Author: Michael Hakkarinen

Michael Hakkarinen specializes in helping teachers engage students in the classroom with technology such as Mac Tools, Google Apps for Educators, iPads and more. He earned a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Master’s in Elementary Education at Mount Saint Mary’s University, where he also taught Instructional Technology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He was a Technology Resource Teacher in Frederick County, Maryland, where he taught elementary school, and an EdTech for Canyons School District in Utah before joining the UEN PD team in 2014. He currently serves as President of the UCET Board.

Tminus 10 Days Until #ucet17; Are #ucet4success ???

The conference is less than a month away but you still have time to register for the best two days of EdTechPD available west of the Uintas!  

Presentations have been reviewed, acceptance notifications sent out, and the schedule posted online so you can go in and pick out which sessions, workshops, ignite sessions, over the shoulders, and playground events you’d like to attend.  Wow!  That’s going to be tough.  With so much to choose from how can you pick out exactly what you want to see in just two short days?

No need to stress, because this year you can follow along with everything happening at #UCET17 with the “Crowd Compass” app for easy scheduling and of course our trusted Twitter feed will be streaming non-stop info at a feverish pace.  There are a few things, however, that you simply can’t miss.  Here’s a chronological list of the “Must See’s” for #UCET17.

  7:30 AM – Registration Opens and the “Mixed Nuts” will be performing live music in the Student Union Ballroom
  Get there early so you don’t miss the action!
  8:30 AM – #UCET17 Openning Ceremony and Awards

  8:45 AM – Alice Keeler Keynote in the Ballroom
                   "Gamification In The Classroom"

  11:30 AM – Lunch is served and Travis Allen Keynote in the Ballroom
                     "Becoming A Lifelong Learner"

FRIDAY, March 17th, 2017

  7:30 AM – Registration Opens and the “Country Jim Fish” will be performing live music in the Student Union Ballroom|
  Get there early and wear your cowboy boots if you’ve got ‘em.
  8:30 AM – #UCET17 Day 2 Kick Off

  9:00 AM – Steph Davis Keynote in the Ballroom
                      "Learning To Fly: Lessons From the Air"

  3:30 PM – #UCET17 Closing Session & Prizes!

For the Love of the Tech

Remember the LiveScribe Pen?  That was a great tool.  For about a year, and then it was an expensive fad.  What about SmartBoards?  Or did you prefer Promethean ActivBoards?  Epson BrightLink?  Maybe you were the first teacher in your school to get an iPad?  You probably felt like the coolest teacher in the school.  For about a year.  And then the iPad2 came out with dual cameras, a faster processor, and a nicer body shape that was both lighter and easier to carry around.

As new technology comes out it’s easy to fall in love with a new gadget, device, or piece of software.  The problem with this industry, however, is that a new item seems to become available every 15-20 seconds.  From MacBooks to MacBook Airs to MacBook Pros to MacBook Woes, you’re lucky to have the “new thing” for an entire calendar year.  

The problem with these fickle waves of technological advancements is that we sometimes go a step farther than falling in love with a new device.  Sometimes we get married to it.  This is exceptionally dangerous in our dynamic fast paced work place.  It’s not uncommon to see arguments break out between EdTechs that prefer Smart Notebook to Promethean ActivInspire.  Support specialists are quick to judge users in their school by whether they have a Droid phone or an iPhone.  iPhone User!?!?  Ever heard this – “You must be an “Apple Fan Boy”, I can’t help you, you’re a Mac User, you don’t think like me.”

These divisive forces can quickly tear apart a team of educators.

So how do we keep an open mind about all the possibilities that exist to help us do our jobs?  How do we balance “falling love” with “making an informed decision” as we select technology for our schools?  

The answer is in our questions.  As we look at the technology that is being purchased for schools we need to consider three specific “ingredients” to ensuring it’s success. Conveniently, these ingredients come in “cans” –

  1. Can the current infrastructure support this

  2. Can we afford to maintain this item?

  3. Can the item connect to curriculum.

The reality, however, is that unlike with marriage, there is rarely one simple answer.  Instead, we may have to look at more than one device.  An iPad, for example, is an excellent device for our younger students in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and grades 1-2.  But when a student starts more complex writing activities and doing more online research it might be time for a Chromebook.  And then, when the third-sixth graders move on to secondary schools they may need more robust machines like Windows based laptops or MacBooks.

To make matters, worse, if the support structures like a strong wifi network and ample funding for professional development aren’t in place then there’s pretty much no chance of any money spent on buying technology having any positive impact on student learning what so ever.

The only magic answer is this – be open.  Be open to trying new things.  Be open to thinking outside of the box with technology.  Be open to working with other school districts who may have had experiences beyond your scope.  Be open to sharing.  Be open to listening.

Listen to your administrators, curriculum specialists, teachers, special education teachers, and most importantly – listen to the students.


