Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Google Summit in Cambridge. I always judge an event by the “new things” that I take away from any Professional Learning event. To that end, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
From my notes, here are some of the new things I got to take away.
Speaking of new things, I got to go hands on with Rocketbook. Until the Summit, the Rocketbook was only something that I’d heard of, so I had to make sure that I attended Emily Fitzpatrick‘s session where she did a wonderful job of taking us through how to use this cloud connected device. By itself, I would have been happy with the learning, but I was fortunate enough to sit with Kim Gill a long time Livescribe user. You can never overestimate the testimonials from an practicing user which Kim certainly is. In addition to the expertise from Emily, I got a running commentary from Kim as we sort of stayed on the workshop agenda but then branched off into Kim’s thoughts about real life use.
Speaking of real life, I got to meet David Carruthers in real life. He and I did a crash job on his interview that went live on this blog on Saturday morning, just in time for the summit. We managed to steal a few minutes from the packed agenda to have a face to face conversation. While I’ve been a fan of his writing for a long time, I was positive that we had met previously at a Western RCAC meeting. He assured me that I was wrong as he noted in the interview. Nevertheless, I managed to get caught up on at least some of the goings on from the Valley. It was great to touch base.
Speaking of touching base, I now know where Stephen Hurley lives. Why is this important? Stephen and I will be doing a remote broadcast of our This Week in Ontario Edublogs show from a Grade 6 classroom in Burlington this Wednesday. (Heads up – it will be a little later since we have to wait until after the announcements to get started) Stephen and family have offered me a place to crash before the event so that I’m not making the long drive on Wednesday morning and risk the realities of being stuck in traffic.
Speaking of Stephen Hurley, voicEd Radio was onsite at the Google Summit and broadcasting the keynote addresses and Ignite sessions live. Broadcasting on remote appears to be a thing that can actually happen reliably now. Readers of this blog will note that a last minute Windows update broke a driver just before we were going to go live at last year’s Minds on Media session at the Bring IT, Together conference. It was a good learning experience at the time and set the table for success in future live opportunities. You can listen to a number of things recorded at the Ontario Summit here.
Speaking of voiceEd Radio, Stephen caught Will Gourley and me with his portable – taser looking – recording device for a men on the street type of interview. I was amazed at listening to Will’s answers and how he was voicing my thoughts. From both of our perspectives, the valuable takeaways were about making connections or renewing connections with people that we interact with on a daily basis. You can’t put a price on that and certainly the community grows when you connect online. There still is something extra special though about cementing that connection face to face.
Speaking of face to face, there were so many opportunities to quickly chat with folks – a partial list at the risk of overlooking others include – a whole bunch of other people I didn’t catch their names, Peter McAsh, Emily Fitzpatrick, Austin Gagnier, Jennifer King, Will Gourley, Graham Shantz, Chris Cluff, Stephen Hurley, Kim Gill, Harry Niezen, Becky Rouse, Jennifer Casa-Todd, David Carruthers, the whole Preserve Ojibway crew, Jonathan So, and Sandra Chow.
Speaking of Sandra Chow, is there anything worse than being scheduled as the last session of the day? You’d think that one of the organizers would have had some pull to get a better time slot. Yet, there still was quite a nice group that assembled in the library. I felt just a bit sorry for this soft talker who needed the microphone to be heard and really could have used a microphone stand! Have you ever tried to work a computer while holding a microphone? She did juggle wonderfully and the session was a wonderful review of all kinds of computer and Google features like grouping, tools, font choice and sizing, layering, cursors, copyrighted images, Google searching, and mastering the master image of Google Slides. Oh, the real point of the workshop – how to replicate the traditional board game (Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, Bingo, …) on a Google Slide. There are lots of new things under the sun. You just have to look.
Speaking of looking, I had a chance to review what I thought that I knew about a number of things over the two days. Jen Giffen led a session on Chrome Extensions. By themselves, extensions are an easy enough concept. It’s only when you see a master in action that they come alive. For 58 minutes, Jen was that master. There were a number of suggestions that I had already known about and/or currently use. She introduced me to Toby to manage Chrome tabs and I’ve been going feature to feature with OneTab to see which one is going to win a spot in my browser. After 58 minutes, she took a breath and allowed for suggestions – I shared Shareaholic, something I use on a daily basis.
