We did it! Aspen Schools has successfully held its first EdTechTeam summit to promote some great things happening in edtech and motivate and empower educators from across the state. The goal of the summit is to improve teaching and students' learning with the help of some awesome tech tools and ideas. The process of hosting the summit at your home school is time-consuming and exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. Here are 5 takeaways or ah-ha's I had from this amazing experience:
1. We need to give Geo a chance- One of the incredible members of the EdTechTeam, Jeffery Heil, gave an inspiring keynote to kick off our summit and presented a session on taking advantage of the Google Geo tools to engage and excite your students.
Taking advantage of Google Earth now being web-based is a must for teachers of just about any subject or content area. The 'Voyager' component of Google Earth is an incredible educational tool that curates content normally not available to students.
Google Maps and My Maps are great ways to create custom maps and really individualize your experience in a variety of places. Once you have created a map you can export it as a KML file to import into another My Map or do a Google search for relevant KML files that have been created by others that you could use.
Street View lets students get up close and personal with places inside and out that they may never have a chance to visit in person. The ability for everyone to contribute to Street View puts an incredible amount of power and agency in students' hands that can lead to powerful learning and connections, but please be considerate of students' privacy and safety when encouraging sharing.
Google Expeditions is a powerful AR (Augmented Reality) tool that lets you use mobile devices to take students all over the world and beyond for fun and interactive experiences. Starting its full roll-out this fall the power of this is unlimited whether you have a full class set or a few to run an engaging center. I can't wait to see how this develops!
2. Google Applied Digital Skills Curriculum- Google has recently released it's Applied Digital Skills Curriculum which walks through practical life applications that can be accomplished with the GSuite tools. Use this to teach students (or adults) how to research properly, create a budget, stay organized, and much more. Teachers can guide students through the self-paced learning that can be done individually or in groups and the lesson plans and resources can be downloaded to allow modification to meet your specific needs. I think we are finally getting to the answer to all teacher's favorite question: "When am I going to use this in real-life?"
3. Tinker Thinking is important- We were extremely lucky to have very energetic and innovative Jessica Loucks presenting at our summit. I attended her session called Thinkers That Tinker and was motivated to integrate more design thinking into our teachers' lessons and students' learning starting at the most basic of levels. Our first activity was using Makedo kits to design and build a creature out of cardboard! We were given a few requirements and then set off in groups to get creative. In a short amount of time we had all created very different concepts that we presented to each other and participate in a Launch Cycle that can easily be adapted to working with our students. I think the simplicty of design thinking and creativity is often lost on educators as we are pressured to juggle so many things and to step back and slow down is good for us and our students to be creative problem solvers that aren't defined by the barriers around us. Moral of the story: don't be afraid to tinker and let your students tinker!
4. Leadership- In addition to hosting the weekend summit we were also able to have a leadership pre-summit specifically for administration, teacher-leaders, and other school leadership positions. The Leading & Learning session was led by Mark Garrison who did an amazing job of motivating and inspiring us to think about how our students are learning and what ways technology can play a role. We covered several of the models for thinking about and evaluating tech use with teachers (TPACK & SAMR) and students (4Cs, TIM, & T3) and framed our discussion about what good teaching can look like with the assistance of technology as well as how we can coach teachers to use technology effectively in their teaching practice.
Participating in the pre-summit and the full summit made one thing clear to me regarding leadership: we need our leaders to participate in these types of events in order to better understand how technology fits into the educational model and can be leveraged to promote student and teacher success. We had several principals attend the full summit and one summarized his revelation perfectly: "I went in thinking this would be all about the gadgets, and soon realized it was about ways to promote and improve student learning and great teaching!" So refreshing to hear this coming from the leader of a building who will then hopefully pass down that excitement and energy to their own staff when looking to set goals for improvement.
Teachers and staff can do a lot by "leading from the middle" when it comes to improving our students educational experience with the aide of technology, but getting our leadership on board is crucial to long-term success!
