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3 Reasons to Return: Confessions of a GAFE Summit Junkie
The most interesting thing about being a life-long learner, to me, is that even after 30 years of teaching, I am never satiated. I am never stagnant. I MUST know more, and often to the detriment of my need for sleep, I feel like I must know everything. Before he passed, my father asked me “How do you know all of this stuff? You didn’t go to college to learn about computers!” Honestly, I learned by doing (shout out to Cal Poly!), as I hope my students will. My students know that I know some things, but I am happy to learn right alongside them as we continue integrating more technology into our classroom. I am a teacher who very much believes in student choice and autonomy, and have found that Google tools help me to facilitate teaching and guiding learning in these ways.
So, backtrack to November of 2014 when I saw a tweet or post or got an email (or who knows how or where) about a “Google Conference” in Las Vegas. It had been a while since I’d been to Vegas, and I am always looking for an excuse to travel. I approached my classroom-neighbor and co-teacher, Rosalinda, waving the “Las Vegas carrot” in front of her and told her we HAD to go. We are blessed with a forward-thinking principal who agreed to pay for our registration fees and we agreed to pay for our travel expenses. There was a price, however: we had to agree to train our site’s teachers. This was an easy trade as we knew how hungry our colleagues were to grow in order to help their students grow. Our district had gradually switched over to being a GAFE organization, and we were feeling fairly confident in our implementation of a few things, but we knew there had to be more.
Oh, yes. There is more. So much more.
We arrived Saturday morning at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy really having no idea of what we were in for. By the end of the day, we were looking at each other, astounded, and had trouble putting into words what we were feeling. We’d been bitten by the Googlebug. BADLY.
On Monday (hey, we had to play a bit!), we headed home… planning all the way. We talked and talked and Ro typed copious notes as I drove. We had a lot to try, and thankfully our students were exceptionally curious. As it turned out, they were more than willing to jump into the deep end of the Googlewater with us. Neither of us was afraid of asking them to learn with us and teach us what they discovered.
We also knew that our fellow educators in Temecula Valley needed an EdTechTeam Summit. We immediately began the process of convincing our district-level administration that this needed to happen. On the eve of my fifth Summit, HERE IN TEMECULA, I was asked to share why I keep coming back. I warned the EdTechTeam that I’m a writer, but I’ll do my best to keep this as focused as possible.
The information. Things change so fast. There is always something new. Through social media, we are kept abreast of most changes, but with only 140 characters, most of the in-coming information needs more investigation. Which leads me to the next reason – which really should be #1, but it didn’t flow as well…
The people. The EdTechTeam and the other people I have met, be they presenters or fellow-attendees share the same passion that I do: we want the best for our students. We want them to be prepared for their futures; we need to help develop flexible learners who can collaborate and communicate well. The people I have met at the Summits have become friends and mentors, and we are able to stay connected through social media. I feel completely supported in my endeavors to stay abreast of all of the new information and hope that I can do the same for others. I feel encouraged to go back to my colleagues and my students and push them to try new things.
The format. As stated before, I learn best through participation. Sitting and listening to lectures is not going to work for me, let alone interest me. I have been thoroughly engaged in all of my sessions and encouraged by presenters who offered opportunities to put new ideas to work immediately. Whether a presentation is focused on tools to make instruction or management easier or tools for our students, each has ideas that can be implemented in my classroom the next day.
So there you have it. Three reasons why I keep coming and WILL keep coming back for more GAFE Summits. Coming full circle, now in February, I have attended my SIXTH GAFE Summit – as a presenter – in Las Vegas, where it all began. I was able to sit alongside new-to-all-of-this teachers in a few of my sessions, see the shock and awe in their eyes, and help them along. I made more new friends and grew my PLN; I enjoyed hanging out with my “tribe”. I just submitted my “Request for Presenters” for the Pomona (LA County) Summit in March. It is so FUN to find passion for something new this late in my career. And, I feel privileged to support “experienced” teachers who may be resistant to or afraid of technology. There is nothing easier to adapt to than Google Apps for Education.
Confessions of a Google Summit Junkie.