Someone sent me a really excellent question today, and it is actually one that I get a lot:
When we first got Google Apps for Education in our district, the term “Google Docs” was used to refer to pretty much everything in our Google accounts except for Gmail and Calendar. I have made this mistake of assuming that everyone has since been on the Google bandwagon as "fannishly" as I have, and that they would have noticed when it started being referred to as "Drive." As always tends to happen, though, I have been presented with the lesson that it is not smart to assume. Let me now point out that Docs and Drive are completely separate products, and to go one step further by attempting to explain (in a hopefully simple way) just how.
Besides these, here is also a brief explanation of the rest of your “basic” Google Apps:
Want something fun to do with your students the last week of school? I double-dog dare you to try this project that the 6th graders at Eagle Cliffs Elementary taught me in Google Drawing!
Tada! Très magnifique!
I attended my first-ever Demo Slam at a Google Summit in Las Vegas this past winter. I actually think I may have witnessed one at the Google Teacher Academy, but truthfully those two days were such a fast and furious blur I barely remember what happened.
So What IS A Demo Slam, You Ask?
EdTechTeam, who puts on the Google Summits, touts a Demo Slam as a "high energy, geek out kind of session," where participants both get and give a bunch of tips, tricks and tools in a really short amount of time. In Las Vegas, 7-10 participants, speakers and sponsors presented 3 minute showcases (demos) on something Google. Most chose to show either their favorite tool, the most geeky use of a tool, or the most overlooked use of some "hidden" menu item. The fun was that they did it in such a way as to "slam" their competition in order to win (bragging rights, admiration, etc). The winner walked away stoked, but really EVERYONE who observed or participated was a winner because in about 30 minutes, we learned 7-10 new things or new uses for old things. Mostly we won an emotional bucket full of energy because of what we had witnessed: excitement about geeky stuff!
All pumped up with excitement after Vegas, I decided that a Demo Slam just might be an interesting method for delivering "training." While I was sitting at an elementary school doing "Geek in the House" one day, I decided that the staff there would be perfect for this kind of experiment. And so, without even asking permission, I sent the following email:
And from that I got exactly zero replies . . . HOWEVER, I checked the Doodle (to which I referred in a follow-up message) the next day, and 15 people had replied with suggested dates right away. Yes, game on.
Planning for Slamming
So here's the thing about a Demo Slam: you don't really plan anything. You just get the "volunteers" - whiiiiicchhhhh proved to be harder than I thought. It turns out that people aren't very confident when it comes to sharing, NOT because they don't know what they're doing, but because they think everyone already knows what they know, or that what they have to share is not geeky enough. After asking, coaxing, and just-short-of-begging, I had 12 very anxious Slammers lined up, two of which were my husband (the Director of Technology) and my son (a programming major in college). I collected their topics in a spreadsheet just to make sure there weren't duplicates, but I kept everyone's idea secret.
The day before the big event, I sent this message to all of the staff, as well as my "external" presenters (and the Director of the Education Foundation, and the Directors of Curriculum and School Leadership Support, and the Superintendent):
Welllll, then the emails started coming in. "I'm nervous." "I'm not sure my topic is slammy enough." "I don't think I can talk for 3 minutes." "I don't think I can keep it under 3 minutes." To all of these I simply sent a reassuring, "YOU CAN DO THIS!" reply. Luckily, I didn't have to pull out the, "For Heaven's sake, you teach 11-year-olds all day, you can teach your co-workers!" and only one person (a long-term sub) backed out.
The Big Day
With much excitement, the staff began gathering in the library at 3:15 sharp. I pulled up a random name generator on my iPad, and called out the first name: GULP. Aaaand . . . it was awesome. As was every single presenter after that. Of course there were hiccups in the technology: the Internet was slow, Reflector wouldn't reflect, the RedCat microphone walked away around someone's neck - the usual ed tech follies. BUT all 12 people got up and showed something awesome. Here were their topics:
What Did I Learn?
Every good experiment has outcomes, and I would be so bold as to call this one a tremendous success! I saw apps I had never heard of before, I saw tools I had never seen used, I learned brand new things I didn't know, and NONE of it came from a paid trainer. The speakers were friends, peers, colleagues, and trusted advocates for the very tips, tricks, and tools they demonstrated, and because of it, the audience was supportive and enthusiastic. The best part was that all it took was about an hour! It was fun, fast-paced, exciting . . . and as promised, everyone won. Yes, there were prizes involved, but truly, everyone who learned something new walked away a winner.
