This past Friday and Saturday, SD73 hosted its second annual Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit at TRU.
While I didn’t attend the conference, it was abundantly clear that attendees were treated to two days of inspired presentations from a superstar cast of Googling educators. This is a good thing.
There were certainly more than a few sessions that I would have enjoyed, like A Stick in the Sand (based on the work of John Hattie, who is among the most important educational researchers today), How Technology Supports Inquiry-Based Learning, Easy ePortfolios Using Sites (presented by Sa-Hali Secondary teacher Cecile McVittie), and No Textbooks, Please – Rethink the Textbook with Google Sites.This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I would have made it a priority to attend those sessions.
The program seems (from the titles and descriptions) to have been a good balance of sessions on tools, teaching strategies and administrative issues targeted at various levels of expertise. All in all, it was apparently an excellent learning opportunity for Kamloops and BC (and AB) teachers.
A hearty congratulations should be extended to those who organized this event (I know that Tracy Poelzer was instrumental, but I know there are others). We need more teachers who are intentional about engaging our students with technology, and I am pleased that I noticed at least two of my daughter’s teachers in the Twitter stream.
That being said, I do have concerns, although I would be happy to be shown to be wrong in the following assessment.
My concerns stem not from any lack in the tools provided by Google (they are excellent), but from my fundamental mistrust of Google itself. They are a massive, multi-national, for-profit company which earns money from my, your, and our students information which is sold to advertisers. If a web-based tool is free and you can’t install it on your own server (Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), then you are not a customer, you are a product. I do not believe that our students’ data should be sold to the highest bidder.
If anyone could provide evidence that Google doesn’t use student data for its own financial gain, I would be thrilled, because Google Apps for Education really can be used to support student learning through collaboration (Google Drive, Hangouts), reflection and publication (Blogger, Google Sites), inquiry and research (Google Scholar, Google Books), activities which are all hallmarks of high quality learning experiences.
We should also think carefully about how deeply we want to become beholden to a single company for supporting learning technologies. Recent developments in the huge market for learning technologies suggest that the future lies not in a single, centralized tool or set of tools to support learning (Blackboard or Moodle), but a larger number of smaller tools that can be aggregated and/or syndicated.
It is critical when thinking about learning technologies to always begin with the intended learning outcomes, then consider which activities best support students’ attainment of those outcomes, and finally, what technologies support those activities.
It could be that a stick in the sand is a better tool than a fancy computer.
Did you attend the GAFE Summit in Kamloops? What did you think? Do you trust Google? Is my assessment accurate? Should SD73 use GAFE more broadly? Are you concerned about how Google makes their money?
I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter!
— Colin Madland (@colinmadland) October 26, 2014
Google Apps For Education by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.