3 Takeaways from the GAFE Summit
Bad professional development can suck your energy dry, give you a headache, and leave you watching the second-hand on the clock. Good professional development, however, revs you up and has you itching to get back to school to try out what you learned.
The 2016 GAFE Summit in Franklin, Indiana was clearly the latter.
I could write pages and pages about what I learned at this GAFE (Google Apps For Education) event, but I’d like to focus on three major takeaways lingering in my brain a week later.
1. Google Sites is not user-friendly, but there is a key to open the lock. – I’ve never done anything with Google Sites with my fourth graders. This is mainly because every time I try out Sites on my own I end up angry. Google, despite being known for many amazingly easy-to-use products, has not yet developed sites into an intuitive resource to create websites.
However, after a session at the GAFE Summit, I feel like I learned a trick to make Google Sites a platform my students could realistically use to curate content. It’s a Table of Contents. Once you’re editing a page in Sites, click Insert and Find Table of Contents.
Then, when you’re ready to add content (text, videos, maps, etc.), type a heading and highlight it. Then, click Format and turn the text into a heading. It will automatically be added to your Table of Contents. This will help your young writers organize their site.
2. There are an infinite number of uses for Google Forms. – This takeaway will be the one that most positively affects my classroom. Before I attended the Summit, I hadn’t considered the possibilities of Google Forms. I just saw them as an easy way to collect survey data from parents or students…nothing too heavy. Now, I see much more.
One day after the summit, I used Google Forms to collect a reading goal from each student, and then I pulled up their reading goal on my Chromebook as I was conferring with them that week. In Math, I created a generic form I titled “Help!” Then, when students were working with a partner, they could enter the question number that was confusing them. Instead of raising their hand and waiting, students could move on to the next problem while they waited. I carried my device around as I circulated the room and answered questions as needed, sometimes saving myself time by pulling two or three groups together to talk about the same question. Efficient!
3. Technology PD sessions need to focus on either being inspiring or giving how-to instructions. – This was the biggest difference between the GAFE Summit and any other conference I’ve ever been to. Each presenter seemed to have decided beforehand whether they wanted to inspire their audience or give them the nuts-and-bolts of a technology tool. The inspirational session leaders spoke about huge ideas, trying to expand our thinking and question our practices as teachers. Others really dissected one or more tools, teaching steps sequentially. I loved how this allowed attendees of the conference to find sessions that fit their mood and needs.
Bonus Takeaway : It was awesome. – They had flashing lights and loud music. Mind blown.