On April 20 last week fifty-four educators, invited from around the world, arrived at Google’s Sydney offices like children before a birthday party – full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of attending only the second Google Teacher Academy (GTA) held outside the United States. I was fortunate to be among them. A talented team of “lead learners” lead by Mark Wagner awaited us.
Before the event we were advised by previous attendees to “get plenty of sleep” and prepare for a “fire hose dosing of information”. It wasn’t long before the soundness of that advice was proved. A series of fast-paced Google brain-dumps covered so much information so quickly that by early afternoon, when Google’s Dana Nguyen observed that “Google people talk quickly”, it was already old news. As we struggled to take it all in Dana reassured us that it is not necessary to store information in your head if you know where to find it when you need it. Given the limited capacity of my head, that was advice I appreciated.
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, so it’s hardly surprising that most of the material covered at GTA Sydney is freely available online. I’ve included links to that information, broken up into more easily digested pieces, in this post. If you have the time to explore these links you’ll find a wealth of information to fuel educational possibilities inside and outside the classroom.
Some sessions were run by graduates of previous Google Teacher Academies. These were all skilled presenters with a deep understanding of and a passion for the benefits of Google technology in education. The relevant links are shown below:
Google Search by Lisa Thumann
Google Apps for Education by Kern Kelly
Google Docs by Wendy Gorton
Google Sites by Lisa Thumann
Google Calendar by Danny Silva
Maps and Google Earth by Wendy Gorton
Gmail and Google Talk by Danny Silva
Google Apps Administration by Kern Kelly
Research Tools by Mark Wagner
Other sessions were run by Google personnel – each one an impressive evangelists for Google technology. They even revealed some confidential information on current Google projects and future plans. This information confirmed the remarkable speed of innovation at Google. Links to their topics are shown below (excludes NDA content):
Google Apps New Features (and Blogger) by Anil Sabharwal
Google Mobile by David Loxton
Google Apps for Education Training Programs by Dana Nguyen
We also heard from six fellow participants who had volunteered prior to the event to present “Inspiring Ideas”. Here are their Google presentations.
The Spread of Google Spreadsheets by Pat Wagner
Using sites for student e-portolios by Joe Donahue
Creating an augmented reality school tour by Chris Betcher
e-portfolios using Blogger and Google Apps by Rob Clarke
Minimally invasive education by Tara Taylor-Jorgensen
The dog ate my homework by Dorothy Burt
Before the event I considered myself well informed about Google tools – especially the ones I used regularly like Search, Docs, Sites, Calendar and Gmail – but over the course of the day I was introduced to many useful new features and to recent innovations that I knew little or nothing about. One of my “Aha!” moments occurred when Kern Kelly illustrated the power of Google lookup functions in Google Spreadsheets. The ability to pull down information from the Web and put it into a spreadsheet was a revelation to me.
Without doubt my greatest highlight of GTA Sydney was meeting amazing educators from around the world. The opportunity to network with these talented people in the year ahead is a privilege that I’m determined not to waste. Other GTA highlights included a tour of the Google offices, the opportunity explore CR-48 Chrome netbooks and Android mobile devices like the Motorola Xoom.
If I have a criticism of the event, it would be that it was too short. It would have been even better if we had had more time and opportunity to explore the educational opportunities Google’s amazing tools make possible while we were still together in Sydney. The following half-day “un-conference” provided some opportunity for this, but longer would have been better.
Many GCTs have blogged about their experience at GTA Sydney. Here are the posts that I’m aware of: Glenda Baker, Corrie Barclay, Chris Betcher, Chris Christodoulou, Penny Collins, Tania Coutts, Kelly Jordan, Glenda Morris, Mike Reading, Tania Sheko, Tara Taylor-Jorgensen.
UPDATE: An Ed Tech Crew podcast with interviews from GTA Sydney by Tony Richards can be found here.