25 February 2015

#gafesummit Oklahoma 2015

I decided to spend some time at lunch today thinking about the things I thought about a conference this past weekend at which I was with the 'cream of the crop' of educators here in Oklahoma. It was a valuable conference and worth every penny spent on attendance. The conference was a Google Apps for Education Summit (#gafesummit)

I was privileged to attend the pre-summit which began the process of preparing me to become a certified Google Education Trainer. This was some very valuable training and helped to further conceptualize how you can integrate SO many different apps/programs/sites with GAFE.

I think initially when I thought about attending the pre-summit, I thought it would be good for some 'on-the-side' consulting work as more and more districts/schools will be moving to GAFE in the coming years. However, after attending, I realize that I have more than I can handle to get my own faculty ready to meet the coming challenges of the Digital Education Environment.

I learned some new things, such as croak.it and some more innovative uses of socrative.com. The pre-summit was a great time of thinking about the challenges we face in education with our students and how to overcome those challenges.

If you aren't a teacher, you may not know the wide variety of access many of our students (don't) have. Some students have some access at home (desktop, wireless internet, etc.), some have smartphone access only, some have both, while there are some students who have no access to the interwebs at all. One of the primary questions I have (as a teacher) is: "How do I get each of my students equal access?" (at least while they are in my classroom) As an instructional designer, that question changes slightly. Rather, how do I get my faculty to (1.) allow their students to have on-demand access? (2.) How do I help those faculty create a culture of trust for technology use in their classrooms, especially when we aren't modeling that culture of trust? (3.) What are the pre-requisite issues I need to solve/change with my faculty in order to empower them to innovate in their classrooms? In other words, just because I am not married to ANYTHING I do in the classroom, my faculty may not be quite so willing, so how do I sell innovative practice to them?

Often, when I attend conferences, I may not learn a ton of new things (beyond the new webapp or add-on for browsers), but I am pushed into thinking about my faculty and how we can move their student engagement up a notch, how to deepen their understanding of difficult concepts (through on-demand remediation) and/or how to push their students to be learners who (1) enjoy learning (2) are motivated to learn (3) and are able to see the relevancy of what they are learning. This conference really did that for me.

I had an opportunity to meet some great folks and expand my PLN, both here in Oklahoma and throughout the US. I heard some great keynotes by Holly Clark, Mark Hammons, and Lise Galuga. We thought about the adjacent possible, moved toward future-ready, and decided that an elephant is best eaten one bite at a time. Overall, the weekend was a total success.

Thanks @edtechteam for a great learning experience, thanks @bmchs1 for hosting, and thanks to @BekahHightower for your hard work in coordinating the entire thing.

One more thing, I did present a couple of sessions, but my favorite was the new presentation I did about the great work we are doing here at Canadian Valley Technology Center using Google Scripts. I had a full session so I broadcasted/recorded on YouTube so others could attend virtually.

07 February 2015

Using Scripts with Google Drive to Track Student/Teacher Progress

I've been at a conference for the last couple of days and had an opportunity to share some of the great things we are doing at Canadian Valley Technology Center, specifically in using scripts to create calendar events (like a bus request), automated progress reports, professional development transcripts, and teacher evaluations (coming soon).


The first script I ever used was one which would send the results of a form to someone other than the person submitting it. I found it online, changed the email address, and made it work. That looks pretty simple now, but it started me on a journey which has led me to my current place in learning programming.


We have started using scripts (which are bound to Google spreadsheets, calendar, forms, etc.) to take the results of a form (set up as a way for instructors to enter their professional development for the semester), create a copy of a template, replace all information in <<>> with information from the form, move it into a shared folder (one shared with the teacher's supervisor), share the document with the teacher (view rights only), and email a link to the document to the teacher. 

This was the first project we used to integrate the automation power of Google Scripts. We have since created an automated transportation request (auto-creates) an event on the bus/van/etc. calendar. We have also moved to a Google Sheets gradebook (from an Excel template), with automated progress reports. 

We are on about the 4th iteration of each of these as it has been a somewhat large learning curve for someone like me who had zero programming experience. I have done about 1/2 of the codecademy.com Javascript course which has enabled me to begin to conceptually understand Scripts within Google. 

But it takes so long!

Like every other kind of technology I have ever used in the classroom, yes, it takes a lot of time. However, all of the time you invest on the front side (development) you will get back probably two-fold on the backside. Time spent doing paperwork is reduced to nearly nothing. I remember the first school I worked at had a person who taught part time and the other part of her job was tracking professional development. This first script would have eliminated that entire part of her job. Not that I am in favor of people losing their jobs, but maybe that person could focus more on instruction? Or remediation? 

Next Steps:

If you are a Google District and you have someone who is willing to learn or already knows Javascript, I would highly recommend giving someone the autonomy to begin integrating something like this. There are scripts already written which people will/can share (I'm glad to share any I have done) and if you need help, some great resources are the Scripts documentation and stackoverflow.com. I do a lot of searching for help. 

If you would like to connect more about this topic, I'm happy to do so. You can connect through about.me/jbowie. If I can help you with anything, please let me know!