Tag Archives: Sydney

Tech Talk Tuesdays – Chatting about Google Teacher Academy experience

There’s a first time for everything. Recently Glenda Morris and I were asked by Anne Mirtschin to talk about our experiences at the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney on Tech Talk Tuesdays.  Normally I would have been very nervous about speaking in front of an audience but the fact that Anne was running the show was very comforting, and there’s something to be said for talking to an unseen audience in the comfort of your own home with your slippers on, holding onto a cup of hot coffee  and your dog asleep next to you. I knew that Glenda felt the same way that I did, and presenting together was actually a lot of fun. I recommend it.

Happily, we had the company of people from  USA, NZ and Malaysia, as well as Australians. I hope I haven’t missed anyone – I have to say, trying to construct comprehensible sentences on the spot was challenging enough, and I found that, unless Glenda was speaking, I wasn’t able to keep up with the chat and questions, so luckily Anne had all that under control.

Our intention was not to present a detailed account of Google apps but to share our experiences, provide some ‘inside information’ about the Google space and agenda, and pull out a few examples of Google apps which had resonated with us.

Here is the slide presentation and you can listen to the archived recording of the session here.

Sorry about the two blank slides; not sure why the pictures are not showing.

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Back from Google Teacher Academy, Sydney. Time to debrief.

So I’m back from Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, conducted in the Google offices located in gorgeous Pyrmont.

I suppose you’ve noticed my Google Certified Teacher badge taking pride of place in my blog’s sidebar. I hope that’s more a sign of what I’m going to share than any attempt at self promotion. So, you say, how was it? After the hype (which I half joking referred to on Twitter in Wonkian terms), it’s definitely time to share the experience.

For me, it was a little like T.S.Eliot said in The Dry Salvages –  ‘We had the experience but missed the meaning’, that is to say, it was such a big experience, I had to come away from it to understand its impact. One and a half days in the Google offices but many weeks of suspense, attempts at imagined scenarios leading up to the much awaited day had put us all into an emotional state which delivered us to the Google headquarters as children at a birthday party. The mystery shrouding the event and Google interior wound up the intensity even tighter. It was fun spotting the large Google sign in the foyer of the building, spotting real people whose faces matched their tiny avatars on Twitter or Facebook, meeting for breakfast and become initiates by wearing the Google Teacher Academy name tags.

So, you’re saying, stop dragging out the preamble, get to the point: what was it like? What did you do?

Short answer: It was full on!! The Magic Hat had sorted us into teams; I was in Silverbrook. We sat at brightly google-coloured tables and, shortly after breakfast, were treated to Google Educators giving us an overview of the enormous range of Google tools: Search (web, specialised, multimedia, language, custom), Google Apps Education edition, Docs, Sites, Calendar, Blogger, BooksScholar, News, Blog Search, Alerts, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Chat, Talk, Mobile, and more. Added to these sessions, some of our 55 strong cohort had offered to present Inspiring Ideas. We were treated to Google Spreadsheets (Pat Wagner), Sites for student e-portolios (Joe Donahue), creating an augmented reality school tour (Chris Betcher), e-portfolios using Blogger and Apps (Rob Clarke), using Blogger and Video Chat for minimally invasive education (Tara Taylor-Jorgensen), and an inside view of Google Apps for Education in a school (Dorothy Burt).  At 6pm, in the last session: reflection and review, we shared our ‘Aha’ moments for the day with our group, and at 6.30pm we were treated to a lovely celebratory dinner.

You can breathe now.

How do I do justice to such an intensive day and from all angles? I can’t.  Obviously the breadth and depth of the material was overwhelming, and at times it was challenging to keep up and remain focussed. I really enjoyed what the members of our cohort had to share, and I wish we could have seen more of how the Google apps could be used in creative and innovative ways in the classroom. We really needed more time and I suppose that was the biggest drawback – cramming so much in so little time.

Was it what I expected? I’m not sure. It’s not that Google apps/Apps are not out there for everyone to see and learn about. In that sense, we learned nothing new. But seeing everything in one and a half days, we probably saw more than we would have if left to our own devices. In between we struggled to make a dent in activities which gave us the opportunity to put some of the Google tools to use.