Early Adopters

A colleague of mine back in Frederick County, Maryland just published an interesting article in EdSurge and I would like to encourage all of the UCET Blog followers to read it as well.

dr-cuppettDr. Kevin Cuppett is now the Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Innovation for the Frederick County Public School System, but when I worked with him as a Technology Resource Teacher he was Principal of Carroll Manor Elementary.  CMES had just been renovated and had a new classroom wing added on to the building. Part of this renovation included the purchasing of a Promethean ActivBoard for each instructional area.  Teachers were excited, intimidated, nervous, and anxious to use these new interactive whiteboards with their students.  

Dr. Cuppett and I met over the summer to discuss the best way to insure all teachers had an opportunity to feel comfortable and confident with the new devices, but avoid any sense of pressure on the staff or setting unrealistic expectations.  An afterschool class was planned for one day a week, every other week, for a total of 15 hours of direct instruction and support learning to use the ActivBoards and corresponding ActivInspire software.  About a dozen of the 40+ faculty and staff members with Promethean Boards signed up for the class and were well on their way to integrating the interactive whiteboards into daily instruction by the end of the first couple months of school.  

cmes-prometheanLater in the year we repeated the class for another group of teachers, and in the second year we had a third round of the beginner class as well as several sessions of a course running for advanced users.  It was a simple case of providing support for the "early adopters" on staff at CMES that created a sense of momentum and support among the staff.  Within two years the entire staff was not only using the Promethean Boards but also creating new and innovative activities for students.

The following article expands on this culture of change and innovation the develops when you "view teachers as consumers" and "promote rapid adoption by design" for an entire school district.  I hope you enjoy the read and take a minute to think about how innovation happens in your district, school, or classroom.  Are you allowing the innovators and early adopters to define professional development in your learning community?

To learn more read Frederick County’s Call to Administrators: Focus on the “Innovator” and “Early Adopter” Teachers, First by Dr. Kevin Cuppett.

You can follow Dr. Cuppett on Twitter at 

Who Needs To Be “Digitally Literate”?

Students? Parents? Teachers? Administrators?


But which of the people listed above do you think is the least "literate" with digital resources and technology?

If you said "administrators" you might be right, and I wish you weren't. The oldest members of our learning communities are understandably usually the least literate with the newest technology and digital tools for teaching and learning. Being the most experienced in education understandably comes with time. This means the most experienced and oldest educators are more likely to find themselves in administrative roles. There's nothing wrong with that. This blog is not intended to say that there's a problem with older educators running schools, districts, and even state organizations.

Who would you say is the most digitally literate in our school communities?  Probably the students.  Maybe the youngest teachers?  Either way it's the people who have spend the greatest portion of their literate lives in a digital environment. By default this would be our youngest community members.  They're the most digitally literate, but also the least experienced.  Could this be a bigger problem?

As President of UCET, an organization set up by educators to support the use of educational technology, it's hard to believe that I'm going to say this, but the problem is a combination of both. The problem is that the people with the least amount of experience or understanding of how to best use technology are deciding on how millions of dollars are being spent on the people who are the most tech savvy. As a result, millions of dollars are being wasted on educational technology.

pc-kids-on-computersThis needs to stop, and I have a simple solution.

Before you write a grant, allocate money towards buying equipment, or make any plans to implement a new piece of software or subscribe to an expensive online service…. talk to the students. The students are the ones we are preparing for a world full of technology. They are the reason each of us became an educator. And more importantly, there's a very strong chance that they know more about the devices, websites, and services than we give them credit for!

Unless we are willing to spend the time with students to find out what they need, and spend the money helping teachers learn how to use the technology correctly, then there is no point in spending any money at all on devices that won't get used but will get outdated.

To find more information about "Digital Literacy", check out

Let's stop spending money on technology, and start spending money on students.

#UTEdChat Questions for 10/5 – Get Your Head Out Of Your Apps

This week UEN PD Instructional Technology Teacher Specialist Michael Hakkarinen (@EdTecHakk) will lead a discussion about your favorite educational apps for iOS, Android, and ChromeOS. During the hour you'll be invited to answer the questions below, share links to your favorite mobile resources, and ask questions yourselves to learn more about what teachers are using. If you haven't already followed Michael on Twitter (@EdTecHakk) you should probably do so because it will help you to better follow the chat. 

As always, please be sure to include #UTedChat in your responses so everyone participating can see your thoughts and ideas.

Q1: Let's start with "note taking" apps – what is your favorite?  Notes?  Evernote? Google Docs? Google Keep? Share your favorites.

Q2: If you like Twitter, you'll love TweetDeck – what's your favorite Twitter app?

Q3: When it comes to managing projects and "to do" lists there are lot to choose from.  What's your favorite Project Management app?

Q4: Classroom management is a huge task. Do you use an app to monitor behavior and student progress? Share your recommendations.

Q5: Let’s get our Google on and talk about Chrome for a minute – what’s your favorite extension?

Q6: Enough work talk, let’s get down to business. What’s your favorite app for finding good food?

You can follow Michael on Twitter at @EdTecHakk.

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