Last month, the 1st Annual EdTechTeam Western Pennsylvania Google for Educators Summit took place at Montour School District just outside of Pittsburgh. What impressed us the most about the summit was the quality and energy of the participants and presenters and the intended focus to empower educators with skills and tools they need to remake learning for the 21st century learner.

EdTechTeam Summits Featuring Google for Education are high intensity two-day events that focus on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. The program features Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers, local tech-teaching rock stars, practicing administrators, solution providers, Google engineers, and representatives from the Google education teams.    Attendees can include teachers, administrators, tech directors, library media specialists, tech support staff, CTOs, and anyone who is interested in finding out more about leveraging Google Apps for Education to support student learning in the region.

The summit started with an inspirational keynote Capes not Required by Jesse Lubinsky, Director of Technology/Chief Information Officer at the Irvington Union Free School District. Jesse set the tone for the conference by sharing stories of extraordinary kids doing amazing things that go beyond the four walls of the classroom. Our goal as teachers is to change our classroom so that we are giving every student the chance to be extraordinary!

The day continued with the opportunity to attend 4 different breakout sessions throughout the day. I will take a moment to highlight a few of them here:

Designing Visual Thinking and Learning: Creative Expression and Google Photos by Ken Shelton. Ken provided an interactive session around photography and creativity to help attendees have a greater understanding of the basics of effective photo composition. Participants traveled the building searching for images that fell into the categories of lines, symmetry, a face and abstract.

Pear Deck 101:100% Student Engagement by Anthony Showalter. Anthony provided an interactive session utilizing the features of Pear Deck. Pear Deck allows you to put Inquiry-Based Learning at the center of your instruction. Pear Deck afforded the attendees to follow the path of inquiry and discovery as self-motivated learners. It was easy for us to ask questions that spark curiosity and challenge intuition instead of just delivering the facts.

More Than a Slideshow:Creative Ways to Use Google Slides in the Classroom by Jesse Lubinsky. This session showed that Google Slides is more than just PowerPoint. Participants were shown various Google Slides presentations that allow students to interact, collaborate and share their presentations.

GAFE Tips, Tricks & Add-Ons by Jody Kokladas. Google Apps for Educators (GAFE) has endless applications to enhance your teaching. Jody shared several add-ons for Google Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides and Classroom.

The day ended with attendees being brought back together for Demo SLAM, a high-energy, “geek-out” session! Seven presenters had 3-minutes to share their most geeky use or tip and trick of a Google App. At the end of the SLAM, participants were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite.

The excitement and energy displayed after Day 1 was infectious. Attendees were looking forward to returning the next day for more learning. “I had a hard time falling asleep after Day 1 because I learned so much and I kept thinking about it,” said Reading Specialist Anne Stillwagon.

The second day featured a keynote by Ken Shelton that inspired everyone by sharing examples of students using technology in meaningful ways, whether it was sharing their failures (and ultimate successes) with inventions, or sharing their experience of wanting acceptance from their peers. Ken drove home the point that technology use can be transformative for teachers and students, and that no one can use the excuse that they are “not a techie.”

A few of the sessions that stood out to me on day two included:

Google Forms – Your Next Addiction, facilitated by Jody Kokladas (Shady Side Academy Ed Tech Specialist). Jody focused our attention on the many ways teachers can use Google Forms (tip: always start in Forms, not in Drive, because you gain instant access to the template library, rather than starting one from scratch) in the classroom. Lots of nodding heads confirmed that those gathered in the session were eager to learn about Forms and how they reduce the paperwork by automating lots of tasks: field trip permission slips, exit tickets, even automated quizzes that check themselves! (using the Flubaroo add-on).

Shine Up Your Chrome, facilitated by EdTechTeam’s Tracy Arner (GCE/GET), took us into often-overlooked areas of the Chrome browser. From making the browser more secure with personalized logins to adding powerful and highly useful extensions, users can make Chrome work for them and make them more efficient. We probably all know that search terms, etc. can be typed into the box below the Google doodle, but the omnibox (the box at the top of the browser) is designed to handle that and so much more. You can enter calculations, search your GMail and Drive accounts, and find previous search results because of omnibox’s qualities.

Revenge of the Sheets: Learn to use Google Sheets the Jedi Way!, facilitated by EdTechTeam’s Jesse Lubinsky, started off with a surprise: Jesse in full Darth Vader regalia. Nothing like kicking off a session with some humor and a strong theme. Jesse guided us through many applications for Sheets, providing us with a practice spreadsheet with multiple tabs. One of the key bonuses of every session at the GAFE Summit was the sharing of both presentation and supplemental materials from each of the presenters (obviously stored in Google Drive) that could be copied for future use in our work.

All too quickly, it was time for the closing keynote, The Story of Hope, by EdTechTeam’s David Hotler. David’s talk reminded us that an educator’s most important job is to inspire hope in those we teach: just being there and supporting that learner can have a lifelong impact. Examples from his own life and those of others left us with the proper mindset; to take to heart the inspiration and the learning from the summit and share it through our actions and our practice.

Overall, the summit exceeded my expectations. I would like to specially thank the EdTechTeam presenters Ken Shelton, David Hotler, Jesse Lubinsky, and Tracy Arner for their hard work and commitment to education. I look forward to the 2nd Annual summit returning next year. To learn more about the summit, please visit edtechteam.com.