“The point of the summit is Google Apps for Education professional development,” said BVSD Educational Technology Specialist Erika Morreale. “So trainings and sessions that help instructional technology, and teachers using creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking skills, and how to incorporate that using the tools of our time in the classroom.”
Ben Friesen is director or professional development for the EdTechTeam and will be the team lead at this year’s summit, the fifth of its kind to be held in Boulder Valley.
“What we do is we partner with a school district to host the actual event, and they become a member of our planning team and work with one of the EdTechTeam members, in this case it’s me,” said Friesen. “What our team does is we bring in the presenters, we organize the registration process, we organize the catering, every little detail like balloons. And balloon twisters. This year we’re going to have somebody twisting Android balloons, just for fun, to kind of have a special little thing for the fifth year summit.”
BVSD Director of Educational Technology Kelly Sain said 400 to 500 people from all over Colorado attended last year’s summit.
“We get to have conversations where you’re visiting with other people from surrounding districts,” said Sain. “You’ll be learning from them, but really the focus is not on the tool, it really is – how are you getting your students to be empowered?”
Friesen estimated that this year’s session will feature about 75 presenters, conducting sessions such as “To the Twittersphere and Beyond,” “Using Google Cardboard,” “Passion-based learning on the digital playground,” “Amp up your science journals,” “Creating field trips and projects using tool builder,” and “Blended learning in the classroom.”
“Getting the most reluctant students excited about writing” is another presentation topic which Friesen said is “one of the things that we see when you move to a digital world is students might struggle or do very little on paper and all of the sudden a keyboard or a tablet, and giving them an opportunity to work in their native medium, I think is one of the ways we all can see growth in students when we give these tools a chance.”
Friesen said the summit will feature a presentation from Google’s Global Education Evangelist Jaime Casap, who was profiled recently by NBC News.
“It’s great to have the chief Google evangelist come in and inspire the teachers with a really great story,” said Friesen.
Jeff Sanders is an eight grade language arts teacher at Southern Hills Middle School, in Boulder, and has attended and presented at the last two summits.
“It’s obviously a good place to learn about some of the different tools and tricks, and stuff like that. I went into it being fairly tech savvy in the first place,” said Sanders.
Sanders said he left the past two summits with a mind shift that encouraged him to “think big and take risks.”
“I kind of came away with more global ideas, global understandings about what education probably should be,” said Sanders. “I kind of came away inspired to really change the way I did things in my class, to make it truly more student centered. I thought it was student centered, but the summit kind of showed me that it wasn’t as much as I thought it was. So I did a lot of work to make everything a little more relevant for kids.”
Morreale said the use of Google apps in education is now integral in the way teachers teach and students learn.
“We are using the tools of our time, so we want students to come to school and use the same tools that they’re using to learn at home,” said Morreale. “So when they’re going home, and students are trying to be creative, or trying to connect with other people, these are the tools that they’re using. So let’s incorporate them and engage them at a level that they are going to be challenged by.”
The EdTechTeam holds similar summits throughout the United States and Canada, and all over the globe.
“Annually, we work with over 50,000 educators, and hundreds of contractors and teachers to help with all of our events,” said Friesen. “It’s very much not just our EdTechTeam, our core team, but really it’s our extended network of educators that we’re able to do these types of events, and I think we work with some of the best.”
Friesen said he appreciates the energy at the summit hosted by BVSD.
“Colorado is just an area where there’s just a real great community of teachers looking out to figure out ‘what else can we do?’” said Friesen.