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!

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?

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!

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!

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

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


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!


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

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

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


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.

Image by http://www.flickr.com/people/jakecaptive/
Used under direction of Creative Commons Licensing.

First In, Last Out

Reading “First In, Last Out”, from John Salka. Something that stuck with me was this quote:

“At the end of the day, you can only hold yourself responsible for the kind of [person] you become.”

You have complete reign of yourself. The good, the bad and the ugly. There you have it.

What kind of person do you want to be at the end of the day? What matters most to you? Prove it!

Series: Technology to Support Multiple Intelligences

This is a series of articles on how and which technologies you might use to support the eight individual intelligences as defined in Dr. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Here is a sequential outline of the articles:

jason-mi•  Introduction
Word Smart (linguistic intelligence)
Number Smart (logical-mathematical intelligence)
Picture Smart (spatial intelligence)
Body Smart (kinesthetic intelligence)
Music Smart (musical intelligence)
People Smart (interpersonal intelligence)
Self Smart (intrapersonal intelligence)
Nature Smart (naturalistic intelligence)

Your comments, thoughts and ideas are encouraged! Thank you – Jason


I attended the NDE Adult Ed Conference in Kearney yesterday and enjoyed listening to Dr. Mosig from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Dr. Mosig spoke on the topic Stress Management. One of the handouts he gave us was this simple quote:

If you were to fall to your death from a very great height, it would be a shame not to enjoy the view as you fell, or to appreciate the wind in your hair, or the warmth of the sun on your face.

-Ngakpa Chogyam Rinpoche

Dr. Mosig did a nice job of explaining how, really, we are all headed to our death at some point. Why not enjoy the ride while we can?


Moments in Time

Today is one of those days in history that really affected me. It’s one of those days I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when announced our nation was under attack. It was a Tuesday and we had a scheduled LAN Managers meeting at the ESU that day. As soon as word  was out that we were under attack, we had the TV’s in the building tuned in to CNN to watch the horror and devastation of that fateful day.

So eight years has passed and I reflect upon why this event impacted me and what has stuck with me that changes the way I think, interact and carry out my life on a daily basis. When I think about this day, I realize how fragile life is and how easily, in the blink of an eye, our whole lives can change by the actions of another. Changed by the actions of hatred and fanatical ideology. Thousands of people died that day and thousands more are dying even today as a result.

I visited the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon this summer and it was one of the most moving places I have ever been. The power I felt by just standing in the garden was amazing. Being able to see and feel the people in the plane and the people in the building who gave their lives on that day was an experience I just can’t describe in words.


Photo provided under Creative Commons Licensing by:
/ CC BY-SA 2.0

So what have I been able to take away from this tragic event?

  • Live every day like it’s your last.
  • Wake up in the morning and thank your God for what you have.
  • There are bad people out there but don’t let fear of what could or has happened control your life.
  • Our government isn’t always right or have our best interest at heart.
  • We have too much bureaucracy.
  • In spite of the last two statements, we are damn lucky to be Americans.
My challenge for you is to take a few minutes and reflect about what today means to you and share it with someone. You’ll both be better for it!