In the Buffalo Island Central School District in Monette, Ark., literacy teacher Nancy Spencer recently had her junior high students grade and judge essays written by elementary school students. To chat with the younger students, build anticipation and announce the winner, Spencer’s students used Google Hangout, one of Google’s apps that has proved useful in the classroom.
Spencer and co-worker Jae Glass recently attended the Arkansas Google Apps for Education Summit, which was held in Conway last weekend.
The summit was one of 27 scheduled for the 2013 calendar year. They have been held across the globe including locations such as Tokyo, Sydney, South Africa and Brazil. Additionally, EdTechFest will be held in Tel Aviv at the end of December.
Conway Public Schools Director of Instructional Services Debbie Miller said Conway was chosen as one conference site because of the recent technological updates that have been in place since they built the new high school building.
Both teachers said they were excited to learn more about what they could utilize for their classes.
The summit was a two-day event where teachers, school administrators and school IT managers from around the world came to learn from the experts about getting the most out of Google Apps for Education.
Spencer and Glass said by noon on Saturday at the summit they had learned a lot and they were excited to bring it home to their district.
For instance, virtual field trips are one possibility of how technology and certain apps can impact the classroom. Later this year, Glass’ students will go on a field trip and Spencer’s class will "virtually" join them.
"We are getting Chrome(book) carts," Spencer said of their district’s equipment. "We’re also working on a ‘bring your own device’ policy."
Conway Public Schools has a "bring your own device" policy, and Miller said it has worked well for the district.
"The goal behind technology is not to use technology just for the sake of using it," Miller told the Log Cabin before the school year started. "The goal is to use it when it makes the work more efficient and when it expands the learning opportunities."
The aim of the Google Apps in Education Summit was to teach educators just that — how to use technology to improve efficiency and expand opportunities.
Dan Taylor, EdTech entrepreneur and founder of AppsEvents, said Google Apps are a good resource for teachers because they are free and provide centralized and regularly-updated services for use in the classroom and when the children go home.
"It’s all based on collaboration," he said.
Wayne Bowring, technology coordinator at The American School of Bangkok, echoed that sentiment of collaboration.
Bowring, who traveled from Thailand to Conway for the conference, said the administration and teachers at his school have recently gone from "not tech savvy" to being Google certified and using apps and devices every day.
"Our administrators use tablets for their walkthroughs," he said. "More and more they become more comfortable."
Bowring said he has been to several Google Summits and has seen the benefits of the collaborative learning in that setting.
"There are coordinators, not experts," he said. "If someone has a new idea or a new use for something, they are free to share that with the group."
As far as students are concerned, Spencer and Glass said their students in Monette are ready to embrace any opportunity to learn using new technology.
"I think they’ll take off with it," Spencer said.
"I think there will be big time engagement," Glass echoed. "It’s going to be fun to see."
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)