Monday, October 20, 2014

The Dung Ball - Progress Through Failure

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak with teachers in Frederick Maryland and Manchester Connecticut.  I love doing these talks. It's an incredible rush to know that because of your message a teacher is ready to put him or herself out there and try something new in the classroom. Maybe it's finding an alternative to a worksheet they've used for ten years, or creating a video so that students can access the material at home. 
The topic of failure is often preached at our events, and there are fantastic examples of people who have taken a risk and it hasn't worked out.  However, that doesn't make it any easier. Anytime I fail I get incredibly nervous and fear what others may think.  So much so that I will begin thinking of ways to frame the mistake so that it lessens the blow.   What I've began doing, however, is start with the cold hard truth. I made a mistake. This didn't work. In other words, I failed. 
When I was in the classroom, I had times where my test scores were lower than they were supposed to be.  I've forgotten critical deadlines that led to missed opportunities. I've empowered students to publish online, only later discovering that what they posted was very inappropriate and potentially damaging to the school's reputation. 
I now believe that those failures helped me discover who I am. Every time a mistake happens, we are forced to look in the mirror and realize that we're not as good as we would like to be. Over time, we begin amassing a huge collection of mistakes, or as I call it, a dung ball.  This ball of "*@*@" is who we are, and it motivates us to be better next time; to continue searching for the correct path forward. 
Don't try to hide your dung ball. Own it. It's who you are. You will be surprised how relieving it is to know that even the worst about us is out in the open. There's something to be said about not giving others the chance to hold something against you. Because you're so up front with pointing out your failures it can no longer sit in the back of your mind and keep you for taking the next big risk. 
I hope to see you at the next EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google Apps for Education in your area. 

Empowered Teaching: A Gift to Yourself

Heritage High School
Denver, Colorado

I used to believe that my birthday was a special event that warranted a full month of festivities and fun. Even though I am not quite as selfish as I used to be, I did give myself the best present I could give myself: a weekend around empowered teachers. I just spent my birthday attending the Colorado GAFE Summit in Boulder. 

Molly Schroeder made it clear in her keynote that just by being at the conference we are empowered teachers. We may not always feel it. We may feel that we are just getting started. We may have lots of hoops and bureaucratic red-tape to get through. We may not have the devices we want. We may not have the support we want. 

But what we do have is a community of teachers trying to make education better tomorrow than it was today. 

It’s not always about getting what you want or getting the newest devices in your students’ hands. It’s about doing what is best for students. 

So, what is best for students? 

You know. You’re a teacher. That is why you do what you do. 

If you still aren’t quite sure what you should do, here are a few suggestions:

Fail loudly: one of the things that many of our students never hear is that it is okay to fail. When you try new things as a teacher and they don’t work, let your students know that you tried and failed. Being a teacher doesn’t make you infallible or invincible. It gives you a platform to share your failures (but also share your successes). 

Live in Beta: This builds off of the first piece suggestion, but by trying new things and taking risks, you are admitting that what you have always done isn’t necessarily the best. With changes in students, we should have changes in instruction. Take a risk, try something new, live a little. 

Attend a GAFE Summit (or any other conference that would surround yourself with like-minded people): One of the best things that I could have done in my first semester of teaching was to attend my first EdCamp. I had no idea what it was, but I walked away thinking, there is something better out there for our students, and I want to be a part of that. Become that empowered teacher

After attending the Colorado GAFE Summit, I realized this: no matter where the education spectrum shifts or whatever referendums are passed down,  there are so many educators ready to fail loudly, live in beta mode, and to do what is best for students. I want to be a part that. 

That weekend was one of the best presents that I could have given myself because I know that I am a part of that. I am an empowered teacher.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Summit for Students? One of the Best Ideas of 2014!

Blog Post by Holly Clark

Winner of the famous #gafesummit Chromebook!

It was quite an adventure in travel. After landing in Toronto, we had to hurry through customs, wait in line at another security checkpoint  and sprint to the gate to board a two hour flight to Thunder Bay. From there, it would be another two hour drive in the pitch dark along Lake Superior passing signs warning us of “Moose on the Loose.” While keeping a close lookout for Moose, we made our way to Schreiber, Ontario, Canada to a small town of about 1,000 people.

Despite the long travel, this was one summit I had been excited about for months. This one was a completely new concept!  It was for students and students only. As a team, we would be helping students learn all about the exciting features of Google - on the iPad and other devices - and they would be empowered to go back to their schools and teach their teachers.  This was thinking outside the box in the most impactful way. 

