Back to School - Jeff Utecht Style

Today was the first day back to school for teachers in my district. At my school, our theme and focus for the new year is technology. We're going on a "Virtual Learning Adventure"! We arrived at school this morning ready to board school buses to be shuttled to our county's professional development center. The room was prepared for a day of learning and connectivity with laptops at each table.

After our principal welcomed us all back to the new year, we were fortunate enough to receive a skype call from Jeff Utecht. Jeff was able to capture his screen and show us on Google Earth a mini-bio of Jeff Utecht, from Washington to Bangkok. What a great way to connect right away to this amazing international educator. The room was silent as Jeff shared his thoughts about harnessing online tools for education and giving students a global audience for their work. In the short time span of about ten minutes he was able to show them some websites with powerful collaborative possiblilities and global audience.

The impact on my faculty was evident in their notes to Jeff:

This morning's presentation by you was perfect. You punctuated so many of my points for today - I think our faculty really loved hearing from a REAL teacher! Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.
Susan Phillips, Principal

Jeff, You made my head spin with all of the possibilities that we each have as educators. This morning you gave each of us the confidence that "we could empower our students in the world of technology".
My thanks to you for a great 1st day.
KK Cherney, Media Specialist

It is very nice to know that in a very fast-pace changing world, we will always have someone to teach and guide us along the way. I am very excited about infusing technology into my first grade classroom this year. However, I know that I have to take it one step at a time and I'm very thankful that we have instructional help from teachers such as yourself that are willing to walk us through the process, no matter where each of our own individual start lines are. Thank you for taking the time to share with us!!
-Haley Alvarado 1st Grade Teacher

It was great to have the opportunity to learn from an expert who had such a modest and personable presence. I really enjoyed hearing about all of the places that Jeff has traveled to as well as some of the "rough" conditions he experienced :) He spoke in a practical manner and gave applicable every day ideas and suggestions that I am eager to try out in my classroom. Not to mention, I had a major mojito craving by the end of the conversation! [Jeff said that on the first day, teachers were probably thinking about the mojitos they wish they were having]
Jen Zawis, Teacher of the Gifted

I would just like to thank Jeff, first of all for his time. He didn't have to stay up late, but because he is so passionate about what he does, and about educating others, he did. I thought his message, the fact that we were actually speaking to him half way around the world tied in our theme and excited the faculty. He shared many new and informative sites, ideas, and I loved his message, '"being safe in a new learning landscape" because so many of us have those concerns.
Christy Constande, 4th Grade Teacher

As I sit hear tonight and think about all the possibilities that Jeff opened up to us today, I am still simply amazed that we were able to hear and interact with someone in Manila! As commonplace as that must be for so many people around the world, it still blows me away. I think Jeff made me believe that there is nothing that we can't do if we can imagine it. I'm already thinking about an Australian wiki for first grade teachers as they study about the country during their Author Study of Mem Fox and skyping in a friend that is playing baseball for the Canadian team at the Olympics so he can have a conversation with 5th grade students learning about China and... the list goes on and on. I just can't thank Jeff enough for taking his time to help me believe in what I once would have thought was impossible!
dayle timmons, Exceptional Education Teacher

Jeff, I was completely enthralled with your presentation this morning as we viewed you from the Schultz Center. What a great way to start the new school year by hearing from someone so knowledgeable and real as you! I had heard of you from Melanie, as she just thinks that you walk on water. Now, I can see why. You are a very cool guy who is not only on the cutting edge with technology, but you are a very real and normal guy, with a terrific sense of humor. You explained things to our faculty, in a way that is easy to understand without making anyone feel ignorant or incompetent.You made us feel like any of us could do what you were explaining. Thank you for being so motivating, inspiring, and for believing in us and making us feel that one day we might know what you know in technology. One of the many quotes from your presentation that I wrote down was, "Create content through a medium they love to use." This statement really hit the bull's eye with me. As teachers, we are always trying to find ways to connect to our students and motivate them. Technology is meeting them where they are and taking them further. I got so much out of your presentation. Thank you for taking your time to share your knowledge. It will reach more people than you could ever imagine as we use it to accelerate our students' learning.
Dorry Lopez, 4th Grade Teacher

