Every January, the week after Christmas break at our school is called Midsession Week. Midsession is a time where teachers provide really cool opportunities and classes for the students. Ski trips, internships, and other cool offerings are made available for students. This was my first year at this high school, so I was, at first, perplexed as to what I was going to do… so many choices!
Sometime in October or November, Sergio Villegas of North Bay CUE and from NapaLearns (@coach_sv) contacted me about a really cool opportunity. Google Apps for Education Summits was going to hold a cool ed tech conference in the Napa Valley, and he was looking for presenters. Since it was happening during Midsession, I asked my assistant principal if I could skip doing a Midsession event and do this instead, and she gave me permission after a few hems and haws, because it is such a great opportunity for students to have a fun week of learning. A few days later, I had an idea that would allow me to do both: offer a cool Midsession course AND be at GAFE. I asked Molly Schroeder, the person who organizes the GAFE presenters, if I could have three students present at the conference.
I thought about the three students that would be able to handle teaching GAFE to teachers, and I came up with three beginner classes to be presented. One would be on student use of Google Docs, another on student use of Google Forms, and one on student use of Google Presentation. When the presentations were accepted by Molly, I searched for my Digital Divas. Digital Divas at Holy Names High School (an all-girls school in Oakland) was formed by two young women who wanted to create a student-led tech support team. This school year, Digital Divas became my co-curricular course for 1 hour and 20 minutes, every Thursday, and 12 girls signed up for the course. One girl became the lead for A/V set ups, a couple others were involved with educational technology presentations for teachers at other schools, and a few were doing odd and end jobs for me (like building a book igloo/dome out of outdated books).
Three students, Amanda, Luisa, and Eva, came immediately to mind for presenting. They each had outgoing personalities and were heavily involved in being leaders in technology use in the school. I came up with the Midsession course with these three girls in mind, and we trained on the products. On Monday and Tuesday this past week, we created Google Sites for our audience to use and follow along with their presentations. We came up with examples that we had already created in the past for our students to use, and we played with GAFE… a lot.
On Wednesday, the girls drove to Napa with one of our amazing math instructors, Mrs. Lamb. Mrs. Lamb decided she would attend the summit to learn more about using ed tech in her classroom. I met them there, and they were so nervous! Poor Amanda wasn’t even presenting until the next day, but I thought she was going to have an anxiety attack right there in the parking lot!
Jaime Casap (@jcasap) was the keynote, and they were so excited to hear him speak. After his amazing keynote, I took the girls up to meet him. (I had tweeted with him the week previously to talk about Chromebooks and mentioned my students presenting on GAFE with Chromebooks.) He immediately made them feel so at ease with presenting, and they were no longer nervous about their upcoming presentations. Thank you, Jaime!
I presented on free tools that students and teachers could use with project-based learning. Luisa (aka, Louie) was next to present at 1:30pm on the first day. She did a session on Google Docs and creative ways for students and teachers to use them. She has about 15 teachers attending her session, and one of them was Karl (@LS_Karl) from Hillsdale High School in San Mateo. Karl helped Luisa add to her presentation by showing teachers Kaizena, a voice commenting app for teachers and students to use on Google Docs. It was a great session for all!
At the end of the sessions on the first day, there is a thing called a Google Demo Slam. Presenters in the Slam have three minutes to show the audience a cool tool. It is also a competition in unique, engaging delivery for the presenters, and everyone votes at the end for the best Google Slam presentation. I had signed up to do the Slam, but since I never heard back about it, I figured we weren’t chosen. I found out about three minutes before the event that I was doing the slam on Lucid Chart (cool, free mind-mapping app)! I immediately pulled Amanda and asked her to come up with some ideas on how we’ve used LucidChart, and she typed them out on her phone. As she read the various ways we used LucidChart, I showed the audience how to access and use the app. We made history for being the first student slam at a GAFE Summit!
The next day, I drove up with Mrs. Lamb and the girls, and we arrived in time for the opening keynote with Dan Russell, the man behind the artificial intelligence of Google Search. His keynote was perfect for the girls to hear; they saw how fast technology has changed, and how it can improve teaching. Lisa Highfill, a recent TEDx Talk presenter and one of my mentors, came up to the girls and congratulated them on being GAFE Summit presenters because usually, it is an honor reserved for Google Certified Teachers and Trainers. They were so impressed being among the rockstars in educational technology, and Lisa made them feel like they were on top of the world. In the meantime, Dan Russell was still in the front of the room, and the girls were also admiring him from afar as Lisa told them what great things Dan does for Google. Finally, one of the girls asked if we could go up and meet him, and I took them up to say hello. I told Mr. Russell that the girls were his new Search Fan Club, and he posed for a photo with them. All day, the girls were glowing with happiness…
Eva was next to present, and she did a spectacular job on explaining different ways to use Google Forms. She also gave the audience a step-by-step walk-through to create their own forms. She ended her session with a Form asking for feedback on her future presentations. She truly had an interactive experience with the teachers in her session. Teachers in the audience asked the girls questions about their experiences with technology, tips for using different apps, and just general advice on students. They represented Holy Names High School with poise, dignity, and expertise; I wish the staff and the girls’ classmates could have seen the whole experience.
Finally, Amanda was presenting on Presentations. I have been so lucky to have known Amanda from my previous job (Language Arts Teacher and then Director of Tech at a K-8 school). Amanda was in my 6th and 7th grade language arts classes, and she was in my technology integration course in 8th grade. She graduated and moved on to Holy Names, and this school year, I joined her. Her experience with Google Apps is more in-depth because she has been using it since sixth grade with my English class. She showed her audience new ways of students using Google Presentation for study guides, flashcards, and photo slideshows. She had an activity at the beginning and end of her session that the teachers created and participated with her. It was a great presentation and introduction to the app.
We left the GAFE Summit with presentations under our belt and memories that will last a lifetime for these girls. On the car ride back home, Eva said, “I have a new respect for teachers. The fact that 400 teachers went to a conference for two days and learned how to better teach their students is amazing.” She thanked us for attending and for bringing them along for the journey.
I then added something to the conversation in the car, “Well, you know, ladies, this isn’t our first rodeo. Mrs. Lamb has gone to at least four other conferences since the summer, to learn how to best reach her students. Mrs. Lamb, why do you do it? Why do you give up your free time to do this for our students?”
Mrs. Lamb quietly and humbly replied, “Because I love my students. I want to have a day where I can say all my students passed their math classes and actually enjoyed and gained a deeper understanding of math.”
I started to get tears in my eyes, and Eva suddenly added, “Thank you, Mrs. Lamb. That makes me want to try harder in your class because you’re giving us all this effort, putting in so much time. It’s only fair I do the same.” By then, I was a bawling mess, and I could look around the car and see the tear-filled eyes all around. It was certainly a life-changing event, more than I ever expected.
To find out more about GAFE Summits in your area, go to this link.