Be better than you were yesterday: words to live by

Back in the groove again. It didn’t take long, did it? March Break is already a distant memory, and for me, it seemed like the benefits of the break, and the feeling of being rested and caught up, were quickly swept away with the first bell last Tuesday. That said, despite the third term busyness, I haven’t been able to get one particular thought out of my head. After my last blog post (which I wrote before passing my Google Certified Educator Level 2 exam!), I’ve been thinking about submitting a proposal to present at one of the GAFE Summits (London, ON – May 28-29).

The Summit I attended last year in Lachine, Quebec was my first real exposure to the wonder of possibilities that Google Apps provide, and that experience has really shaped me – both as a teacher, and as a learner. I had been to inspiring conferences before, but never before had the learning that I had done actually make an immediate and continued difference in my teaching. All of a sudden, I felt like I just wanted to learn more and more. I became what I thought might be annoyingly preachy about the benefits of using Google Docs over the expensive and proprietary Word or Pages (“One version rather than multiple files that you email back and forth to yourself!” “No more lost USB keys!” “Gone are the days of not being able to open up other people’s’ files because you don’t have the software!”).

"Revision history" according to Microsoft Word.
“Revision history” according to Microsoft Word.

I and my colleague Melissa began the transition of moving all of our library resources to Google Docs, and we started making Google Tools an integral part of the research process workflow that we would teach to students.

Do you know the power of the force "Make-a-copy" in Google Docs? A game-changer when you're providing templates for students!
Do you know the power of the force “Make-a-copy” in Google Docs? A game-changer when you’re providing templates for students!


And the learning continues. In addition to achieving Level 2 in the certification process, over the Break I committed to eliminating Microsoft Outlook as my email client and jumping in to Gmail with both feet, even for my work email. I asked IT to forward all of my email to my school-provided Google account, I researched inbox management strategies, and I got to Inbox Zero. I have been working on fine-tuning my workflow to ensure that my email does not get out of control like it once did. With filters, labels, and multiple inboxes, I am already seeing a big difference in how I interact with the massive amounts of email that we tend to receive on a daily basis.

In any case, I am doubtful that I need to continue to convince you that I am wholly convinced about the merits of Google Apps for Education. (I’m sure that I will write another blog post or two about other tools that I love!) But when Leslie suggested in a comment on my last post that I apply to present at a Google Summit, I was stoked. It is a professional goal of mine to do something like that, and to be able to provide even one person with the same spark that was lit in me last year would be an incredible experience.

As I worked through possible topic ideas, however, doubts began to creep in. Who am I to think that I could possibly be good enough to present at a Summit?! I’d heard of colleagues leaving a session mumbling about how it wasn’t that great, or how they wished they’d attended a different session – what if that was MY session they were leaving? Or, even worse, what if nobody came at all? Could I fill a full hour with inspiring demonstrations and ideas? Could I answer people’s questions sufficiently? And, ridiculously, what would I even write in my bio?

I’m not writing this to get assurances about my worth or value in the comments – please don’t provide anything of the sort! I’m just exploring the sneaky nature of our self-doubt, which I know our students face daily as well. If we want to be learners along with our students, we need to be willing to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable as well. If we want to improve, we need to do things that are hard! Despite the awkward grammatical structure of this quote, it is one that I think is appropriate here:
Although this quote is all over the internet, I couldn’t find the original source. Image from Pixabay.

Here’s where I would love to hear your comments, though. Below are a couple of possibilities I’m weighing for a presentation proposal. I’d love some feedback. Would sessions such as these interest you? Why or why not? Could I word these summaries more effectively? Can you think of ways in which I could improve the overall appeal of the sessions?

Possibility #1: Growing Success with Google Forms: Improving assessment and the feedback cycle

Ontario’s Growing Success document/philosophy emphasizes descriptive feedback of student achievement and regular and ongoing tracking of learning skills and habits, but it can be overwhelming to keep up with this in practice. Do you find it difficult to provide sufficient and timely descriptive feedback to students? Do you find yourself scribbling notes about learning skills in this notebook, on this Post-it, and on that random sheet of paper? How do you keep yourself organized and your students engaged in the feedback cycle?
Come to this session to explore the use of Forms and Add-Ons to help to streamline your assessment and evaluation practices. Learn how to create a simple form to track learning skills and work habits and how to apply filters in Sheets to sort your data. See how to use AutoCrat or Form Publisher to populate a custom rubric with achievement levels and your feedback. Explore how DocAppender can help you to create a single location for a students’ assessment so that you can create a two-way feedback loop.

Possibility #2 (far less developed): Personalizing Learning with Hyperdocs

With an increasing emphasis on personalized learning in schools, explore how you can enable your students to pursue their own interests and learn at their own pace using Google Apps. I will share my recent experience with implementing a self-directed learning module in my classroom, making the most of existing online tutorials, the power of hyperlinks and bookmarks, and the feedback/conversation tools in Google Docs to allow students to take charge of their own learning experience.

If you’ve been to a Google Summit, were there areas you thought were lacking? What would be the topic of the presentation that you’d like to see?

5 thoughts on “Be better than you were yesterday: words to live by

  1. Hi Jennifer! This is a great post that explains the journey you’ve undertaken in exploring the role of technology in your teaching. I enjoyed reading about your growing excitement. Congratulations on completing the Level 2 exam!

    I think you should definitely present at a GAFE Summit and I would think that any experience and advice you have to share for how to provide more timely and efficient feedback would be a valuable session to your audience! Ultimately, you need to present on a topic that you are passionate about as that will drive your enthusiasm for the experience of sharing your journey at the Summit! I wish I was attending the London GAFE — I’d love to hear your talk. All the best, Christina

  2. @cschindler

    Thank you so much for your comment and for the vote of confidence! I’ve submitted my proposal for the first topic suggestion – it’s something that I’m more passionate about, and you’re right: the presentation will be far more engaging and useful for the attendees if I’m excited to talk about it! I’ll let you know if it gets approved!


  3. Great Post Jen! You’ll love presenting at GAFE and it’s far to feel overwhelmed as it feels like everyone around you is a superstar, and they are, but so are you! Congrats on level 2.

    @lesmcbeth is doing some great stuff with Growing Success and student feedback – it’s a whole other ball of wax but it’s great. Looking forward to seeing where you go with this – let us know when you’re presenting and we’ll get a contingent to attend!

  4. I am super impressed and inspired, Jen! I think you would be an incredible presenter. I know I learn so much from you every time we talk! Good luck with the proposal.

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