to support us as a Mo Sista?
Come on over to and register!

Followup Posts:

Simple Truths

Sick PiggyI have thought about this for a long time. There are some simple truths that hold true no matter what political agendas we hear, what commercials we see  or how much time we have. 

  • Achieve Financial Health – Don’t spend more than you make.
  • Achieve Physical Health –  Take responsibility for what you put in your mouth and how active you are. Don’t take in more calories than you burn.
  • Eliminate Clutter – Get rid of things you don’t need/use and organize the rest. Love it, Lend it, Leave it, or Lose it.


Do more with less. Simplicity is clarity. 


Mac Software

Okay – Not overly exciting but here is a list of software I use on a regular basis that I don’t believe I could live without.

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Photoshop Elements
  • Skype/IM/iChat
  • OS X Mail/Gmail
  • iCal/Google Calendar
  • Firefox, Safari, Chrome (Diigo Extension on all)
  • iTunes
  • Text Wrangler
  • Acrobat Pro
  • Dreamweaver
  • Animation-ish
  • Cyberduck
  • iLife
  • iWork
  • Google Earth
  • Handbrake
  • iBank
  • Kindle Reader
  • MaxBulk Mailer
  • MS Office/Open Office
  • NeatWorks
  • Sketchbook
  • Snapz Pro
  • Time Machine
  • Google Apps
  • Google Reader
  • Social/FB, Twitter, Plus

Baby Care Drive

Baby Care Drive

Join the Community Care Case Manager Group on:

October 8th, 10 am – 5 pm
at the
Kearney Area Children’s Museum


Free Admission for every item donated on Oct. 8th!

If you know of a family in need of baby toiletries,
(Baby Shampoo, Baby Lotion, Baby Detergent, Etc.)

Please refer them to:
The Salvation Army Office
1719 Central Ave., or call 308.234.9998 

This drive will assist families in need of baby toiletries.


Steve Jobs has left an indelible mark on me. His legacy for me is in his unrelenting eye for design and simplicity – aesthetic, functional and otherwise.

Mr. Jobs,

     “Here’s to the crazy ones…”


Steve Jobs

First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable Completed

From the History Channel at

Aug 5, 1858:
First transatlantic telegraph cable completed

After several unsuccessful attempts, the first telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean is completed, a feat accomplished largely through the efforts of American merchant Cyrus West Field.

Click for the whole article.

Ponder this for a minute. We now have wired (and wireless) connections accessible in every conceivable corner and crevasse of this our mothership we call Earth. Wow! What does that mean for our future? What will the next 150 years bring? It boggles the mind they were able to do this that long ago… and what will those after us say about our technological advances? We live in incredible times!


I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2011 US West Coast Moodle Moot in Rohnert Park, California this past week. What an incredible conference! Being my first Moot, I was extremely impressed with not only the technical sessions but how everything tied back to the learning process. It really was about learning, not technology. I will try and go again for sure!

Most impressionable session: David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. His key ideas focused around openness (OER), analytics (assessment data and behavioral), and the LMS.

Other presentations from the Moot can be found here.
Here is a fabulous collaborative Google Doc of the conference also. 
The Moot Ning was also interesting, although I didn’t participate much on it. 



Vision, Belief, Desire, Courage, Perseverance, Execution & Passion

It is not enough to be the best when you have the ability to be GREAT!

My iPad Apps

Here is a list of the iPad Apps I use regularly. Starred are my favorites.


  • Safari*
  • iBooks*
  • Camera
  • Mail*
  • Calendar*
  • Videos

Apple Paid:

  • iMovie*
  • Garageband*
  • Pages*
  • Keynote*


  • Kindle*
  • Safari To Go
  • Pandora*
  • Calculator Pro
  • Adobe Ideas
  • PS Express
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote*
  • Diigo

Free News Apps:

  • NPR
  • ABC News
  • CBSNews
  • TWC MAX+
  • CNN


  • Nightstand
  • SketchBook*
  • GoodReader*
  • Bento


I used to revel in April Fool’s day jokes. I played pranks on everyone and each year the pranks would get better and better. At least I thought so – I would laugh and laugh and laugh. My last big prank happened many years ago when I worked at UNK. We had a tight group that worked together in the computer department. And the story goes…

My last several pranks involved cars. In years past I had put a car up on blocks… but just barely so they wouldn’t notice. The year before that, my unsuspecting victim had red dye in their windshield washer fluid. So this year I needed to up the ante. I had read about this little trick and thought it would be perfect for a friend of mine. He was pretty mechanical and so would wonder what the heck was going on. So the game was on.

