GTA NYC Reflection – Part 3: Inspiring Ideas and Tech Tool Rotations

This is the third (of four) posts reflecting on my experience leading the Google Teacher Academy in NYC on November 18th. “Inspiring Ideas” and “Tech Tool Rotations” are two specific types of presentations used at the Google Teacher Academy. Once again, you’ll probably notice a few themes in my reflection: Innovation, Inspiration, and Passion.

The primary purpose of an Inspiring Idea session is to provide a concrete example of a specific tool being used in a specific educational context (such as Google Docs being used in a high school journalism class) – so that participants might be inspired to try something similar in the context of their work as an educator. There’s an “if they can do it, so can I” element to these sessions. They are also meant as a sort of “shot in the arm” for participants during a potentially low-energy time of day. These sessions are only fifteen minutes long. If you’re interested in seeing the slides and resources from a few Inspiring Idea sessions, check out the online resources for the GTAs in Chicago (including the “Innovative Learning” segments) and New York.

Tech Tool Rotation sessions are 30 minutes long and there are three explicit goals in these sessions. The presenters should demonstrate what the tool is, explain how students and teachers can use it, and provide specific examples at various grade levels. The less explicit (but perhaps obvious) goal is to inspire teachers to return to their work and actually use the tool in innovative new ways. Again, if you’d like to see representative slides and resources from some tech tool rotation sessions, check out the Chicago and New York resources. You might even compare the same topic at different events, especially if there were different presenters.

After every GTA we always come back to similar feedback regarding both inspiring idea presentations and tech tool rotations. In general we want to see even less “how to” elements. We want to see even more examples. And we absolutely need the sessions to inspire educators to actually try new things using the tool. So, once again, connecting with the participants’ passions is critical to the success of both Inspiring Ideas and Tech Tool Rotations.

Also, in both cases there is a balancing act (or several balancing acts) involved. Often when a session is strong on pedagogy it is weaker on technical demos – and vice versa. Similarly, a session that is fast enough for the most advanced (or most engaged) will be too much (and too frustrating) for others, while a session that is slow enough for everyone in the room to “get it” will be too slow (and too frustrating) for different people. The GTA day as a whole has the same problems, and has to play the same balancing act. In the final evaluations, some participants praise the balance we struck… others criticize it from one side or the other. I’m not sure we can do any better than that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this balancing act (or on these specific sessions) in the comments.