5. Do you say it GIF or GIF (JIF)?- I am a lover of GIFs. Several years ago I attended a session in an EdTechTeam summit that really showed me the power of these simple graphics and how they can be easily created and used creatively to achieve a lot of different goals in the educational sphere. In hosting our first summit I decided it was time to share my love of the GIF by participating in the Demo Slam. For those of you not familiar with the Demo Slam it is an exciting, fast-paced, and competitive showcase of innovative & fun tech tips to get people motivated to try great things. We use this model in our own district to get people engaged before staff meetings and showcase the amazing things happening in the classroom.
In my attempts to be funny I opened my presentation with the statement that it's pronounced GIF not JIF along with an attempt at a witty jab at those who think otherwise and then proceeded to do a mediocre job of presenting my information. My new best friend and nemesis, Jeff Heil, decided to take it upon himself to impromtively change his original topic and troll me to the point of destruction using this simple video below:
After that short video and a quick tutorial on a very easy way to make GIFs using Google photos I lowered my head in shame and accepted defeat... Until the next day when the entire summit was presented a video message from the amazing Ken Shelton (c/o Tracy Purdy) making his case for the use of phonics and linguistics that result in Graphic Interchange Format (GIF) pronounced with a hard G! I stand with Ken and will forever hold on to my opinion that it's pronounced GIF and not JIF!
There are my 5 big take-aways from the 1st (hopefully not the last) EdTechTeam summit in Aspen, CO. If you attended please feel free to share any of your favorite moments in the comments section.
Many people have been talking about flipping the classroom, but I feel like it has hit a wall when it comes to implementation. Some of the road blocks are obvious: lack of access, lack of training/PD, and unclear learning targets, but what are other reasons are there for people to take advantage of this strategy? I think the unknown is one of the biggest hang-ups people have in looking to implement this in their own teaching and I've put together a presentation with some resources to help get you started.
Some of the highlights from the presentation that I find particularly useful are:
I made sure to mention the ISTE standards and SAMR and TPACK models at the beginning of the presentation to get people thinking about the "why" when it comes to using any of the tools to try and flip content. I think when we have purposeful use of these tools to deliver content to our students in effective and innovative ways we can really see the benefits of flipping the classroom and how it can impact the work we accomplish with our students. My biggest piece of advice is to start small and focus on one area you really see potential in and branch out from there. If you have any great examples or experiences flipping your own classroom feel free to comment below. Feel free to refer and use the presentation for your own teaching and have fun flipping out!
GIFs like the one above can explain muti-step process for students to review. The search engine Giphy can be used to find already created GIFs
No matter your pronunciation there's no doubt you've seen one of the thousands of GIFs (i.e. a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images."a GIF image") floating around on the internet. Many of the GIFs revolve around funny video clips and memes that you can watch over and over again, but with the ease of creating your own they can easily be used in an educational capacity. After attending a presentation give by Ben Wilkoff last year at a GAFE Summit run by the Edtech Team I was introduced to the innovative ways you can use a GIF to help your students or fellow staff members.
The best GIF maker I've used is the free download LICEcap which allows you to record anything on your screen with an adjustable window interface. MakeGIF is a Chrome App & Extension that allows you record short sections of YouTube videos or compile a stack of pictures to make a GIF. The TechSmith Snag-it extension is another tool that can be used to create GIFs from short videos/screencasts.
So what can you do with a GIF? One of the most useful applications I have experienced is to create step-by-step instructions on any type of process that could benefit from repeated visual instruction. With the roll out of a new website at our school my staff appreciated a collection of simple tutorials that are time consuming than instructional videos (see below). By embedding GIFs in a Google Presentation staff or students can flip back and forth between steps and figure out the process at their own pace. Classroom teachers can use them to record processes like multi-step equations. No matter what the topic, using GIFs as a teaching tool has real potential. Comment below if you have ever used them before or any ideas you have for using them in the future.
By publishing a Google Slides presentation I can set the show to play on repeat and customize the amount of time spent on each slide. By using the tool bar at the bottom you can control the pace and go back to review steps.
Tech Integration Specialist at the Aspen School District. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former 4th grade teacher and Spartan for life! Go Green!