This past weekend I headed to the Google Apps for Education (GAfE) conference held by our board. A few teachers at my school decided we’d go check it out and I thought I’d share some of the amazing stuff I filled my brain with over those two days.
In no particular order, here are some things Virginia learned this weekend:
1. Chrome is a pretty great browser with a lot of exciting apps and extensions.
Then there’s the Omnibox (formerly known as the address bar). Things you can do in the Omnibox:
- search multiple websites using shortcuts (for example, I set it up so that I type in “gd” and hit space to search my Google Drive. I also set up a number of other search engines in a similar fashion)
- use it as a calculator/flight checker/etc.
Basically, you can do things you’d normally do in fewer steps/clicks which I think is pretty neat. Hello, timesaver!
The other great thing about Chrome is that it’s totally customizable. When you log in to the browser, all of your history, apps, extensions, and bookmarks are saved. This means students can log in on their Chromebooks at school and go home and access all the cool sites they used for their research without having to search for them again.
2. Google Drive has even more capabilities
Ever since our board adopted GAfE I’ve been trying to explain how useful Google Drive is to my students. How cool is it that you can all collaborate on the same document!? Anyone!? Bueller?? More cool Google Drive tips:
- no need to open a new tab, you can research right in a Google Doc (Tools -> Research)
- you can upload images in a variety of ways (Insert -> Image). Again, you can search Google for images right in the Document and it will also tell you its license details so you know how to properly cite it.
- a lot of apps and extensions work right inside Google Drive, meaning you can use them to enhance the user experience (example: Pear Deck for interactive lessons)
- you can use your phone to dictate to the Google Drive app and watch as it transcribes it on the document(!)
3. What it’s like being a student again
I found myself back in the role of student which was a nice change as I always liked being in school. It was nice to be reminded of what it feels like being on the other side of the room and I left with a bit more empathy for my students. Some observations:
- my brain was fried by the last sessions and I started to pay more attention to Twitter than the speaker
- those wooden chair/desk combos in some of the classrooms were extremely uncomfortable
- I was often thinking about food
This is all just a sample of what I learned this weekend. I remember after the first day I was trying to think of a good analogy for how I felt and the best I could do was liken my brain to how my stomach feels after eating too much. It hurt.
Thanks to the presenters, organizers and WRDSB for a great two days!