Google Inspiration and Innovation: CT GAFE Summit Take Aways

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend and present at the Connecticut Google Apps for Educators Summit. This two day event was filled with so many amazing workshops and opportunities to learn the ins and outs of the ever evolving Google Suite for Education. The Summit was presented by EdTech Teams and included awesome presenters Chris Craft, Kern Kelley, Jeffery Heil, and others who are all Google for Education Certified Innovators.

There were so many great presentations addressing STEM, Makerspace, BreadoutEDU, as well as learning more about different Google Apps. Of all the awesome workshops that I attended, here are a few key ideas that anyone can utilize in their classroom.

Google Geekiness – Chris Craft and Kern Kelley both led workshops that gave me new ways to utilize the Google Suite with my students and parents.

Say you have a big summative assessment coming up and it has many parts to it. A teacher can add a step by step list of tasks in Google Sheets and then schedule automatic email notifications to any recipient before the task is due. This is great for IEP and 504 students who need larger tasks broken down into smaller and simpler steps. Plus, the email reminders help students stay on task.
Kern Kelley taught me how to make animated movies in Google Slides. By making multiple slides and incorporating .gifs on the slides, students can make short animated videos to convey a science concept, illustrate how they solved a math equation, or even recreate a scene from a book read for school. You can see what I created in less than an hour.

Kelley has written a book, The Google Apps Guidebook (2012)  with his students that details dozens of lesson ideas using Google Apps in the classroom. In the book, he describes the steps to creating animation in Google Slides.

Active Viewing – Showing a video in class or for homework should not be a passive task. With Extensions like EdPuzzle and PearDeck, watching videos and presentations can be interactive and hands on.  Both these applications allow students to embed reflection questions and have students give feedback in written, oral, and video form.

Re-imagine the Rubric – Jeffery Heil addressed the limits of rubrics in conjunction with a Growth Mindset philosophy. Rubrics should not be a menu, but more of a checklist that only includes mastery criteria. He described how he uses badges to help more students meet mastery. Feedback is key and students need to be able to show evidence of their learning throughout, eliminating the one and done assessment mentality. Focus should be on learning, not a grade.

Work Smarter, Not Harder with Google Forms – Well, I have completely rewritten the lessons that I was going to teach to my students this week and put everything onto different Google Forms to collect their responses and show evidence of their learning after attending Jeffery Heil’s Game of Forms session. Now that one can embed images and videos in Google Forms, there is so much that teachers can do to go paperless and create interactive lessons. Google Forms can be used for submitting assignments, pre assessments, exit tickets, and even a Choose Your Own Adventure activity. Flubaroo and Doctopus are two add ons with forms that can grade and manage the flow of student work.


Students Innovators – I just finished reading Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner. This book looks at the characteristics of student innovators and how their parents and teachers helped to cultivate creativity and innovation. Wagner cites three key ingredients: play, passion, and purpose. Genius Hour and Passion Projects in school are not a new idea. True inquiry is based on personal passion. Today, school is not about knowledge pursuit or memorizing facts. In fact, students can learn what ever they want on the internet. YouTube is a teacher. Learning in the classroom should be about play, purpose, tinkering, and failure as a good thing. Having students learn something they are passionate and then reflect on their learning is eye opening and often inspiring.

I have shared my ever evolving experience with Passion Projects and Genius Hour in my own classroom. To read more about my own experiences with Genius Hour these past four years click here and here and here

This year I have created a choice menu for students to help them with their passion projects and I am creating a more Choose Your Own Adventure approach with my students to help them pursue their passions.




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