You could see the excitement on the faces of the students as they entered the school, picking up their name tags and a few snacks to fuel them for the day. They had their heads held high, sat eager to learn and their enthusiasm energized the room as we opened with a  student- focused keynote about doing good online and becoming a school leader.

Students signed up for three different strands of learning focused around Google Drive, Search, Presentations, Drawing and Chrome Apps and Extensions. In one of my sessions, I overheard a student exclaim “This is the most exciting thing I have ever done! Our school really believes in us!” I watched lightbulbs go off in his eyes as he learned about Google Drive on the iPad and he made sure to stop by and tell me he loved the session before leaving to attend his next challenge based learning experience.

The comment that had the most impact on me, came from a parent who was also the local reporter. As a local resident, her eight year old daughter did not go to this school board, but after watching the events of the day she was now rethinking that decision. She remarked that THIS school board obviously was doing the best they could for  students and cared about them becoming digitally  literate. This was very important to her as a parent because of their rural location.

We  ended the day with a Demo Slam - a staple of any #gafesummit. What made this special was that the students themselves did the Demo Slams - short presentations showcasing tips and tricks using Google. They proudly and energetically showed off to the audience what they had learned that day, and audience roared with enthusiasm. 

I am not sure what made Katie Maenpaa of the Superior North Catholic District School Board come up with this idea, but in one “thinking outside the box” decision she changed the lives of a 100 students yesterday. She turned students into lead learners and empowered them to become school leaders. If more school leaders could have experienced the power of this day, everyone would have a Student Summit at their school. I hope to see these pop up in school boards and districts across North America.

Special thanks to Kim Figliomeni the Principal of the Holy Angels School in Schreiber, Ontario for her hospitality.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Need My Stinkin’ Badges

Guest Blog: San Diego Google for Education Summit Participant:

Stephanie Macceca has been in education for 20 years as a classroom high school teacher and college professor. She’s written more than 20 books for classroom use and currently is a Teacher Librarian and a Google Ninja for the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego, CA. 

Twitter: @ReadingPusher
Re-blogged from:

Last weekend, when I attended the Google Apps for Educators Summit in San Diego, and I learned the workshops were gamified, I got more than excited. I mean, they were giving away stickers for completing challenges based on what we learned in the workshop. And, these stickers were cool looking. They were space-themed with rockets and moons and spacemen, and they represented three different levels: #gettinggoing #gearing up and #gettinggeeky. Deep down I wanted those #gettinggeeky badges--I knew they were going to be harder to get. I thought to myself, these guys thought this badge business through. These badges are even alliterative.

In the second session I attended, my friend April showed me that in addition to earning real badges, the summit was also awarding online badges, and she set in motion a chain of events that still has me reeling.

The online badges were even more beautiful, and the challenges were fun. Take a selfie at the photo booth with the Summit sign and upload it. Tweet with the hashtag #gafesummit. Talk to a sponsor and get a code. It seemed as though a switch turned on for me, and my rabid desire to achieve took over. I was going to get all those badges, I was going to get more badges than anyone else, and it was going to be amazing.

I felt incredible.

And I finished those challenges within 60 minutes.

When I checked my Credly account to see the glory of all those badges, my page indicated I had only earned two badges, when in reality I had completed nine. I mean, nine challenges is a lot of challenges, and I wanted that tab to say NINE. Really, I wanted it to say eleven. And why did April’s Credly account say she finished seven? Clearly, there was something motivating and discouraging about immediate gratification.

This is when I realized that I had been manipulated in the best way possible. These masterminds behind Google Apps for Education somehow got me to listen to two sponsor pitches, they got me to tweet and retweet, to comment on Google Plus, to join their Google Plus community, to give them a selfie, and to add a bunch of Chrome apps. I was hooked.

This is the power of gamification.

Kids and adults love to take challenges even when the only reward is a sticker. The badge challenges were something I could try without penalty. I could take risks and no one would know if I failed. This wasn’t high-stakes learning: this was try-it until-you-get-it learning. I felt like my learning was in my own hands rather than in the hands of my instructor.

And I was liberated.

At the end of the summit, I still wanted those online badges. This glitch with Credly that makes it seem that I didn’t earn the badges makes me crazy, but my learning is in my own hands. With a few drags and clicks, I sent an order for custom stickers exactly like the ones I earned online. I will have those badges for real. I need them.