Jeff, I loved listening to you this morning. You are such a great motivator and I really enjoyed getting my brain started to think about how I can push myself to new limits along with my students. Thank you for sharing your passion with us.
Debbie Harbour, 1st Grade Teacher

What fun to speak with Jeff this morning. He was such a nice "everyday" teacher, it made the whole concept of web 2.0 seem more attainable to many of us, I think. I loved some of his simple ideas that he relayed with us for elementary level applications (i.e. publishing via personal page of class blog). Like Jeff, I, too, loved the comment from the child's father. How powerful is that? What a special treat for a child to receive such public praise and current connection from their loved ones!
I'm looking forward to making connections with other students, teachers, and other interesting people around the globe this year. I have recently felt the power of how the internet can bring people together (via Facebook). I've been fortunate to reestablish connections with old friends and family who, now, have scattered themselves around the world. I am excited and inspired to draw them into my classroom and share their global knowledge and experiences with my students.
Thanks, Jeff, for your time today! I've added your blog to my reader and look forward to tagging along on your journeys!
Jenny E. Nash , 3rd Grade Teacher

Dear Jeff, I want to thank you for your time and insight into the world of technology and its impact on education today. You had a wonderful impromptu presentation - it was interesting and insightful.
Thanks again, Maria Mallon, 1st Grade Teacher
P.S. I skipped the Mohito and had a Margarita instead :)

Master Jeff in a sort-of Jedi way,
Your message really made me feel like I am going in the right direction with my teaching (blogging
, web page building , emailing ( )...). I do agree that the powers that be need to worry less about the flow of inappropriate information at the expense of the flow of meaningful info. We must model and then trust kids to do the right things. I would love for my kids to have an open and genuine wiki for homework help, but I fear that if I over-manage the endeavor, the kids will not engage, and without engagement you have nada. I am all ears, if you or others have suggestions.
Thanks for your time and your insights. I love to listen to people that simply have the will to make things work out, gives me hope!
Peace to all,
Tom Ruark, 5th Grade Teacher

Jeff, Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We're so excited about expanding our classroom to, virtually, the world! I especially enjoyed the Google Earth tour. My father-in-law is a huge fan of GE and shows us all kinds of places when he comes for a visit. (For example, the house he grew up in back in Ill.). Now I have something to share with him - the compound in Saudi Arabia was my favorite. I hope you have a wonderful school year and I look forward to reading your blog.
Sincerely, Lori Metzger, 3rd Grade Teacher

I absolutely love watching technology in action in the teaching world. It is amazing to me to see how easy collaboration becomes through Skype, Wikis, etc. What a great way to bring the world and so many different cultures into our classroom at the click of a mouse. Thank you Jeff for taking the time to share your world with us.
Melissa Ross, 2nd Grade Teacher

A mentor once taught me that nothing will ever change until there is a sense of urgency established. Too often, it is my fear that teachers don’t feel that sense of urgency the way say business executives trying to drive up profits would. However, I feel that the tide is changing. Technology and Web 2.0 have made the world so much smaller, so much more connected. That is why I was so excited when Melanie said that Jeff had graciously agreed to Skype with our faculty on opening day. Teachers not only got to hear about how connected the world truly is, but got to experience it first hand. I hope Jeff realizes the aftermath that his conversation is having. Teachers, today, when they could be doing any number of other things, are setting up wikis, creating blogs, and sharing ideas about infusing technology to promote student engagement. They will most definitely have students writing to a world wide audience this year. They will know their voice is heard. Thank you Jeff for planting the seed of urgency and possibilities! I know this year will most certainly be a Virtual Learning Adventure!
Suzanne Shall, Standards Coach

Thank you again, Jeff, for your time and inspiration - as you can see, talking to you was just the ticket to get our year started!


Jeff Utecht said...

I am completely taken back by all of the comments from the staff. Even more impressed how many of the staff have blogs already set up. I've spent the last hour just cruising teacher very cool.

It was truly my honor to be able to talk to your staff on the first day of school. I'm excited to see the projects that come out of Chets Creek.

Know that I'm here to support how ever I can from half way around the world.

Have a great year!