Monday, March 24, 2014

EdTech Team Arizona Summit - Featuring Google for Education - Part II

Day 2

Keynote - Monica Martinez
Day 2 started off with a keynote by Monica Martinez. She discussed how the development of the web has changed the world around us and how we access information. Here is a link to the presentation. She also talked about the amount of information that is available today via the Internet and how one of the most important skills we can teach students is how to access, analyze, and process this information. There has also been a change since the early days of the Internet. Today most information is generated by individuals who are sharing content. 

In school we use the Internet for completing reports which requires being able to learn efficient search techniques and the knowledge of databases and online encyclopedias. She led us in a competition using TodaysMeet by posting a question and asking us to answer the question by posting our answer as quickly as possible. I admit that I was really bad at this even though I think of myself as being fairly adept at locating information online. One tip she gave was using "*" when there is an unknown word in your search. For example if we wanted to know what Magellan spent more money on than weapons during his circumnavigation of the world we could type [Magellan spent more on * than weapons] to complete the search. Try it to find the answer.

Another tip is to complete simple calculations by simply typing them into the search bar on Google. Google will automatically bring up the calculator once you have entered the search. Simple, yet brilliant. For a complete training on becoming an expert searcher click the link.

Next she discussed how students are learning. It turns out that students are supplementing what they are learning in schools by using the Internet. We are no longer tasked with holding all information. It is my belief that to really help students we need to teach them how to collaborate, communicate, locate, synthesize and apply information. We need to help them "connect dots" rather than "collect dots." 

Next Monica reviewed the SMAR model and gave examples of what each part looks like in practice. Check out this video of a young man who is trying to acquire new information about a skill that he has tried to learn and failed repeatedly. This is a great example of how technology can allow students to learn in ways that were never possible before. Students can create a product and connect with experts in a particular field. This is also a great skill for teachers to have. We all create or own materials, lessons, activities, etc. We can now easily connect with experts (not only other educators, but those in other fields) to collaborate with on our creations. 

Finally, she shared this video about the power of technology. Really all we have to do is get out of the way of our students and facilitate their learning. 

After another wonderful keynote, it was time for more sessions and great information.

Session 1 - What is the next stop on your Google Apps Journey? Round table / Q&A Session - Peter Henrie (,
This was a bit out of my comfort zone as it was more technical than where my knowledge level is. I wanted to attend this session because I wanted to see if I could find out how to best advertise and make educators more aware of all the tools that Google Education can provide. Most of the attendees to this session were IT people and admin. The biggest take away for me was that going Google provides a lot of benefits for a lower cost. Every IT director in the room spoke to the advantages of Chromebooks and the ease of management compared to IPads. Peter was very helpful by allowing the participants to direct the session. He is very knowledgeable and was able to explain things so that even I could understand what he was talking about. 

Session 2 - Close Reading with Google Docs - Chris Bell (
Really pushing myself today. Math guy at a Close reading session. I learned a lot. Chris shared with us the process of using Google Docs and some of the ad-ons for completing Close Reading. He demonstrated how to find an article ( and save it as a Google Doc, showed how to use the research tool and dictionary tool and, best of all, TextHelp add on. This add-on allows you to collect highlighted words into a new Google Doc. This is a great tool for creating student vocabulary list, creating consensus maps, and a whole bunch of ELA concepts that are beyond my mathematical knowledge at this point. I can really see the value of doing this and wish that this had been around when I was in college. Really!!! Google Docs will create my bibliography as I complete my research within the document itself. Crazy Awesomeness! The ELA teachers in the room were super impressed and so was I.

Session 3 - Creating Formative Assessments with GAFE - Cherie Stafford (,
After a much needed brain break and lunch, Cherie presented creating formative assessments using Google for Education. This session was focused on making formative assessments through the use of Google. Cherie also stressed how the use of available tools can make formative assessment more authentic. One easy way to do this is to publish the completed project to a class web page. Many of the tools available from Google allow this to be done easily. Also, collaborating can be done and tracked easily. One idea that I like is having students create a list of resources on the class site for sharing. Another that I like is using Google drawing and have students label and explain parts of something, although I'm not sure this activity in itself is enough to make it authentic. To do this, it would have to be a part of some bigger project, but could be authentic if used as a part of some student project. 

Session 4 - Gearing Up: Project Based Learning to the Core with Google Apps for Education - Cori Araza (,
This was possibly my favorite session. least in the top 5. They were all awesome in their own way! Anyway - Mrs. Araza presented how she uses Google Docs in her classroom through project based learning. Here is a link to the presentation.  She leads a group called GenYES in which students become the IT experts for the district and provide technology pd to the teachers. The class is heavily dependent on the use of Google docs. One of her former students was also in attendance to share his insight into the use of Google as a tool for researching, collaborating, presenting, documenting and completing the assignments within the course. I was amazed at what the students are able to accomplish and take away from the class. This really is pbl in action. The other big take away I had is the process that she uses. She shared with us one of the assignments that students complete. It involves the student writing a professional email. The assignment begins by asking students to write a professional email. This is really all the guidance they receive. After they have done so, they are asked to complete a self-reflection based on a Rubric that she has created. The student completes the rubric along with their justification for grading. After the self-reflection the student is asked to write a second professional email which is submitted and put through the same rubric by the instructor. I thought that this was a very good match for what the Common Core standards ask students to be able to do and could be applied to a variety of content and topics. 

At this point my mind was saturated and it was off to the final key note speaker. 

