Monday, July 20, 2015

10+1 Takeaways from the @GoogleForEdu Texas Roadshow

(note: If you're frantically searching for the final post in the "3 Smashing Tools for Online PD" series, fear not, it's coming later this week. For now, please enjoy this brief intermission.)

Google for Education has taken their show on the road in the Lone Star State, mainly traveling the I-35 corridor, but with jaunts to Houston and West Texas tossed in. Today I had the pleasure of getting schooled (in a good way) by the folks from Google and the Highland Park tech team on their path to GAFE implementation. Here are 10 takeaways from the day.

  1. Google Cardboard has to be experienced to be believed
    We had 30 minutes to explore Cardboard before we started, and I visited an Icelandic geyser, an aviation museum, and experienced the history of Marie Antionette in 18th century France. Pair Cardboard with Google Expeditions and you've got an unforgettable way to get kids to expand their thinking to a global level.

  2. 68% of Fortune 500 companies use Google Apps
    With this fact in mind, why do we keep having conversations about students having to know how to use Windows and MS Office to be prepared for the future? Legacy system advocates, can we just move on?

  3. Resources for questions about trust and privacy
    Google's information on trust, privacy and safety is obviously full of useful information. If you need a ready-made presentation to show to stakeholders, Dr. Henry Thiele's very practical slide deck "Killing the FUD and Dispelling the Myths around GAFE and Chromebooks" is an excellent starting point.

    And for those responsible for the privacy of students in your district, the COSN Privacy ToolKit is a must have resource for navigating the legalities surrounding student data.

  4. Synergyse
    An easily-deployed, on-demand professional development Chrome extension, Synergyse walks teachers through the functions of Google Apps as they're using them. It's like having an edtech coach living inside your computer or constantly looking over your shoulder, but in a way that's a touch less invasive than constantly sharing personal space with an IC.

  5. lets you turn Google Sheets into flashcards, name pickers, progress charts, and certificates of completion. It's one of those tools you may not need immediately, but the time will come when you'll be glad you know it's there.

  6. Chromebook Public Kiosk mode
    A handy trick for lower grade levels, in Public Kiosk Mode Chromebooks can be used by students without anyone logging in. You can also set up a Chromebook as a Single App Kiosk with only one app running in full screen mode, which will be essential as state testing moves online. We know that Pearson and ETS are using apps that are now compatible with Chromebooks (TestNav 8), so in Texas, all-online testing is probably sooner than we think. That's great news, especially since the first round of computerized assessment went so smoothly last year...

  7. "The best device is the one you're actually going to use."
    I enjoyed this off-handed quote from Erika, a tech coach at Highland Park High School.

  8. Cloudready turns your old computers into Chromebooks
    If you have a computer less than 8 years old, Cloudready replaces Windows/Mac OSX with a customized version of Chromium so you can have the same Google Apps experience (and management) that you have with your current Chromebooks. 

  9. GADS and GAPS
    I'll be the first to admit the depths of my technical ignorance. Until two days ago, I pronounced Linux as "lie-nucks" (a shout out to my geeky friends who set me straight) and I only recently figured out what Active Directory (AD) does. But I had always been told that AD (and the passwords stored there) couldn't sync with Google Apps. The Google Apps Directory Sync (GADS) and the Google Apps Password Sync (GAPS) take care of these issues, which means one less password for everyone to remember. 

  10. Google Drive permissions can now be set by Organizational Units (OUs)
    If you're the GAFE Admin for your district, remember when you had to lock down Google Drive so no one in your organization could share outside your domain? You had good intentions (trying to keep your students safe) but it irritated the fire out of your teachers because they were under the same restrictions as the kids. Now you can restrict students' Drive sharing permissions so they can only share with others in your organization, yet still allow your staff to share freely. This is a much-needed change that comes from the incredibly responsive Edu developers at Google.

    (A special thanks to Peter Henrie from Amplified IT for explaining these last two takeaways in a way that even I could understand.)

Bonus Takeaway:
Powergistics Storage Solutions

Looking for a storage solution for when your Chromebooks are staying in one classroom? Powergistics makes a wall-mounted storage solution that frees up space and can improve the flow of distributing devices day in and day out in your classroom.

It was a fantastic, eye-opening day, one of those rare events where the things you learn you can put to use immediately. Fantastic job by the team at Google and Highland Park ISD for putting it all together, and if you can catch one of the last two roadshow in Texas (if they're not already full), I highly recommend it.

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