I also need to get kids motivated to read, and gamification the solution for my library. Today I set out to design a series of reading challenges. The challenges will include reading all the books in a series, reading a classic, reading a graphic novel, reading a book over 1,000 pages, reading from every genre, reading an award winner, writing a review on Tumblr, and more. I’m designing the badges now. The kids are going to go bonkers!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The New Editing Options in Slides -Check this Out!

Another Awesome Post from Michael Wacker 
Director of Professional Development for EdTechTeam

My curiosity was piqued earlier today when I saw this new advanced image options in slides and drawings via a post from +Jay Atwood 

I was able to spend a few minutes with the new feature and it's tight.

There are some elements of design that I like to use when I am creating slides, designing, banners, headers, sliders, logos, templates etc. I need to be able to overlay images and shapes, as well as create almost transparent objects floating or lightly traced onto the canvas. A simple but useful application, it is now easy to create a watermark for branding on legal documents or presentations. This simple addition of overlays and transparency, when done well, elevates the professional look of a design. This concept can also be used for personalizing, advertising, messaging, copyright, etc.

Even though you can't use this new image editing feature in Google Docs -  there is a great feature built into all of the Core Apps.  Chances are you may not be using it, and it's seriously awesome. It is called Web Clipboard, it is easy to use, and it can generate a history of your object and text "copy pastes" in Google Apps.

The steps are simple:
  1. Open a Slide or Drawing
  2. Insert Image
  3. Click on Image Options
  4. Once you have modified your image, go to edit, web clipboard and copy to web clipboard
  5. Open Document
  6. Go to edit, web clipboard and choose the Top Shape in the list (note: may take a second to load)
  7. You now can copy individual objects from the drawing and directly into your doc, including #autoawesome and masked image objects. 

Note: if you choose "copy entire drawing" you will not be able to select individual objects once in the doc.

Below is an example I quickly made for a Welcome slide, packet, or brochure.

This great new feature will make it easy to bring a more professional look to the items you create in Google Apps. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Gift of Giving

Post from Ken Shelton 

Among the many things that EdTechTeam does for Education, one we are particularly proud of is our commitment to giving to the Educational Community. We are able to accomplish this core organizational value through our current grant program. The program has been in place since 2012, and each year we select a set of winners among our grant applications for either a class set of Nexus tablets or Chromebooks. So far we have given out 3 class sets of Nexus tablets, and another 4 class sets of Chromebooks. This has no doubt had a transformative affect for the teachers that were awarded the grants and the students in each of their classes. An additional goal of our program is to support the shift in those classes to a 1:1 program where each student in the class has their own device to use. A significant percentage of the funding for our program is supported by the Google for Education Summits we produce around the world.  More information about our upcoming Summits can be found here.

Grant Winner Sarah Demers

During one of our recent Summits, in Calgary, Alberta we had an opportunity to not only speak with one of our grant winners, but also conduct a brief interview. The interview can be seen in the video below. We look forward to reviewing and awarding many more grants and hope that if you attend one of our Summits you will consider applying as well. Additional information about our grant program can be found here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Everything is (Auto)Awesome! Five Super Rad Features of Google Plus Photos

Awesome Post from Michael Wacker 
Director of Professional Development for EdTechTeam

I love Google Plus for sharing and connecting with colleagues, following trends and topics, and keeping in touch with family. Recently there have been rumblings that the photo sharing, editing, and organizing, element built natively in G+ will soon be a stand alone application. Similar to Blogger in many ways, you will still have access to the account, be able to post to Google Plus, and use the same circles for sharing your images. I love this idea, but here’s where it’s a bummer for me. I actually have found that Google Plus is a really great place to follow and connect with some pretty prolific photographers out there. Simply following 500px opened up a myriad of photogs with amazing images, scenes, and beauty being shared as a steady stream on my page or mobile.

