education · learning disabilities · technology

Getting Googley @Google

Friday, I had the privilege of being part of the first EdTechTeacher Google Jamboree at Google Cambridge, MA.  It goes without saying what an amazing day of professional development it was.  There are so many takeaways I had from that day that are bouncing around in my head, I hope to make sense of a few for you here. 

Foremost, it’s what the Google panel expressed at the end of the day that is continuing to resonate.  The people that they are looking to hire have curiosity, a desire to keep learning, comfort with change and a desire to be part of it, and they have vision.  While I am sure this does not surprise you, it did give thought to what are we doing in our classrooms, in our schools, in our learners to prepare them for this?  There is a definite shift happening with some educators, but is it happening in education as a whole?  I am myself guilty of falling in the traditional trap when I don’t keep on myself to grow and create.  Sometimes we as educators focus on content and on skills, we forget to teach the things today’s companies are looking for, the things that books don’t hold, but come from the heart of being.  It’s that growth mindset Carol Dweck talks about.   

For myself, teaching students with learning disabilities, I can get so focused on remediating skills, that I don’t also teach the love of learning, and make my students own their learning in new and different ways.  I have made it my March madness mission to try some new things in my classroom to prepare my 8th graders for their transitioning out at the end of the year to own their learning, but to also teach them ways to use their tech to “show what they know” in fun and different ways.  My 7th graders are also going to get some of this new and different fun too because it is never too soon.  While my 5th graders in writing have already started to play with some new ways to put their ideas and work together that are more engaging…and should I dare say maybe fun, there is still room to grow!   I want to foster curiosity and excitement to learn, always have, but it does takes thought, it takes being uncomfortable.  I want them to create a vision for how they will get from point A to point B, when I don’t tell them how to do it.  I thank Jennie Magiera for her session on creation with tablets.  The hands-on time that she provided with great enthusiasm really gave time to think outside the box to use the tools already in the toolbox in new and different ways.  The collaboration time with others really fostered new ideas and thoughts to bring back to my students and my school.

Next up…space….ugh! My classroom is small (when most of our largest classes are 6-7 students, most of our rooms are.  So how do I adapt the space?  This is my next goal, but a lofty one.  The work being done by Erin Klein related to this is amazing.  Google’s spaces by no surprise, are not traditional looking offices.  Just watch The Internship (and yes the nap pods are real!)  The work space is open, no cubicles.  There are desks, but not in lines and rows, and the desks are adjustable to raise and lower.  My students who love to stand could really use those.  Then there are the couches, the side rooms of comfy chairs, sunny windows with groups of high-back cushioned seats and not to leave out the treadmills with desks.  Everything from design of work spaces, to design of walls, to stocked kitchen areas within easy access for a snack or cup of coffee, is thoughtful to create a productive environment to be curious, to be visionary, to be able to get outside one’s comfort zone, and not be alone in that process, for it’s collaborative. The colors, the conversation, the energy would make anyone want to engage in growth. I don’t know what I will do with my space, but I am going to have my students share their ideas for what they would like and see what I can do.

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While I cannot immediately impact my space, I can impact the digital workspace!  Last fall Google Classroom launched and while I have followed what educators are saying about it, the session with Jen Holland about it really hit it home.  I got it, I clicked with it, and am excited about it! Google has created a workflow that the current learning management systems (LMS) can’t replicate.  Funnily enough Google, doesn’t want to call Classroom a LMS. With the ability to directly work the flow of posting assignments and documents with Drive, as well as students’ ability to just “Turn In” Docs, Forms, etc…right into folders that are made on the backend by Google when you set up Classroom is amazing.  Google gets the teacher brain better than we do for ourselves.  I am glad to know there is someone out there helping to think like we should, and know that we would, if only give the time we don’t have. 

I end with some tweets that resonated from the end of the day to empower you and engage you to be Googley yourself.    

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