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I’ve been teaching for 26 years – English, AVID, Yearbook, Reading, History and any sort of intervention class that gets thrown my way. I’ve been through whole language and back. I’ve survived NCLB. I’ve been trained in teaching the Gifted and Talented, the At-Risk and 21st-century students. And last weekend, I went to my first #gafesummit (Google Apps for Education Summit) in Coronado, California, and it was AWESOME!

I’m not a digital native, but a few years ago I volunteered to be our school’s Chromebook manager because I believe strongly in technology and finding as many tools as I can to engage and inspire students. I thought that if I was the one to be responsible for the Chromebooks, I would force myself to use them and learn implementation tricks – and I was right.

The two-day conference started with Keynote Speaker James Sanders talking about “What does learning sound like?” He’s the founder of, a game based website that “encourage(s) teachers to play alongside their students to model a growth mindset, resilience, and to show that teachers don’t always have all the answers.” James decided to create tools to help teachers and kids realize “if we want difference we have to be okay with failure.” That’s something super hard for digital immigrant teachers to get used to. I loved his analogy of “poop v. unicorn moments” and the wonder about why don’t we share all our poop moments on social media? It has become so hard for teachers and parents to be OK with non-Pinterest worthy moments in the classroom, and he reminded me that failure merely signals that we’re trying.

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Another inspiring session was “To Infinity and Beyond with Hyperdocs” by Shauna Hirota. Hyperdocs have been my new obsession since last spring’s CUE Conference – have you checked out Lisa Highfill’s work on Read.Write.Hyperdocs yet? Hyperdocs are transformative, interactive, personalized, engaging tools to help facilitate creativity and collaboration. Teachers can choose your delivery method -I love using Google docs or slides-and create single day or weeks-long units of study that allow kids to work at their own pace, collaborate, think and demonstrate their learning in a completely unique way.

I loved Jeff Heil’s (@jheil65) sessions – I went to several to soak in his magic – the first one being “Think Global, act Google”. He discussed the SAMR model (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) of how technology might impact teaching and how teachers can design their lessons to reach a global audience? Heil believes this is where teaching is transformational, and that even younger audiences can have the same experience, create the same things, without making it public.  One of my favorite quotes was when he said, “Technology is a medium of instruction. Have a deeper understanding of “x’ through “y” (x is topic, y is technology).” For digital immigrants, flipping our thinking to how to use technology to deepen understanding is a huge step forward from using tech as a substitution towards tech as modification and redefinition of assignments.

[bctt tweet=”flipping our thinking to how to use technology to deepen understanding is a huge step forward from using tech as a substitution” username=”EducatorsRoom”]

After day one of the summit, my brain was spinning with ideas and I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room and create lessons. In the next post of my #gafesummit series, I’ll share some ‘hands on’ tricks I learned to make me look like a Google rockstar! Until then, be sure to check out, Read.Write.Hyperdocs, and the SAMR model. Let me know what you think! I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am to try to modify my teaching, even if it involves failing to do it.


Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments...

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