Most of us agreed that meeting up, connecting, collaborating and sharing was the most valuable part of the experience. So many interesting, passionate and innovative people, and we would continue to collaborate on Twitter (#gtasyd and #gct) and the GCT Group (sorry, closed community). I am grateful for new friendships and acquaintances. Thankyou so much to our GTA leaders, Dana Nguyen, Dr Mark Wagner, Wendy Gorton, Kern Kelley, Danny Silva and Lisa Thumann, for your expertise and passion.

Next on the agenda is formulating an action plan – how we will share what we have learned, either through presentations or in the classroom. It’s difficult to decide where to start.

As a teacher librarian, I’d like to say to my colleagues – you are already well skilled in many of the Google tools. We are experts in Search, News, Scholar, Google Books,  and there are experts among us with things like Google Lit Trips. What we don’t know, we can learn from the excellent Google help and crib sheets.

So, having said that, here is my initial idea for a Google action plan – to create a community for Google PD either in Google Groups or Sites specifically for teacher librarians. This would be a place to share knowledge, ideas and material. There are experts amongst us, and it would be good to pool our collective talents to present professional development either face to face, or through slideshows and webinars. Glenda Morris and I are both GCT  TLs in Victoria, and when I spoke to Glenda about this idea, she was happy to take part. There is already so much prepared by Google, for example, take a look at all the material in Google Web Search: Classroom lessons and resources.

What do you think? I would love to receive feedback for this idea. And please, if I’ve missed something you wanted to know about the Google Academy experience, please ask.

(A big thankyou, also, to Lisa Perez (TL in Chicago) who initiated meeting Glenda and me before the conference, and encouraged us to join forces as TLs).

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How do you find 50 people you don’t know from all over the world?

As you already know from a recent post, I’m lucky to be attending the Sydney Google Teacher Academy in April. I have to say, I’ve been curious to find out who is going and where they’re from. Someone started a Twitter #gtasyd hashtag which got the ball rolling, and soon I was adding people to my Twitter network and to a #gtasyd Twitter list. At one point, somebody asked for those attending the Sydney academy to share their 60 second video. I was thinking the same thing, although I’d tried searching YouTube but the results returned a mixture of people’s videos from different years.

Even though it seemed a little too obvious, I decided to create a Google Doc. This worked very well – after I realised that I’d made it public but hadn’t allowed anyone to edit. Soon #gtasyd people were coming in and introducing themselves, providing photos, a little background to place them geographically and add a personal touch, adding blog urls, Twitter usernames, and a link to their 60 second video.

You can have a look here if you’re interested. At first I thought we were either from Australia, New Zealand or USA but then Boris from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia added his details, followed by a ‘lucky Frenchman’.

Suddenly I’d gone from having very little information about the people I’d be meeting in Sydney – only those who were already in my PLN – to knowing quite a bit about them: where they lived, their identities on Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Diigo, etc., what they looked like, a little family background, not to mention the fact that I could browse their blogs for interests, focus, mindset and more. The fact that these people had a rich web presence made it easy to find the information I needed.

How important is a web presence? How important is it for us to help our students begin to create a digital footprint, a positive and authentic identity online?  These are obviously rhetorical questions. We need to stop focusing on the dangers of our students’ online activity and focus on teaching them to create strong, positive digital footprints.

At one point, as I was watching Boris (from Russia) enter his details on the Google doc (I love the way you can see it take shape right before your eyes), he noticed I was viewing and we had a short chat. That was cool – I was at school in Melbourne, Australia, and he was in Russia in a different timezone.

I’m glad that Australia finally got a go with Google Teacher Academy, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in April. I wonder what kind of projects and connections will come from this experience?

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What an opportunity – Google Teacher Academy Sydney

What a (good) shock it was to receive an email with news that I had been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney 20 April (as well as an optional half-day on Thursday). I still can’t believe my luck!  I’ve heard the one full-day PD is full-on, so I hope I’m up to it mentally and physically.

Although I’m confused and upset that many bright and shining people who deserve to go weren’t selected,  I am also honoured and excited, and look forward to fantastic opportunities to learn, connect and share with passionate educators. I expect that this experience will enhance my ability to support teaching and learning at my own school and in my broader environment, and also to broaden my understanding of ways in which I can contribute to learning enhancement, my new role this year. Obviously, the learning will not end with the one session but continue beyond the day. I look forward to meeting and adding to my network new people from all over the place. It’s always fantastic to discover interesting, innovative people.

