Google Apps for educators

Last night, Brendan Madden and I facilitated a workshop on using a range of Google apps for teaching and learning for some of the nice folks from The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT). JALT has been hosting a learning series to help enable their members to develop their knowledge and use of technology. It was a fun evening with time for sharing, demos and practice. Several people received certificates from JALT in recognition of their commitment to attend five sessions. Some members are also preparing to take the Google Educator exams to gain further recognition for their learning.


JALT workshopRather than dictating the agenda for our session, we began the event with a Dotstorming activity. Participants voted, and we then rank ordered the apps we proposed to explore. Guided by participant choice, we spent time looking at Google Maps, Google Drawing, Google Photos, and finished off with Docs. The evening was a nice reminder for me, that not everyone uses or is familiar with some of the Google tools that I may now take for granted. My favorite part of gatherings like this is hearing and sharing ideas of how technology can be used in innovative ways.

Professional Development for a Global Audience

Global Education Conference

It was an honour to be a guest in Amy Hollinger‘s session on Professional Development for a Global Audience at the 2013 Global Education Conference. Amy is the Director of Professional Development for Global Online Academy and was my co-teacher in a recent online professional development course for teachers: Introduction to Online Learning Environments.

One of the things we talked about today was dealing with some of the challenges that get in the way of developing solid connections with people in online environments. It’s harder to do when you don’t have the cues provided by seeing faces and reading body language in a face-to-face situation.  Ideas that we discussed to personalize and humanize online connections included sharing personal details to learn more about each other’s context. This included simple things like sharing pictures of family, pets and where we live; showing on a map our geographic locations; and using icebreakers to uncover common interests and


Sharing online is not necessarily comfortable for everyone. Modeling what and how to share, and suggesting common areas of interest can make it a little easier. We set up a Google+ Community for our course to help build connections and foster a professional learning community for participants.  Themes that emerged in our class discussions flowed into categories for ongoing threads on Google+.

Learning how to learn in an online environment is experiential–sometimes you just need to experience it to understand it! I hope the participants in our course got a taste of some of what is possible.



Learning from Google

Google Post-it Installation

What can we learn from innovative organizations like Google? How might we adopt some of their cultural markers to inspire students? When we knew ASIJ would be the host venue for the first Tokyo Google Apps for Education Summit I wondered how we might use it as an opportunity to touch students and not just host a PD event for faculty.

What I envisioned was a week of ’20 percent time’ projects, cross divisional student activities and workshops, Scratch writing Slams & Play-offs, Dance Parties and maybe even a filming session for a Lipdub project that was underway. Needless to say thinking big doesn’t always mean you get to act big. Disruption is not always warmly welcomed, right? 🙂

While the scale of those ideas were not realized this time around, as I reflect post the Google Summit, the goal of getting students involved was achieved and the event did have an impact on some of our students.

The transformation of the high school lobby and library space into a Google style environment, intended to inspire idea sharing and collaboration, did create a buzz with students leading up to the event.

photo 3


Google colors

In the lead up to the event a group of students were a key part of a collaborative video project designed to give Google a decidedly Japanese flavor. They crafted the logo out of nori rolls and sushi – then ate it! Creative and delicious.


Google Sushi

Our middle school art teachers launched a ‘Google doodle’ extravaganza which resulted in hundreds of colorful logo designs being displayed around school.

Google doodles

A project that engaged many of the ASIJ Student Envoys during the event was the Google Post-It installation. Attendees were invited to help create a giant Google logo with Post-It messages about the conference under the direction of student helpers. They photographed each stage which we then turned into a stop-motion animation for screening on the Sunday afternoon. It was a fun, creative and collaborative effort by everyone. Grade 11 student, Kyoko emailed me about the experience; “It turned out beautiful! Thank you for integrating my moving arrow in the end of the video! I had a very inspiring day today!” I loved what she did – she had embraced the challenge to inject her own ideas into an open-ended project.

Maybe that’s it! Time for creativity, and challenges and opportunities to collaborate.

Google Apps For Education Tokyo @ASIJ

Over two hundred educators converged on ASIJ on February 9th and 10th. It was a weekend of play, passion and purpose. Over twenty-five different workshops and keynote presentations were offered with participants attending from around Japan and from as far away as Indonesia.  Browsing through the Twitter stream #gafesummit you get a sense of the energy, ideas and connections that were made over the two days. Aside from attending some great sessions these kinds of events are about bringing interesting people together. Ideas were swapped and sparked through informal exchanges that were as much a part of the event as the opportunities to interact and hear from the Google team and workshop presenters.


“The Demo Slam”–3 fast & furious minutes in which to demo a tip, tool or idea. I shared the “Googles” function on a mobile device.

Rushton Hurley, Director of Next Vista for Learning opened Saturday morning and had people laughing from the get-go. In subsequent sessions he shared a wealth of resources from search skills to creative projects which I’ll be digging through for a long time to come.

Jim Sill‘s entertained and inspired us with his keynote address on Sunday. We were invited to think about the kind of world are we are now living in by contrasting it to the ‘material world’ of the 1980’s. Madonna’s hit song blared out and helped bring home some of the shifts that have occurred in the decades since it first aired. One example Jim shared was that now 72 hours of footage are being uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s certainly a digital and very connected world. What can teachers make of the opportunities this affords?


Throughout the whole event Wendy Gorton kept the energy high as our MC. In the closing session Wendy also shared about some of the fantastic projects she’s involved in around Asia, and how she uses whatever technology is available to keep connections going and to support learning.

Overall it was a very energizing event. Like the collaborative installation that attendees helped create, GAFE Summit Tokyo was a culmination of lots of different peoples ideas, effort and commitment. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of it.




Google Opps

You have no doubt heard of Special Ops. Well, this week we kicked off our own version titled Google Opps. What’s it all about? Creating and supporting opportunities for staff, faculty and students to dig deeper into all things Google. Why? Because ASIJ is very excited about hosting the Google Apps for Education Tokyo Summit on February 9-10 and we want to build momentum and anticipation for that great event.

How are we doing that? For starters we are sharing information about some of the upcoming opportunities for Google related PD.  Google Apps Training online material,  Google Teacher Academy in December at Mountain View, CA, and Power Searching with Google. (Thanks for your help with this effort @edueyeview!)

And what a great start! This week twenty plus enthusiastic ASIJ faculty and staff have signed up to form study groups to learn more about the suite of tools we have as part of being a Google Apps for Education school.

More Google Opps to come!