GAFE Summit 2014 Day 1 – Mind Blown!

So today was the first day of the Ontario GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit in Kitchener.  It was my first time at a summit like this so I was unsure as to what I would expect from it.  I was overwhelmed from all the different sessions that were taking place in the day and couldn’t choose, but I was lucky enough to have some great colleagues and friends who joined shared document to get all the information from as many sessions as possible.  By the end of the day, my mind was blown from all that went on and ideas were flying around with all the things I could do.  Here are some of the major ones that stood out.

The first big thing I learned from today were that we need to look at the SAMR Model when we are looking at using tech in the classroom.

As discussed in the amazing keynote from Jennie Magiera (@msmagiera), when we start using tech we are either at, or slightly below, the Substitution level of the model.  Which as teachers we think is great until we realize that it is not really doing anything but replacing worksheets with iPads or Chromebooks.  To move into the Modification and Redefinition stage we need to think of using tech in the way that Barney and Dora the explorer help young children learn.   I find that since I am early into using tech in my classroom, I am finding myself stuck at the substitution level, which can be frustrating when I want to be able to make tech part of the learning.  I am hoping that with the use of tech in my classroom in the semester I will be able to move away from substitution.

The next big thing that I took away from the my sessions was MIT App Inventor.  This was formerly a Google Labs product, but was later given to MIT to further develop.  The session was amazing because we were able to create a basic app and then test it on an android device instantly.  Any changes that we made would then transfer to the device and we could see the results immediately.  The session brought me to think of the way in which I could use the app inventor with a math class.  My initial thought was to have students make apps to solve the problems we were doing in class, for example solving trigonometric equations.  But later on I realized that this was simply substitution on the SAMR Model, so it’s back to the drawing board on that one (any thoughts on that would be appreciated).

The other two sessions that were incredible were the ones by James Peterson on Google Draw and by Kyle Pace on creating a Google Sites.  This was truly effective because we were taken step by step on how to create something based on the two products.  The two can go hand in hand as well since we can link what we create to the site and all we have to do is change the image if required (no need to re-link).  If you are using GAFE in your school, consider doing what Kyle and his colleagues did by creating easy to use templates for the not-so-savvy teachers who could use a starting point.  Its a simple click in the site settings that saves your current layout as a template for all in your school/board to use in the future.  Learned about some add-ons and sites, like pixlr and clippingmagic.com, that are perfect for getting jpeg images to have transparent backgrounds.

The demo slam at the end of the day highlighted all the amazing presenters and the great things they are doing with GAFE in their classes.  Some of the ones I want to further check out are Google Read and Write, Synergyse, Google Maps Engine, Pear Deck, Google Black Menu and the whole idea of having apps scripts.  I am trying hard to figure out which sessions I will go to tomorrow but it’s going to be another tough choice.

If you have a chance tomorrow to follow the conference because you couldn’t attend, just follow the #gafesummit on Twitter for all the amazing tweets from the incredible sessions going on.

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