Google Student Summit 2.0 Recap

Where to begin.

So we held our second annual Google Student Summit on November 3rd, 2016. Approximately one hundred grade 5 and 6 students, twelve school teacher leads , six student helpers and six staff presenters participated in a full day of learning G Suite for Education apps, and were also introduced to coding which was super exciting to add to the event this year.

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We were fortunate enough to have Lisa Floyd as a special guest for the day, who offered an interactive keynote introduction for students and staff. We organized it so that students could choose to attend one of two coding sessions offered by Lisa in the morning, where more than half of the students would be able to see her. In the afternoon, all school teacher leads in attendance were provided a session dedicated to a teacher’s perspective on coding, as well as an introduction to Sphero robots.

The positive feedback to the summit was amazing:

Enough said, right? Here’s what students and teachers had to say:

This presentation showed me all the possibilities that are possible for my students when creating presentations. I cannot wait to show this to the rest of my class and to have them begin using it. – Carolyn, grade 6 teacher

I already used google before but after doing summit I just want to use it more! One of my favorite parts was the Google Slides part. I had so much fun learning how to link pictures and slides. I had such a good time, so thank you guys so much.  – J. Zappala, grade 6 student

It was AMAZING I learned so much cool things about coding! – I. Thomas, grade 5 student

It was SOOOOOOOOO FUN!! i learned a lot, like that you don’t have to go to another page to research! it was so cool. – H. MacDonald, grade 5 student

I’ve been to many conferences over the past few years such as Connect, Bring it Together, GAFE Summit, where so much learning and sharing takes place. Taking the idea of these types of days and giving back to our students, who require awareness and training on educational technologies just as much as we do, and seeing the excitement that takes place is the reason why our student summits are the highlight of my year. Planning a day for students co-led by students and staff is such an amazing thing to have to opportunity to be a part of.

I’ve been asked by a few people “what is all involved in planning such a day?“. So here’s a quick overview of the history behind this wonderful idea of a day for students to have.

In the fall of 2014, a colleague and friend of mine Katie Di Biagio brought in the EdTech Team Canada, and they hosted at the time was the first Google Student Summit that they’d ever done. I followed the day on Twitter and followed up with Katie afterwards about the day and decided “heck, I can do that!“. Nothing against the EdTech Team, but being a small Northern Ontario school board, we decided to try it out on our own in the spring of 2015 to keep costs down.

And it was a huge success – so huge, that we are hoping to continue this event annually at NPSCDSB.

Ok so as for the planning, the agenda and workshops that we offered this year are still up on our event page. Since we were new to G Suite at our board last year, I brought in a couple of Google Gurus Joe Sisco and Tom Carroll, two great colleagues and friends of mine. This year, I reached out to some internal staff to help put on our sessions, who undoubtably did not disappoint and were super excited for the opportunity as well.

In terms of logistics, here was my to-do list:

  • Memo to principals
  • Contact high school (where event was located)
    • book necessary technology for the day
    • book rooms
  • Send Parent Letter to Schools
  • Organize sessions, presenters, and student helper team
  • Send Student Registration to teacher leads
  • Print Student cards for lanyards
  • Meet with IT
    • Room setup
    • chromebook and iPad distribution
  • Meet with communication officer
    • media invite
  • Organize photo booth props
  • Create Google Classroom for the day
    • Use topics for session filters
  • Organize travel
    • cabs/bus for school teams to and from event
  • Registration Desk
    • Student helpers setup on Chromebooks
    • Collect consent forms
    • String name tags
  • Make sure each student gets the following:
    • Lisa’s activity handout (coloured)
    • Pencil
  • Order pizza
  • Buy snacks and juice boxes/water

I’ll probably end up writing another blog post on how this event is kickstarting our coding journey at NPSC, as well as more reflections on this event after it settles in, but for now, I hope that those of you who asked for the information above that this is what you were wanting; if not, please comment below and I’ll be more than happy to share any more details.

