My Summer Plans... ISTE, Boot Camp, Reflecting, and Recharging

I am entering my most favorite time of the year, the summer. You might have expected me to say that since I am a teacher but it is not for the reasons that you think. You see most teachers, even those who don't spend their summers working in camps or at other jobs, do not spend their summers on a leisurely holiday. We work. Only of a different kind. The summer is spent thinking, learning, preparing. Our summers are spent reflecting on our past year and using our successes and failures to better plan for the coming school year. As teachers we are very lucky since every year we have time to rethink and recharge, to grow, so that we can hopefully discover new ways to reach our students in the coming year. (For more on this, see this excellent posting written by my good friend Aaron Ross at the beginning of last summer.)

For me personally, this involves attending the ISTE conference, the largest educational technology conference in the world, for my fourth time in a row next week in Atlanta. This conference gives me so many ideas that it takes me the entire month of July just to begin to process what I have learned. As important as the 15,000+ person conference is the opportunity to go over each day with an intimate group of like-minded educators in Jewish day schools. In the past, I have done this through dinners arranged for cohorts sponsored by the Avi Chai foundation. This year I will be joining a cohort from the DigitalJLearning Network including a master educator from my school. In addition to attending ISTE, I also plan on taking a few online courses this summer including one from the Buck Institute for Education on How to Create a Driving Question and perhaps a few MOOCS on coding with Udacity. I hope to also become a Google Certified educator.


However, the highlight of my summer will be in August when I have the opportunity to return to school and lead many of my teachers in our 7th annual Frisch School Summer Technology Boot Camp. This boot camp is a chance for teachers to hone their skills in a laid back peaceful environment, remember there are no students in the building, in various technologies they can adapt for their classroom. I find this to be tremendously gratifying as you can see in this posting from last summer. Not only is the Boot Camp itself very worthwhile for those who attend, but sharing with them the schedule of sessions and course descriptions itself can be an educational experience. Through the boot camp schedule, teachers learn what technologies are available for them and start to distinguish between various tools in order to discover which is the best one to use in a given situation.


I will end with one example of this from a recent email exchange that I had with one of my teachers about the difference between a Learning Management System (LMS) like Haiku Learning or Schoology and Google Drive.


My teacher asked:

Can you list for me (just the bullet points) what google apps can do that the new LMS system cannot do? 
I'm trying to comprehend (while knowing nothing what-so-ever about them) why I need both. 
As you well know, I do best with one system as opposed to two systems that can do mostly the same things. On the other hand, if they each have very different uses, that I can keep track of and possibly make use of.
I responded with the following:
Think of the following analogy. 
You own a business and you have a warehouse where you story everything, a factory where you create your products, and a delivery network (road, delivery trucks etc) to get the products that you create from your warehouse to the stores/consumer etc. 
  • Google Drive is your warehouse. It is an online location where you can store everything you create, documents, presentations, photos, videos etc. This storage facility can be for you alone, can be shared with other teachers, or shared with other students so everyone has access to the same storage. You can share items for others to view or invite others to create items along with you which leads to Google Docs.
  • Googles Docs, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Forms is your factory where you can create your materials. You can upload a document to convert to Google Docs or create anything you want directly in Google Docs. Not only this, but other individuals or groups can collaborate with you or each other to create these materials which will then be stored in their and your Google Drive storage facility.
  • Our Learning Management System is the delivery network. It answers the following conundrum. Now that I and/or my students have created everything, how do I easily get it to them, and how do they easily get it to me? They can share it with me in Google Drive but I might not know they shared it. They can email it to me but this will quickly get unwieldy since it is not organized by any classroom structure. So the Learning Management System or LMS for short is the easiest way to deliver learning content from me to the student or from the student to me. In this system, students are organized by class using the same class lists as our school management system. You can post learning resources and assignments to the class. They can submit the assignments for grading through the LMS (which by the way can be set up to AUTOMATICALLY run every assignment through TurnItIn). You can then grade the assignments by hand or using the LMS to comment, annotate etc.  
    • These assignments are usually not created in the LMS. Rather, you can upload documents or much more easily create the assignments using Google Docs stored in your Google Drive and the LMS will communicate with your Google Drive account.   
    • This will certainly be the easiest way for students to create assignments to you. They can create them using their Google Drive and then turn it in directly to the LMS. 
In summary, the LMS then becomes the delivery and communications system while Google Docs is the content creation tool, and Google Drive is where you store Google Docs and other items you created. Very different functions. In my opinion, each indispensable for any class, especially a class with a focus on writing and revising like an English or History class.
So this is what I plan on doing this summer. Stay tuned as I hope to be sharing much of what I gain these summer months through my favorite reflective activity, blogging.