Friday, July 31, 2015

Just GAFEn' go for it! Palo Alto Gafe Summit 2015

Hello Everyone,

It has been about two weeks since I attended the Edtech team Gafe Summit in Palo Alto. What an amazing time! I need to give a big THANK YOU to everyone in the Edtech team for putting on yet another amazing conference but also being willing to help me with a selfie challenge.

If you are following me on Twitter you may have seen me post pictures with a bunch of different Edtech team members. Inspired  by a recent Ignite session, I attended while #notatiste15, about how to get the most out of a conference via selfies and the GAFE 1st day keynote speaker Jennie Magiera, encouraging us to “do something nuts.”Helped me to branch out and create a selfie challenge: I challenged others and myself to take a selfie with members of the Edtech team. The process started out with a feeling of , OMG so nerve racking! Everyone was super nice, but there is always that awkward moment of hey you have no clue who I am, but I know who you are, can you take a picture with me. Additionally, the whole inner dialogue you have with yourself trying to meet someone who inspires you for the first time; what do I say, please don’t let my hands be sweating profusely, do I have anything in my teeth, OK words think of words! Finally, words come out that don’t always follow the rules of a proper sentence, you get a picture, you remember to thank them (thanks Mom and Dad for drilling manners into me!), and walk away like oh my what did I even say! When all was said and done, it was really wonderful. I was able to have some semblance of a conversation with people who have helped to shape a wonderful world of educational technology and shaped my philosophy of technology in education. Again, Edtech team thank you for being patient and wonderful with my selfie requests and nervous conversation. Here are some of the amazing selfies I was able to capture.


While taking selfies was quite the adventure, you probably don’t want to read a lot more about my inner dialogue and may actually be reading for content from the conference. There were many different important educational messages presented at the conference, while writing them all down I realized they all went together. Here are some of the main points of the keynotes and even the classes I attended. Do something Nuts, Allow students to F.A.I.L. (First attempt in learning), Don’t be afraid to fail, press buttons!  All these ideas came back to creating a culture that promotes these philosophies and leads to more student centered instruction.

One of the most powerful classes that helped reiterate these messages was lead by Jeffrey Heil, titled WTF: Why teach Failure? The class looked at the idea of what we are wanting students to be able to obtain in the classroom and how he has used a growth mindset model and created instructional materials in his college classroom. The most impactful time was the time to reflect and discuss with other teachers in our band (elementary, middle, high school) to bounce ideas off of and gain feedback from Mr. Heil and other peers on how we want to implement  a non failure teaching philosophy . These ideas are strongly based in Standards based learning and growth mindset. Which promotes allowing students to go back and redo assignments and allowing for failure without feeling discouraged about it. The focus is on students being able to revise and redo until mastery is reached. This also allows for differentiation so that those kiddos that are struggling can be able to get the direct teaching help they need. While those kiddos more advanced have different goals to reach.

Before heading out for Palo Alto I had been really wanting to implement a badge system in Kindergarten, but was not sure how to accomplish this method. While talking with my in laws about how currently in education I am seeing more parents wanting individual learning plans for their children and how with 25+ kiddos in a class I am struggling to find the time to be able to meet all my students needs. I stated that it would be great to be able to take a book like thing and be able to give the students stickers for things they know. I could show parents what they know and what they still need to learn.This idea was able to blossom during the WTF class and I was able to receive feedback about how to approach beginning to make such a huge project. Once I explained my idea it was suggested to start small choose one area to focus on.  I decided to only focus on the ELA CCSS this year. I am currently developing a book from Slides that my students would be able to use for such a purpose and look forward to sharing it with all ya’ll.  

Another powerful class was a session on classroom design lead by David Jakes. He showed us several classrooms and talked about how to create innovative spaces in your school. The biggest thought provoking idea I got from him was. “When someone enters your classroom door, what does your setup say about the learning that takes place in that space?” WOW powerful! We talked about how different classroom designs tell you different things.I began thinking about what my space was communicating and what I want it to communicate to people who enter.  Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

Truth about Online Schools   
This traditional setup tells the person entering that the students are expected to listen and not talk or collaborate.
Redesigned classroom with 
While something like this tells the person entering that the students will be expected to collaborate on work in teams, move around and listen to some lecture.

The conference helped me develop an affirmation to be able to do something nuts. The conference also helped me to search ,as I feel many teachers do an ask big questions, such as: What is my job as a teacher? What do I want to teach my students? and What do I need to teach my students? I realized that the philosophical change to a growth mindset and allowing for failure needs to be a culture that is supported within the school to help students receive the best education.

I come away a little overwhelmed but more inspired. This inspiration has left me with 2 main goals: 1- Design a space that allows for the best learning environment for my students.
2- Implement and if need be develop a program to allow for the best possible education for my students, that will meet their educational needs.

The GAFE summit was an amazing opportunity to be able to learn from some amazing innovators in the field of education. I was able to add many new friends to my growing PLN and meet some members of my PLN in person. I highly encourage others to attend and learn from the amazing education leaders in your area and take some selfies with educelebs.  



  1. Laura
    Thanks so much for this blog post! It is so much fun to read and I'm so glad we got the Jazz Hands picture in there too! ALWAYS come and chat with us - we actually learn from you when you share! Hope to see you online in our community soon! Would you be okay if we cross posted this blog on the EdTechTeam blog?

    1. Molly,
      Ahh thanks. Please feel free to cross post-it in the EdTechTeam blog.

  2. It's a lovely post Lara, thanks for taking the time to write it. So glad to have been part of your selfie challenge! Molly is spot on when she says that we learn just as much from you when you share like this. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Chris! Especially for the Jazz hands photo!