Friday, May 30, 2014

The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Guest Blogger Shawn Davids
EdTechTeam Vancouver Summit Attendee

I just finished an amazing weekend at the EdTechTeam Summit ft. Google for Education at Mulgrave School in West Vancouver. And what an amazing conference it was. I have to be honest, I was a little reluctant to go when it was first brought to my attention, let alone present at it. But a “gentle nudge” by a colleague (thanks Victoria Olson) convinced me to give it a try. And boy am I glad I did. What an amazing time.

There was so much I took away from the weekend; here are a few of the themes that have jumped out after a bit of time to reflect.

 Google Gets Education And Learning: This was one of the real pleasant surprises from the GAFE Summit. When I submitted my presentation proposal on Celebrating Success Through Social Media, I actually didn’t even expect it to get a second look. I mean this was a conference about Google. I figured people would be “geeking out” over all that is Google. I should have known better the moment the acceptance email arrived. The sessions offered were about STUDENT LEARNING! Google Apps were simply seen as tools to empower and enhance that learning. And that’s right up my alley. Too often we get caught up on the technology and forget to focus on what’s important, the learning. But sessions like Digital Portfolios by Holly Clark and Sketchnoting by Brad Ovenell-Carter showed me that learning was at the forefront. The technology was merely a tool, no more valuable than a pencil or hammer. It is in the leveraging of these tools that the magic of learning was magnified exponentially.

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades: One of the things I came away with was the realm of possibility that exists in education today. And while it’s not really accurate to say the “future” looks bright (it’s already here!), the GAFE Summit was an excellent opportunity to see what was possible in education when we effectively leverage the tool of technology. For example, Holly Clark’s session on Digital Portfolios really had me excited about a system where a child’s learning could be documented and curated for the entire K - 12 journey. I got goose bumps at the thought of sending our West Langley grade 7s to the neighbouring high school with a website that celebrates their learning during their 8 years with us. And even more excited about the thought of a graduate student being ready to apply for post-secondary or the workforce with a digital resume ready to go.

"Dark Clouds” Are Opportunities: I have to thank Dave Shortreed for this one. In the session I was presenting, we were discussing our province’s Freedom of Information, Personal Privacy Act legislation and I described it as a “dark cloud” when it comes to leveraging social media to celebrate our schools. Dave pointed out that in his situation, he has been using FIPPA as an opportunity to discuss with students, staff and parents the importance of security, privacy and the digital tattoo that our kids are creating everyday. That was an important paradigm shift for me. I have spent much of my energy being annoyed (for lack of a better word) at the wall FIPPA can create in leveraging technology. But instead, I need to embrace it as a chance to implement technology in a way that makes everyone comfortable so they can all benefit from the power of this tool.

My Name Is Shawn and I’m a Disruptive Educator: Okay, well maybe that is a bit of a stretch. I would hardly call myself a disruptive educator, but after attending Holly Clark’s session on Digital Portfolios and listening to Yong Zhao’s inspirational keynote, I felt even more strongly about my sense that education needs “different” and not “better.” Those who know me, know that I am a ‘ready, fire, aim’ kind of person. And I’m more excited about the possibilities of what technology can do to empower learning than the actual destination. And during the weekend, the things Holly and Yong were describing about innovation were exactly some of the things we are currently implementing or would like to implement at West Langley. It was really empowering to know that I am at least on the path to being one of those disrupters in education that will truly change a system in need of an overhaul.

 My Name Is Shawn and I’m Also Tech Geek: So apparently I really am a bit of a geek. I think deep down I alway knew that, but thanks to Jennie Magiera, I finally had to admit it. I’ve said this a few times in describing what happened to me at the Vancouver GAFE Summit when it comes to the power of Google … before, I thought I was only scratching the surface in my use of Google Apps, but I’m not even in the water yet. There is so much depth to this tool to make learning powerful for students and workflow exponentially more efficient for educators. I sat through two sessions and a keynote continually having my mind blown by what Google Apps like Forms, Calendar and different scripts could do to make learning authentic for students, connect them to the world around them, all while giving me more time by creating an efficient workflow. I’m not sure if a “tech crush” is actually a real thing, but I may have had my first. Thanks Jennie! I know I’ll be Gettin’ Scripty With It in the very near future.

I want to pass along a sincere thank you to MC, Ken Shelton and the entire EdTechTeam for organizing a great event. It was a powerful weekend of learning and connecting. I would strongly urge anyone who has a GAFE Summit coming to their area to attend. They put on a great weekend full of laughs and learning. And a huge thank you to Mulgrave School. You were excellent hosts for this event. I really enjoyed chatting with the teachers from the school who attended. You hospitality was appreciated. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Vancouver GAFE Summit!

Check out our next Canada offerings, like the Calgary Summit this summer!


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