When I was asked to be a part of a team of “Google Trainers” for our district back in January, I really had no idea what that meant. As it was explained to me, I would be educating teachers to implement technology into their classrooms. Now I consider myself a fairly savvy tech person, but by no means an expert on anything. I can navigate the web and mainstream programs with ease, problem solve some hardware issues, but mostly, I am really good at asking for help. In fact, I was the winner last year of the most tech tickets at my school! That means, I complained the most about things that needed to be fixed by our tech department. I’m apparently the best at complaining: like gold medal-worthy. Sadly, there was no award.
Attending the Google Summit changed so much for me, but it left me hungry, salivating for more. When I saw the CUE Rockstar conference agenda, I smooth talked my principal into paying for my entry AND my hotel stay in Truckee. Little did he know I would have footed the bill myself.
The format of CUE (Computer Using Educators) Rockstar is unlike any other. It is small, only 70 or so participants. There are only two sessions a day, two hours each, plus a TWO hour lunch. This annoyed me at first. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and take advantage of every opportunity. Why couldn’t I go to more sessions? Let’s just say, these folks know what they’re doing. The leisure time is valuable, far more valuable than the price of admission. Of course, if you’re me, the time is not spent in leisure.
The biggest complaint teachers have about technology is training. We are thrown Chromebooks, Smart Boards, tablets, iPads, Mobis and told to use them in our classroom. We might get an hour of instruction, a 200 page booklet, a list of helpful websites and apps that might lead to good lessons. What we NEVER get is time: time to “play”, time to discover, time to plan a lesson using the new tools. It is in using the new technology that you learn to implement it into your everyday lessons. Time is what I had in Truckee, but it wasn’t just idle time. It was time surrounded by colleagues. Even enjoying street tacos in the Alder Creek Middle School Cafetorium, I was learning. “How do you embed a form onto my web page that only my students can see?” After hours, at the restaurant across the street, the conversations continued until late in the evenings. Time spent collaborating is beyond invaluable.
I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I already knew going into each session. From lessons on Google Earth, Doctopus, Google Forms and even coding, I was quite ahead of the curve. That in itself felt pretty good. In only six months, I had come so very far.
Being a contemplative person by nature, driving down the hill back home, I thought about what I had learned. Sure, I learned some incredible logistic things: listening to Megan Ellis talk about how she implements Doctopus, organizes her Drive and uses Google Forms for reading logs was nothing short of empowering. But there was something else. It was a theme that each presenter shared in one way or another. Technology is an incredible tool. Nevertheless, it is just that, a tool. It is there to help you teach and to help kids learn. It’s not about how fancy and hip you look. In the end, what matters is that students learn to create content, based on standards we teach. We live in this 21st century digital world, but our goal is still the same as it has always been: to create literate, problem-solving, independent-thinking citizens.
That’s when I knew I was a rockstar, and not just because I had the lyrics of “21st Century Digital Boy” blasting on my iPod on Interstate 80 heading home. 🙂