iPad Summit to Create vs. GAFE Summit to Collaborate

April 20, 2013 — 4 Comments

Last week I attended iPad Summit USA and this week I am attending the Ontario GAFE Summit.  What a difference in the events and the nature of the tools we are exploring!  I think it would be fun to reflect on the differences of the conferences and the big differences in the feel of Apple vs Google.

Overall, I think iPads and the Ed Tech Teacher Summit is summed up by being creative and creating while GAFE and the Ontario Summit is more about collecting and collaborating.  I think this really reflects the essence of the different tools as well.

Disclaimer: Yes, I realize that you can collaborate with iPads and you can create and be creative with Google products. But, it’s a bit like the way you can buy clothing at Loblaws and groceries at Walmart. To me, when I think Loblaws I think food not affordable fashion and when I think Walmart I think cheap stuff from China and not leafy greens. I recognize that these stores are converging on the products and services they offer much like we see a convergence of services/offerings from Google and Apple.

At the iPad summit there were many sessions focused on creating, being creative and creating learning environments with Apple products and apps in mind. We have digital puppets for story telling, classrooms that are being redesigned with everything on wheels to accommodate mobile learning and the beginnings of maker spaces.  We all struggle like crazy to get student creations off the devices, but learners can make really amazing artifacts of learning.  Where to store student work, how to share and who has access to the student creations changes from app to app and school to school.  Student work sounds a bit like naughty deeds in Vegas. You know, what happens on the iPad, stays on the iPad.  Yes, there are solutions including Kidblog.org, Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote, but, not all apps have share functions to each of these spaces. Often student work must be shared through camera roll or email if not directly through the app.  It’s a warren of a path to get the data out and it’s unclear who has control of the work once it’s online.  We talked about collaboration at the conference generally and specifically, but it was more like all hovering around a device or having a file rally where you have to pass work back and forth to get something that several people worked on.  In the end, using an iPad is transformative because of the creative capabilities and easy access to information to get ideas rolling.  An iPad, equipped with certain apps, feels like being in the middle of a wonderfully magical craft-store-puppet-costume-closet where learners can conjure multi-modal or multi-media artifacts that are dazzling. The workshops had this feeling too. Many people talked about journeys, paths, redefining, creativity, creation and possibilities. It was a dreamy space for ultra rich media and exploration. Plus, the keynotes felt like pep rallies and calls to action: Ra-Ra Passion and gimme a C-R-E-A-T-E! Energizing and big. Loved it!

While many sessions felt like exploring an art supply shop mixed with a magic suitcase, the sessions I have attended so far at GAFE feel like going to Rona, Home Depot or a lumber yard. Equally empowering and enticing, but with a totally different feel. With Google products, you have to be an all star like Ken Shelton @k_shelton  or Jim Still @mistersill, to make your work really dazzling without huge amounts of time, sweat and large amounts of coffee. (Small correction: Ken Shelton did a pretty darn good job of teaching us how to make super nice websites with Google, but he said “I am going to teach you how to make a google site that doesn’t look like a google site” **enough said**).  It is hard to make beautiful things with Google, but you can make really, really, really good boxes.  Those boxes can be any size and anyone can work in those boxes. The boxes can hold any number of things. Plus, if you are really clever (and can run scripts), those boxes can talk to each other.  Yes, there are circles, but those are just round boxes.  Google is really about a sturdy and robust way to build space to work together, share ideas and manage data, all kinds of data.  The sessions have this feel of being highly pragmatic. This is not to say that it is all button pushing since there is a clear focus on assessment, professional development, user/student generated content and pedagogy. For a conference that deals mostly with cloud computing, it’s a very grounded feeling.  There is far less talk of journeys, learning spaces, possibilities and creativity.  But, there is a far greater focus on weaving tools together and bringing people/learners together. Collaborating and collecting is at the forefront. I love this too.

I am looking forward to “worming the Apple” in my classroom and finding more ways to use Google products on the iPads. After all, creativity and collaboration are both important C words in the current century.


Michael Fullan’s 6 Cs from the Great to Excellent report:

  • character
  • citizenship
  • communication
  • critical thinking
  • collaboration
  • creativity




4 responses to iPad Summit to Create vs. GAFE Summit to Collaborate

  1. Thank you for your comments, Justin. I would agree with you that the search for Apps on the iPad is almost frenetic. People seem much crazier about iPad apps and compared to Google Apps. Could this be related to what you are observing when it comes to being thoughtful and student centred? The app-craze might put educators into a spin-wobble mode disorienting them from the real focus when it comes to iPads.

    In the end, I think where the student is positioned in relation to the tools depends on who is talking. I think you can “talk google” or “talk Apple” and be talking students first or last.

    Great points. Thank you again!

  2. Hi Michelle. A very interesting post. I work in a high school district and we moved to Google Apps in the Fall of 2011. It has helped us move to an environment where there is greater interaction between teacher to student, and between students. In our small high school district (600 students), we had to go with what could provide us the most capacity for collaboration, communication, research & curation, and creation. Our focus includes Project-Based Learning, which needs those kind of literacies/skill sets. It’s obviously a different environment than third grade, and so our needs are different. And we don’t rely on Google to give us all we need. We use Diigo, Weebly (website builder), Haiku LMS, Mindmeister, Youtube (for video creation & viewing), Prezi, Audacity, Dropbox, Evernote, etc. We have students working on community-based projects. There is plenty of creation going on. It’s just not what you’d typically see on an iPad. And it’s not just done on one device. We have 70 Chromebooks for 600 students – the rest is a mixture of laptops and desktops computers. You are so fortunate to have 1:1. It’s something we just can’t afford. There are almost no schools in California who can. The iPad seems like a wonderful device for 3rd grade. I would’ve loved having them when I taught 3rd grade. I can see you really enjoy using them and are good at leveraging them in teaching & learning. I read your “About” page, and I would agree with that it’s not the technology so much as it is about a 21st century paradigm. That is something I’m hoping we can all do a better job of as we move forward. Thanks again for a most interesting look at your two learning experiences!

    • Hello Glenn,
      Thank you for your comments and for checking out a few different parts of my blog and my thinking. I don’t think anyone can be sure on what the future is going to look like for 21st Century best teaching/learning practices, so it is up to us to constantly be searching it out and making it as we go. The dialogue between passionate educators is the essential piece to this.

      It is interesting to consider branching out to multiple clouds, apps and services to manage the flow of everything from consuming to creating and communication to citizenship. Having multiple clouds seems challenging and begs for multiple passwords, refined workflow, and a sophisticated personal learning/production system. Then again, it feels like sophisticated users: like the difference between having one bank account at one bank and a financial portfolio. Maybe in grade 3 you get your first bank account, and over time you progress to a wider portfolio? Or, would it be better for kids to start off being multi-user-users with multiple profiles, clouds and tools at the ready? The answer likely lies somewhere between those two extremes.

      For now, I need to have a blend of at least Apple and Chrome. Though I admit that my students have Dropbox too. Even with a 1:1 program, a broad range of tools are required.

      I like how you said you hoped to do a better job moving forward, me too! Onwards!
      Thanks for engaging.

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