Positive, rejuvenating and occasionally teary: #gafesummit reflection #1

So this was my second Google Apps for Education Summit hosted by @edtechteam in California.  The inaugural summit was such an awesome experience, I had high hopes for the second go around.  I was not disappointed.

photo (1)As I review my notes, Tweets and thoughts, a few threads emerge.  My hope is to process my learning, experiences and reflections in a few blog posts about the #gafesummit experience.  The first thread is about hope, happiness and humanity.  Lofty words but I truly had some moments of clarity and awe.  Here goes.

Not early in the summit but certainly a catalyst for this first thread of reflection was a video shown during Rushton Hurley’s session on Inspiring Staff with (free) Technology.  Rushton (@rushtonh) is always inspiring (and humorous).  I leave his sessions feeling ready for anything and everything that’s coming my way.  He closed the session with the most recent dancing video by Matt Harding.  Sidebar: Just watched it again to be sure I had the right version.  Teared up again. Sheesh.  At the close of Rushton’s session, this video had me laughing to see the groups smiling and enjoying the dance, wondering about the cultural sensitivity that was or wasn’t shown (western exuberance being what it is) and celebrating the shrinking of the world through dance. One of my favorite stops around the globe was Maui, Hawaii with the fire dancers.  Unlike the evening news, this video made me smile to be human being on this diverse, amazing planet with millions of others.  The final few moments bring the world together, united in dance.

In this same thread, we had the privilege of hearing from  Rich DeVaul part of the Google [X] team (think: Google Glass and self-driving car).  He spoke about Moonshot Thinking (a future post topic) and shared Project Loon to illustrate.  Google [X] (in a nutshell) is looking to get the as-of-now-unconnected 2/3 of the planet access to the internet via huge balloons holding a network in the sky.  Rich showed a video of a New Zealand sheep farmer over whose farm they launched a test balloon. It was dichotomous to hear Rich’s risk taking, why not?, out-of-the-box thinking of Google [X] along side the image of a local sheep farmer who would appreciate some connectivity.  Is that too much to ask?  Cliff L. Biffle of the flight team shared his thoughts about internet via balloon, “…it’s mad in a very practical way that could just work.”  It feels good to know there are folks in the world working on crazy, weirdly practical solutions to problems facing humanity.  The internet may sound like a 1st world Uh-the-wifi-is-out-again problem, but Rich made the point, Internet connectivity can greatly improve educational access.  Indeed.  And on a humorous (and very human note), Rich shared a situation in which they “lost” a balloon that had drifted off course with a dead battery on board.  Thank goodness for UFO sighting boards… no worries, the suspicious object was spotted and tracked and recovered.  Hilarious.

My thread seems to be video related as well.  A picture is worth… oh, you know!  Jim Sill (@mistersill) closed the Summit with a keynote that made us laugh (a lot) and consider a popular 80’s lyric by Madonna, We are living in a _____________ world and I am a _____________ girl (or boy).  What kind of world are we living in?  He showed a clip from the video entitled, 29 years old and hearing myself for the 1st time!  This is the power of outside the box thinking, of Rich DeVaul’s Why not? point-of-view.  A cochlear implant can assist a woman to hear her own voice, her husband’s voice, her own laughter.  Jim mentioned that these implants are controversial in the hearing-impaired world, about that I do not know.  For me, it was a powerful statement about invention, creativity and love.

Finally, at the end of this thread of reflection and experience, I loved @brookhouser aka Kevin Brookhouser of #20time (a new Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 5pm Pacific).  Kevin did an exceptional job at helping me SEE what this 20% thing might look like.  He gave it structure while maintaining the spirit of the endeavor.  His last video gave voice to his students to share what they did with their 20% time.  From reading every Newberry title (with critique) to teaching the elderly how to use Facebook, from building a foundry and casting aluminum to a five-day vow of silence with documented results.  Kevin inspired and coached his students to amazing failure and success.  He shared his Autorap mantra, Failure is an option, completion is not.  This is the future of humanity; kids who are valued and encouraged and risk to reach high, fall hard and push through.

I’m positive but try to avoid sappy.  I might have gone that route here with reflection #1.  My apologies.  But these four episodes in my wild and reckless (to borrow a phrase from Jim Sill’s Closing Keynote) weekend of learning remain on my heart and on my mind.

Next thread: Teachers Rock!

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