Tag Archives: Jeff Utecht

Ideas Into Action

“Organizations that can access the most brains will win. Its not what you know but how quickly you can access knowledge of others.” Liz Wiseman

There are some really awesome things happening in our schools right now and I just wanted to share some simple ideas that may spark some others.  The interesting part about the work that is happening is that many administrators are looking through social media at what is happening at other schools around the world and implementing them in some fashion within their own schools.  If these educators were not connected, I am not sure that they would be trying these out but they are all very active while also willing to share their work with others both within our division and the entire world.

1. Memorial Composite High School Facebook Page - Facebook is not necessarily an innovative idea nor new to schools, but I was extremely impressed watching the school principal, Shauna Boyce, doing all of the updating and creating of this page, as well as the Memorial Composite Twitter feed.  Now the principal doesn’t have to be the one updating this page, but I know that because of Shauna’s understanding of how this could be used she would encourage and be able to model this for her staff.  Instead of killing innovation because she is scared of “Facebook” (as outlined in this post), Shauna is modelling an effective way she can be using this technology to connect with students.

2. Muir Lake Ninja Program – Adopted from Jeff Utecht’s program that he has run with his own students and shared openly with others, Muir Lake School Assistant Principal Travis McNaughton has implemented this same initiative with the students of his school.  In a kind of a neat way to connect with students, Travis has explained the program:

“Welcome to the Google Apps Ninja Dojo! In JapaneseDojo means “place of the way”. Here you will find your way to becoming a Google Apps Ninja Master.

There are a few Google Apps categories that you must master in order to become a true Google Apps Ninja Master at Muir Lake School. In each category there are four belts to achieve in order to becoming a Master Ninja.”

Kind of neat hey?  The admin team at Muir Lake has effectively used their school blog to connect with parents and share information openly, such as their “Google Chromebooks” initiative.

3. Innovation Week - Jesse McLean, as part of the amazing administration team at Greystone Centennial Middle School, is looking to host their first “Innovation Week”, an idea that has been shared by Josh Stumpenhorst and others. As this has been a first time for the school and will be implemented in late December, Jesse is actually looking to endeavour in his own innovative project before the students give it a try.  He has told me that he believes for him to be able to successfully share this with others, he will have to experience it himself to understand both the positives and negatives.  Here is a small snippet of what Jesse is sharing:

“During this week, students will be given the time, space, support and necessary materials to work on a project of their choice. Our hope is to provide students with a meaningful experience that will help develop a passion for learning by giving them the chance to pursue their own learning interests. Similar projects have been run in the United States and England and have been met with great success when it comes to student engagement and impactful learning experiences. The students will not attend their classes during this week, instead they will work in the Innovation Week area for the entirety of their school day. Staff members from our school will be supervising and assisting in the Innovation Week area all week. We are hoping every staff member will get the chance to be in the Innovation Week area for at least one school day. On the morning of final day, we will have each individual/group present their project and give a summary of their learning that occurred during the week.”

It will be great to see what the students will be creating during this week and how it is further implemented on a daily basis at Greystone school.

Although there are some great ideas here, what I am most impressed with is that these individuals and schools are openly and willingly sharing their work as the default.  They are not being asked to put their stuff out there, but are doing it because they know that they can learn from others and others can learn from them.  Innovation is not about technology, but technology does afford us the opportunity to easily and openly share ideas in a way that we were not able to before.

I will end with the quote and image listed below which was continuously stuck in my mind as I wrote this post:


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

You Should Read… (July 8, 2012)

As I sit in the Vancouver Airport waiting for a flight to Sydney, I thought that I would continue to share some of the things that I am reading over the summer.  I think it is nice to keep up with different articles but I am enjoying looking into some different blogs.  It is nice however to have a break and just relax.  I think over summer you can have both (or winter which I will be experiencing in about 16 hours).

Here are some posts/things I saw this last week:

1.  Less Confident People Are More Successful – A friend set me onto the Harvard Business Review and I have read some great articles already but was really interested in this article.  I was actually kind of surprised at the idea that confident people would struggle.  Here is one point that I struggled with:

Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical:Most people get trapped in their optimistic biases, so they tend to listen to positive feedback and ignore negative feedback. Although this may help them come across as confident to others, in any area of competence (e.g., education, business, sports or performing arts) achievement is 10% performance and 90% preparation. Thus, the more aware you are of your soft spots and weaknesses, the better prepared you will be.

What I struggled with here is that it would seem confident people would be more willing to accept criticism and move forward with it than someone who lacks it.  A confident person would be able to take that feedback and realize it is not personal, but an effort to make some better.  Am I way off here?  What are your thoughts?

