Saturday, August 20, 2011

Going to Google - GTA Seattle July 2011

 There is a lot of chalk on the raw concrete walls of the Google Seattle offices. Messages are scrawled, pictures drawn, arrows point to give directions (in case you weren't sure that those stairs went up.) An internet company whose products exist entirely in the digital world has chalk all over it's walls.

The GTA Banner
There is so much whimsy and child like energy there, that it can't be contained within offices and work spaces; it spills out on to the walls. Not surprisingly, the people are young, amazingly bright, very talented and did I mention, very young. After meeting the product manager for Google Docs, Jeff Harris, (via video conference) the question we all wanted answered (even if we didn't say it) was "How old is he?" (I would have guessed about 20, actual answer closer to 27.)


As expected, the Google Teacher Academy was a mind blowing experience. Its been about three weeks, but most of it is still vividly with me. Okay some of it. Wondering what we did? The agenda is not a secret.You can see the materials, but what you can't see is the energy to Lead Learners brought to every moment. You can't see Ken Shelton training us to oooh and ahhh when he demonstrated voice search. You can't see Molly Schroeder passing out the super hero masks or Corey Pavicich geeking out over ninja G-mail skills. I learned as much about bringing energy and enthusiasm to the topic as I did about the Google tools.

Our lunch break on day two.
Nobody goes to the GTA as a Google novice. I suspect I was probably in the bottom third as far as knowledge of Google tools, though I've been using Docs, and Blogger for four years. We all knew our stuff, but the lead learners just took everything to the next level. Like using forms for assessment? Try adding this script for grading. Already using Google calendar? Try setting up appointment slots and, oh yeah, give people a QR code to book them. Already familiar with youtube? Are you making playlists? Here's why you should. Do you like searching on Google? Nah, you really like finding. Here's a dozen ways to find it faster and easier. Oh and by the way, the average time span of a learning experience was something under ten minutes. Some went as long as 25, many were much shorter.

Besides the massive information hose about all things Google, there was a second stream pouring in as I tried  to get to know more of the participants. Forty seven amazing other educators present and I didn't get a chance to really talk seriously to more than five or six.

Our follow up to GTA is an action plan due at the end of this month. I admit I was stumped. I didn't know what I would do, but then this week as our leadership team planned the all staff meetings for the opening of school I found myself using and suggesting ideas that could become viable action plans. The best is a Google site to help our PLC's track the notes from their meetings in a way that is transparent to other PLC's. So, I'm going with that. Along the way this year I will also try out Google Voice, teach at least a dozen colleagues about Google Docs, (and more about Blogger), present at NCTE about digital pedagogy, demonstrate the effective use of dozens of tools to the pre-service teachers I work with at USD, possibly present at several other conferences and of course, teach my students.
Wearing all the schwag, apron, glasses, hat, earphones, umbrella, and somewhere in there very small, my new GCT pin.