6 things I learned in 3 hours at Google Teacher Academy

Part of my excitement from Google Teacher Academy was collecting ideas to share with you! Here are some useful ones as I reflect. (Graphic via Kasey Bell)

Part of my excitement from Google Teacher Academy was collecting ideas to share with you! Here are some useful ones as I reflect. (Graphic via Kasey Bell)

The Google Teacher Academy in Austin, Texas, was the best two-day professional development experience I’ve had in my teaching career.

But it wasn’t that way because of what we heard while seated in learning sessions.

That’s not to discredit our lead learners (a very appropriate title for our presenters, I thought!). They were massively talented and knowledgeable.

My fellow teachers in the group were master collaborators and sharers. They’re doing thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting teaching and thinking at their schools and institutions. I learned the most and best from them!

This event was so idea-rich that I had a document full of notes before lunch on the first day. I have so many things to share with you in the coming weeks and months.

But for now, I’m going to stop with the first half of the first day.

So, here they come … six take-aways and tips from the first few hours of the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Austin, Texas.

First, some easy, quick wins:

1. The TabCloud extension can sync your tabs/windows over time and across multiple computers. It’s one of a handful of extensions in the Google Chrome browser that I’m excited to try out.

search engine2. AWESOME trick to make searching the web easier from Google Chrome (see animated image at right): Find a search box (on Amazon, a blog *cough, cough, Ditch That Textbook*, etc.) you use regularly. Right-click the search box and click “Add as search engine …”. Make sure you create a very short keyword (i.e. I made one for Google Images searches with the keyword “i”). You can use Chrome to make searches on that search engine you just saved … just type your keyword and push tab, then type your search. That’s going to save me several clicks each time I do a Google Images search (which is a lot!).

doc cam3. There’s a free and easy way to get a document camera. Use a device with a camera that connects to the Internet. Load up Google Hangouts (Google’s video chat service) and start a video chat with the computer you have connected to your projector. Cut a piece of cardboard kind of like a table (two flaps that fold down as the legs) and a hole for the device’s camera to look through (see drawing at right … click on it to see full-size image). Set your document under the cardboard cut-out and the device on the cardboard. The video is sent through a Google Hangout to your projector automatically! (Thanks to Cory Pavicic.)

OK, a few more substantial ideas …

google glass4. Here’s a lesson straight from the work of Googlers (the people who work for Google): Create. Then iterate, tweak, refine. Then refine again. Then tweak again. Don’t think of that as failing … think of it as the best way to find what works. That’s how Google created Google Glass, its “device in a pair of eyeglasses”. Check out the photo at right to see Google Glass’s progression.

crazy things5. This quote from Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, is a lesson in itself. (Click the image for a larger version.) It says, “If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.”

6. Hexagonal thinking was a new concept to me that we tried. The idea is to identify a problem and write various components or issues surrounding the problem on hexagon-shaped pieces of paper. (There are hole punch tools to cut lots of them quickly if you’re interested!) Then, put those hexagon-shaped papers out on a table and arrange them, matching together the ideas that are connected. You soon start to see patterns and relationships develop.

What do you think? Do you have any quick, easy wins to share? What are your reactions to the more substantial ideas? Share them in a comment below!

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