“Only 35% of our high school students across the nation report they are engaged in their schooling. I help schools and communities understand how to engage this generation of learners who are growing up in a ‘learn in the moment’ culture.”
Jeff Utecht is an educational technology consultant, educator, and author. In 2001, he was the recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates Grant called the Technology Leadership Program. Jeff has started numerous businesses aimed at helping educators teach in a new connected world.
This February, Jeff will present at AcceleratED 2018, OETC’s one-day professional development conference focused on technology integration strategies for education administrators.
In anticipation of this event, we conducted a brief personal interview with Jeff. Our conversation is lightly edited for clarity. Read the interview below!
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m a Washington State Educator turned educational technology consultant. I started consulting in 2009 and made the jump to full-time consulting in 2012. In 2014 I partnered with colleagues to start Eduro Learning, a professional development company that supports schools, teachers, and parents in understanding students today and how we must change the way we educate this generation.
According to a 2016 poll, only 35% of our high school students across the nation report they are engaged in their schooling. We help schools and communities understand how to engage this generation of learners who are growing up in a “learn in the moment” culture. If you want to hear my full educational journey, you can check out my podcast Shifting Our Schools episode 31, where I lay out how I got where I am today.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is teaching. I love working with educators around the globe. Just like when I taught my 4th graders, I get excited when I see that light bulb come on; when they take something they have learned in the training and use it to engage students in a different way. I recently had one teacher tell me he tried some of the techniques for engaging students that we discussed, not thinking they would work, but found that test scores on the end of the unit test were at an all-time high. It’s that kind of impact that makes me love what I do.
What are your technology “must-haves”—the technology (hardware, software—whatever falls into your definition of the category) that you could not get through the day without?
- My Android Phone (Pixel 2 XL): It’s my life! However, I keep all sound, alarms, and notifications turned off. I check my phone enough in a day without it constantly telling me to.
- G Suites: We run a global company with partners around the world. G Suites truly allows us to work 24/7.
- Slack and Asana: We use Slack as a company to communicate. I would say we use Slack more than we use email. We have different channels for the different projects we are working on. Asana is a project/to-do list tool that allows us all to see where we are in completing tasks that lead to the completion of projects. Two great tools that I’ve also seen used in project/inquiry based classrooms as well.
- MacBook Pro: My work horse; I use it for podcasting, writing, and presenting. I try to make my computers last four years and have had great success with Macs that way.
How did technology affect your own education? Is there anything you miss about technology at that time?
I’m of the generation that was the transition from typewriters to computers. In my typing class in high school, we learned to type both on typewriters and computers. Because I knew how to type and could type about 100 words per minute in college, I would type up all my friends’ papers for them for $25. This gave me some spending money in college.
If there is a technology I miss, it is the dot matrix printer. At least when it broke you could fix it. Unlike printers today that if they break you just buy a new one. In college my wife’s printer broke at 3am when she was trying to print a paper due that day (it was college, of course it was 3am). My roommate and I were able to take it apart, fix it and put it back together and get her paper printed before sunrise.
What is your hope for the future of technology in education?
My hope is not for the future of technology in education, but the future of education and what it means to be educated today. Technology allows us to teach and learn differently. Outside of the walls of our schools we all, as a society, have made the switch. We learn in the moment. We learn to cook, clean, fix, a new skill, or a new idea when we want to and when we’re ready. We live in a world that you learn “the moment you want to learn.”
However, our education system still runs on a “just in case” learning model. We try and teach you everything you might need to know in life “just in case” you need it someday. If I was a student today, you better believe I’d be disengaged with that model of learning as well. Technology allows us, is forcing us really, to think differently. When I have a social studies teacher tell me he bans laptops in his room because the students are fact-checking him while he talks, we have a problem. We should be encouraging this type of thinking, not forbidding it!
If you could go out for coffee with anyone—historical or contemporary, real or fictional, celebrity or unknown—who would it be?
Hands down John Dewey and Thomas Jefferson.
John Dewey to bounce ideas off of and listen to every word he has to say about education. I believe that technology has allowed us to full embrace his ideas of education.
Thomas Jefferson took risks, explored, always wanted to know more and pushed us as a country to want to know more. An incredible thinker, engineer, leader and risk-taker.
To hear more of Jeff Utecht’s thoughts on education technology, register for AcceleratED 2018, OETC’s one-day professional development conference focused on technology integration strategies for education administrators.