Power Searching with Google – Class 1

I struggle each year with how to help my students to understand and use web searching to most effectively find what they need. I have used many of the resources at Google Search Education but haven’t been completely happy with what I’m doing. I saw that Google was offering an online course called Power Searching with Google and I immediately signed up to see how the experts would approach this.

Today, July 10, 2012, the first class became available online. I really like the approach of a short video followed by an activity to practice what was taught and then another video and another activity, etc. I’ll definitely be adapting this next year in the Computer Lab. I am also enjoying the interactions in the forum and think I’ll have some kind of back channel available when I’m doing this in the lab so students can talk to and help one another if they get stuck.

Some things I wondered about:

  • Why did Daniel Russell start with filtering images by color and not with how search works?
  • How do I get my students to stop asking questions when searching on Google when Google is getting better and better at interpreting these and giving them the correct answer? Interestingly, in the example during the class, the question returned less results than using just the keywords.
  • Why is this answer wrong? The video says that adjacent words do result in a higher ranking so shouldn’t this be true? If it is true, I hope the activity gets fixed. If it’s really not true, then I need to be analyzing the questions more closely.
  • Why didn’t the video in Lesson 6 include how Internet Explorer handles CTRL/CMD+F? I was amused it wasn’t mentioned but there are still quite a few people using that browser.
  • Will we find out how we did on the Pre-Class Assessment?

I am enjoying the experience so far and am looking forward to what Class 2 will bring. Are you taking this online class? What did you think of Class 1? If you’re not taking the class and you’re interested in doing so, you can still register for it at http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/ until (I believe) July 16th.

ISTE Brain Dump – Day 1

There’s a million little thoughts swirling ’round me [1. From You’ve Got No Time by The Cowsills]

I’ve been holding off blogging about my first ISTE experience because I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what I want to say but the further I get away from it, the more I know I’ll regret not just saying something so here goes nothing!

Day 1: Social EdCon

From the moment I decided to go to ISTE 2012, I knew I would head down a day early and take part in Social EdCon. I had followed this on Twitter in years past and wanted to join in on the fun. Having been involved in organizing some edCamps, I was interested in how the day would be organized. I loved the use of big poster boards for proposing sessions and the voting for each session so that popular sessions might be spread out during the day and not all scheduled at the same time.

100_7598.JPG [2. Photo by Peggy George – CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic]

At California edCamps we haven’t really done any voting on sessions. There has always been room for all sessions that people wanted to do but now that I’ve seen this in action, I think voting on sessions would be a great idea just to spread out the most popular ideas throughout the day. I loved the use of crayons for this too – fun touch.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Just being there to feel the energy in the room!
  • Meeting and/or reconnecting with so many amazing educators – I’d try to name them all but I know I’d leave someone out so I’m not going to do it.
  • Sharing the day and lunch with @teachseuss & @TeacherBandMom.
  • Smackdown run by Vicki Davis who I finally go to meet in person!
  • Unconference sessions – my favorite of the day was Grades Are Not Motivating I think in part because the group was small (apparently there was another group also discussing this one since no on really knew where Downstairs, Right was) so it was much more of a discussion than the previous sessions I had been in. All the sessions that I attended tried to be discussions but it was difficult to hear since the groups were big.
  • Getting to be in the photo! See below.
  • Meeting even more people at the Social EdCon After Party.
  • Hanging out with the “cool kids” (@markwagner, @WendyGorton, @k_shelton, @alicekeeler & more) at the hotel bar after the Social EdCon After Party.

[3. Photo by Peggy George – CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic]

Will I do it again next year if I make to the conference? You bet! This really is an awesome way to start off a conference.


ISTE Bound

Another school year is over and this year instead of sitting at home trying to follow all of the action from ISTE virtually, I get to attend in person! I have been busy:

I am very excited about meeting some people in person that I only know online and reconnecting with some of my California PLN that I don’t see frequently enough. If I know you from Twitter or Plurk or Elementary Tech Teachers or anywhere else, come see me in the Social Butterfly Lounge Monday from 2-2:30pm or Tuesday from 1:30-2pm!

