In January, I challenged myself to apply to present at local conferences and summits. As I’ve mentioned before, this was entirely outside of my comfort zone but it was a challenge that I felt would help me to grow as an individual and as an educator. Nearly five months later, I have had the opportunity to present at three EdTechTeam Summits and will be presenting at other conferences throughout the year.
Although challenging myself was a big reason for presenting at summits, I have to admit that there is another, somewhat selfish, reason. By presenting at an EdTechTeam Summit (and other conferences, as well) the presenter is offered free registration to attend the event. That’s right – free professional development. Free. Being the major education nerd that I am, I jumped on the chance to present because I could attend more summits and continue to be inspired and challenged as an educator. Even though I have attended 4 summits during this school year, I am always amazed at how much I can learn and bring back to use in my classroom and to share with other teachers at my site.
The Riverside Summit was no exception to this idea. As the summit wrapped up, my mind was filled with new ideas to bring back to my students and my site. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated by the amount of things that you can learn, so I try to find five things that I can takeaway from each event. Does this mean I will try all of these ideas in the first week that I return from a summit? Not necessarily. Thankfully, Google Keep is an excellent place to store many ideas and resources to use at a later date.
My Five Takeaways from the Riverside Summit
1.) Google Shared Photo Albums
During the Google Innovator Academy and the Riverside Summit, all of the attendees were invited to join a shared Google Photo Album and post pictures and videos to the album. It’s such a simple idea but an amazing resource for collaborating and sharing photos. At these events, it is not possible to see all of the amazing things that are occurring at every moment. However, if you have dozens of individuals uploading photos from the sessions and/or activities in which they are participating, it is amazing how every attendee can easily have photos to view at a later date. Although this is a great way to use Google Photos, there are also many ways that this tool can be used in the classroom.
The Google Photos session was presented by Ken Shelton, who did an excellent job of focusing on the pedagogy behind the technology. Yes, it was really great to see how easy it was to upload photos to the album. Yes, it was really exciting to learn how to create animations. The bigger question, though, is this: How is it good for students? How does it engage them and challenge them in their lear
ning process? One of his examples included an animation that was created by taking a picture of a tree every day of the school year and using it as a way to facilitate conversation about science. A simple concept but an excellent way to create conversation, implement a year long project, and use 21st century tools.
For myself, I have so many ideas of how I could use this in the classroom but I will try to limit it to one. Recently, my students participated in an Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt. In this activity, students were asked to take pictures of shapes in the real world, as well as calculate the area and perimeter of these shapes. By using Google Photos, students could easily share the shapes that they found with other students and maybe even create an animation of all the shapes that they found. Many of my students struggled to find certain shapes but, by viewing the photos of other students, they might be able to find these shapes after a little inspiration. I could see this being a great way to spark conversation and challenge students to find more shapes that exist in the real world.
Smashboard is a gamified, problem-based learning experience developed by Dee Lanier as part of his Google Innovator project. I was introduced to Smashboard several weeks ago while I was developing a BreakoutEDU. My BreakoutEDU aligned with Dee’s idea of Smashboard, so I immediately started playing around with building a project that incorporated Smashboard and HyperDocs. Through his help, I was able to refine a Statistical Research Project I had developed and focus on creating something that was appealing to students but, at the same time, challenged them to reach higher levels of thinking.
As with the previous sessions, the focus was not just on using technology but the pedagogy. It is clear that the pedagogy, not the technology, is the main focus for students when it comes to utilizing Smashboard. One of the things that I really took away from this session was the idea of how I could start weaving design thinking into future Smashboards, lesson, HyperDocs, etc. While attending the Google Innovator Academy, the idea of using design thinking in my classes was brought to my mind but I was impressed with how Smashboards pieced these concepts together in a user-friendly way for students.
In addition to this, I am also really excited to have my students try out the “app smashing” concept, where they will take multiple apps to showcase their work. Instead of just a Google Slide or Powtoon, students can use the “digi-dice” to be introduced to a variety of tools and challenged to create a piece of work that shows their learning.
3.) Digital Literacy with Google Docs
Digital literacy is such an important conversation that schools need to be having in their classrooms. As I mentioned before, it is not just about using technology but how are we using to make a positive impact on the student learning process. What is the pedagogy behind the technology?
I have had the opportunity to attend several of Alice Chen’s sessions over the last few months. As a math teacher, I have been trying to find more ways to bring literacy into my math classroom. Students need more opportunities in math to discuss concepts, explore vocabulary, and evaluate the ideas of other students. By attending Alice’s sessions, I have been able to gather some great ideas to bring more literacy into my classroom, particularly, digital literacy.
In this session, my big takeaway was the idea of having student annotate together via Google Docs by using the comment feature. As participants, we participated in this process by going through the Gettysburg Address. (Click HERE to view.) Using the 1-2-3 commenting technique in Google Docs was an idea I was able to immediately take back to my classroom. The next day, I had my students use this process to annotate and edit each other’s Statistical Research Projects. Not only did the students enjoy this process but they were also able to read other projects, suggest edits, and see ways to improve their own projects.
Equatio is a new extension by Text Help that is AMAZING. It is a must for any Math teacher. Basically, it is new the and improved g(Math) – just one hundred times better. Although you are only able to use it for 30 days for free, I could definitely see myself purchasing this tool. It is so easy to create expressions and equations in this extension by typing, writing, or even speaking. As a teacher, it is very useful but, given a few more years, I could see Equatio being the tool that helps bring the math classroom paperless. It will be interesting to see where this extension is headed over the next few years.
5.) Google Earth
Google Earth is now available for the Chrome browser. Users no longer need to download it to their computer but can use it from any device. Through this tool, students could tour places all over the world, participate in global scavenger hunts, create tours, or use the voyager option to learn more about these places. Again, there are so many possibilities of ways that teachers can use this in classroom!
Hopefully, you find some of these tools to be just as useful and exciting as I did. I would love to hear of all of the creative ways others are using these tools in the comments below!