Sunday, March 7, 2010

GTA: Now What?

Yesterday I flew home from San Antonio, Texas where I had the privelege to participate in the first ever Google Administrators Academy, a FULL day (11 hours) of presentations, innovations, networking, and hands on experience. It's hard to pinpoint any one component that really stood out to me. I mean, during a fireworks display do you remember a single explosion? It's all powerful, right?

(Image:Flickr Contributor P.O.P)

I could go on about the events, speakers, and the energy of being with some of the most dynamic, forward thinking administrators around the country. But anything I would write has already been done by one of my GTA comrades, Eric Scheninger in his first (yes first! blogpost). An inspiring read.

Like the rest of the #gtadmin folks today, my head is spinning. So many possibilities, so many! But an exciting, yet intimidating question looms:

Now what?

I know we are all bursting to get back to share with our colleagues to share all we've learned. but how do we begin to even scratch the surface of passing on what we learned on Saturday?

I do have some ideas.

First, we need to walk the walk. Start by making some changes. This post is being created on a Google Doc using Chrome. OK so that's not a big deal, but if I am going to discuss these tools and end encourage others to use them, I need to start too, right? It's sort of like playing Christmas carols when decorating the tree. It puts you in the mood.

Did I say tools?

Yes, we were immersed with dozens of applications on Saturday, and I will be reviewing again and again the agenda which includes all the slide decks and ideas from the presenters (oops "lead learners"!). But I have three suggestions:

Take a breath: avoid the desire to go back tomorrow and try to unleash everything you learned in an email to your staff. More likely than not, many will not share your enthusiasm, and steamrolling all of these ideas will likely cause people to shut down. Share initially with those people whom you know will be receptive and let them be your connectors. As time goes on, reveal those concepts or ideas gradually as a means to solve educational problems and meet needs of students and teachers. The quicker these are unleashed, the quicker they will fade.

Choose wisely: One of the "Leading Learners" made the point that most educators will never utilize all these tools, nor should they. Think carefully about which applications are best suited for what your district wants to accomplish. One of the biggest decisions is whether or not your district will be utilizing the Google Apps (capitol "A") or not. Perhaps start with 2 or 3 ideas and go from there. Personally, I am starting with Moderator and Sites to fulfill some needs that currently exist in my building. This brings me to the last suggestion, which really needs to be the first implemented.

Start with LEARNING not TOOLS: My worst nightmare is that people use these tools as an "add on" to their existing curriculum. To me this is what I think of when I hear people talking about "integrating" technology. Never before have we had the opportunity, and the need to transform education. We need to start with student-centered, inquiry-driven, purposeful opportunities for kids to learn. On of my favorite sessions at GTA had nothing to do with computers. It was a session, early in the day when we shared an innovation that we were currently using at our school. Amy, who sat behind me, shared that she had kids who were able to explore and learn outside of their grade level and either explore something at a higher level, or get help on something that was difficult. That is just one of the many examples shared that focused on student learning. Let's all continue to embrace these ideas, make these changes...and THEN use these wonderful tools as a way to solve what we want to so. If we create the need and show what can be done, then teachers will be clamoring for the applications to reach goals.

Thanks for everything, GTA peeps! Go forth.


Colette Cassinelli said...

Welcome Jon to the GCT family. I attended Mountain View '08 and am so excited that more administrators are joining the conversation. We need more leaders who "get it". I love what you wrote: "We need to start with student-centered, inquiry-driven, purposeful opportunities for kids to learn." Technology is about supporting and expanding student learning. - not learning another cool tool .

Best of luck to you on your journey and I'm looking forward to being part of it.

Colette Cassinelli

jorech said...

Thanks, Colette.You are right...It's not about the "wow" factor. I'm a pseudo administrator...kind of a teacher without a classroom. Good news: our admin is now taking some really positive steps. Looking forward to working with all of you!


Henry Thiele said...


It was awesome to spend such an inspiring day together. You and I have said for years it isn't about the tools. However, it is wonderful to have the right tools to work with. After all, you can eat your dinner with a pitchfork, but it isn't that easy. I haven't fully digested the weekend enough to write about it, but I am sure that good artists will be good with whichever brush you give them - but that same artist with the right tools can paint a masterpiece.


Mr.Graden said...


Great to have you in the McCormick group! I really appreciate your honest look the tools and the educational value that is at the core of their use.

I think by focusing on the learner, the use of the tool can take care of itself. It's just that I find the Apps tools to be so strong.... or as Hank points out - not like pitchforks at the dinner table

My head it still spinning too....

POPS said...

great advice!

jorech said...

Thanks for the Posts:

Hank: As usual you come up with great metaphors. YOu are right, we need the balance of powerful tools put into the hands of talented teachers. Thanks for your inspiration was good to see a familiar face.


Thanks for being the catalyst of our group, it was truly an inspiring day, and your contributions really helped bring everything to light for me.

Eric: Great working with you, and thanks for the ride! Love the pics you took.