Creative Commons Image -Some rights reserved by ‘las – initially’ on Flickr.

I snuck out into the parking lot with my bag of goodies: a roll of aluminum foil and a bag of popcorn. I popped the hood of his car and carefully wrapped the popcorn around the manifold with the aluminum foil. The idea – when he would start driving, the manifold would heat thus popping the corn and making all sorts of racket under the hood! Oh it would be great! I was snickering all day just waiting for him to take a drive.

We always took an afternoon break at Bob’s Kwik shop across the street from the college at 2:30. On the button. You could set your watch by it. So the crew went over to Bob’s. But Jeff wasn’t there… hmmm… I bet he was driving his car. Oh sweet! He came in about 10 minutes late. No car. He had a drained look on his face. He was white as a ghost. Someone asked him what was up? He said, “I have just been at the police station. My car caught on fire at Wal-Mart when I went there over the lunch hour.”

I sunk. Everything shut down. I couldn’t hear anyone talking or see what anyone was doing. They kept talking about the car and what Jeff was going to do. It wasn’t insured and he had no way to pay for it. I was just sick. Literally sick. Ready to barf my soda and pretzel I had munched on.

“Jeff… I think I might know what happened,” I said in a very timid voice – not usual of me. “WHAT?” he cried out! “Well I was trying to pull an April Fools joke on you and so I put popcorn on your manifold. It must have been what caused your car to catch fire. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” I didn’t know what to say or do. He just stared at me. Deadpan look like ‘what am I going to do now?’

Then he shouts – “April Fools! My car didn’t catch fire!” The laughter rolled out of Bob’s Kwik shop all the way to the college. Backfire! Oh – how did I fall for it? How did he know? I was still sick. I couldn’t believe it!

So, moral of the story – think before you pull a practical joke! Serious consequences could ensue! I’m just glad it didn’t really catch fire!

Crane View

I have lived in Kearney for 20 years now and am still amazed at the crane migration. (More on the Rowe Sanctuary website.) We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy them every morning and evening. Here is a view from our kitchen window.


What’s the most expensive thing you have ever broken?

This Plinky Prompt spurred a story that I thought you would enjoy. 

So what IS the most expensive thing I have ever broken? Being a boy and growing up with LOTS of energy, I broke a LOT of things! Some on purpose, some not. Was it a stereo? A bike? Crystal that we used for fancy dinners? I did tear an expensive tire off of my dad’s car by accident. (It was icy!) Does that count? The timing chain in my car broke and ruined the engine. But I didn’t really break it – it was just old!

Okay – after a little thought, I don’t think I am not even in the right realm. My NECK is the most expensive thing I have ever broken! C-3, 4, and 5 to be exact. First day of summer vacation. June 6th, 1998. We were itching to get down to the river and into the water! The race was on and I was first! Oops – something happened. Can’t move. That’s a weird feeling. No feeling!

Although that’s the most expensive thing I have ever broken, I’m just glad my mother had fabulous insurance. We would still be in debt almost twenty-five years later.


Apples? Lemons? Christians?


The Giving Trees - From the Gallery Osborne

I was compelled to write tonight in reflection of our sermons this morning. It started with our children’s sermon. What a great way to engage and get the adults thinking about the Gospel and the Gospel Sermon. As Colvin was up front with the other children, I was amazed at how clear the pastor’s analogy was to me. It started with an apple tree. He asked the kids, how can you tell an apple tree? Well, duh! Because it has apples! Okay, so how can you tell a lemon tree? Well, maybe it’s because of those round yellow things dangling from the branches. What’s this have to do with anything? Then, the next question sealed it for me – How can you tell a Christian? Wow! How powerful is that? It should be pretty easy to tell (just like the fruit tree) by the good things we do for others. By going to Church and learning with other Christians. By doing good deeds and going out of our way for others. By our witness to Christ. By modeling and teaching our children that He is the light. By humbly getting on our knees and praying for his guidance, forgiveness and thanking him for the blessings he bestows on us every day. By picking up the Bible and reading his word.

