EdTech conference and Google-fest hit Palo Alto this weekend

More than 1,000 teachers expected for sessions like 'Chrome is the New Black'

A glimpse into 22nd century education – and a giant sales pitch for all things Google – are in the offing this weekend as more than 1,200 teachers and administrators from around the world descend on Gunn High School for the 2014 Google in Education Summit.

More than 200 workshops will be presented at the sold-out Saturday and Sunday event, with titles like "Chrome is the New Black," "ITube, YouTube, WeAllTube for YouTube," "Code Breakers Society," "Metaliteracy for the 22nd Century" and "Using Google Tools to Keep the Human Element."

The conference – for which participating teachers typically earn "professional development" credit – is produced by the EdTech Team, an Irvine-based consultancy of former classroom teachers who now teach other educators how to use technology.

The group has convened more than 50 similar educational technology "summits" around the world, including in the Middle East, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado.

We're excited to be working with Gunn High School to host the third annual California Summit," said EdTech Team Chief Operating Officer Chris Bell.

In past conferences, Bell said, "beginners and technophobes have shared positive, hands-on experiences and have been encouraged by their ability to use these tools with their students. New teachers have changed the course of their careers, and near-retirees have been reinvigorated and excited about the remainder of their careers."

Among conference attendees are 95 K-12 teachers from the Palo Alto school district, four of whom will present educational technology workshops.

Keynote speakers include Google vice-president Claire Hughes Johnson, who oversees the company's self-driving cars division; Google Maps Project Manager Evan Rapoport and Daniel Russell, a Gunn parent and Google's "Uber Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness."

Russell will address "what it means to be literate in the age of Google – at a time when you can search billions of texts in milliseconds.

"Although you might think that literacy is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding," Russell said in a description of his message.

"Knowing how to read is just the beginning of it. Knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, interpret the texts that you find, organize and use the information you discover and understand your meta-cognition – these are all critical parts of being literate as well."

Among the workshop presenters is Gunn teacher Ronen Habib, who will lead a session called "Happiness and Mindfulness in the Classroom – An Amazing Tech Tool."

Habib, who is also Gunn's technology coordinator, launched a new class in Positive Psychology at Gunn last fall.

"In a time when anxiety and depression in teenagers are on the rise, there are robust and tested guidelines and techniques that help increase the level of happiness and therefore creativity and success of our students," he wrote in a description of his workshop. "In this session, you will learn how you can increase your level of happiness, and how you can teach your students to mindfully become happier."

For more information on the EdTech Team California Summit Featuring Google for Education, see the full conference agenda here.

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Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

This sounds wonderful.

But, sadly I think the changes are going to have to be made at the State and national level before real changes in education are going to happen. The current system of testing and college acceptances are breaking the spirit of many intelligent students who see their future plans scuttled when it comes to competing to get into college against overseas and out of state students with better chances of acceptance.

Like this comment
Posted by So what?
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

All these changes are great, but the real change needs to be at the government level. Every country in the world except the US and four countries in Africa pay for qualified students to go to college, even grad school. The Chinese government pays the tuition of their students who come here to go to school, even with the extra charges for foreign students.

The US has GOT To stop the universities from giving priority to foreign students ( many don't even speak English very well). This has become a national emergency, and has endangered the future of America.

Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

I think Resident and So What (and most of the people who post on here) really need to step back and think about changing their own mindset. Here is a really positive article about a fantastic forums for educators that we are lucky enough to be hosting here in Palo Alto.

And the two of you make a negative comment. Maybe you can ask for a Mindfullness Class from Mr. Habib for depressed residents.

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

Sadly, this may be irrelevant for PAUSD. The teachers' union won't permit the use of technology to be required of its members. And the school board doesn't have the guts to require it in the contract. Maybe the new superintendent has the guts to impose this requirement in the new contract. Many of the older teachers simply don't care to learn this stuff.

Like this comment
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

muttiallen is a registered user.

I've attended this in the past, when it was at Google and was much smaller. It was wonderful. I'm going again this weekend. The changes won't come from national decrees, but will come classroom by classroom as teachers first learn to use the new techniques, second incorporate them into their teaching, and third share them with other teachers at their schools. I work for Ravenswood District (East Palo Alto). We have 20+ staff attending, which is pretty amazing considering that teachers are not working in July and have to donate their time for the conference. Ravenswood has great teachers!

Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I think this is great, too. If you want people to change, you have to make a path. And I think we should be paying for education, like the above posters suggest.

