Had a really interesting day at Google Apps for Education UK User Group or #guug11 conference, there were some great presentation and discussion around how google applications are been used at all levels of education.
The day was started with an overview by Iain Fletcher of Google discussing some improvements being made to Google products. These included improvements to GMail, chat and Google Docs, including the announcement the Google Docs will have a sync with MS word feature. The highlight of this talk was a rare citing of the new Chrome OS machine. This is a device only has Chrome web browser and that’s it, the browser is the operating system, all the other features you need are the google apps that it links to. This makes the device super light as it needs no hard disk storage etc. Plus because it only has to boot the browser it loads instantaneously.
In terms of some of the educational presentations, there was a very interesting talk by Niall Sclater, Director of Learning Innovation at the Open University, who discussed the OUs migration over to google apps. He spoke about http://my.open.ac.uk/ and how they plan to enable each student to have an iGoogle as their student homepage. One of the key issues that he raised was they are discovering some accessibilty issues with some of the apps. One of the highlights of this talk was how they intend to ingrate the google apps to make an ePortfolio system for their students.
At the other end of the educational scale Mark Allen discussed his use of Google in primary schools, where he has created a VLE set-up using google sites. The kids engage and collaborate using a number of the Apps. Hes created an environment where children are the creators as well as the consumers of content. He was also joined by Zoe Ross you can read her reflections on the day on her blog.
Other interesting talks included that of Steve Wheeler and Manish Malik who spoke about Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), here are Steve’s slides from his presentation. During the talk he described how the purpose of a PLE is to; Share content, Generate Content and Organise Content, and the nature of the social media used in these environments like the Google Apps enable communication with a Personal Learning Network. During Manish’s part of the talk he demoed some variation of Cloud VLEs and introduced my word of the ‘Bboogle’ which describes the integration of Google Apps into Blackboard, especially in Version 9.1.
I also attended talks by:
- Tony Hirst who demonstrated some of the mashups he was doing with Google Apps, all were very impressive but some of the technicalities went over my head a bit.
- Christine Sexton who held an open discussion about the University of Sheffield’s migration of student email system. Interestingly they have decided not to migrate staff emails yet.
The day ended with an open forum of questions for Google. This actually revealed a chink in Googles armour, as we were joined by some presenters live from the States. During their presentations they video chatted use Google Chat, whilst colleagues in the room progressed there slides on a Google Docs Presentation. This highlighted the need for a Virtual Classroom tool fro Google, one they said were hoping to address soon.
This conference was really interesting and it was fascinating to see how Google Apps are been used at all levels of education, there were also two other great things about this conference. The first, as at many conferences nowadays, was the twitter back channel. Using the hashtag there were over 1000 tweets during the day. Here is the twitter word cloud of the day.
Tony Hirst also produced this brilliant network diagram of the twitter connections of those using the #guug11 hash tag.
Also all the tweet were been archived on TwapperKeeper and were summerised on Summarizr. I was quite proud to be 8th on the list, although I’m not sure this is a good thing as it it appear to insight competition to climb the list, with a lot of resentment of Retweets. Although Steve Wheeler reminded us the a retweet is amplification of a good point or thought.
Finally the other great thing about the day was all the free Google stuff and the random Google items scattered around the conference centre. In our Google canvas goody bags we had Google pens, notebooks, sticker, jellybeans and Rubix Cubes, plus we all got presented with a t-shirt at the end of day. Here are Jo Badge and I enjoying some goodies.
All-in-all this was a great day and I’d like to thank Martin Hamilton for arranging it and how great it was to meet some of Google people, many who had come over for the States, who are normally quite hard to find, as there is really nothing like hearing things from the horses mouth.