My Smartwatch decision is…


Well, after a couple of weeks with an Asus ZenWatch 2, I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised with it overall. I haven’t been wearing a watch for a while now; in fact, I wore my watch a few weeks ago and when I went to check the time at work that day, the battery was dead! Needless to say it had been a while.

Over the time with the ZenWatch 2, I’m not sure exactly what the reason was, but I was drawn to putting the watch on every morning, including it in my daily routine.

Here’s a snapshot, informal review and final decision on the Asus ZenWatch 2, but also the idea of the smartwatch from my perspective.

The watch didn’t look like a big clunker on my wrist, nor did it really look like a smartwatch at all. It fit well on my wrist and wasn’t noticeably heavier than a regular watch at all. This watch did have quite the bezel on it, but with a black watch face chosen, it really didn’t stand out all that much until I actually started using it for more than a watch.

The concept itself was quite interesting, to be able to get your notifications sent directly to your wrist, rather than having to pull your phone out to check them. This part I liked; getting weather updates, reminders of my calendar events, even photos sent through text messages was very neat.

Some nice features of the watch that I liked were that you could turn off notifications and the sneak peek mode, keeping the watch as a watch so if I was in a meeting, it wouldn’t keep lighting up. The wrist gestures were kind of neat that you could move your wrist to navigate pages on the watch, which would come in handy if you were say biking or driving and didn’t have both hands available.

I don’t really have anything bad at all to say about the Asus ZenWatch 2. As reviewed, it performs really well and for the price, it is a great entry point for those looking to get into the smartwatch scene, without having to break the bank.

The part I couldn’t get used to was having to speak to my wrist to say for example reply to a text message. If I really needed to reply to someone’s text or ask Google something, I could just pull out my phone to do that.

Maybe this just isn’t my time for the smartwatch, or maybe it was this watch in particular that I wasn’t crazy about in terms of looks (square face vs. round), but I’m sure at some point I’ll revisit this again in the future. But for now, I’ll keep my regular watch that I’ll need to get a new battery for, and forego the smartwatch at this moment in time.

To Wear or not to Wear…

I just want to provide a quick update about my most recent decision on the Nexus 6P.

I love it. It’s awesome.

Back when I was in research mode comparing the Nexus 6P with the iPhones, I was drawn to the idea of the wearable, and whether or not this would be something that I would like. I used to wear a watch much more than recently, but my initial thought of having technology on my wrist seemed a bit much to be honest.

Last week, I enter that debate again.

I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, but I came across the Google Play Store’s page for Androidwear. I thought:

‘These watches are actually quite nice. I wonder…’

Then I looked a the price and told myself:

‘there’s no chance’.

Personally, $500 seems a bit much for a Smartwatch.

Then, my friend Tim Robinson randomly sends me this message:


So I open the link, and find a nice watch, and as Tim mentioned – is much less expensive than others that I had seen.

So I start thinking about it;

‘do I really need a Smartwatch?’

The short answer is no, obviously, but then I starting thinking about it even more.

‘Nah… I don’t need a smartwatch.’

And then, only one day after Tim sent me that message, I come across this article flipping through Flipboard one day later.

A sign? coincidence? I’m not sure.

Most likely coincidence.

I took it as a sign. 🙂

I did some more searching around and it seemed as though the Asus ZenWatch 2 was a good buy all things considered. When I first set it up and put it on, I gave it five minutes and said

‘I’m returning this thing, I don’t need this’.

I told Tim this, who also recently purchased a 6P, who then told me that with it connected to my 6P – which I love but as a bit bigger of a smartphone – I wouldn’t have to take it out of my pocket as often. This gave me one reason to give it an honest test at least, given I have a 14 days to return it anyways. And looking again today, it went on sale randomly too. Another sign, right?


I have had the smartwatch now for three days. It’s growing on me every time that I put it on. It doesn’t look like a clunky smartphone with the options that the ZenWatch Manager app provides.