Speaking of daily basis, Kim Pollishuke tried to lead us through an Intermediate session dealing with Google Classroom which proficient educators use daily. Unfortunately, she kept getting interrupted by questions that would have been more appropriately asked in a beginner session. That can be unnerving but she handled it professionally and, while she didn’t get through everything that she wanted, we did get an interesting way of handling things from both sides of a classroom LMS. We partnered up and took on both a teacher and a student role on our computers and bopped back and forth. My guess is that it wasn’t an easy concept if you were at the beginner level.
Speaking of beginner, I finally got a chance to sit through an Austin Gagnier session about coding. He led us into coding some robots like Sphero, Dash, … The session was an introduction to coding robotic devices which is always fun when they work. We did finally get a chance to do some hands on but the classroom with all those table and chair legs isn’t an easy obstacle course for the beginner. I did get a chance to partner up with Sarah Lalonde who was also running through her presentation because she was up next.
Speaking of Sarah Lalonde, I pretty much had to go to her session about podcasting and her experiences with her personal podcasts and as voiceEd Community Manager. She gave a nice overview of her online digital broadcasting life – very Apple-centric with references to her use of GarageBand and Safari. But, Audacity did make inclusion in her presentation so that was good. I was surprised at her reflection about the lack of social media use in her Teacher Candidate program.
Speaking of social media use, this blogger had to find out what was new in the world of blogging so I dropped into Heidi Solway‘s session on blogging. She took us through the process of setting up a blog using Google’s Blogger. It was only fitting since this was a Google event. Now, truth be known and confessed, I use WordPress here but I do also have a Blogger blog. I use it as a backup for my OTR links. I felt sorry for her halfway through her presentation when her Windows computer decided to shut itself down. Technology should be uplifting, shouldn’t it?
Speaking of uplifting, I’ve got to say that the kids are all right. A real highlight for me was to meet and hear the members of the Preserve Ojibway project. The entire gang was there to present about the importance of the project. Regular readers here will know that I’ve been monitoring the project for a while now, I found it so interesting when principal, students, and teacher equally shared the stage and took us through the project. We got a short lesson about the sounds of the language and the various rules for construction. This isn’t trivial but the pride in project came through with each of them and the students had the technology down pat with their speaking notes on their phones. If you ever have any doubts about today’s youth, you need to engage in a session like this. Creating a standalone Macintosh keyboard was impressive enough but having your work added to Google Input Tools has to put you over the top. And now, there’s interest from a Cree organization as well. It was a chance for a great conversation.
Speaking of great conversations, I sat down next to this new-to-me-at-the-time person who turned out to be the real Jennifer King! That led to a very interesting conversation. You see, she’s always online doing things at roughly the same time I am. Is there a Follow Friday that doesn’t include her? It turns out that, even though we now live at opposite ends of the province, we grew up just miles from each other. Had I known in advance that she was going to be there, we could have volunteered to open the school and put on the coffee at 5am so that others could sleep in.
Speaking of sleeping, that was the last thing you’d do during the event. Of course, it included things that you would normally expect like great keynotes and an Ignite session. Both Brian Hamm and Jonathan So focused on the positive things about Ontario Education. The five Ignite speakers took on the challenge of an Ignite and did a great job delivering their unique messages. Oh, and food and the opportunity to play with things at an exhibitor area and a round about session at the end of the first day rounded out a very active two days. The EdTechTeam application was so handy to stay on top of the agenda and links to the presentations.
Speaking of links, I’ve known about this but it was a time to see it in action. edtech.team isn’t a website even though everything that was shared started with it. It’s actually a branded bit.ly domain. I thought it was used nicely throughout the event for branding purposes and you better get that URL typed in accurately. Case counts!
Most certainly, from my perspective there were a number of new things to give me pause for reflection and some ideas to improve my use of technology. That’s exactly what I came looking for and wasn’t disappointed.