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Posted by on in Education Leadership

How do you normally feel after attending an all day conference or summit? Exhausted both mentally and physically? Sluggish? Overwhelmed? Funny thing happened to myself and two of my colleagues after attending a recent all day summit at Google in Pittsburgh called "Be Internet Awesome." We weren't exhausted mentally or physically. We weren't sluggish. And we weren't overwhelmed. In fact, it was the quite the opposite. We felt refreshed, energized, and full of thought and discussion. 

So how did Google do this? How did they create an all day summit that was just right and left the attendees leaving refreshed, energized, full of thought and discussion? I have been wondering this since the summit and how to take Google's format back to future faculty meetings, in-services, and other conferences/summits. 

Here are my thoughts about how the Google Summit on Digital Safety & Citizenship left those in attendance feeling anything but exhausted:

Comfort

Right from the start, our hosts were concerned with our comfort. This sent a clear message right away that they cared about us. Our Google hosts also invited us to get up and move around any time we needed to. We were told we could sit in back on couches or on floor against wall if we wanted. The choice was ours. Food was in the back we were welcome to any time we wanted, as well. In addition to food, they had music playing in the background that provided an upbeat feel. Finally, everyone, including our Google hosts were dressed comfortably. 

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Posted by on in Education Technology
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One of my colleagues recently got the position in a new school. This got me thinking, in a school with no prior practices and protocols, how could something like Google Apps for Education help:

Sharing Work

On a basic level, Google Apps provides an easy way for students to share work. As I have written about before, Google takes away the problem of collecting all the workbooks on a Friday afternoon, only to find that the one student whose work you were desperate to check has failed to hand their book in. In addition to this, students are then able to share and collaborate with each other. In support of this, platforms such as Google Classroom, Google Vault and Hapara allow you to streamline the process even more by providing teachers with the means of keeping track of work even easier.

Formative and Summative Feedback

Another benefit of staff and students working with Google is ability to engage with multiple points of feedback. In my experience, students often receive feedback and have little means of following up. Using comments in Google not only allows you to provide more timely feedback, but it also means that students can easily follow up with any questions that they may have in response. In addition to comments, Google Forms provides a powerful means of checking in with staff, students and parents on any number of topics. For more ideas, see Anthony Speranza's presentation.

Curriculum Planners

One of the common problems associated with curriculum planners is who has the most up to date copy. In the past, such documents have been housed on school share drives, while the modern trend has been to move them to clouds sites like Dropbox. Although both of these solutions work, they restrict collaboration (I don't count five teachers sitting at an interactive whiteboard as collaborative.) Sharing documents and assessment trackers with Google not only means that anyone can properly collaborate during planning, but it also means that people can add further comments at a later stage. This subsequently allows such documents to live and breathe, rather than be static creations lost in time.

Curating Resources

Whatever the purpose, whether it be booking resources, broadcasting daily absences, providing a repository for various resources, such as forward planning documents, or simply providing a central collection point for curriculum and assessment documents, Sites provides the means for connecting everything together. The best thing is that such spaces are completely open to make it what you want. You could have a whole school space or just a space for a specific class. The choice is yours.

Portfolios

Whether it be embedding a range of media within Sites or putting different pieces of work in Slides, Google offers a range of ways to easily create learning portfolios. What is also great is that staff and students can add comments or content to them at any time. For more ideas, Anthony Speranza's presentation.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

Google Classroom is designed to help teachers and students communicate and collaborate, manage assignments paperlessly, and stay organized. This robust application is a must for teachers using Google Apps with their students, and allows them to focus more on teaching and less on “teching.” Google has also created the Share to Classroom Chrome extension that brings, even more, time-saving features to the classroom.

In case you didn’t know, Google Classroom works best inside the Google Chrome browser. Using Chrome ensures you have access to all of the features of Google Classroom, including Chrome extensions that are made exclusively for teachers and students.

What is Share to Classroom?

The Share to Classroom Chrome extension helps teachers get their entire class to the same web page instantly! The teacher and all students will each need to install the extension from the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, the extension gives teachers the ability to “push” web links to each student (that also has the extension installed). This tool is great for on-the-fly sharing with your class during whole group teaching and learning. Students can also send links to the teacher. Oh, and this extension also lets teachers quickly add links to their Google Classroom announcements and assignments.

How to Use the Share to Classroom Extension

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Posted by on in School Culture

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In 1924, esteemed cultural observer and journalist H. L. Mencken offered this critique: “The aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States... and that is its aim everywhere else.”

Ninety years later, with an ever-increasing emphasis on state-mandated curricula and high-stakes testing, little has changed. Outlier schools exist, but in my assessment, not nearly enough to shift how we educate most of our nation’s youth. It boggles the mind that as the world continues to change at a furious pace—in too many ways to count—the way we educate has evolved at a snail’s pace . . . and that’s probably being kind.

In a flattened world economy that craves creativity and risk-taking, our education system continues to embrace standardization and playing it safe. I’m not blind to the pitfalls of big business, and I’m sickened by the greed and graft on Wall Street. All the same, I’m awed by the creativity and boldness of companies like Google, Apple, Uber, Facebook, and Amazon. For all of their missteps and misdeeds (and there are many), I know I can safely bet that successes didn’t come from conducting business as it was done in 1924.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

School is an adventure. We never know what we may encounter on any given day. Our adventure is filled with twists and turns, open roads and newly created paths. With any journey, we must plan what we want to see, always knowing that we may need to venture down a new path.

 

At the beginning of this school year, I told my staff that we were on an adventure. Our adventure would have a plan, a destination of learning, but how we got there would depend on the many twists and turns we came across. We might need to forge a new road, or continue down one we have been before. At our district professional development day, a new path was built by all.

 

The plan of learning is always to grow, create, and inquire. On this day, our path would be digital, where creation and growth were the main focus. Our district was on a blended learning journey, taking our teachers and news to new heights, propelling us forward in order to learn more about blended learning, the power it can hold within our classrooms, and how we get there together.

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