They Said It: Take the Conference Experience to Go

7/26/2012 By: Wendy Gorton

Teachers, we’ve all been there: you take a couple of days off from the classroom, fly to another city, pick up your conference program brimming with great topics and speakers, and then promptly get overwhelmed when you realize that you can’t possibly go to every session you want.

As much as I love the conference atmosphere, networking, and choosing relevant sessions, sometimes I need just-in-time professional development. Google Education On Air conferences are just one snapshot into what that future could look like. Every hour throughout the day, presenters— teachers, teacher trainers, technology coordinators, and many Google Certified Teachers and Certified Trainers—partner with a Google employee moderator to invite guests to join them via Google+ Hangouts on Air, a free online social networking platform, to discuss a range of topics in education. I create circles of educators and organizations where I can share pictures, links, and ideas that can turn into longer conversations. Hangouts On Air takes the conversation one step further and enables you to share a live stream that anyone can watch. It then archives it automatically to your linked YouTube account.

The great news is now when I have a colleague who is wondering how to use a tool or wants to hear the latest discourse on digital citizenship, I’ve got a link I can send him. Instead of heading to day-long or week-long professional development seminars where the topics are pre-set, educators now have the power to use technology to gather like-minded folks together to hash out a topic. This just-in-time professional development can be seen taking place all over the Web, from teachers joining in weekly #edchats on Twitter to the EduNationCast hosting weekly shows on technology topics for the world to see.

So how can you, your colleagues, and your school join in on the professional development fun now that the day is over? Easily. You can watch the archived session recordings of each Education On Air session and check out the YouTube Channel. You can attend future teacher-organized events, or you can jump right into Hangouts on Air and host your own professional development event that can be watched live and immediately archived for teachers to view at their leisure. Are you having a panel on digital citizenship at your afterschool meeting with some of your teachers? Get laptops, broadcast it, and have your whole staff watch it later. Tia, Google Education Manager and former teacher, says, “Some of the easiest ideas to implement are: holding office hours with school staff, doing virtual parent-teacher conferences with busy parents, debriefing and planning for lessons with colleagues, and bringing guest speakers to an audience virtually.”

Google + Hangouts on Air are ready for you—sign up, log on, and start a hangout and invite some colleagues. My mind is already abuzz with applications for the classroom, and you can use your personal account to start watching great PD, connect with other classrooms around the world, or invite an expert into the classroom. For instance, the New York Times hosted a Hangout On Air with Secretary of the United Nations Susan Rice and New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof.

In what ways can you see this technology enhancing your school’s professional development and instruction?

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