Educators embrace technology at Google Summit
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Most of us have seen how technology has altered the humble chalkboard that our teachers once used. From white boards to smart boards to online lesson plans and digital textbooks, embracing technology has become a journey for 21st-century educators and a major part of students’ lives.
At the Google EdTech Summit held Monday at Grand Canyon University, more than 400 education teachers, specialists and students from across the state focused on one major point: how to engage students through technology integration.
GCU President Brian Mueller opened the conference, which GCU co-presented with the Arizona K12 Center, followed by a keynote address from Jim Sill, a Google education teacher who, after a decade in the video and television industry, set out on a career in education. He used his industry experience to create an award-winning production program at a California high school.
“I knew as soon as I became a teacher that this was it,” Sill said. “I spent a lot of time chasing other dreams, and now I’m teaching teachers how to make movies and I love it.”
Sill walked the audience through the bells and whistles of today’s technologies, such as Google apps, and encouraged listeners to start making time for telling better classroom stories.
“I think we remember our teachers from the stories that they tell us,” Sill said. “I think we all know that when we tell stories in the classroom, our kids can learn through those experiences, and when kids tell stories of their successes, struggles and projects to each other, those kids learn from those experiences, too.”
To cap off his keynote, Sill asked the audience to consider whether students are being moved by their classroom teaching. If the answer was no, he encouraged them to tell better stories.
In the College of Education classrooms, participants had a choice of more than 50 sessions, including how to teach with YouTube and Google Classroom and how to develop a Personal Learning Network.
Peter Henrie, chief operating officer of Virginia-based Amplified IT, lectured on administering Google services to empower schools and districts. He offered tips on what technologies to offer and which to avoid.
“Things like YouTube, Google Plus and Blogger — you can control all of these tools, but you have to think about whether these are services you want to give students access to,” Henrie said.
In a design-thinking session, participants were tasked with designing products for one another after a three-minute interview they began with, “When was the last time you gave a gift?”
Phil Howardell of Paradise Valley High School said that because gift-giving is emotional, the activity was about building empathy, prototyping and developing a solution for their partner.
“When we did this in our school, we had kids who figured out how to solve problems for unique people. For example, one of our students designed a product for a friend with Type 1 diabetes with multiple interviews like this and weeks of gaining prototypes.”
The product? A tight-fitting backpack that allowed the student to test his glucose at any time during track practice.
Tracy Purdy, digital learning specialist with Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, urged educators to digitize the writing process with Google Apps for Education.
Purdy said Google products such as Lucid Chart, Popplet or Google Drawing can help with all phases of writing, including pre-writing, drafting, editing, revising and publishing.
Her message was simple: Technology can be used to enhance writing lessons without changing the heart of the assignment.
Stephanie Folmar, English teacher at Chandler High School, said she was excited about allowing cell phones in the classroom after learning about Socrative!, an application where students are able to share their understanding by answering questions in a variety of formats.
“The kids have this technology in their hands, so why not use it?” she said. “We’re on this path where traditional classroom teaching is not working for students anymore, so we have to engage them and prepare them for this technology-driven world. Sometimes you have the same five kids raising their hands, but with Socrative! I can post a question and they can all answer with their phone and they all can have the opportunity to say something.”
Paradise Valley High School freshmen Andra Villalobos and Hayden Araza, who were designing a flyer for their maker-space club, said the summit offered a new perspective on teachers, technology and classroom development.
“It’s awesome to see how different teachers use different tools in their classrooms because you’re so used to what your teachers do,” said Villalobos. “I think now we can go back to our own teachers and tell them about all these unique tools.”
Araza believes every teacher should be open to new technology.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants to keep learning,” she said.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.