Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#GAFESummit Reflection

Monday was my first official day of summer.  It also happened to be the day that my school was hosting its first ever #GAFESummit.  The GAFE Summit is a day of training in Google Apps For Education provided by the Ed Tech Team.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a GAFE Summit, I strong recommend going.

We had four sessions to fill our day.  My first session was dedicated to using Google Calendar.  If you haven't figured it out by now, my school uses Google apps for just about everything.  We've been using Google Calendar ever since I started working there, but I never totally understood how it worked.  I was always worried that if I added my own appointments on the calendar it would appear for the whole school to see, or that if I made a change it would mess things up for the whole school.  I learned to make new calendars for my own purposes.  I made a calendar for all of my appointments, etc. to help me keep track of what I've done for my evaluation.  I made calendars for all of my classes.  I shared these calendars with my co-teacher so we can stay on the same page of what is being taught and when.  I have a Google Site for my Regents Geometry class, and I figured out how to embed the calendar for that class into my website.  I plan on keeping track of lessons, homework, and tests on the calendar.  It will be helpful to both students and parents.  We also learned how to create appointment slots so others can sign up for time on your calendar.  I cannot see actually using this strategy just yet though.  The Google Calendar session was my favorite by far.

My second session was on how to "Save Time with Google Extensions".  I've known about extensions from a conference I previously attended, but was hoping to learn about some new ones.  (FYI:  Google Extensions are add-ons for your Google Chrome browser.)
The five main suggested extensions are:
Here are some of the other extensions I'm excited to try:

My third session was "Supporting Community with Google".  I was really excited for this session, but was disappointed by the fact that my school does not have 2 of the 4 methods enabled.
The four ways to use Google to reach out to communities are through:
  • Google+ Communities (It's the Google version of a social network)
  • Google Groups (Communicate with groups that you arrange)
  • Google Sites (I already have this set up, and I love using it.  I just wish my students would use it as often)
  • Google Spaces (I don't know much about this because we weren't able to access it during the session)
I'm really interested in using Google+, but since it's a lesser used social network, I am considering creating a class Twitter or Instagram to share what's going on in class with parents.  Our presenter told us about how much his parents love when he posts photos of what they did that day.  The benefit of Google+ is that it is monitored by our district, so I wouldn't have anything major to worry about.  It is also a more professional platform, in my opinion.  Using Twitter or Instagram is easier for students/parents to access, but is a little nerve-wracking because it is not a website that the district can monitor.  I would have to worry about interactions on those sites with parents or students, especially those that can happen "privately".  To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what I am afraid of, but it was beaten into me during my undergrad that you cannot interact with students and parents on social media.  I would have to have a discussion with my administration if I wanted to pursue this.

My fourth session was dedicated to using Google Search.  We learned all kinds of shortcuts to find what we are really looking for when we search.  It was very informative, but really did not need a full hour dedicated to the topic.

My only gripe is that I feel I missed so much by not being able to attend every session.  I'm hoping my school is able to host again in the future so I can learn more.  I didn't get to attend any of the Google Classroom sessions, and I really want to learn about using Google Classroom.

The day ended with a Demo Slam.  Each presenter had a 3 minute time limit to show how to use an app or an extension.  I loved the demo slam.  In less than 15 minutes we learned about creating an animation with Google Photos, how to use Google Keep, how to eliminate choices in Google Forms (after it has been selected a certain number of times), and more.

Overall it was an awesome way to spend a day, and a great start to a productive summer.

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