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.


  1. Goosebumps reading this! Which means it is a BEYOND awesome concept. Wow.

  2. Hello Holly,

    I've emailed you several times since the day following the summit to try and schedule our interview but am worried that my messages are being directed to your junk mail folder.

    If you could please message me [] my response should be able to make it to your inbox. I am also hoping to re-publish your blog post to (it seems silly for me to try and describe the summit when you have done so very well, from a perspective I believe readers will prefer).

    Looking forward to hearing from you (will share the link to the kids interview here once published)

    Karina Hunter, Editor/Publisher

  3. Interview w/participating students & footage from one of Holly's sessions :

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