I know I fall short. I am in good company. But as I reflect today I have a few things I’d like to address with myself.

  • Life is fast. Complex. Overwhelming at times. How can I simplify?
  • What is most important?
  • In what aspects of my life can I go “deeper”? Gain a richer understanding.
  • What can I do for others to enrich their lives?
  • What hats do I wear and how can I model a Christian life in each?
  • In this time of giving, what is my gift to humanity? Am I leaving a legacy He would like?

Lastly I come back to one thing: Simply. Simplify in Heart – Mind – Body – Spirit

Apple iLife – Teaching and Learning Outside the Box

Inspire creativity. Open possibilities. Expand opportunities of expression.

Apple iLife Logo

iLife is that special suite of software applications that lets you express yourself differently. It¹s the software suite that lets you build what¹s in your mind. It let¹s you do amazing projects with music, video, images and more. Spanning the multiple intelligences, you will find something that suites your creative abilities. And with iLife¹s new version you will find it even easier and more feature rich. With iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, iWeb and iDVD, you have a portable studio where ever you go!


iPhoto LogoThis application lets you organize, edit and publish your images. Organizing is a snap with photo albums, events, face recognition, location awareness and more. Organized photos are usable with a host of other applications on the mac in a very intuitive way. Students and teachers alike can create great projects right within iPhoto using their pictures also. It¹s very simple to create a slideshow using a variety of transitions and music from your iTunes library. You can also create real books with a wide choice of layouts with your images. The latest version also lets you create cards with many templates to choose from. Lastly,  you¹ll want to share your images.

You are able to share on websites, Facebook or with other applications.


iMovie IconThis powerful tool is for the budding cinematographer. Choosing from themes, you can create fun movie trailers, news broadcasts and other fun projects.

The new version brings back the timeline and other familiar features to make editing video projects a joy. Creating digital stories, PSA¹s (Public Service Announcements), commercials and news broadcasts is a great use of iMovie. You can use it with any age and with any curriculum. Build better writing skills using scripts or stronger organizational ability with storyboarding. Share your video on your website, Facebook, YouTube, burn a DVD or send it to CNN iReporter! There is something for everyone with iMovie.


Garageband IconThis is one powerful application! Musicians, composers and podcasters alike will fall in love with GarageBand. Learning the guitar or piano? Want to build your own virtual band with many genres to choose from?  How about creating background music for your slideshows or digital stories? There is a host of ways to teach patterns, timing, pitch and more using GarageBand.

Then you get into podcasting and creating your own ³radio² shows. Recording classroom news or information about your town has never been easier! Drop a few jingle and effects in the timeline and you have a professional recording ready for prime time. Share your projects on the web or in iTunes for all the world to hear.


This powerful, template driven web authoring software makes it easy to create your web site in style. It¹s the publishing platform for your thoughts, photo galleries, slideshows, videos and anything else you want to share with the world. All the content you create in other iLife applications can be shared through iWeb. Your school server, ESU hosted account, or dot Mac account is your gateway to getting your site shared with your audience.


Create compelling DVDs for end of the year portfolio¹s or classroom memories. Every parent will love a digital history of the creative projects your students create throughout the year. Create a veteran¹s day DVD to share with local veterans. Share school events and activities. All your projects created with iMovie, iPhoto or GarageBand will be treasured as long as DVD players are around!

If you are an ³Apple Shop² and have not looked at the iLife suite, I urge you to do so. Look at what other teachers are doing with iLife and other Apple products at

Apple Announcements: And what they mean for educators.

Steve Jobs hosted a press conference yesterday for a few new Apple announcements. What were the announcements and what do they mean for education?

iLife 11 was up first with a demo of iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband. iWeb and iDVD are still a part of the suite but not demoed. I am little surprised iDVD is hanging on.


