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Moving to Virtual Summits in 2020

We have been running in-person summits continuously since 2011. Summits are conference-style events which are normally two days of hour-long sessions on a variety of topics, plus fun group activities like keynotes and demo slams. My first introduction to AppsEvents in 2014 was being invited to present a session at a summit in Frankfurt. 

The sessions are mostly G Suite for Education but not exclusively, everything from getting started sessions for beginners to advanced sessions for your seasoned Google Educator or strategy sessions for leadership. We were due to deliver such an event in New Mexico in June of this year, however, it became clear in March that events were being canceled as the impact of COVID-19 moved around the globe. We took the decision to postpone and monitored the situation.

Although COVID has sent most school children home in some way in most countries and made in-person training impossible, the need for training of digital tools to support learning has grown significantly. Growth in G Suite usage has been significant and teachers are scrambling to learn how to assign through Google Classroom, deliver learning live or recorded through Google Meet, or create instruction through Jamboard and a screen recorder. We have now delivered hundreds of online training sessions, online certification bootcamps as well as our virtual summits. For Farmington, we brought all this together for over a week of online learning in July and August. This is how we did it.

Virtual Summits with AppsEvents

All the live sessions we delivered through Google Meet, a calendar event created by a single account on the school’s domain meant we didn’t have to worry about admitting attendees, but to be safe we also added everyone to the calendar event (but avoided sending the invites to save people’s inboxes).

With this in place, everyone simply needed to be able to access the Google Meet links to join on the day at the right time. On this occasion the links were made available through the school’s PD platform internally but for other events we have used a Google Site or sched.com as we have for previous events.

More Choice with Virtual

Going virtual allowed us to broaden the schedule and bring in a wider variety of speakers. Our amazing speaker line up of educators from across the US joined the Google Meets through the week to deliver quality hands-on sessions for the attendees. 

For an in-person session, we get to network as speakers and with the attendees. This is certainly something we miss from in-person events. I met with the speakers to make sure everyone got to meet each other and we have a Google Chat room through the week as an event back-channel. 

Kick off Day

Rather than go straight into session we had the Keynote and Taster Session on Monday. I gave a brief introduction to the week ahead but we were able to secure some time from the inspirational Fernando Chavez, who did a masterful job of linking current challenges to his own education experience. It felt appropriate to address diversity and personalising education within the same keynote.

Later on the first day all the session leaders joined a short call to introduce themselves and their sessions to the educators from Farmington. Moving to a virtual summit allowed us to increase the number of sessions. We have also found that we had to adapt to add more beginner sessions as a number of teachers are being catapulted into digital learning and need lots of support. Working with them as they discovered the power of collaborative documents and seeing a learner’s process via version history was a privilege.

The Workshops

Spreading the sessions across a week instead of 2 days gave more flexible timings for the schools, busy preparing for remote learning. We still ran concurrent sessions but on reflection we don’t need to unless someone really wants to attend everything! The team of speakers covered a wealth of experience, all having their own experiences of managing learning through COVID from North Carolina, to Florida, to Texas and Chicago!

Meet the Team

The sessions received great feedback from the educators who attended

“Lots of resources packed in to the hour, but did not feel rushed.  Very relevant to what classes here will look like with remote learning.”

“Chris is awesome. He gave us an opportunity to use the things that he was telling us about. Super helpful!”

“Really appreciated this session.  Gave me just enough to get started, gave me things to use right away, and gave me time to explore.  I would love these sessions to be longer.”

“Very User Friendly presentation. Chris realizes there are participants that are very, very basic. I know where, and how, to further my understanding so I can begin implementing very soon.”

We have lots to think about going forward:

  • Session lengths and timing
  • Content relevant to teachers learning digital tools from the beginning
  • Continue to consider diversity and inclusion in sessions and everything we do

As we have done for our certification bootcamps we moved these to a series of 90 minute sessions the following week and took a group of educators from Farmington through to their Google Educator Level 1 exam. Our online offering for these is available through the year and into 2021. To find a time for you check out our online bootcamps here.

We look forward to being able to work face to face with educators again in the future but while staying safe and social distancing is needed we are very pleased to have grown more and more experience of what works with remote and online professional development.

If you are looking at bespoke PD sessions, summits of certification bootcamps, we would be delighted to help you plan and deliver high-quality professional learning for your colleagues.

Get in touch…

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