Get Your Google Game On was the title of the 1st annual Bedford Public School’s Techapalooza gathering, August 26, as educators from all over the Monroe County, Michigan area ascended upon Bedford High School, Temperance. Bedford, a Blue Ribbon award recipient, may be a rural agricultural community in southeastern, Michigan, but its superior stance to offer a state-of-the-art technology driven education is a role model of innovation and adaptation. And Google products and services is helping Bedford students, teachers, and administration, the ability to grow and accept a new learning paradigm. A paradigm, that according to John Sowash, keynote presenter, says should make teachers everywhere excited and humbled.
On one hand, teachers serve a vital purpose. Teachers have always been the gatekeepers of their discipline information and as such, each is responsible to access their students accordingly. However, with the advent of Google products and other open website applications and services, teachers should be humbled to teach at a time where students do not need anyone’s permission to succeed, students that might make it big even before graduating from high school. He provided several examples including the founders of Engrade, providing real-time grades to thousands of students and parents and Lulu Publishing that allows anyone to create and publish books.
Sowash walked participants through Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classification of the levels of intellectual behavior essential to learning. Sowash reiterated the foundation of learning is to ask questions. The Web allows people to ask and it can retrieve the answers in record time. But even with the amazing technology, questions that involve deeper inquiry will involve deeper searches and deeper thinking. Students should not necessarily be content with the first answer that comes along. “Technology is not a substitution for critical thinking,” says Sowash.
Educators must foster critical thinking. He pointed to a long-standing Internet hoax dubbed the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, a website created by a teacher about a species that really does not exist to test how people can take information on the web for granted.
Numerous sessions on incorporating Google services such as one taught by Scott Earl dubbed, Tech Tools: Teacher Tested, Student Approved, Levitating Your Science Curriculum, by Kim Ortiz, and others involving Google Drive, Google Sites, and Flubaroo, a standardized test-grading tool, provided a great sample of incorporating technology in the classroom. Finally, other presentations included how to best use social media as learning tools for blogging such as Kim Powell’s look at Comments for Kids and my own presentation on lesson plans using WordPress for Common Core writing.
As I reflect upon what Sowash said regarding technology and the importance of critical thinking, I remember Ode to a Spell Checker. The anonymous poem first surfaced on the Internet in the mid-1990s. It features a series of homophone stanzas. Even today’s word processing spellcheckers would not likely find 10 percent of these errors.
Jennifer Earl, Bedford instructional technology director and event organizer was pleased with the turnout. During lunch at the all-day event she said, “We have already learned things we will do differently next year to improve it.” Did you attend the conference? Feel free to share with Examiner.com readers any takeaways or golden nuggets you gathered there.