Monday, April 21, 2014

Reaching New Heights in Learning

How do you deal with that anticlimactic lull that you inevitably feel after spending three fantastic days at the Annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs? The answer is simple. You stay for the CUE West Coast Summit Featuring Google for Education (GIEWC), of course!  
Circle of Friends #selfiewithselak

The GIEWC Summit, which took place on March 22-23, was a high-energy, fun-filled conference hosted by CUE, and it was one of those must-attend events of the year. CUE, co-producer of the Google Teacher Academy, sure knows how to satisfy your desire to become a Google Apps ninja in the classroom.
On Saturday, the GIEWC Summit kicked off with a keynote from the amazing Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet. Cerf is the reason why we use the phrase “surf the Internet” when going online because “Cerf” is pronounced “surf.” Vint Cerf showed us a map of the Internet, and it was so intricate that it left me in awe of how much we take for granted.
GIEWC Photo Booth
(L to R) Beth Fisher, Kara
Lawler, and Kimberly dos Santos
After the keynote was the shred sessions, where all the speakers gave a 90-second pitch of their presentations so that attendees could more accurately plan out their schedule the next day. All presenters enthusiastically showed off their talents and kept the audience engaged with their various styles. One particularly humorous moment occurred when Scott Moss asked, “Do you like to party?  If so, then you might not make it to my hangover session tomorrow,” as he jokingly referred to his 7:45am session on Sunday.
The next day, all sessions were in full swing as attendees filled the rooms, fully ready to embrace more new knowledge. You really have to applaud these educators who were so willing to give up their Sunday to soak in more professional development. These are the real rock stars in the education world!

Following the entertaining shred sessions, CUE really brought out the white-gloved service as we all meandered over to the East Lawn for some appetizers. It was a wonderful way to unwind and socialize with other attendees after spending three mind-blowing days at the CUE conference.
The sessions at GIEWC Summit were all taught by Google Certified Teachers and/or Google Apps Certified Trainers. The sessions offered ranged from Kate Petty’s fantastic smorgasbord of Project-Based Learning ideas to Diane Main’s “Drawing: No Longer Drive’s Ugly Stepchild.” Some super cool hacks were also shared, like when Danny Silva showed how to create a QR code for a Google calendar event that will automatically add that event to your own personal Google Calendar. Everyone oohed and aahed over Brandon Wislocki’s trick of adding hotspots in Google Drawing.  If you wanted to learn about Google scripts, then JR Ginex-Orinion had you covered, and if you want to fully utilize YouTube’s many functions then Lisa Highfill showed you how to do it right. I presented on “The Google-Powered Classroom,” showing how I use Google Apps to meet the literacy and technology standards required by the Common Core.
I heard many compliments from the attendees on the concurrent sessions I missed that I truthfully wished I could’ve gone to every one. Where’s Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner when you need one? Even as a Google Certified Teacher, I don’t presume to know every hack, and I’m always pushing the boundaries of my own knowledge. To me, it isn’t just about the technology tools, but how different educators apply them in a classroom setting.
After a full day of intense learning, we all gathered for Demo Slams from the presenters. Bill Selak showed the audience how to find and curate artwork, historical events, landmarks and digital exhibits with the Google Cultural Institute. Sean O’Neil demonstrated how to use the Color Picker Eyedropper Chrome extension and in his words “… how it makes us designers instead of just ‘posters’.”
Then the conference ended on a high note as Jaime Casap, Google’s Global Education Evangelist, shared his wisdom in the Closing Keynote. He challenged us with the question, “When did collaboration become cheating?  Working together is important.” Casap also stated, “Technology is not the silver bullet.  It’s there to support and enable students.” Before he left the stage, he graciously took questions from the audience. Mike Lawrence, in true geeky-style, threw out a Catchbox, a wireless microphone enclosed in a soft cube, to audience members so that they could participate effortlessly.
The GIEWC Summit definitely left you with many brain-overload moments that all educators should experience. Not only was it very fulfilling in a geeky sort of way, it was also way too much fun, as evidenced by the candid photos that surfaced from this event. Conferences should never be dull. If the GIEWC Summit returns next year, I’ll be there. Will you?
GIEWC Tweet 3
GIEWC Tweet 2

This post originally appeared in the CUE Blog on April 20, 2014.