One of the things I enjoy about summers as an educator is that we have a little more time to seek out new learning. For me this takes many different forms. I usually read some new books over the summer, I often take a class or two, and I attend a few conferences or workshops. I also enjoy the opportunity to facilitate sessions at conferences or workshops. Not only does this help me feel that I am contributing to the learning of others, but I always gain new knowledge and some tips and tricks from participants as well.
In the last few weeks I've had several opportunities to facilitate professional learning sessions for educators. I helped lead two workshops designed to assist teachers as they move toward implementation of Iowa's new Social Studies Standards and I've been a part of two different conferences. At each of these conferences I helped facilitate sessions on using Google's mapping tools to promote student creation in the classroom. This is a perfect fit for my interests and my dual roles as an Instructional Technology Consultant and a Social Studies Consultant. As an added bonus, my co-presenter for both of these sessions was my wife. We've both been in education for 20 years and we've presented at many conferences and professional learning sessions, but until now we had never presented together.
Our goal was to present a session to demonstrate uses of Google My Maps, Tour Builder, and Tour Creator with a focus on creation over consumption. Map skills are important for students, but we wanted to demonstrate how we can move beyond map quizzes and simple recall to get students more involved in their learning. These tools can help build mental maps as students emphasize location, place, analysis, and stories in their use of maps. We chose to focus on these Google tools because of their simplicity and due to the fact that most districts in Iowa utilize Google's G Suite for Education. We also took advantage of the immersive capabilities of Tour Creator by importing tours into Google Expeditions and viewing them with virtual reality goggles.
Our first session was at the Heart of Innovation Summer Summit. This event involved about 100 area educators and was meant to provide a free learning opportunity through Heartland AEA as well as serving as a kick-off for those who choose to take part in our webinar series and learning tracks that will be available throughout the 2019-2020 school year. This event, the process of putting it together, and our planning for a year of learning deserve more than a quick mention, so I'll plan another post to offer more explanation.
Both sessions were well attended and seemed to go very smoothly. We heard many positive comments from those in attendance and conference reflection surveys mentioned our sessions as a positive experience. We made a few tweaks between the two sessions to allow for more exploration of tools by participants and more focus on instructional uses of the mapping tools.
The slides presentation we used to facilitate these sessions is included below.