Day 2 is finished of the GAFE 2014 conference and it was amazing (again!). Today I went to some great sessions on using Chromebooks as my one machine, chrome ninja tips and tricks, Critical Thinking with Google Search, and a plethora of apps and extensions for Chrome.
The first session was the Chromebook challenge which was inspiring as I did not know all the new apps and extensions that I could use to make a Chromebook a main computer for me as a teacher. One of the first things that struck me was when teachers were trying to use one collaborative document. I experienced something like this earlier this semester with my grade 9 students in a business class. Claiming your space was an issue because of the novelty that people could delete what someone else wrote. Today made me think about that past situation and how we as teachers need to model and make sure the students understand the etiquette of working through one collaborative document. It is easy for us (teachers) to think that students will adapt as easily as we did in that session, but we need to have the discussion about respecting everyone’s opinions and ideas in a shared space. One trick we learned from today was to have a table with multiple rows, so that each student has their own row to put their ideas in. Another great takeaway for me was Google Cloud Print. All you have to do is have a printer hooked up to your PC once and then added to the Google Cloud Print. After that, you can print to that machine from anywhere in the world as long as it is connected to a device (doesn’t have to be on your Chrome account). The final takeaway for me is that we need to remember the amazing power of the Chromebooks and use this power to allow students the chance to make their own learning opportunities. We need to let them have conversations with others in the classroom and give them the tools to make the most of these opportunities.
In the Chrome ninja and Demo Slam session we were given some cool tricks and tips that would make browsing much more manageable. One of my favourites is setting up personal search engines for sites that you recently visit. Its easy for any site that you can search on. For example, with Amazon you go to the homepage, right click on the search bar and then select add as a search engine. In the second text box you add a nickname you will remember and then click ok (shown below). Now anytime you use that nickname and press “space” you can instantly search in that site from any other page in chrome.
We can do some other amazing things from the search bar, like add an event to your calendar, search drive, tweet, and much more. See http://www.teachinglikeits2999.com/2013/09/google-chrome-tricks-raising-omni-bar.html for some of the technical things you can do. The other tricks we can do on Chrome are to “Pin” webpages to your Chrome browser that will open when Chrome Opens, but manages them in a small location on the tabs bar. Simply right click the tab and then select Pin Tab and it is done.
Along with making Chrome and Chromebooks more efficient for you, I went to a great session of the Critical Thinking with Searching. We started the discussions on the new digital divide and how we need to be the people who help students understand what they are finding in these searches and how to manage all the information they are presented in this short amount of time. The one great acronym I will remember is to ask REAL questions. R (read the URL), E (examine the content), A (ask the author), and L (look at the links). These are all strategies that we, as adults and educators, do intrinsically and need to show/explain to our students how to do this to ensure that they are searching correctly and thinking about what they are searching before using it because “Google put it first”.
Overall the 2 days were unbelievable and I hope that I am hopeful that I will be able to attend more of these in the future because they were great for learning, connecting, and inspiring new ideas for my classroom. I know that I myself need to be willing to take more risks and remember that to FAIL is the First Attempt In Learning and finally that when the little changes are compounded together make the a big change.