  • A richer and more robust full screen mode. Not only does iPhoto have this feature but it looks as if it will be in more and more products and a part of the 10.7 Lion framework. I believe this will allow for more focus. Concentrating on the application at hand and not all the other windows and email popups that seem to distract while working on a project. For students like me who may be somewhat attention deficit, this is a great idea!
  • Easier printing of books/cards. Just the idea of creating books and cards is exciting. Students will move beyond memorizing to actually creating something useful with their knowledge. Imaging being able to create books on the civil war or the 50 states. Creating a book on character traits or creating cards for thank you’s and other special occasions.
  • Slideshows – faces and places – creative ways to create learning opportunities using the maps theme. Imagine timeline and geography based stories and historical events and the ability to create custom slideshows to demonstrate knowledge and share with parents and the community.
  • Integration with Social Networks – View comments and track what people are saying about photo images and slideshows right within iPhoto. Post your photos on Flickr and see what the world has to say without ever having to leave iPhoto.


  • Themes for Digital Storytelling – Movie trailers, sports and news themes and more. The possibilities here are endless! Movie trailers have storyboards to help students learn about action shots, close-ups, medium shots and a slew of other techniques to better tell their story.
  • Face recognition within iMovie – Quickly traverse your saved video to find shots with one, two, or more people.
  • Sharing with the world – easily share with social networks and mobile devices.


  • Learning to play the piano and guitar – new lessons that have video of the person playing, the keyboard/fretboard, and the notes to play. Full immersion into the learning environment.
  • New feature – “How did I play?” for immediate feedback. Track over time in a game-like environment that keeps track of your progress.

Macintosh OS X 10.7 – Lion

I found the features announced somewhat exciting. I like to see they are taking the successful features of the mobile technologies and interfacing them with the desktop/laptop environment.

  • Facetime – Working with mobile devices. Can you imagine being on a field trip and having the students pull out their iPod Touches and sharing their findings and asking questions of experts around the globe?
  • Mac App Store – ease of install for teachers! The easier to install software, the better! Period!
  • Launchpad – Organize your apps how you think and work. This is a great feature that I think many classrooms could take advantage of. Put all your reading apps on one screen. All your math apps on another. All the apps for 2nd graders here. For 5th grade there.
  • Mission Control – Find your hidden window/app/widgets. Where oh where did it go? One stop shopping to find all the stuff you have worked on all day!
  • Auto-save –  Need I say more? This along with Timemachine should help any teacher who has ever been frustrated by loosing important documents or time writing lessons.
  • Auto-resume – Open an app to the place and work you were doing right when you last used it. Seems only logical. When I leave my desk at the end of the day, it still has the same things I was working on when I arrive the next morning!

Macbook Air

The announcement of the Macbook Air ushered in a few new features but more than that, it killed some technologies.

  • Death of hard drives – We are moving away from hard drives. Flash or solid state memory is the future of storage. That in conjunction with storage in the cloud will round out a robust storage solution in the future.
  • Death of optical media – The OS comes on a write-protected tiny flash drive. Software will come in the way of downloads. Videos and pictures will be shared in the cloud. CDs and DVDs are dead. (That’s why I was surprised to see iDVD was still a part of the iLife suite.)
  • Death of the mouse button – Multi gesture mice and pads seem to be the theme here. Limited function mice will no longer be needed.
  • Tiny – The compact size still offers a full keyboard and trackpad yet is lightweight and very portable.
  • Camera, keyboard, full OS X, expansion options – it’s not an iPad with a keyboard. It still has all the functionality of a full laptop. Only better! With USB, Bluetooth, Wi-fi and more, the only thing I see missing is built-in cellular connectivity.
  • Battery Life – I LOVE the battery life of the iPad. Can use it for days without having to plug it in. We are now getting to that point with the laptop. You can’t have enough battery life so when they tout this to run 7 hours of active use and 30 days of standby time, that is great to hear. It will be a boon to computing in schools if the device can last all day or several days of active use.
  • Price – I felt the last version of the Macbook Air was a little too pricey. Dropping below $1000 is a much needed price point for schools. I hope this drops even more in the future. Better, faster, more durable, cheaper!

