Three Things I Learned from Last Week’s GAFE Summit

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Our district is transitioning to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) next year, and ours will be the first elementary school to go one-to-one with Chromebooks, so when I was offered an opportunity to attend the GAFE Summit in Charleston last week I accepted immediately.  I was already a Docs and Slides user, and like most people I’ve played around with Google Earth and Maps, but that was about the extent of my experience with using Google tools.  My world was about to be seriously rocked.

In nearly every session I attended, I was introduced to Google apps and extensions that were designed to facilitate teaching and learning, or enhance productivity.  As someone who enjoys trying out new ways of doing things, I was entranced by the options shared by the presenters for everything from collaborating to screencasting to assessing student understanding to flipping the classroom.  And if you’ve never seen a Google Demo Slam, check out this video of one that took place via Google Hangouts in January 2015.

GAFE Demo Slam

Chris Craft opens the Google Demo Slam at the 2015 Charleston Google Apps for Education Summit.

Over the next week or two I’ll be posting specific ideas for using Google in my school library next year, but for now I’ll leave you with my three big takeaways from the summit.

  1. Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and incredibly generous with their tips and tutorials.  I have to give a grateful shout-out to the following GCTs who led some of the sessions I attended, and I urge you to click on these names and check out their resource pages: Kimberley Hall, Juan De Luca, Jesse Lubinsky, Adam Seipel, and Jim Sill.  You can also follow them on Twitter, and while you’re at it go ahead and follow the #GAFESummit hashtag for daily nuggets of Google-y goodness from these and other GCTs.
  2. There are MAJOR advantages to having all your resources stored in the cloud.  Many’s the time I’ve wanted to work on something at home but my files were stored at work, or vice-versa.  And many’s the time I’ve misplaced my flashdrive, or not had it with me when I needed it.  Google Drive (free, with unlimited storage for GAFE domains) makes it easy to store and access everything I’m working on in one place.  And if that’s a big deal for me — a responsible adult who has had practice with working online and saving files — it’s an even bigger deal for inexperienced students.  And by the way, the “Recent” button in Google Drive comes in handy if you’re not sure which Drive folder you just saved to.
  3. The ever-evolving nature of technology means that being able to integrate it into the classroom isn’t just a skill set anymore, it has to be a mindset.  We educators need to shift our thinking enough to see ourselves as learners as well as teachers, and be willing to figure out how to use unfamiliar tech tools right along with our students.  (Sometimes they may even lead the way!)  It can be hard to give up the sense of confidence and control that comes with sticking to the familiar, but when we take a risk we often we gain much more than we lose.

If you’re using Google Apps for Education, I’d love to connect with you!  Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune


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