One has only to read a story about advances in Chinese infrastructure and take a drive across Nevada (and many other parts of the country) to witness the rise of 3rd world America to feel the urgency. We paid for a whole generation of Americans to be educated because of the WWII and Korean War GI bill, and that money built our university system. Now we hardly have any tenured professors anymore. (Our healthcare economy is another elephant in the room related to that, because it economically impacts every endeavor in our lives at 20% of our economy -- it's killing our competitiveness. I won't go into it, but see my response in this thread: Web Link )

Like this comment
Posted by Paly English Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I'm super excited to be attending the EdTech conference and Google in Education summit this weekend with close to 20 Paly colleagues. Change happens one classroom at a time. @muttiallen, I hope we can meet up!

Like this comment
Posted by with the program
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Paly English Teacher,

"I'm super excited to be attending the EdTech conference and Google in Education summit this weekend with close to 20 Paly colleagues. Change happens one classroom at a time. @muttiallen, I hope we can meet up!"

Much is said about innovation, but when you still have many who will not reply to an email, use Schoology, IC, or grade a paper within a reasonable time (given all the tools which have long been available to assist with document management), what gives?

On the other hand, there are many teachers who aren't necessarily techy but manage to post grades on time, provide timely feedback (to students and parents), provide safe and interesting classrooms, and let the students know they care.

Are students attending? They should be there to keep everyone honest about what they appreciate.

Like this comment
Posted by with the program
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I'll just add, that besides modules to teach students how to make themselves happy, there are many classroom protocols which can greatly contribute to happiness.

I don't mean to be cynical, it's true, ask the students, and it's not just about making good grades either.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly English Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 18, 2014 at 1:04 am

@ with the program: respectfully - imagine my position, working in an environment that rewards excellence and incompetence alike. More importantly, take your concerns to your elected officials. There is an election this fall and it will be important to exercise your franchise.

Like this comment
Posted by with the program
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 8:41 am

Paly English Teacher,

The initial comments on the thread made the point that sadly changes have to be made at the political level, and exercising a vote is certainly an option.

My point was perhaps obvious, that technology and innovation is not what makes an excellent classroom and non-techie teachers adopting basic district technologies well enough are as powerful as anyone. However, refreshing ways to teach is always welcome and hope the numbers of innovative teachers keep growing.

It would still be a good idea to have student panels at these events, to see what they think.

Like this comment
Posted by In the minority
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

I know it's a futile hope, but I wish they would eliminate computers from elementary school. The fundamentals of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic can be taught more efficiently without computers. It's just a grand distraction and possibly even harmful to our kids. They should not expect to be "entertained" by flashy graphics and sounds while learning to read or doing math. I think it just creates kids with short attention spans who are unable to do deep learning. In middle school and high school the only meaningful use of computers is to learn how to program, do numerical analysis, etc. Learning to do google searches is trivial and will happen automatically.

Like this comment
Posted by RW
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Lucky Google, a captive audience of teachers and a "giant sales pitch for all things Google". I'm concerned about so much involvement by private, for-profit companies in our public schools. They might as well be offering sessions titled "School Nutrition 101, brought to you by GNC" or "Learning about School through School Supplies, brought to you by Office Depot".

Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD Elementary Teacher
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 24, 2014 at 9:43 am

To Mr. Pepperdine,

Your statement of "irrelevant for PAUSD" could not be further from the truth. I am an elementary teacher in the district who attended the Google in Education Conference. It was an incredible conference that taught me innovative, creative ways of using Technology to enrich the learning experience for my students. The district is strongly requiring the implementation of the common core standards which specifically identifies the use of technology. While you are correct that the district might not specifically say we're required to use X piece of Technology (I believe this is what you meant in your post) , but that does by no means mean it is "irrelevant". The way it works is teachers go back to their schools and teach, motivate and inspire the use of awesome technology. By one teacher going to this Google for Education Summit, it can positively effect an entire school and consequently over 500 students. I was not trying to be rude, but just let you know my thoughts on the topic.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:09 am

From the news over the past couple of days, there will be less space for California residents i.e. California educated graduating high school seniors, in our own UCs.

What we really need is a better system to get our Californian educated high schoolers into our public (?) college system. As long as preferences are made for higher fee paying overseas and out of state students to be educated in California, our bright students are going to have to go elsewhere for college education and end up presumably starting their adult lives out of state. Will they come back as college graduates for our own work force so that we don't have to start employing overseas students? Good question and I think we all know the answer.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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