Overall – nicely done Apple.

My Top Five and Why: Tech Tools for Teachers

I recently posted a list of Top Tech Tools for Teachers that I believe are useful for all teachers. In going through this list and receiving feedback from others, it is clear that it can be overwhelming, especially for busy teachers just starting in the Education Technology arena. So my goal in this post is to offer my “Top Five and Why”. It was a very tough choice picking only five. There are so many great tools for teachers available on the Internet and the list I compiled is minimal to say the least. So my choices here are based on a combination of experience working with teachers, research in the form of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the Horizon Report K-12 Edition, and collaboration with peers in the ed tech community.

Number One – Google Docs

By far, this is the number one tool I would suggest to teachers. Google Docs is a web-based suite of tools (word processing, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, and drawing)  that has extremely powerful collaborative and sharing capabilities entrenched in its design. With an array of creative uses, Docs provides teachers these tools to be more efficient in managing their classroom, collaborating on school improvement meeting minutes or managing grades and lesson plans. As a classroom tool, there are countless 21st century projects a teacher can facilitate through many available projects and templates within Google Docs.

Another reason Google Docs is first in my list is when looking through lists of other great tools, Docs has many of these other features built-in. For example, not only can you use the regular productivity software but you can also upload and share your own files eliminating the need for a service like Dropbox. You can also use pages/spreadsheets/presentations as web pages for other projects, agendas and what not. There are just so many great things about putting these tools in the cloud (on the Internet) that I can’t describe them all here.

Take a Docs TourWhat’s NewDocs for Educators

Number Two – WordPress

One of my professional missions is to ensure that every teacher has a web presence. It is so important that this tool is available to communicate with their students, parents, and the community. It provides teachers a platform to share what they are doing in the classroom and share student work with a more relevant, authentic conduit. It also provides a means for two-way communication from parents and community members genuinely interested in the success of our future leaders. WordPress floats to the top of my list because of its ability to easily generate great looking, dynamic sites including web pages, blogs, and a host of other features designed for effective communications. It’s a flexible tool for teachers just starting out or the most tech savvy educators.

Number Three – Diigo

The Internet is a vast land of seemingly endless information. As a facilitator of learning, teachers need a tool to collect useful web gems . The amount of websites teachers collect for any given curriculum is daunting enough. On top of that, sharing these gems so all students have access can be frustrating to say the least. The answer is social bookmarking. Diigo is a powerful bookmarking engine able to share links anytime, anywhere. Bookmarks are organized how we think, using tags. The social side allows us to share links and updates with other teachers in the same field. Diigo steps up the social bookmarking game by providing a tool to annotate websites; highlighting sections, making comments, and more. Lastly, another feature of Diigo allows for group and classroom interaction and discussion. This is one tool that would be hard to live without.

Diigo Educator AccountsSocial Bookmarks in Plain English

Number Four – Twitter

Social Networking is all the buzz right now. It’s cool, if not necessary, to have a Twitter or Facebook account. Maybe you have one already for sharing pictures with family, getting a new recipe from a friend, meeting up at a reunion, or just sending messages. (Goodbye email?) But why does this have importance as an educator?  I see three main reasons teachers need a Twitter account: 1) Building a network of like-minded professionals in your field. Having others to lean on for ideas or support. 2) Self-directed professional development. There are so many resources shared on Twitter and this is a great social filter, letting your colleagues decide what is good and what is not. 3) Communication with students and parents. Teachers use this tool to share upcoming announcements, homework, tests, sports scores and more.  It is a great way to use the tools our students are already using and leverage the power of social media. As a friend on Twitter said to me, “Twitter is what you make of it – if you follow other educators and people with like interests, you learn from each other and can get some amazing resources and ideas. You are who you follow!”