Edcamping Again

What was I doing heading 6 hours north on a Friday afternoon in August especially when my lab still wasn’t ready for the new year and my oldest daughter was headed back to college in five days? I was headed for edcamp SFBay, that’s what. I had been asked to be on the organizing committee for edcamp SFBay and agreed to be in charge of the session board for the day, so it was off to Oakland for me.


View Larger Map

As I drove, I wondered …

  • Would edcamp SFBay live up to my expectations or was the experience at edcamp OC special because it was the first edcamp I had ever attended?
  • What were we thinking holding this so close to the start of the school year?
  • Would the people who had signed up actually show up?
  • Would I take the opportunity to lead a session?

Morning sessionsSaturday morning dawned and it was time to answer these questions!  After we finally got on to the school grounds (did the left turn signal ever work for anyone?), I started to set up the session boards, put out the session cards and head to the classrooms to put up signs about the WiFi password and edcamp SFBay web sites. I was definitely more relaxed about the setup having been through it once before and because the online session board, wiki and Flickr Group were all ready to go.

As I went to the classrooms to hang up the signs, I looked around and realized that something was missing – there were no projectors and no Interactive White Boards. I worried about how this would work since I had seen some of the early session ideas go up on the board. I knew that people were planning to show web sites and had prepared presentations. Amazingly enough it had little effect on the day. People changed gears and:

  • Shared web sites that others could get to on their own devices using WiFi OR
  • Gathered people around a single laptop if something needed to be shown OR
  • Changed the focus of the session to be a discussion rather than a demonstration AND
  • We all had great fun writing on the chalk boards – yes, chalk boards!

So now to answer my questions:

Question: Would edcamp SFBay live up to my expectations or was the experience at edcamp OC special because it was the first edcamp I had ever attended?

Answer: Yes, edcamp OC was special because it was first and a truly great day of learning but edcamp SFBay was equally amazing and energizing and thought provoking. The day was different because of the location and the people in attendance and the lack of technology on the campus, but it was still a day of amazing discussions and dedicated educators taking control of their own learning.

Question: What were we thinking holding this so close to the start of the school year?

Answer: Truthfully, this was the only date that worked but in hindsight, I think it’s a great time for amazing professional development which edcamp SFBay was. Starting a new school year energized and inspired is definitely the best way to start!

Question: Would the people who had signed up actually show up?

Answer: Some did … and some didn’t. I think that is because edcamps are free. There’s no penalty, monetarily or otherwise, if you don’t show up, so if something better comes up, people don’t come. I don’t know how you could change this and I wonder if you’d even want to. I feel that part of what makes an edcamp great is that the people who are there, truly want to be there. Amazingly, Dan Callahan made it out to California again for edcamp SFBay (it was edcamp #12 for him!) and he wasn’t even the one from the furthest away! There was a teacher from Spain and another from Israel, I believe – pretty darn cool!

Question: Would I take the opportunity to lead a session?

Answer: I did! I lead a discussion on “Raising Good Digital Citizens” during Session #3. I often think about how to help my students become good Digital Citizens and because of that I selfishly wanted to talk to other educators and get their feedback on the subject. We didn’t come to any amazing revelations or solve any big issues, but it was great to get insight and input from others. A big thank you to Tim Monreal, Sam Chaudhary, Lara Jensen & Jeff Silva-Brown for contributing to the discussion. You made me think about things I am doing and what I might want to do differently. I did put on a presenter’s hat for a moment to share my Digital Citizenship Live Binder during the session. I would love to have comments from others who have used any of the resources in it.

In addition to leading a discussion, I attended:

Session 1:  Gamification of Your Classroom (led by Alice Keeler) – I only got to sit in on a bit of this session since I was updating the online session board for most of this session. Bill Selak jumped in and helped with updating the online session board (thanks Bill!) so I was able to get in on the last few minutes of the discussion. Great ideas in this session and I’m happy to have Alice’s notes for reference from this one!

Session 2: Turn Your School Into a Technology Center (led by Elly Faden) – This wasn’t really what I expected and I could have chosen to vote with my feet and go elsewhere but I’m glad I didn’t. I love the idea of having a private wiki or website to share documents, tutorials, etc. with the staff at school and am going to work on setting this up.

