Tech and Engagement

14 Jul

I think I have a little bit of a nerd crush on Rushton Hurley and Jim Sills, two of the presenters at the Google Apps for Education summit.  Actually, I should probably add Richard deVaul in there too (he’s like the Q of Google) and, what the heck,  let’s throw some women in there too, like Lisa Highfill, tech trainer extraordinaire.

A lot of the GAFE summit was about how technology can enhance what we do in the classroom and our students’ lives, but I was struck by how the technology was limited or enhanced by the presenter.  By the end of his keynote, I’m pretty sure Jim Sills could have talked about the glory of vegemite on toast and we would have all run out to eat it for dinner.  How were these folks so good, and how can I learn from their mojo?

There’s three things that stood out: passion, humor, expertise.  I put expertise last for a reason–the first two really go a long way towards “fake it ’till you make it” but ultimately you really do have to have some meat to back up your session.







(I get a kick out of making these photos sports related, since I’m about the least sporty person there is.)

When my brother went to college, my family advised him to pay less attention to what he thought would interest him, and more attention to whether the professor teaching the class had a reputation as an engaging teacher.  It turns out that pretty much any subject can be made interesting–or deadly–depending on who presents it.  There were no deadly presenters at GAFE, but the great ones certainly brought their subjects alive.  I know this idea is a little dissonant with one of the thrusts of GAFE–student centered, inquiry based–but the truth is that the teacher matters.  It matters if you’re passionate, engaging, excited, knowledgeable.  Do you have to be the be-all end-all?  Of course not.  Can students learn with someone who is dull, dull, dull?  They better, because those teachers exist.  But wouldn’t we all rather have a Jaime Escalante or Robin Williams, or Lisa Highfill?

I’m excited to dive into some of the tech tools that can help to foster the engagement and excitement in my class next year.  We’ll continue to move ahead with the Google Drive accounts–docs, presentations, spreadsheet, and forms, and hopefully add in some more work with youtube, class blogs, and a host of mini-projects with real-world audiences.  Here are some of the links to presenter’s sites that have a host of resources you can look through at your leisure.  There’s oodles of good stuff here, it’ll take a while to go through.  Happy Hunting!

Jim Sills – youtube and film creation


Lisa Highfill – googlizing your readers and writers workshop, youtube, and much more!

Rushton Hurley – Digital Media, creating and using videos, citing sources from creatvie commons

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