However, this post isn’t about the rumor or possible separation of photos from G+ or about how I wish Picasa Web Albums would stay relevant in this convoluted toolbox of apps and features. This post is about the (Auto)awesome-ness that is the photography tool built into the app and ecosystem and what I think are the raddest five elements and features of the Google Plus Photos tool belt available to everyone right now!
If you are using Google Plus, you must begin leveraging the auto backup feature from your phone, tablet or mobile. It works on both iOS and Android, and it works in the background. Before you back everything up the first time it is important to go into the settings and customize your G+ Photos. There are a lot of options and features that you may want to turn on for yourself. The ability to customize when you auto backup your larger videos and photos and decide if you want it only on wifi (to keep your data use lower) is especially important if you have concerns over data use on your mobile. As far as storage goes; in Education, we get 30 GB of storage in our EDU accounts. That is a lot of storage. Did you know that you can also buy additional storage for individuals within a domain? But the best part of this customization, is that you can choose what size you want to backup the images at. If you choose a smaller size 2048 x 2048 for example, it WILL NOT COUNT against your storage capacity. You can upload an unlimited amount of standard size photos, but full size photos will count against your Google Drive storage quota. 

Go into the settings and customize your G+ Photos

Customize when, how, and what size
Tip:  If you approach your quota, photos will auto adjust to the standard size.

Auto Awesome

What it does
When you might get this effect
Adds falling snow
Take a photo that has snow in it
Removes moving objects
Take 4+ successive photos of something with movement in the background (like passersby)
One photo showing full range of movement
Take 4+ photos of the same scene (with something moving)
Short animation
Take 5+ successive photos of something moving (while holding the camera still)
Merges photos of a group of people to show everyone at their best
Take 2+ successive photos of a group of people smiling
Combines partly overlapping photos into one wide view
Move the camera right or left to capture 3+ photos of partly overlapping areas
Photobooth style grid
Take 3+ successive photos of someone with the same background (works best with faces)
Tip: Get effects manually (Android only) You can choose any of your photos and make a Motion or Mix from them. Open the Photos app > touch the Photos icon at the top left to open the menu > Auto Awesome. Touch the create icon at the top right to make a Movie, Motion, or Mix.

Auto Movies

StoriesParty ModeAs a teacher or administrator, I could see using the “Party Mode” feature for date and time contained projects, class trips, class photo albums, etc. When invited to an event, if you enable party mode, all of your pictures during the duration of the event can be automatically backed up to the album by anyone on the invite list. The ability to share an auto backup album this way, makes sharing with classrooms, families, and communities easier. To turn on Party mode just open the Google+ app. Select the event and then check or uncheck the box next to Party Mode. If you see the upload icon in your notifications tray, it is on and it'll automatically turn off as soon as the event ends.
+1 More... AutoAwesome Photobombs 
In this blogpost the "latest feature" is highlighted 

Auto Backup

The auto backup gets really good after you upload from your computer, phone, tablet; almost immediately you will receive a notification. In your settings you will notice an auto enhance and an auto awesome setting and feature. Auto Awesome lives up to its title, by automatically enhancing, cleaning up, and organizing your photos. When your photos match certain criteria, autoawesome creates copies of those images and turns them into, short animations or wide-screen panoramas. Automatically combining multiple images to capture the best shot, or creating a Don't worry, your original photos aren't deleted. Auto Awesome just makes a copy of them & your original photos are still in your Google+ photos.

Awhile back Google released Auto Movies, which is an enhancement built on combining your images and videos and putting them to sound. Your phone and autobackup is busy plugging away at telling the tale of your adventure while you are refueling, on to the next adventure, or asleep for the night. Next time you look down at your phone, voila G+ just created the first draft of your movie scrapbooks from your photos and videos captured during your last escapade. This is great because you can go in and make your own movies from pictures possibly missed by the autoenhancements backup the first time. Truly it is amazing to me that built into the android G+ app is a robust mobile movie editor. Basic Edits your children of all ages can make can make are: Add title, Change music, Change the style, Add a scene, Remove or re-order scenes, and Swipe a scene away to remove it.
“If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again” - Groucho Marx
We love to share our travel stories, don’t we? What a way to prompt storytelling through multiple means! Most recently the G+ Photos team has released another autoenhancement called, Stories. Stories are built on the autoawesome features and are location based.
"weave your photos, videos and the places you visited into a beautiful travelogue," -Anil Sabharwal -Google's director of product management
Stories are created automagically when you autobackup photos and videos to Google+. It will also work if location history and geo tagging of photos is enabled when you upload at a later date.

Now with Auto Awesome Photobombs, you too can get a celebrity photobomb—no red carpet required. We’re starting with surprise appearances by +David Hasselhoff, everyone’s favorite crime-fighting rockstar lifeguard.
Of course the following day is April Fool's, right?  #autohoffed