Not sure what happens here

I suppose I’d better book my flight soon, as well as somewhere to stay. It will be interesting meeting the overseas people. Can’t wait!

Who else is going? Looking forward to meeting you.

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Going for Google Academy

I thought I was dreaming when I read a tweet about Google Teacher Academy running in Sydney, Australia this year.

The Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment

Only 50 educators Australia wide will be selected. Although my chances are small, thanks to Anne Mirtschin, I decided to have a go. Why not? The application process itself is valuable in its evaluative and reflective focus. An important part of the application is the creation of an original 60 second video on either  of the following topics: “Motivation and Learning” OR “Classroom Innovation.”  To me, they’re pretty much one and the same. I chose “Classroom Innovation” and included evidence of some of the learning which used new technologies to take learning out of the textbook and the classroom by creating interactive, collaborative and often global learning opportunities.

What do you think? Not easy to cram a message into 60 seconds. The music is from Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, and I’m grateful that the manager of the band, Tristan Ludowyk, responded so quickly to my email request and gave me permission to use the band’s music.

If you’d like to apply, you’d better hurry up because applications close 27 January 2011. Click here for information.

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What can you do with a mobile phone and creativity?

This is what Jason van Genderen did:

The 3 minute film cost $57 to make, was shot in New York and Sydney, and won first place at the New York Tropfest. Tropfest is the largest short film festival in the world, with the aim of bringing exposure to talented, young filmmakers from around New York and the world.

Can you imagine the fun and creativity for students with such a project?

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Open assessment task controversy

A topic close to my heart raised by Chris Betcher in his blog, has sparked debate and given the opportunity for many to voice their opinions (and frustrations). Chris teaches at PLC, Sydney, and blogs about the controversial move his school has taken by having open assessment tasks, testing not content memorisation, but student response using what is available to them, eg. the web, iPod, mobile phone, etc.

John Connell responds in his blog:
“Chris is worried by some of the comments that have been posted in response to the Sydney Morning Herald’s piece on the PLC move. He has no reason to worry, unless, like me, he simply feels concern for the evidently lamentable understanding of the nature of knowledge and the purpose of education of all those who are criticizing the move”.

And yes, we should all be worried. I agree with Chris, John and others about the desperate need to revise the examination systems, and this presupposes a re-evaluation of and massive shift in thinking where education or learning is concerned. As far as I’m aware, this shift is only happening in small, isolated pockets of the education world.

I laughed at John Connell’s vivid image of students vomiting their learned knowledge ‘onto a piece of paper on command’ (ready, set, go!) and laughed even harder when he added his frustration with exams being written ‘with a pencil!’ Actually, there’s nothing funny about that at all. Capable, intelligent students are in some cases compromising their results when, like my older son, currently doing year 12 International Baccalaureate (heavily exam-based), they have illegible handwriting and they have to write quickly in exams. This is a laptop school.

My younger son (same laptop school) comes home regularly with homework he has copied from the board into his exercise book – a set of questions, out of context, which the students have to tackle using the latest in pedagogy – INDEPENDENT RESEARCH – which, according to the teacher, is comprised of solitary googling – passing up a trip to the well-resourced library, with no scaffolding, etc. (excuse the pent up frustration with an otherwise excellent school, but I think many schools would be similar).

Homework is also up with the latest technology, and projects regularly assume the form of tables or powerpoint, with powerpoint being the all-time favourite. My son feels guilty if we have a discussion before his homework task, because ‘it’s cheating’ (the independent bit). I’m trying to change his mindset, telling him that it’s the learning process that’s important, and that this process gains much from discussion and questioning, in fact, that’s what learning is all about. It’s a struggle to change from a focus on ‘the right answer’ and ‘a good mark’.

When I was doing my teacher librarian degree through distance education at Charles Sturt University, we had an online student cohort and I used to ask all the ‘dumb questions’. I thought I was slower than everyone, until I started getting emails from students secretly thanking me for asking the questions they were too afraid to ask. Mindset CHANGE needed here!

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