Final key note - Jim Sill
Jim's final message was very entertaining. He formerly worked in the video and television industry and his message was that teachers have the power to change the lives of their students and we have opportunities to do so as never before with the availability of technology. He spoke of some of the great successes in the classroom as well as some of the even greater failures that lead to learning opportunities. It was an awesome wrap-up to a great conference. I will definitely be back in 2015!

Friday, March 21, 2014

EdTech Team Arizona Summit - Featuring Google for Education - Part I

This is a summary of my experience at the GAFE Summit held this week at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. First off I want to emphasize how great this conference was. I knew that Google was a powerful tool, but had no idea to what extent these tools can impact how teaching and learning could be impacted in the right hands. Now the challenge is to get this information out to anyone willing to listen - especially teachers in Pinal County where I work. This is more an attempt to collect and sift through the information for myself in hopes of making some cohesive and useful information for others, so forgive me if I wander around a bit. Here is a link to the schedule of events which has links to lots of information provided in the sessions. 
Day 1
Day 1 started off with keynote speaker Jaime Casap (, I honestly don't remember all, or much of, what he said, only that his message was to not be afraid of failing. This also seemed to be a message from several of the presenters at the conference. More about this later. He also talked about the need to adapt and accept that things are different now and so should our classrooms. He spoke about the power teachers have to affect change in the lives of our students saying, "Teachers are the most important people in a kids life." Scary - yet errrr encouraging? After all, who better to effect a student in a positive way than a teacher that is passionate about making change in the world. He also challenged the audience to think about the technology that we had used just that morning. This got me thinking that it is rather hypocritical to not allow students to use the technology that they use in their "real-lives" inside the classroom yet we would not do the same. Technology is a door-way to student motivation and inspiration. The possibilities truly are endless. Unfortunately educators take a hangar-door size opening and restrict it to doggy-door size. In doing-so we inadvertently crush the desire of the students. 
Session 1 - Connecting the More in Google Drive
Cherie Stafford (, presented how to connect apps through Google Drive and then highlighted some apps. - Tutorial on how to connect apps through Google Drive - Handout on the apps presented along with my notes and links to tutorials for some of the apps. 
I personally like WeVideo and PowToon. I can see the application in the classroom for both of these as ways to 1) present/introduce/hook students 2) have students use to create product as an assessment. There is more information within my notes section and on the tutorials. It was also during this session that I started to see how awesome Google Apps could be for teachers. Through add-ons teachers can push out documents, collect and organize student documents, give feedback to students, and on and on and on....Great stuff already and it's only 11 am on day 1. 

Session 2 - A Beginner's Guide to Google+
I will start this off by saying that 1 month ago if you asked me about Google Apps, Google+, Google Docs or Google __________(fill in the blank) I would have told you that I had heard of it but not much else. I am also pretty new to the Twitter and have started to rely on in it more and more for information, feedback, and idea sharing. I'm starting to become just a bit addicted. I sometimes dream of having a smart phone (yes, I know you are laughing. My wife and I may be the only two people left in America that don't have smart phones. She teaches 2nd grade and most if not all of her students have their own) so that I can keep better track of my Twitter feed. So I am a bit behind but am gaining speed as I roll down the mountain. I even have started to use HooteSuite so I can post to all of my new social networks and stay in contact with my growing PLN.

Anyway, the presenter for this session was Michelle Armstrong (, I felt right at home as her Canadian accent sang to me and reminded of how some people talk in my hometown in northern Minnesota. She first introduced us to what Google+ is all about and how to use it most efficiently to grow your PLN. Visit my Google+ page to see my progress. Maybe you can give me some pointers (for instance how do I get I nice handy url like Michelle instead of this Like I said still a rookie but learning none the less. My take away from this session was this is another great way to connect with others that are interested in similar stuff (teaching math, tech integration, outdoorsy stuff, etc.) Here are the links to info. provided by Michelle.

We learned about Circles in Google+ and most awesomely, Hangouts. Certainly will be testing the waters here in the future.
Session 3 - Get More from Your Google Drive with Apps
Monica Martinez (, presented more apps to use in the classroom.
Above is the link to the website where you can find highlighted apps. My favorite from this session is , an app that allows you to take notes on a YouTube video while you view it. Every time you enter a new note, a time stamp is recorded. To return to that point in the video later, all you have to do is click the comment. I can see using this with students in a flipped setting or even putting in questions when having students watch a video. I'm sure there are many other uses that people much smarter than me can think of so please share your ideas too.

Session 4 - Chromebook 101

Chris Bell ( provided information on how to operate Chromebooks. This was the first time I took the opportunity to use our office Chromebook extensively. I am really impressed with it. We have the Samsung version which by my estimates seemed to be the most popular by far at the conference. I am really impressed. It did everything I needed it to and was very easy to use after learning a couple of little tricks from Chris. I really want one for myself. The battery lasted most of the day and I was using in constantly from 8:30 in the am until 5:30. I did have to find a place to plug in at about 4. A big step up from our office lap tops which last 2 hours max. I also liked that as soon as I opened it, it was ready to go. No waiting for boot-up and forgetting what note I was going to write or site I was going to visit. Lots of information can be found on Chris's website about Chromebooks and other Google related stuff.

Demo Slam -
A plethoro of information was thrown at us in 4 minute chunks. My favorite was Jim Sills presentation about some of the tools available in Gmail to help avoid getting fired. He included how to enable the "undo" button to take back a sent email and how to create auto reply messages. Very entertaining and a great way to end day 1.
Wow. Only halfway home. I think this will be a 2 part blog.
Enjoy! Connect with me via Twitter or Google+ and make sure to drop some comments.