My favorite comments from participants:
My most recent iteration of this event was with my TILT Professional Development groups. Even though these teachers have been working and learning together for two or three years, everyone learned something new, and all of them were pumped to try a Demo Slam with their colleagues.
I am SUPER excited to test out my first-ever student-led Demo Slam this week! Just in looking at what they've shared with me so far, I have a feeling this will be my next new "thing" to encourage technology integration by students in their own classrooms. Check back for updates, but in the meantime, I double-dog dare you to try your own! All it takes is a few ideas from a few willing participants, and SLAM! You have yourself an event!
A while back, I did my first post on an experiment that I did, which I called "Geek on Demand" (which has since been renamed due to concerns about the ever-popular educational habit of acronyming) in which I described the day I went and planted myself in an elementary school building for a full day, bombarded the staff with "helpful" emails, and made myself available for troubleshooting, problem solving, and support in answering (or identifying!) their questions. At that time, the venture was merely a trial; I wanted to see if something like this would work. I felt like there were still people in my district who didn't know what I did all day, and those who weren't aware that this position of Technology Integration Specialist exists for them.
Fast forward to two months later, and I have just completed my 10th Geek day. With the end of the year fast approaching, and 6 Geek days yet to go, I thought I should do a little brain dump of how this fast and furious form of on-the-spot PD has grown and changed.
How it Works
First, I choose a school. Knowing I won't have time to fit in all 22 elementary schools by the end of this year, I have tried to select buildings where they will either be inundated by devices next year (mainly due to Project Lead the Way) or where they have a solid number of teachers who are ready to make the leap from tech users to tech integrators. Next, I send an email to the principal to make sure it's ok for me to visit - I have yet to hear a "No!" I let them know that I just need a place to set up shop and that I will take care of the rest. I find a date in my calendar, then invite the staff.
About a week before the big day, I send an email out to the staff to let them know I'll be on site and what I'll be doing there. It generally eludes to the fact that the event is already in their calendars, and gives some suggestions of what we could talk about while I'm here. This message was born from the fact that I've heard several teachers say, "I know I have questions for you, but I don't even know what I don't know!" Finally, two or three days before I hit their location, I send one last reminder, asking them to send me topics, questions, or ideas they may have.
Once the questions start rolling in, I start making a list. I have a tab for each school, created in a spreadsheet inspired by Alice Keeler's Template Tab script. In the "Requests" column, I make notes about the big ideas from teachers' email replies, then I start composing my messages based on those. I begin plotting out an email schedule, with the most requested topics set to "hit" at the most readable times of day - first thing in the morning, or right before lunch (I have learned that teachers are apt to check their email more frequently throughout the morning - must be the post-lunch slump). Once I have filled in the slots with topics addressing the questions I received in email, I begin looking for themes based on what they have, what they need, or what they want to know.
Using my spreadsheet, I map out messages that will be scheduled to send every 30 - 45 minutes beginning at 8:00 am. I use the Active Inbox (a paid Chrome extension) to schedule my messages, but Boomerang for Gmail would work well for this, too. These messages range from how to set up contacts lists and filters to using iMovie for iPad; all of the topics are generated by requests from teachers and staff. Here is the list of messages so far:
When teachers get the opportunity to read their emails, they frequently write me back with follow-up questions; more often, though, they send me a message saying that they "haven't had time to read all of these messages yet!" but that they'll come see me when they get a chance. Perfect - I simply want them to know I'm in the building. Many will come to whatever conference room, office or closet in which I'm posted, armed with their iPads, Chromebooks, or computers and questions. We chat, we work, we problem-solve (yes, sometimes unsuccessfully), and we eat cookies. I always bring bribes... er, treats.
When I am not with "customers," I venture out into classrooms, popping in to introduce myself, just say hello, or even ask what the students are working on. Many times, the class is doing something that can benefit from a dash of tech. For example, I visited one class where the students were scanning their eyes around the room in search of geometric shapes. Since I happened to have my iPad in my hand, I modeled for them how they could use the Google Drive app to create a shared folder, then how they could take and curate an easily accessible collection of photos. I passed my device around to each student, as well as the teacher, to show them how easy it was to make a collection of images that fit their topic. The teacher was able to pull up the folder from her computer, project the images onto the screen, and show the images of all of those shapes for identification and discussion.
