Sunday, January 28, 2018

Google Summit Goodness

Life for me as of late!  But I wouldn't have it any other way!
It is conference season for the educational technology enthusiast.  A couple of weeks ago, it was the Tulare County Tech Rodeo.  Last week, it was supposed to be the IACUE Tech Fair, but some things came up and I was not able to attend.  In the coming weeks, it will be CUE-NV's Silver State Tech Innovator Symposium, and the mother of all events that I attend, the spring CUE National Conference in Palm Springs.  This weekend, I attended and presented at the EdTech Team's Las Vegas Google Summit, and as always, it did not disappoint.  

This event has been coming to Las Vegas for several years now.  I attended my first summit in January 2015.  EdTech Team held a second summit in Las Vegas later that year, but it has been one summit every year since, so this is the fifth time that I have attended the summit and the fourth time that I have presented at the summit.   I also attended and presented at a one-day Apple Summit hosted by EdTech Team in 2016.  Over the years of attending, I have gotten to know many of the attendees and presenters and it is always great to see everyone, often times for the only time that I get to see them in the year.  It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and continue to grow that PLN that is so important in our profession.  

This year, my approach to the summit was a little bit different than in the past.  Previously, I would meticulously plan out my two days by going onto the schedule and reading through the sessions, marking down in the app where I am going to be.  I decided to wing it a little bit more this year for a couple of reasons.  One, sometimes you just want to decide at the last second what you want to do; this gave me the freedom to do so.  Two, the sessions selection this time around, for me, was not as strong.  This is not to say that they were not great sessions with great presenters, by no means whatsoever!  At this point in my professional development, I am very strong in many areas of Google apps and tools, and many of the sessions were geared toward beginners.  I mentioned this to George Barcenas, one of the presenters from the summit and somebody that I have interacted with in a Voxer group in the past.  He suggested that next time, I present more sessions, something that would not be terrible!

My absolute favorite session of the summit was on FormMule, an email merge program, presented by Kim Pollishuke.  In the past, I used a program called Yet Another Mail Merge to create email templates, pull information from spreadsheets to build emails that are more personalized, and schedule emails to be sent.  YAMM is a great tool, but to get the full versatility of YAMM, it costs $30 for a yearly subscription.  It's not a lot of money, but one of the best perks of FormMule is that it does all of the things that I want to do for FREE!  FormMule allows you to take information like names, email addresses, answers to questions, and so much more from a Google Sheet (this is especially great when it is a sheet that is linked to a Google Form!), create multiple templates that can be linked to that spreadsheet, send emails immediately upon receipt of a response, manually, or you can set a timer to send.  You can also customize filters based on responses in the sheet or to specific people.  The possibilities with it are endless!  Want to learn more about FormMule?  Check out Kim's session information and email away! 

I presented two sessions over the course of the weekend, one on Google Keep and one on Pear Deck.  Both sessions were well attended, with about 45 for Google Keep and about 35 for Pear Deck.  Overall, I felt that both sessions went very well, for the most part.  I hit a couple of snags during my Google Keep session.  The first snag was how an embedded Google Slides activity showed up in Pear Deck, cutting off the Tools menu, which was key to participants completing the activity.  We figured out a quick workaround and was able to complete the activity.  The second snag came when I was trying to show participants the geotagging feature on the Keep app.  The option in the app that has the geotagging feature wasn't showing up on anybody's devices!  Or so I thought... it turns out that it was located in a different location than when I saw if a few days prior, something that Google is well known for doing when updating apps at times.  A couple of the attendees that stayed after to ask questions really wanted to figure it out, so after a couple of minutes of working together, we were able to find the geotagging function and all was well once again.  Throughout the two days, many people came up to me and told me that they really enjoyed my sessions, so that made me feel better.  Even though the snags that I had were minor, I am my own worst critic and strive for perfection.  

Even novice hockey fans can appreciate just how nasty this goal is!
#GoKnightsGo #VegasBorn #GoldenKnights
Over the course of the two days, I heard some very inspiring stories, caught up with some people that I don't get to see that often, especially Joanne Schmutz, Heather Nail, Donnie Piercey, Jeff Heil, Michelle Armstrong, Susan Stewart, Robert Speciale, Rosalinda Jaimes, Michele Osinski and Nick Park.  I also met some great people like Jen Giffen, George Barcenas, Kim Pollishuke, Laura Hamelink, and Austin Houp. I had some great conversations with tons of people from near and far, especially a gentleman from Vancouver, BC that I helped with Google Forms and talked hockey, and a pair of women from Calgary that I also got to talk hockey with (I never tire of talking hockey with anyone, but especially people that appreciated and love the game as much as most Canadians do).  The learning at conferences is always great, but the networking is even better.  

So conference season is upon us, I hope that the conferences that you attend are amazing, what you learn will be applied to your craft, and above all, I hope that you share with your fellow educators the great stuff that you bring home.  

Until next time...