The Electric Educator: Reflections on the Googleplex

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflections on the Googleplex

This past week I had the opportunity to attend three events at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. The first was a search class by Daniel Russell which I blogged about previously.

The second event was an educational summit for the newly formed Google Certified Trainer Program. Details about the program can be found here. For two days I enjoyed the company of 60 professionals from across the US. It was an interesting cross section of people including representatives from higher education, district trainers, classroom teachers, and business professionals. We shared ideas and were treated to a few sneak peaks of upcoming Google products (on which I am sworn to secrecy!).

At the summit I participated in my first "unconference" sessions. I was new to this idea paradigm shifting idea. Instead of being passive attendees in a session, an unconference is an open ended discussion prompted by an individual who facilitates the discussion but is not necessarily an expert on the topic. The discussion can take unexpected turns and you never know when a nugget of wisdom will be discovered.

The topics for these unconference sessions were chosen through the use of Google Moderator, a simple tool which allows individuals to post ideas and other to vote on their merit. The ideas that receive the most votes became our unconference topics. This has clear applications in the classroom as students could post and vote on topics for review sessions or ideas for group projects.

Some of the unconferences sessions that I attended included:

  • A discussion on the diffusion of innovation model and how it relates to professional development. 
  • Independent consulting: how to value your services
  • A discussion of COPA, FERPA, and CIPA laws and their relationship to Google Apps. 
  • Using Google Calendar to track and reserve resources (rooms, laptop carts, projectors, etc).
Wednesday evening we had our own little Google-style party complete with massage tent, giant beanbags, paint by number mural, and photo booth. It was a lot of fun! 

Capitalizing on the fact that many of the attendees at the Summit were Google Certified Teachers, a Google Teacher Academy reunion was held on Friday and featured more unconference sessions and product updates. We ended the day with a quick trip to the Google store where I picked up a nice blue Google shirt!

In the evenings I took some time to jot down ideas that were prompted by the discussions at these three events. These thoughts are fragments at the moment, but are likely to be the inspiration for future blog posts. 

Idea #1: When training anyone on anything, it is critical that the trainees/students understand the WHY before moving on to the HOW. 

Idea #2: "Google Proofing" assignments often means figuring out what the question is rather than searching for the answer. 

Idea #3: Because of its flexibility, Google Sites has great potential as a collaborative learning space. 

Idea #4: 20% project have great potential in the classroom.

Idea #5: There must be some added value that justifies the time, energy, and attention consumed by personal interaction. If not, just do it virtually.

I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane from San Francisco back to Detroit. When I land it will be off to the races preparing for the arrival of my students on August 24. It has been nice to be in an environment in which I can focus on the big picture. I've got lots of ideas and plans for the year. Now it's time to get down to the details. 


  1. I'm glad you had a great time! Glad also to be part of your support group.

  2. Nice post of the events. Thanks for sharing your ideas. They just sparked a few of my own. It's nice when it works like that.

  3. Great to meet you, John. Good recap, too. I have some thoughts on stuff I want to try, incorporating 20% into my middle school technology classes.

  4. Thanks for the comments! It was nice to hang out with you for a few days. There were a lot of great people and ideas in that room!


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