Monday, August 19, 2013

California Google Apps for Education Summit

Just found this post on my Google doc I write my blog posts on. It's from July. Whoops... Without further ado:

I had the good fortune to go to the California Google Apps for Education (GAfE) summit last weekend in Redwood City, CA. Without overselling how things went, I had an absolute blast. Why? Thanks for asking.

In a generally chronological order:

I opened the conference with a presentation by Rushton Hurley. If you haven’t had the honor of watching Rushton present at a conference, fix that. Soon. I left Rushton’s session completely energized - ready to run through about five walls to make a difference in the lives of my students.

The next day, I arrived at the conference and immediately bumped into Rushton. He was as excited as I’ve ever seen him about the upcoming keynote that morning, to be given by Richard DeVaul. Umm, wow. I didn’t know what Google[X] was before the keynote. Yes, now I want to go work for Richard!

The main message I got out of the keynote was the idea of Moonshot Thinking. In a poor approximation of its definition, moonshot thinking asks people to be bothered by the idea that they can’t do something. Think about that for a second: choose to be bothered that you perceive something to be impossible. How powerful is that? Richard’s push to fail publicly - and often - in the classroom and then to iterate really resonated with me. I will fail forward this year in my classroom, but also importantly model and be transparent about my failures with my students.

One of my biggest failures last year was my attempt to implement 20% time. I made a serious attempt to rectify those failings by attending sessions be Kevin Brookhouser and Kate Petty about 20% time. Kevin did a great job in his presentation demonstrating the need for 20% time in education today, then walking us through the steps he takes when implementing 20% time in his class. These sessions were exactly what I needed to more successfully do 20% time this year.

I also had the privilege of attending a couple of Donnie Piercey’s sessions Sunday as well. The most important takeaway for my classroom will be Google Newspapers. Umm, archived and searchable newspapers going back several hundred years? Yes please. From all over the world? Done and done. Wow. The possibilities in a social studies class...

I also attended Donnie’s session on Chrome extensions. A couple of my favorites? One Tab and URL shortener (I’ve used the website to do this in the past - this saves a couple steps).

The summit ended with a great closing keynote by Jim Sill, who struck the perfect mix of humor and intelligence.

Will I attend the California GAfE summit next year? Yes, most certainly. I am looking forward to this conference already - top notch presenters and killer keynotes.

But really, though, this conference was all about meeting people I had learned with online for a long time. I got to have hilarious Twitter conversations within sessions with Catina Haugen, Tracy Walker, and Harmony Hayes, three people I have followed on Twitter for a long time.

“Are you in this session? I think I see you.”
“I’m sitting near the door wearing a white sweater.”
“I totally see you. Let’s talk after the session.”
I absolutely love getting to meet people I follow on Twitter. It is so nice to get to place a name with a face. And with the growth of #caedchat, I feel like every time I show up at a conference I am going to see someone that I know. And by someone, I really mean someones.

I don’t want to sit here and list all the awesome people I got to hang out with at the GAfE summit. But it wasn’t a small group of people. Confession: one of my biggest fears is walking into a room where I don’t know anyone. Like it is on the list of things I fear the most, right along with heights. I wondered if this fear would be realized last weekend. Nope - couldn’t be further from the truth. I bumped into Edward Hilton - someone I’ve had numerous conversations with on Twitter - just walking into the opening keynote. This was a harbinger of things to come, and a definite #caedchat #EduWin!

And really, that’s what I was left with after the GAfE summit: a renewed sense that I am not the only one pushing this boulder up the hill. Whether it was the conversation with Lisa H and Karen on my way out of the summit Sunday afternoon or the chat with Lisa N before we started the festivities Saturday morning, I had a blast hanging out with my PLN in person.

And that, more than anything else, is what I took away from the California Google Apps for Education summit: being a connected educator is a whole lot of fun.