What followed was a rich discussion on how different shapes can represent different properties, and how geometry is everywhere!
What I've Learned
First, teachers are busy. They have a huge task, the least important of which is checking their emails every 30 minutes to see what I have to say. Besides that, many of them are overwhelmed by technology. No, not just by technology. By new. By different. SO, when someone looks at me with an exasperated expression and says, "I'll read your emails later," I smile and say, "Perfect!" This just tells me that what I'm doing in these buildings is worthwhile, and that the next time I am back there, I will make sure to block out a little extra time with that person.
Second, I will get around to every school next year, and I will be making these rounds 3 times throughout the year. Yup, it will take up a lot of days in my calendar, but that's why I'm here, right? Two days per week is plenty - some days, I leave a building feeling like I worked REALLY, really hard because the questions are tricky or the teachers get so excited! Plus, all of this does take some planning and preparation and I need that extra cushion (not to mention making time for all of the other things that happen in a typical week). At two days per week, with 22 schools (half of which can be taken by another integration specialist!), I can make it through each round in 6 weeks.
Finally, I have learned that there are some incredible things already happening in these schools. It's not that they need me or my colleagues to teach them what's new; it's that I need to help spread the word and encourage them to share themselves that what they are already doing is new to someone! There are geeks in every house - I'm just having fun being the one who gets to bring the cookies!
Hey you! Yea, you with the idea! You with the tip! You with the trick! You with the cool tool or resource! You who accidentally stumbled on the coolest site while browsing Pinterest before bed last night! Why are you so scared to share?
I recently asked some of my teacher friends this question: What keeps you from presenting, blogging, posting or otherwise sharing what you do or what you know? Here are some of their very honest responses:
So there it is - the truth. Can you relate to any of these? Maybe you feel like sharing your ideas or experiences with others makes you look like you're bragging. Maybe someone has given you a hard time (or you're a little bit nervous that they will). They see your awesomeness, and instead of being excited about it, they are just a little bit jealous (or you assume that they are). Maybe you tried it once and felt like it flopped. You didn't get the right laughs in the right places, or you were confused about why they were busy texting or browsing on Facebook instead of engaging in your presentation. Maybe you're thinking that everybody already knows what you know. They've seen it, they've done it, and they don't need or want to see or do it again. Or maybe you're thinking you don't even know enough to talk about what you're talking about.
Let's look at this from both sides. First, have you ever been in a training or a presentation where you really felt that the presenter wasn't knowledgeable enough, or that they lacked the confidence to be effective? Of course you have. And hopefully you just sat there quietly, thinking to yourself how you are glad you're not them and making a mental list of all of the things you would do differently if it were you. But have you ever been that person in the group who has made someone feel inadequate? Have you ever "disengaged" and allowed yourself to be distracted by a game of Candy Crush or an incoming text message? Do you know how that feels from the front of the room? Of course you do, because you would never put up with that behavior from your own students. Let's face it - we are a tough crowd to please, and one of the toughest audiences to entertain. We rarely get to see each other, and when we do, we have socializing to do, gossip to catch up on, and funny stories to tell. Plus there's that silly little distraction called your real life that keeps tapping you on the shoulder and crying out for your attention. Whether the presentation is good, bad, or just plain ugly, though, we are professionals and we should act like it. Let's agree not to be jerks, and hold up our end of the professional bargain by waiting to reply to the text, keeping the screen open to the presenter's Prezi, and holding our meanie-head opinions to ourselves.
If you, like I, can assume (or even just pretend) that most people will live up to their end of this deal, then maybe you're willing to take a risk. I recently asked a group of teachers at one school to participate in a Demo Slam. If you've never seen one of these in action, here's how it works:
I'll admit I did have to do a fair amount of begging to get presenters, but in the end, TWELVE people stepped up to the plate! The next day, I received this message from one of the Slammers:
So what's the moral of this story? YOUR IDEAS MATTER. Yea, the idea of it might make you want to throw up, and yea, there may be a jerk or two in the crowd (there wasn't at this event, by the way!). BUT you have to block that out of your mind and take a risk. Here's why:
1. People don't know what you know - we don't get out much.
2. Same but different - "I never thought of doing it that way!"
3. It's a long way from Skyview to Arrowhead . . .
4. It doesn't have to be hard.
5. What's in it for me?
5+1. Your participation in a presentation – don't be "that guy."