Saturday, January 28, 2017

Powered by Passion: GEG ILs

Last year, way back in November 2016, teachers of languages got together in Tel Aviv to kick-start a new Google Educators Group in Israel (GEG IL) for teachers of languages. The goal was to  organize  teachers of all and any language in Israel to share, explore, innovate and learn how to harness the power of the digital tools we all have at our fingertips, to further our teaching goals.  

After we saw that we had an enthusiastic population with whom to work, WE got to work! “We” meaning four of us, who were Google Teacher Academy cohorts and one extremely talented teacher who had not been through the GTA but is no less capable in digital pedagogy, as well as the Google-communities’ leader. We dreamt, planned, scouted venues, hungout, emailed, and Googledoc-ed our fingers off, putting our heads together to set up the regional meetings.

Fast forward to January, when we convened in the different areas around the country.  Most of us managed to hold our get-togethers on January 19th; the Jerusalem crowd met on January 5th. Altogether we brought in around 40 teachers of languages who have a passion for teaching, learning, languages and digital tools. OK - we were hoping for a larger turn out, but since one of Google’s Eight Pillars of Innovation is “Think big but start small”, I see the fact that 40 teachers were willing to leave their cozy homes on a wintery afternoon, after a long day - a long WEEK - at school, without getting points or remuneration, as an encouraging achievement. And from the feedback we received, I believe we’ll be seeing them again.   

Each of the venues took things in slightly different directions, but kept some of the activities in common.

In Jerusalem, since Google-star Irit Merchav co-leads another GEG with the unstopable Yair Farby, for educators of all different subjects, she incorporated her Jerusalem Teachers of Languages branch, into the bigger meet-up, on the 5th.

In Haifa, the talented Leah Doryoseph brought her teachers together for a slightly abbreviated meet up (time constraints of her Pisgat Haifa venue) making it short and concise, yet efficiently leaving her participants looking forward to more.

Rania Essa, a superstar on YouTube in her own right, with tons of clips which can be used for teaching English  (Google her!) had the largest group in the matnas in Kfar Kassem where, in addition to playing languages bingo, she gave her group of Arab and Jewish participants the opportunity to experience a rich collection of  apps for language learning.

Together with Hanan Perlman, we brought our GEG IL to the Western Negev, in Sderot, to a magical venue! Our get together was held in a meeting room which can only be accessed by traversing a colorful indoor, rocket-proof  playground, generously built for our region by the good people in the JNF, and warmly hosted by Shmuel Ochayon and his dedicated staff from Sderot! We began with a QR Treasure Hunt, for which our participants had to sprint between the swings and the bouncy castles, in search of the treasures (which were the 8 Pillars of Innovation …. but we didn’t tell THEM what they were - otherwise they could have just Googled them and found them without running around ;-) .

QR Treasure Hunt in Sderot:

Following their jaunt around the playground, the culturally diverse teachers (including Jewish and Bedouin, English and Hebrew language educators) discussed the relevance of the different Pillars that they found, to their work as teachers of languages. They played “Languages Bingo” (discovering that there is more than one way to translate with Google Translate…. including cameras and handwriting!) talked about their needs and dreams, and then virtually met other branches of our community: the participants in the Kfar Kassem group, Leah - the leader in Haifa, and Yael - Israel's Google Education Lead, excitedly interacting in real time over Google Hangouts).

Google Hangout:

A few of the common threads between the different venues were a desire to connect and share, to build and develop activities together, then tailor them to our individual needs. To  learn how to support each other. The need to commit.

Here’s a taste of what went on in the different venues, courtesy of Rania’s clip-making skills!

The atmosphere was totally uplifting and it was an inspiration to see others, like us, so passionate about the joy of thinking and learning together, to build a community of teachers of languages who yearn to harness the power of digital pedagogy for their educational purposes.

We would love to have YOU join us! Remember: this is NOT exclusively for English teachers - even though I am writing this in English - it is for teachers of ALL languages! You are all invited to join our Facebook Group to stay in touch and updated! Invite your colleagues who teach other languages! If you are willing to join the lead team, we will help you open a branch of our community near you! Together with the other leaders of this community, we will be working out the details and planning future meet-ups around the country!

To those teachers who joined us in Jerusalem, Haifa, Kfar Kassem and Sderot: thank you ALL for putting your trust in us, jumping, into the deep end and starting to swim.

And a final “thank you” to Bar Umansky (our GEG IL beacon) and Yael Doron Drori - the Google Education Lead in Israel!

Digitally yours,