Monday, April 7, 2014

Learning and Leading: My Experience at the EdTech Team Ontario Summit Featuring Google For Education

This weekend I attended the Google for Education Ontario Summit here in Kitchener. I can describe it using one word: AWESOME. My time was spent 1) meeting people who are part of my professional learning on Social Media (Twitter and Google +), 2) catching up with people I already know, 3) learning new ways of using GAFE to benefit my practice and the achievement of my students, and 4) sharing the learning journey that my students and I have been on. 

It is so great to connect with people who have impacted me personally and professionally in one way or another. If it weren't for my learning networks on Twitter and Google + I would have missed out on connecting with such passionate and innovative educators who are on the same path as myself - to grow in knowledge and skill to impact the staff and students that surround them. Surrounded by +Ferdinand Krauss+Jonathan So+Scott Monahan+Helder Tavares+Tanya Avrith+Julie Millan+Sylvia Duckworth+Michelle Booth+Joe Sisco+Molly Schroeder+Michael Wacker, +Michelle Cordy, and many others - I was in excellent company and took advantage of the experience.

Here is a great example of one of the many tweets that demonstrates the care and collegiality of the people that I have met and that I hope my colleagues will meet:

Sylvia Duckworth - Google Certified Teacher from Toronto
The learning was great - but the sharing was fun and worthwhile as well. It felt so good to give back to the community that has given so much to me. +Ferdinand Krauss and I co-presented "Key Strategies for the Successful Implementation of Chromebooks & Google Apps for Education in Your School Board". Ferdinand did a wonderful job of taking people through the work that goes into making sure things are in place and set up for teachers and students to be able to use the technology and digital resources seamlessly. I shared the work my grade 2 students and I have been able to do because of ALL the work that happens outside of the schools and classrooms. Here is the link to the presentation:

Photo of Ferdinand starting the presentation.
After a couple of sessions it was my turn but this time I wasn't with Ferdinand, I had one of my students join me to present "Getting Going with Student use of Google Apps for Education: Chromebooks in the Hands of Grade 2 Students". We took people through our blended learning journey. We demonstrated how the technology and the apps have provided the grade 2's with opportunities to blend their learning and become more creative and collaborative. We talked about how we eased into the Google suite of apps in order to benefit my professional practice and student achievement. We provided examples of how students have used Documents, Draw, Form, Spreadsheet, and Presentation to demonstrate the innovation and excitement that Google apps can bring to any class. It was such an honour to be able to speak about our experience and I am grateful that my student and her parents joined us and were so open to the idea. Here is the link to my presentation:

About to start! Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

One of my students and I presenting. Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

People attending the presentation. Photo taken by +Julie Millan 
I had many people talk to me before (anticipation) and after (eyes wide open to what can be accomplished) about my presentation. There was a lot of curiosity about how GAFE and the technology could be used with such young children. These people were definitely curios and interested, but were unsure and a little scared about how to start it up and what it might look like. I too was scared when I started - and still to this day I am frightened by the unknown but I know that on the other side of my fear is success. Whether the outcome is or isn't what I expect, there is learning to be had and the learning and iteration is what builds us up and allows us to continue to try new things and share our experiences. 

I was honoured to have +Julie Millan (Google Certified Teacher - Toronto District School Board) attend my session. I was happy to have her join us because she was included in my presentation and I wanted her to hear about the influence her work had on me and my practice. It was her presentation in October 2013 at the ECOO conference that really motivated me to get going with GAFE. She would be presenting "Examine the Power of Google Apps throughout the Inquiry Process" on Day 2 of the Summit and I was looking forward to learning more from her.

On Day 2 of the Summit I learned that I wasn't going to be able to physically make it to Julie's session. I had to settle for the tweets and G+ posts that would be made public for people to attend in a 'virtual' format. As time was drawing near to her presentation I learned that it would be streamed via Google Hangout and I would get to attend without actually being in the classroom with her and the other participants! Talk about icing on the cake. I was still going to see and be part of the presentation because of people like +Julie Millan and +Scott Monahan (who I believe had something to do with the technical aspects of the Hangout). 

Part of Julie's presentation
Julie had told me that she would be referencing me in her presentation but I was unsure of the details. It was great to see that she was sharing my reaction and subsequent experiences because of her presentation in the Fall. She spoke about the importance of sharing our learning and experiences so that others can benefit and do the same in turn. If we make this part of our practice than others can benefit and then they can benefit others. The sharing grows and ultimately we all build capacity around our interests - ultimately benefiting the students in our classrooms that will lead our world. It was a great message to provide her audience before she talked about Inquiry and GAFE.

My excitement got the better of me. Thank you Heather for tweeting me back and to Scott for letting Julie know that I was watching.
Julie during her presentation.
When I wasn't presenting and connecting with other motivated educators I was learning about Google Forms, Google Draw, Flipping a Classroom via GAFE, Chrome tips/tricks, and the power of Technology and GAFE to enable students to create, collaborate, communicate, innovate, and lead. There is something for everyone - beginner to advanced level presentations on many topics. More often than not, the major problem at these conferences is that you can't physically be at more than one session at a time!!

As my School Board continues to implement the deployment of Chromebooks and GAFE across our system, there is no doubt in my mind that my colleagues and their students will soon experience the increase in capacity, engagement, and achievement for all involved. I look forward to having many more of my colleagues join me at future Google for Education Summits to connect with others, share our learning, as well as acquire new learning that we will bring back to our system.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tweet me, connect via Google +, send me an email, and/or comment below. 

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