Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflections on the Google Summit -with a focus on Collaboration

http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/url3-e1309971764582.jpg
Google, Google, Google. I keep coming back to this post and there really is so much to talk about. I've thoroughly enjoyed my ongoing exploration of the Google environment both personally and with my students. I recently had the privilege of attending a Google Summit in February which was the real motivation to try to summarize and share my learning with respect to Google. The summit was a very cool experience. Our two days there were packed full of workshops (I'd totally recommend checking out these copies of crowdsourced notes [link] [link] they include notes on almost all the sessions at the conference), The days were also bracketed with keynote speakers and rapid-fire 3 minute "demo slam" style presentation series (a concept I'd love to see become part of District ProD). The number of tools and tricks being presented was incredible. Initially I found myself asking for more why. Why use these tools? Why change? I didn't see a big focus on this question. What we did see was a major emphasis on the SAMR model. Now, as I look at the tools I've integrated into my practice and the tool I'm interested in exploring its starting to make more sense. Its really only once Technology becomes embedded into our practice that we realize its full potential. Once technology is embedded we begin to realize just how much its enriching our learning and the learning of those we're working with. The SAMR model forces us to question the benefit of technology in our practice. 

I've experienced the enrichment that comes from the Google environment in profound ways recently. As students have moved to Google Docs and Google Drive they have stopped loosing assignments. Imagine that - all of a student's work accessible all the time. That's a game changer. Documents have become collaborative and living. No longer do I share files, I share links. Not only can we all see the same document at the same time, or see the most recent version of a document all the time, but we can now begin to have a running dialog about the work in the work. The document itself has embedded within it a story of sharing, commenting, feedback, revision, collaboration, and learning. Search has also become the best way to find everything, and not just in a search engine. I used to pride myself on sweet file organization, but that whole way of thinking is quickly being replaced by search. Talk of keywords is commonplace in my classroom, and in some cases advanced searches are becoming the norm and not the exception - CC image searches come to mind. 

I could go on, but I think we'll agree its a rich experience to reach grow with a tool to the point of redefining the way you do learning. I want to share some of the tools and features that I've been using or would like to use more that I wanted to highlight. I'd love to hear about some of the tools you are using and enjoying too! I'll also recommend checking out the reflections of one of my colleagues, Nicole Emmerton here on her blog

Google Docs - a collaborative office suite
(https://www.google.com/drive/?authuser=0)
So much I could say about Google Docs, here are some of the things I've really begun to appreciate:
  • 3 layers of privacy for docs - private (only visible to people whose email addresses have been entered), anyone with the link can access, public; and within each layer there are options as to whether individuals other then the owner can view, comment on, or edit the doc. (https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2494822?hl=en)
  • revision history as a way to keep teams accountable - see who made what changes and when (revision history overview: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/190843?hl=en)
  • simultaneous participation in classroom discussion 
  • More and more features added in: research and citation tools within the doc, image searches within the doc (http://youtu.be/NGtWyifMX_k), add-ins for publisher type formatting, add-ins for smart art type graphics, build in dictionary, and optional extensions for text to speech within a chrome browser
  • Commenting feature in Docs
    • Personally I would consider the comments I make and dialogue I have about student work to be the most valuable part of my assessment practice - at least as far as Teacher assessment goes. Its even better when students give feedback and have conversation with their peers - a practice I`ve been working to tune this year too. 
Google plus - Google's answer to Facebook
There are lots of cool features of Google plus, and its growing rapidly as a result. Here are some of my interests:
  • Google handouts - a Skype-style video conference with the key difference being that you can have a conference with multiple participants for free, and Hangouts give you the ability to: stream the hangout online, save the hangout to a YouTube channel, share your desktop, share docs within the hangout, and share YouTube playlists within the hangout. Not to mention the creation of an "event" is pretty slick in that it will automatically send reminder emails to everyone involved.
  • Blogger has an option to post blog posts to G+
  • MOOCs - I've not lurked and participated in a few Massive Open Online Courses offered through Google plus, and there are many being offered (for example the Deeper Learning MOOC)
  • Google Virtual Field Trips - using Google Hangouts
Personal Learning Networks and back channel conversations
Throughout the conference I throughout enjoyed the ongoing dialog with other educators through social media tools
  • Twitter continues to be my favorite source of ongoing ProD and I can't recommend it enough. A personal highlight at conferences has become meeting colleagues whom I have go to know over Twitter. 
  • Today's meet is a free, easy to set up tool that allows a user to set up a public chat. Guests are given a link, asked to greet the chat with their name, and then allowed to chat away 140 characters at a time. It was used in many of the workshops I attended and was an excellent way to engage a large audience - especially those that may not share publicly otherwise
Google Chrome Browser
To start off I now feel lost when I can't log into a Chrome Browser get that at-home feeling of having my browser set up for me. I'm a fan of Chrome and here are a few reasons why. One of the workshops highlighted a bunch of Chrome features if you're interested check out the notes.
YouTube Tricks and Tips
And lastly, some of things worth exploring on YouTube
Whew, thanks for taking a look. What are some Google Tools you've really enjoyed in your class? In your own practice?

Comments are always welcome!