Session 4: Things The Suck (led by Bill Selak) – Dan Callahan has retired from this session and passed the torch on to Bill at edcamp SFBay and Bill ran this session admirably. I loved the discussions in this session and give a tip of my hat to Pat Fallis who made it a point to take the opposing view and defend it well.

Session 5: How can we use EdCamp principles in school/district PD? (led by Dan Callahan) – We are a small school so a true edcamp model can’t really work but I would like to try to bring the spirit of an edcamp into professional development at our school. I am planning some after school training sessions for the teachers but have decided that instead of me setting the agenda, I am going to let them suggest and vote on what they want to learn. Small steps at first and we’ll see where that leads!

I returned home on Sunday energized for the new school year and ready to try some new things with my students and with the staff at my school. Isn’t that what all this is about?

Thanks so much to my fellow organizers of edcamp SFBay. You were all amazing! Next year there has to be a group picture. A special thank you to my roomie, Diane Main. It was great to hang out with you; we’ll have to do it again some time soon!

IMG_5306Creative Commons licensed photo by Karen McMillan

I Wanna Be a Rock Star!

August 2nd-4th, I had the privilege of attending Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp. What an amazing 3 days filled with lots of learning and fun. I had planned on attending this camp when it was scheduled to be held in Calabasas and really struggled with the decision of attending up in O’Neals. I am so glad that I made the choice to go!

What This Was Not

This was so not your standard run-of-the-mill professional development.

There were no back-to-back 45 minute-60 minute sessions crammed into a huge room without any hands on time. Sessions and lunch breaks were deliberately longer than is the norm. The number of registrants was kept small on purpose. This allowed for really getting in and playing with the ideas and tools being presented and down time to absorb what you’d heard and to socialize with other attendees.

There were no presenters who read from their presentations or who fumbled with the tools they were presenting. These presenters were all (or almost all) Google Certified Teachers and/or Apple Distinguished Educators and they really knew their stuff and were inspiring just to watch for how they presented as much as what they presented!

What This Was

This was an opportunity to hear about the sessions from the presenters themselves every morning during the Shred Sessions. What a great way to help attendees learn more about what their choices were each day. The biggest problem that I had was deciding which sessions to attend each day since they all sounded so good!

This was a chance for me to visit Yosemite for the very first time on a Photo Safari with Ken Shelton. An amazing experience and my only regret is that we didn’t have more time there.

This was a chance for me to take away real, practical things that I can and will use at my school with my students or with my fellow teachers.

  • Inspired by Dave Childers, I am going move our school calendars into Google Apps for Education and get our staff on board with using at least this tool.
  • Inspired by Diane Main, there will be more Google Map & Google Earth activities in the lab this year. Last year, my 4th graders created a California Missions Google Map. That will definitely be happening again but I am also planning some ideas for my Middle School students too.
  • Inspired by Ken Shelton, I am going to build a photo library for use by my students. Now, I need to find the money to buy Lightroom!
  • Inspired by Jim Sill & Kyle Brumbaugh, my students are going to start telling stories with movies. First up, Google Search Stories with my Middle School students.
  • Inspired by Jon Corippo, my students will be leading their own learning more. I see Google Presentation Karaoke in their future!
  • Inspired by Gini Pierce-Cummings, I plan to try Collaborize Classroom with my 6th or 7th graders. I think this might be a better fit with one of the classroom teachers rather than in the Computer Lab but I see some great online discussions happening as we try this out this year.

Perfect PD, right? Well, of course not – nothing’s perfect. If I were I a Rock Star, here are a few things I might change:

  • I’d add a beginner’s strand. I traveled to Rock Star Camp with a beginner and she was pretty lost during much of the 3 days.
  • I’d make the Yosemite Photo Safari at least a 1/2 day thing with sessions only in the afternoon. Or, make it an all day Outdoor Ed opportunity and hold hands-on sessions at Yosemite on photography, geocaching, live blogging a field trip and more!
  • I’d move it closer to me! 🙂

Thanks to everyone at Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp. I hope I’m able to do it again next year!