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Wellbeing Wonder #5: Unplug

wellbeing-wonders-unplugThis is a little bit of a cheat of a wellbeing wonder post, because the subject of it means that it will be short – but sweet, I hope.

Putting your tech away doesn’t need a grand gesture or to be for a long time (but the longer the better probably), but just connecting with the world and the people around us and focussing mindfully on where we are, rather than the information superhighway, does us all good sometimes.

So if you are reading this (and thank you!), put down your device, go and give someone a hug (anyone really but ideally someone you know) and have some tech-free time. It’s very good for your wellbeing.

Happy weekend!

Collaborate for Change

Tonight, I’m going to be hosting a table at the C84C event taking place at BETT. I am hosting two informal discussion sessions on the topic ‘Busting the Budget: making a shrinking ICT Budget Go Further & Work Harder’.

Linkbunch QR code

Google Teacher Academy UK – 2 Weeks On & Beyond

Can it really be over 2 weeks since the Google Teacher Academy in London? Yes, it is and it’s probably taken this long for the dust to settle and for my brain to digest what was a very intense and totally immense day. I have never known CPD like it and it was a real honour to be there, particularly delivering my session as a lead learner  on Google Docs.

I must admit presenting to some of the UK’s most innovative teachers was almost as scary as my old Year 11 class on a Friday afternoon (but with fewer piercings), however my fellow delegates were very gentle with me and we even managed to come up with our own Doodle for Google logo (however, I don’t think it will be featuring on the homepage anytime soon!).

I ended up racing through much of the content, so do feel free to have a look at the presentation and the associated resources on the GTA resource site (I have been looking at lots of the other resources over the past week and finding lots of v. cool stuff!). There are some great classroom examples generously given by fellow teachers. The great thing is that all the resources are available to anyone – a great learning reference!

The relentless pace of the day meant there was so much to take in (including the v. cool Google offices). Every session had directly applicable value and it is those with the most classroom application that have been popping back into my head over the past couple of weeks. So here’s a quick run-down of my highlights:

Tom Barratt’s literacy maps are simply amazing for any pupils, but especially reluctant writers – I know my son would love to take part in a map story! Creating .kmz files in Google Earth of our favourite places in the world (Formby beach for me!) in Doug Belshaw’s session was also, not only fun, but immediately and obviously applicable to numerous creative activities within the classroom.

Lisa Thurman’s ‘Search’ demonstration of the fantastic wonderwheel, google squared and customised searces have been talked about at length in various blog posts – very simple and incredibly effective tools which we simply did not know about before! I have had several meetings this week and have been showing anyone who will listen the Wonder Wheel – particularly helpful for students who are visual learners or those with dyslexia.

For my own studies, Mark Wagner’s session on Killer Reseach Tools was another eye-opener – having my own personal, searchable online reference library will be a real plus for my continued MA studies and this could be a fantastic facility for teachers to share recommended reading with students.

I have also set up my Google Calendar to send me SMS alerts, thanks, not only to Danny Silva’s ideas on the day, but to Jesstern Ray’s super simple guide in his blog . Indeed it is this continued input from both people who attended on the day and those who followed online which, I think, will be the legacy of GTAUK and there has already been much collaboration and ideas-spreading.

It may be that many of us who attended are unable to implement the full Google Apps suite in our schools, for a variety of reasons. However, we do all, of course, have the ability to influence classroom practice and spread the word about some of the excellent, and let’s not forget, free, tools available to teachers. In times of budget constaints and ICT bashing (see last week’s TES / any comment from Mr Gove), it is this combination of innovation and minimal cost that should be of great attraction to so many schools. Indeed, in the TES this week, a Headteacher writes; “many staff only know about Microsoft Products, so we need to learn about [free] alternatives”. Google’s tools are amongst the thankfully increasing number of tools available to schools that are free, innovative and very easy to use once you know how.

It’s reaching out beyond the twitterati and getting the message to the masses that will take some creativity and determination to do. So getting out there and sharing our knowledge is important. I know some of the tools will be being showcased at TeachMeets (including TMX!) over the next few months and I hope all of us will be sharing as much knowledge as we can with as many teachers, and students, as we can.

There may, at the moment, be few schools in the UK which are in the awe-inspiring position described by Kern Kelley in his presentation in which Google Apps and technology is so well integrated into his school –  giving students their own domain name as a leaving present which they can use to showcase their own portfolio of work is one such example and truly a 21stC idea reflective of the open and innovative culture. However, there are many of us, including those of us who went to GTAUK, who share that vision for education and students in the UK  – we just need to convince others to come along for the (free) ride!