2.  Letters to a first year teacher (Compilation) – This is just a cool little resource that has a lot of inspiring words for both new and experienced teachers.  Something that is definitely worth looking at as many prepare for their next school year.

3.  The Evolution of a LectureJeff Utecht, who has some amazing ideas and does some very cool things with his students, talked about what many still know which is that the lecture still has a place in our schools.  Just as many complain about PowerPoint presentations, the reality is, if used properly, that type of lecture can still be useful.  The reality of it is that if done with some interactivity, the lecture can be a quite informative piece of the classroom:

There are so many ways to engage your audience when giving a lecture that it should be just what we expect from a lecture in today’s digitally connected world.

We also know more about the brain then ever before and know the brain needs processing time, or think time about every 10 minutes. Which is why whenever I’m giving a talk, about every 10 minutes I give the audience a 3 minute talk and process time. This also allows me to look at notes, chat rooms, tweets, or whatever system I have set up and reflect on how the lecture is going, see where I need to make changes and adapt to the audience. Again TED Talks are so good because they are no longer than 18 minutes and most are much shorter than that. Giving us that perfect chunk of knowledge that we can handle, process, and make meaning of.

Jeff offers some great suggestions of how you can improve the lecture using technology and engaging students in a different way.  Definitely take a look at the article.

Alec Couros (who actually blogged twice this week!) shared this really powerful image of a “life in 3 pictures”.  It is emotional to say the least:

I also thought this video of someone conducting an interview with themselves from 20 years ago was a pretty cool highlight this week:

My flight is boarding and I am off to Sydney!  Have a great week!

You Should Read (September 25, 2011)


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

 I would love to share with anyone who reads this blog some interesting articles that I read this week.  Please feel free to comment and share any of these posts as you see fit.  There is so much great stuff that I see in a week that it is tremendously tough to pick three so you can look at any link that I have archived under my Diigo links for this weekly post.

1. Up hill both ways in a snow storm – My good friend Cale Birk, wrote essentially a rebuttal to the “Inside the Entitlement Generation” post that was essentially a ” scathing account of the younger generation of today.”  Ultimately Cale decides to take the “optimist” approach and look for the good things that are in our youth today and I would 100% agree with him:

In my opinion, our students of today are as intelligent and motivated as students at this age have ever been.  I would also say that students are much more well-rounded than I ever was–they are more socially responsible, more globally aware, and more tolerant than any generation before them.  When graduates cross our stage at commencements, I absolutely marvel at how involved they are in their academics, the arts, athletics, the school, and community issues.  I wish I went through high school with the same verve and alacrity that our students do.

This article discusses the importance in believing in our students, and in reality, we can look at them as “entitled” but what does that help?  Chris Wejr also wrote a post on the same topic, and to me, these are the kind of educators that we need in schools.  I know both Cale and Chris personally and they are very real about the work and challenges that we have to do, but they both approach education in the way that it is the positive relationships that we have with our students that makes the biggest impact on the work that we do.  I encourage you to read all of the articles linked in this post.

2. 10 Reasons to Trash Word for Google DocsJeff Utecht, an educator located in Bangkok, has a great blog that I have only come across recently (although I read it for a long time that first night!), and in it, he shares how he feels the use of Google Docs is advantageous over Word.  Personally, I have not used Word for a long time as I find Google Docs much easier, and I am glad that this suite of tools is available to all of our students and staff in Parkland School Division as it really serves the work that we are trying to do with students.  Here is an excerpt from his post:

10. Because it’s the future
We’re headed into a fully web-based world. Even Microsoft is working to make Word fully online in a few years…see I told you they were old school. Get a jump on the future and get use to working on the web now so you’re not playing catch up later.

The one major reason that Jeff did leave out (although it is implied continuously) is that it is just faster.  If you have a stable Internet connection, Google Docs just makes it easier to do things in the classroom.  We could all use more time right?

3. Cybersafety: Do fear and exaggeration increase risk?Sylvia Martinez shares an excellent presentation  about some of the misconceptions that are out in the public regarding Internet safety and cyberbullying which actually lead to more of the behaviour.  Yes, there are some threats, but are they as bad as they are made out in the media?  Here is what Sylvia writes about the presentation:

Be sure to view this slideshow all the way to the end, where Larry gives examples of “positive norming” as an alternative to fear-based messages about cybersafety and cyberbullying. Positive norming is when facts are presented about what most people do – and most people do not bully or engage in risky online behavior. Focusing on behavior that is NOT the norm makes it seem like it’s more prevalent than it actually is.

Please take a look at the presentation and feel free to use it as you see fit: