Thursday, December 8, 2016

Breakout Edu- Melbourne Summit 2016

One of my goals at the recent GAFE Summit in Melbourne was to delve into BreakoutEDU. I had long wondered about the concept, having read various reflections. However, it is one of those things that can be hard to make sense of without actually experiencing it.

The first thing that stood out was the place of the teacher in the room. Although it can be easy in the traditional classroom to fall back into the default role of the ‘sage on the stage’, BreakoutEDU simply does not allow for this. With the focus on participants working collaboratively to solve a series of problems in order to unlock a collection of locks attached to a box located in the room, the learning is centered on the learner.

The role of the teacher in this environment is in creating a learning sequence that includes tasks and challenges that are neither too easy nor too hard. One of the suggestions given is to start out small, maybe just a couple of problems over a short amount of time, and as students develop their stamina and resilience increase the length of time. There is also the opportunity for documentation, whether this is taking notes or recording video.

The problems themselves involve the use of a range of resources and stimuli to support the learning, ranging from decks of cards, computer, infrared torch, USB disks with information, coloured paperclips, QR codes and Google Docs. The limit is dependent on your imagination. For example, one case study provided was of a teacher who incorporated Google Cardboard into the activity. While in regards to the locks, there are a number of options, including those controlled by directions, traditional key locks, number and letter codes, as well as an iOS app for something different. Each allows for the creation of different problems to work through.

The reality is that the whole classroom truly becomes a learning environment, both virtually and physically. Anything and everything can be incorporated as a part of the process. With this in mind, it often needs to be specified what maybe out of bounds, such as a permanent screen or teacher’s computer.

In regards to the learning sequences, there are already a range of ready made puzzles which you can use or repurpose based on your context. However, I see the real potential in making your own story to fit your needs. Maybe it is:

Reimagining the immersion process to a unit.
Exploring computational thinking without a computer.
Revising a semester of work.
Developing congeniality amongst staff.
Focusing on general capabilities, such as thinking skills and teamwork.

What needs to be remembered is that it is actually the process and reflection which is most important. Although there maybe some sort of reward within the box, this is not the focus. (Nick Brierley shared how his students have gotten to the point where they no longer need or expect to find anything with the box.)

Personally, I was left thinking about my experience of teaching biomes. Although students engaged with their ecological projects, the immersion process did not carry with it the same enthusiasm. I had attempted to develop a series of flipped videos exploring Brazil. However, students were still left consuming content, making sense of the different biomes. In teaching the unit again, I wonder if it could begin with an activity where together they need to ask and answer a series of puzzles and problems in order to unlock the box. To me this takes some of elements of hyperdocs and combines them with the detective elements of Carmen Sandiego. At the very least, students could work together through a digital version, as demonstrated within this example.

Although creating a scenario from scratch has its challenges in regards to developing a compelling narrative, teachers already have much of the content from the planning documents that they use. For example, when preparing using Understanding By Design teachers identify the intended understandings, questions, content and skills in a process of working backwards. I also wonder if there is potential of students actually developing their own scenario.

So what about you? Have you had any experiences with BreakoutEDU? As always, comments welcome.

Aaron Davis
Melbourne, Australia

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A November to Remember! PD Partner News

EdTechTeam saw another 4000 educators during the month of November. In addition to work in CA, WI, AR and NJ we also had the opportunity to meet with educators in Jakarta, Bangkok, Yellowknife and Canberra during our 42 events last month.

Want to bring EdTechTeam to your school or district? Please take a moment to fill out our request form and a member of the team will contact you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Unless You Ask, the Answer is No: iCERI 2016

I recently presented the ongoing results of my Google for Education Certified Innovator project at the International Conference for Education, Research, and Innovation (iCERi) in Seville, Spain. The requirements to present included: submitting an abstract for a white paper to a panel, submitting the fully formatted white paper after being selected, and then actually showing up in Spain to present the research.

A little about me. I am a teacher of 9 years in public education. Growing up in Ohio my parents all worked as nurses in various medical fields. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between APA and Chicago formatting. I know what a blind research study is because I listen to NPR radio. I learned what a peer reviewed study was at the age of 27 when I decided to pursue a graduate degree. The point I am trying to make is that my decision to present at a research style conference for educators in a foreign country wasn’t made because that endeavor is exactly in my wheelhouse.

The result of taking such a risk was well worth the bullets of sweat I shed in preparation for the event. I discovered a new type of educational conference that I would have otherwise never experienced. I found a community of people so driven to find plausible methods for change and innovation that they had conducted extensive research to find and develop their good ideas. In addition, the people in attendance represented 30+ nations around the world. I ate lunch with people from the UK, Ukraine, Australia, and Spain and we all shared our passions and ideas. The blend of unique perspectives combined with everyone’s desire to learn more about one and other resulted in an environment that kept me engaged and eager throughout the conference.

But, I almost didn’t go. That’s right, I did all that work to get accepted and I almost didn’t go the conference. You see I must have skimmed an important email where they discussed that to be eligible to present meant I needed to pay for my registration. When I saw that in addition to transportation and lodging (which I had anticipated), I would also need to pay an additional 500 Euros, I was crushed. All that work down the drain. After a day or two of fear and loathing, I decided to reach out to Mark Wagner, CEO of the EdTech Team. I knew his company had grants for innovative schools and for students seeking to attend conferences; my inquiry wasn’t exactly a shot in the dark. As it turns out, Mark informed me that his team had recently discussed a new program that would help teachers take the kind of risks I was describing. With more information Mark agreed to fund my registration with a grant from the EdTechTeam!  

As a result of attending this conference, a university in Russia wants to discuss ways they can use my project in their organization and the founder of a leadership consulting company in Barcelona wants to Skype and learn more about me! Not to mention the boost in confidence I got from hearing people clap at the end and seeing the nods of reassuring approval as I spoke. Both essential in the drive forward with a daunting project.

A map with pins showing where attendees are from
After a long ride to Seville, I needed a cafe!
A great mentor of mine once told me that the answer is always no if you don’t ask. From submitting my abstract for consideration to finding the funding I needed in order to go, all I really needed to do was ask. I hope my experience is proof to you that if you are looking to take a risk in your school or organization, the best place to start is by changing what you can change. Be confident in your own expertise and rest assured in your experience. You have what it takes to make things better for your students and if you need permission to do so, you should ask.

David Hotler
Google Certified Innovator

To learn more about my Innovator Project check out the paper!
To help us with our research take our survey!
Check out a 360 photo of the amazing venue, Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento.
Learn more about the Google for Education Certified Innovator Program.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Empower students: Classroom Management in the Digital Age

I’ve had the pleasure of being in and around 1:1 classrooms for nearly 5 years. Initially I was purposeful with my planning and reflecting, and over the years I became more and more comfortable with my ability to weave the technology into my curriculum in a natural way. In order for technology to be successful in the classroom, it can’t be a special event that happens once a week.
Classroom Management in the Digital Age by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green is like the Driver’s Ed for 1:1 classrooms. You read the rules, learn strategies, practice a little, and eventually you get into a car and drive. Do you know everything about your car? Probably not. Do you need to know everything about the device or the programs? Definitely not!  Let’s empower our students to learn something new, teach the teacher, and persevere through road blocks.

During my own 1:1 journey a pattern developed-- plan, try, evaluate, repeat. It never mattered if I was “good at technology,” it mattered that I was going to continue on the journey to provide my students with an invaluable experience.  If the idea of 1:1 is intimidating, I have great news for you: good teaching is still good teaching.
Classroom Management in the Digital Age is not a one time read, this book should be referenced again and again.  Initially to set up your classroom, then to evaluate, and continually to reinforce good strategies and combat bad ones.  If you’re anything like me, your copy will likely include highlighter, notes to yourself, folded pages, and maybe a few coffee stains.  Even the seasoned 1:1 teacher can learn something from this easy read.  The best thing about this book is its practicality. Each section has tips and resources  you can use tomorrow. It encourages you to evaluate the tasks you’re asking your students to complete to see if technology will make a greater impact on learning.  It’s a full circle, all-in-one reference for any 1:1 teacher.

Sarah Margeson
Coordinator of Connected Learning
Tippecanoe School Corporation
Lafayette, IN

Get your own copy today!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Check Yourself: Toronto 2016

I recently had an opportunity to listen to Mr. Kevin Brookhouser's speak on the 20time Project at the Toronto GAFE Summit. His message: teachers who offer choice can meet learning goals while creating powerful experiences that lead to increased motivation, creativity and divergent critical thinking. Simple yet very profound. I wrote the following thoughts while on my plane ride home.

My teaching career started when I was in high school during a job shadowing experience. A real-world learning experience inspired me as opposed to memorizing facts and figures in my core subjects...who knew! Imagine 16-year-old me, I liked music, I was pretty good at it, the music rooms were my second home. When I had the opportunity to mentor someone, it just seemed natural to shadow my band director. I had my “lightbulb” a-ha moment when I was presented with an opportunity to teach a rhythm lesson to 10-year-old budding percussionist. I helped her through grasping a concept and when she got it, I got it...I want to teach.

Little did I know, that moment would lead me down a very interesting path in education. It has been a path that has engrossed me, a path that is unfinished, a path that if you squint hard enough drops off to…where?

Prior to seeing clarity with the scary (yet awesome) realization that our 21st century educational thoroughfare is being built as we travel it, I taught instrumental music in a very rural and high-poverty school for almost a decade. I loved it, was good at it, and kids usually liked coming to my class. Naïve-me thought their engagement in my class was a reflection on my teaching - ha! I eventually figured out they liked coming to the band room for the same reasons I liked it when I was in high school - they enjoy music, they like playing an instrument, and my classroom felt safe. One could argue that none of those reasons are because of me. This is where my mother’s voice pipes up and says, “Now Meredith, they feel safe and secure in your room because you fostered that. They love music because you have inspired them. Etc., etc., etc.” Ok Mom, I’ll take a tiny bit of it but it really comes down to the fact that they felt empowered in my classroom.

Learners felt safe - check.
Learners felt supported - check.
Learners were given autonomy - check.
Learners were given an authentic audience - check.
Learners were passionate and interested in the content - check.
Learners saw a potential future with the work they completed - check.

Here’s the kicker - my learners chose to be in my class. That’s huge. It wasn’t until I was out of the classroom teaching teachers, facilitating professional learning, presenting to all content area educators that I realized most educators don't get to experience the luxury of being an elective teacher and how absolute key that was to my (accidental) classroom success.

Now and probably for the rest of my time on this earth, I will encourage all educators (and leaders!) to pattern after or emulate an elective class by giving student voice, choice, and ownership on their learning while also providing some authentic audience and networking outside of the classroom walls. Technology obviously provides an accessible avenue to achieve this work.

I'll sign off by asking one simple question: Do you want to take your class?

Meredith Allen
Music Instructor
Instructional Technology Consultant
Prairie Lakes AEA

Want to have a Summit Experience of your own? Check out to find one coming to your area!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Inquiry Sessions: Jakarta Bootcamp

Only dedicated professionals get up early on a Sunday morning to travel a potentially traffic-snarled distance in a downpour to attend an all day educational technology Bootcamp.  And two weeks ago, a contingent of Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) faculty and a similar number from British School Jakarta (BSJ) did exactly that, spending the day on the BSJ campus (thanks, Matt Harris!) at an EdTechTeam-organized event intended to prepare attendees to pass the Level 2 Exam as part of the Google Educator Certification program.

Fortunately, with educational technology experts and star presenters Jay Atwood and Patrick Green leading the workshop, it felt less like bootcamp and more like an inquiry session where everyone was encouraged to follow their curiosity and share their ideas.  And even with significant focus on exam preparation, Jay and Patrick made a point of placing tips and tricks in the context of daily practice.  There was lots of gain and little to no pain!

As a member of the JIS Professional Growth and Reflection team, I know that our school, like others, aims to invest time and money into professional development that will have a meaningful impact on our students’ learning.  While that impact can be difficult to measure, I was pleased that the Bootcamp received positive feedback and generated some immediate application from those in attendance.  Some clear takeaways for our teachers:

  • Google Maps has a lot of appeal in multiple subjects as a way to put ideas in context (e.g. showing traditions in Indonesia, sparking awareness for our recent UN day, putting our student-created videos for service learning literally on the map)

  • Small tips for the use of tools can generate conversation around bigger pedagogical ideas (e.g. how do we balance teacher/student preference and consistency for ease of use when it comes to the use of Google Sites, Docs, Classroom and legacy systems like Moodle for learning management)
  • The session raised awareness of ideas like Multimedia Text Sets for curating content and differentiating learning, YouTube annotation for blended learning, and the ability to create visuals with Google Draw and Sheets sparklines

To quote one JIS faculty member:

“[Seeing] how all the Google apps could be applied in different contexts, it really got me thinking.”

At JIS we are looking forwarding to seeing that thinking become visible for our students, because the real value of a tool emerges in the minds and classrooms of enthusiastic and innovative teachers.

Christina Devitt, Educator
Jakarta, Indonesia
Interested in Bootcamps at your school like this?
Check out for more info.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Just in Time! G Suite Holiday Tools

1. Santa Tracker

Play games with elves in jetpacks, rolling
gumballs, sleighs powered by rockets and
Google Cardboard on the Android app.
Once the 24th arrives, follow Santa in his
journey around the world.

Play on the web >
Google Play:

2. Google Flights

Use Google Flights to book your travel.
See and compare flight costs and options for the best deals.

3. Holiday Slides

Use Google Slides for some holiday fun! Tell stories, share intros, learn about adjectives, and more... all while learning how to collaborate, use the order, colors, and other features in Slides. See examples by @preimers below.

Make your copy and share!
Halloween Jack >
Grateful Turkey >
Holiday Sheep >

4. You Tube Capture

Movies on the go! Record, edit and share your holiday videos to YouTube.

> iTunes:

5. Movies and Collages- Google Photos

Easily create your holiday collages and movies from your mobile app. Open the app > Assistant > Select Collage or Movie > Select your photos

> iTunes:
> Google Play:

6. Special Delivery- VR Story

Just in time for Santa’s big night, Google Spotlight Stories gives you a 360-degree view of the big man in action. Special Delivery, an original short film is available on YouTube and can be viewed in 360 on Google Cardboard.

> iTunes
> Android:
> YouTube:

7. Chrome Webstore Goodies

MyWeb New Tab Holiday Holiday Feeling Countdown Holiday Snowfl ake Theme Holiday Theme Zombie Holiday Christmas Snow Countdown to Fav Holidays

8. Snapseed

Retouch, crop and add frames to your holiday pix!
> iTunes:
> Google Play:

9. Plan Your Holiday Vacation

Google Trips makes exploring the world easier by organizing essential info in one place and making it available offline.
> iTunes:
> Google Play:
> Google Play:

10. Holidays with Art and Culture

> Christmas through the Post
> British Music Collection
> A Christmas Carol