Twitter for EducatorsTwitter for Teachers Wiki

Number Five – Skype

The world is flat. And the classroom should be too. Skype is an invaluable tool to break down the walls of the classroom and transport your students to any part of the world. This video conferencing software runs on Macs or PCs (and even mobiles) and is a great cross-platform communication software for anyone with an Internet connection. The possibilities of going global are endless – from virtual field trips to connecting with scientists, authors and more. You can share your screen with other classrooms or having a parent or community member join your class. Only your creativity will limit the use of this invaluable tool.

50 Uses of Skype the ClassroomUsing Skype at School for Dummies

Building Capacity

In working with Tech Integration Specialists today were talking about how powerful self-discovery is in getting teachers to work with new technologies. I have worked through this process with several schools using the Learning Cycle (borrowed from the Microsoft Building 21st Century Schools curriculum) and have successfully introduced many new projects and technologies to educators throughout the state.

The process includes the following:

  • Introduction
  • Challenge
  • Initial Thoughts
  • Resources
  • Revised Thinking
  • Group Work
  • Closing

Here is an example of the outline I used with Broken Bow teachers: Building 21st Century Schools

Top Tech Tools for Teachers

This is a list I compiled for my wife and her new job as a learning coach. I also ran across this “Web 2.0 Resources for Teachers” that is quite useful.

Too Much?

Have you ever felt, well, overwhelmed when taking on a new challenge? My degree program requires taking 9 hours on American history and culture. On top of the hours, there is community service/volunteer hours one has to take part in. That part of the requirement is not the challenge as I routinely volunteer for several causes at a time.  The challenge came in the mail in the form of the two required texts. One of these books has so much text in it I know I am going to struggle. I love reading but there is so much here, I don’t know how I am going to get through it. The second text is the companion reader to help you understand the first. Ughhh… This is NOT one of my strengths! History has always intrigued me, but not to this level. However, I am willing to take on this challenge and vow to do my best. There will be much assigned reading and writing and discussion and so you may or may not see much of me on here in the coming months. Hopefully there will be some nuggets of informative opinion I can share but we’ll have to see.

Until next time!

About Bellevue University’s Center for American Vision and Values

A Fitting End

Here is the end of my 365 days in pictures. I thought this picture was a fitting end to this project – although not an end totally. My intention was to use mobile technology to keep the 365 days in pictures alive and well. And for the most part, I did that, using my Blackberry camera phone. I would have like some different features on the BB and it didn’t do what I originally wanted but I know other devices can and do upload pictures directly to WordPress.

Otherwise, what else did I learn from this experience? That I like having a goal. A DAILY goal. I did cheat most of the time by scheduling my pictures but it was nice to have a deadline. I learned that I should take more time to think creatively. It’s a nice change of pace to think about a picture I had not taken before or seeing something that was really cool that I wanted to share with all of you. It got me out of the structured thought process I so revel in most of the time. I also learned that it has been a fun project not only in finding and thinking about good shots or pictures but in reflecting about pictures I had taken. If I were to do it again, I would spend more time thinking about earlier shots and what made them good. Lighting, angle, timing, etc., etc. All those things good photographers do! Reflecting is a good thing and as I look back on this experience, it has made me realize, I need to do something again. So, while I will probably take a week or month off, I do want to do another year-long blog goal. I am thinking about writing more and so maybe look for writing prompts that I may elaborate upon. I have also thought about reflecting on media – videos, audio, and such. What it means to me. If you have some ideas, I am open to suggestions.

Thanks for taking this 365 day journey with me!  Until my next attempt, ciao!

{All blog posts from my 365 Days category.}


To be successful today and into the future we all KNOW everyone needs 21st century skills. But why? What concrete examples lead me to believe “my” job needs global awareness? Financial literacy? Why do I need communication and collaboration skills as a janitor? What is the purpose of learning creativity and innovation skills when all I do is answer the phone?

So my question to you is: Why should a <insert title here> have to acquire 21st century skills?

Titles may include: Custodian, Grounds Keeper, Secretary, Programmer, Videographer, Helpdesk Support, Program Coordinators, Directors, Therapists, Technicians, etc.

To me, it is not a matter of title but a way of thinking. We can move from convergent thinking to divergent thinking about the everyday way we do our job. With knowledge of 21st century skills we can think of different more effective ways to do our jobs in a manner suitable for this generation.

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