How is it that I did an impromptu presentation at Cornell you may be asking? Since our district adopted Google Classroom and launched a 1:1 Chromebook initiative this fall, I have personally committed to using Google Classroom, Documents, and Calendar with my students on a daily basis. When one of our team members saw the flyer for Google Camp I was ecstatic that I was one of five people signed up to attend. My only concern about this conference was the format. The emails and fliers for the event notified participants that this conference would be using the Edcamp format.
Edcamp format is very free flowing. There are no keynote speakers, no predetermined sessions or topics, no presenters scheduled ahead of time. The morning I walked into the ballroom at the Statler Hotel I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how I would have a productive, informative day without specific sessions scheduled. These fears were simply and quickly alleviated in a few step. Participants were asked to write down our ideas These ideas were randomly selected by a facilitator who was moving around the room. An idea was shouted out, a show of hands determined if this was a topic that enough people were interested in, the facilitators asked for a volunteer who could share their knowledge and lead a discussion on the topic, and before we knew it the session board was full. In less than 20 minutes there were 16 sessions scheduled in the different rooms, and we were free to plan our day around what most interested us.
It was during this planning session that I was goaded by my colleagues into leading a conversation on Google Apps in the ELA classroom. I feel like I need to explain that this has been a year of technological growth for me. Before this year I could search online and use word processing programs proficiently but not much else. When I realized that I would have 60 students with computers at their disposal every moment of every day I knew that I needed to find better ways to use technology. So the idea that I could be an “expert” on technology in the ELA classroom is still very new.
What was so refreshing about this Edcamp format was that I simply started the conversation and others built upon my experiences. Before I knew it we were talking about Doctopus, Goobric, and Kaizena. Those who used these programs shared information, while those who have not asked questions. This casual, non-threatening environment led to more discussion about other apps that we have been using in our classrooms.
So what started as uncomfortable quickly turned into an eye-opening and worthwhile experience. Because I had the courage to raise my hand and volunteer as a session leader I was able to offer my experiences and this opened a door where contacts were made and new information was gathered. “I am not an expert….this is how I use Google Apps in my classroom.” We do not need to be experts to use technology--instead, we need to be willing to try new things, go outside our comfort zones, and most importantly talk with others about what we are doing and how it works.