Monday, 13 April 2015

My Weekend with "The Google"

I am going to apologize up front for the length of this post but I had an "a-ha" moment this weekend. Well, not really an "a-ha" moment that we speak of that we want to see in our students but more of a "Holy crap, this is AWESOME" sort of moment this past weekend when I attended the 3rd Google Apps for Education(also known as GAfE for those in the know) summit in Kitchener, Ontario. I will tell you if you get a chance to ever attend it is a MUST!

I have to admit at first when I first sat down with someone and had a chat about GAfE outside of a school setting I told her that she was crazy. I said "it's a fad and will be out the door before it even gets going" Well here I am swallowing the proverbial crow. Sorry Secondgradealicious you where right and I was wrong. GAfE is here to stay and I am so happy for it. Attending the summit this weekend I got a great chance to collaborate and speak with so many others around the province as to how effective this is and going to change the way we teach in the future.

The weekend started out in a high school gymnasium full of energy and excitement to learn. Either that or there was an excessive amount of coffee served before the show got started. Being at a teaching conference that is entirely possible. There was #hashtags flying around like snow on a January day in Ontario(last snow joke of the year). You could tell the day was going to rock.

Throughout the weekend I attended 8 jam packed sessions. Saturday, I had the privilege to sit in on sessions such as flipping the classroom with videos produced with EDpuzzle(check this site out. These guys are onto something). Then it was onto something that I've come accustomed to this year and that is using GAfE for students with exceptionalities. Part of my teaching role this year is in Special Education and having students use Chromebooks and GAfE to help them in their daily work. After lunch, did I mention the lunch? It was good. Isn't a free lunch always good though? We discussed the how to create interactive presentations through Google Slides. This one I was excited about because it was a great presentation to change the mundane presentations that we've all seen through our careers. I might even use it for staff meetings :). Finally, I attended a session on Google Classroom. Another program I've become quite familiar with as I've been using it for the past year and love it almost as much as my students do.

Saturday ended with a bang though with my first ever experience with a demo slam. If your ever asked to attend a demo slam say "YES". While my description might make you think " what" you need to go for yourself and make your own decision. It consisted of 12 Google "groupies" ok they where special instructors really, showing us their best demo of something fun in the span of three minutes. It introduced me to the world of youtubepure (its youtube, without the annoying ads about how you can become a super huge bodybuilder)
or how about "Let me Google that for you" a great site to pass along to all those people who see you using a computer or EdTech and saying "oh how do I do....." well this site is sort of cheeky way to say here this is how you do it.

Sunday, started out with the same level excitement as Saturday. Did I mention the excessive amount of coffee? The morning made me so excited because Kevin Brookhouser was the keynote speaker and he was amazing. I became sort of a fan-boy of this man and not in the crazy obsessive way. I've visited his site 15 times in the past two days, that's normal right? He talked about the need to tap into creating education for human consumption. Check out his 20time project. Amazing stuff! Oh 16 times now.

After listening to Kevin speak I wanted to learn how to better use another very cool tool in Google Forms. I was able to create a spreadsheet and form that automatically sent emails from me to parents of students and it kept track of all the details to have a full detailed history of all our communications. From there it was listening to an amazing teacher who is using GAfE in his grade 2 class. Yes, even grade 2 students are excelling with this amazing tool. Love it! From there it was back to the free lunch table. hmmmm free lunch. I also sat in a breakout meeting with some Google experts. Sort of like having lunch with the rock stars of the summit. After I spent two sessions on how to use Google to collaborate with other teachers not just in my school but around the world. YES the world, going global people! Talk about a great way to expose our students to things you can't learn in a text book. Bring the actual people into your classroom through Google Hangouts.

All in all it was an amazing weekend. I learned so much in just two days that I am so excited to introduce to my staff and classroom. Most of all I am excited to try it with those that matter most. My students! At the end of the weekend I sort of felt like this, but in a good way.

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