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Session Notes: EdTechTeam’s Western Pennsylvania Summit Featuring Google Apps for Education

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Jessica Weidman
Jessica Weidman

 

by Jessica Weidman

As summer began to unfold, I had the exciting opportunity to attend the EdTechTeam’s 1st Annual Western Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google Apps for Education at Montour High School just outside of Pittsburgh. The summit was a two-day, high energy, multi-session event diving into the incredible features Google Apps for Education (GAFE) has to offer. The goal of the summit was to provide educators with the tools they need to empower students to succeed in a 21st Century learning environment. Sessions were designed for beginner to expert users, were fast-paced, and focused on launching, managing, integrating, and utilizing Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools. They also included information on Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Chrome, Add-Ons, Extensions, Tools, Labs, and new features. The speakers, which included Google Certified Trainers, were very knowledgeable, energetic, and creative.

In the opening Keynote address, Capes Not Required, Jesse Lubinsky, Director of Technology at Irvington Union Free School District, discussed how to encourage passion in our students, help them embrace failure and the growth it can bring, and honor student individuality. Our students can do amazing things, if we give them the tools and guidance to do so. He also mentioned that his school has an innovation fund that fosters student leadership, creativity, and school improvement. Students present their school innovation ideas to a panel, and are awarded funds to carry out their plan. This sounds like a great way to cultivate creativity, passion, and innovation in our students!

While ALL of the sessions I attended were informative and highly useful, 10 Ways to Use Google Forms to Change Your Classroom, highlighted the amazing things you can do with Forms. Forms, which is not just for quizzes, can be used to create a sign-up sheet, getting to know you activity, writing prompt, contact information sheet, opinion poll, and questionnaire. Another neat feature that was discussed in the session is the Add-On Flubaroo. It can be used in conjunction with Google Forms and Sheets to instantly grade an assignment, giving teachers and students immediate feedback.

On Day 2, after the inspirational, opening keynote session, I had a discussion with the presenter, Ken Shelton that really stuck with me. I told him that sometimes it is discouraging trying to ‘keep up’ with technology. He pointed out that we can’t possibly keep up with it. We have to keep in mind that just because something is the newest, doesn’t mean it is the best tool to use in teaching. When we find a technology tool that helps us teach better, we should use it. However, we don’t have to jump to the newest thing, if it does not improve teaching and learning. His key point was this thought. We need to use strong technology tools when educating our students in order to teach to their future, not our past. I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I work on my plans for the coming school year.

When asked about this summit, I told a colleague that I thought I knew Google, but I learned so much more than I expected to and had a great time in the process. What I really appreciated about the sessions, was that each one focused on a specific aspect of a Google feature, and the presenters provided clear instructions on practical applications that I can take back to my school and use immediately. I use various Google features every day, but I was amazed at the things Google can do that most people are not aware of. For example, the Omnibox, the search bar at the top of the Chrome window, can do so much more than simply performing a Google search or going to a website. It can also be used to search your Google Drive or Gmail, make calculations and conversions, define a word, add information to your Google calendar, set a timer, and more!

The summit far exceeded my wildest expectations! The energy, excitement, and amount of useful information I gathered made my head spin! I left with so many useful ideas that I can implement this coming year. If your school has moved to GAFE, or is considering it, I would highly recommend attending one of the EdTechTeam GAFE Summits. To learn more about these summits, please visit: www.edtechteam.com

Jessica Weidman
Librarian
Bale Eagle Area Middle / High School
Bald Eagle Area School District
751 S. Eagle Valley Road
Wingate, PA 16823

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