A few things that I like about it so far:

  • It reminds me of my calendar events upcoming;
  • receive and send messages both through the Messenger app and Hangouts;
  • Directs me where I need to go if I need it;
  • Tells me weather updates;
  • Actually stylish considering it’s a smartwatch;
  • You can turn ‘peek’ notifications on or off (nice if you just want a watch and not screen changes)

What I don’t like:

  • How it charges – no cradle to rest it on like some other models, but the magnetic connector isn’t that bad

I’ll spend a few more days with it and come back to share my final decision.

And the award of being my next smartphone goes to…

After a few days of weighing all factors, I came to a final decision.SmartphoneReturn

Here are the factors that I considered before shipping one of the phones back:


There’s no doubt that when you’re truly shopping for a device no matter what it may be, you’re going to compare the specs.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice as to what operating system and device is right for you. A few other things that came up in conversation also contributed to my final decision.

I asked my wife: “Would you ever switch to Android?”

Her answer: “No. I don’t do as much on a smartphone as you do – all I really do is take pictures and videos, surf a bit and text. To learn something new for what I use it for I can’t be bothered.

When I first asked her that question I thought there may be a glimmer of hope for her exact reasoning, but at the end of the day, I don’t blame her. She knows what she knows – no sense in disrupting that!

I also talked to a friend who said: “I was going to go Android, but since my wife uses an iPhone it’s just easier to stick with Apple.

hangoutsThis comment at first thought seemed to be reasonable, but after thinking about it, why would anyone settle for a device for this reason? Yes, there is family app and location sharing, etc… but with other apps (such as Google Hangouts) that are cross-platform unlike the siloed iMessaging and other Apple policies, anything is possible.

I was between two devices that really, I shouldn’t have been comparing directly at all. I should have been comparing the Nexus 6P to the iPhone 6S Plus, but at almost twice the price considering the storage difference, it was a no-brainer not to even bother.

After a little bit of back forth, I decided on the Google Nexus 6P, and I couldn’t be happier. As mentioned in my previous blog posts on this experience, it is an absolutely stunning device that holds it’s own against the competition. The specs above are debatable either way, and as I mentioned previously, it really does come down to personal preference. I have an open enough mindset to actually shop around rather than just upgrade to the next device in a brand’s line.

I’m happy that I did, as it has opened my eyes to so much that I didn’t really consider before.

Thank you for following my random blog 3-part series on my smartphone upgrade, and I hope that you found it if not a little bit informative, at least entertaining!

Week 1 with a Google Nexus 6P

I started my Android/iOS story a couple of weeks ago, and last week, I took action. I sold my iPhone and ordered in a Google Nexus 6P. I’m not going to lie – I was nervous to make the switch back to Android for a few reasons:

  1. The last time I purchased an Android device, it failed me miserably (became a paper weight at best);
  2. My wife is an iOS’er, so the whole ‘family app/music/etc.., including all purchases made (not a ton really);
  3. iMessage on multiple devices all connected (my iMac, a work iPad).

It’s funny, when I went to the Nexus 5, I thought the device was too big; it wasn’t. So when I decided to go even bigger, I was really nervous.

The Nexus 6P is a beautiful device – period. They did a lot of things right in the design of it, and is it snappy fast. I’m not going to review it as there are a ton out there, but some of the key features that stand out:

  1. Fingerprint sensor – it is in the perfect spot.
  2. The screen – wow.
  3. Battery life – for a big device, it holds its own for sure, lasting me at least a day with moderate use.

After a week of being back with the 6P, I must say I am pretty happy. It’s the little things like the Android keyboard, as it has stock swipe typing (no add-on 3rd party app), as well as top row numbers accessible by holding down the letter (ie: Q=1, W=2) instead of turning on the first-level numeric menu. Something I always wondered why iOS didn’t have.

Does my wife miss ‘iMessaging’ me? She sent me the ‘I miss iMessaging you’ text the first day, but since then, it’s been a non-issue. The blue and green bubbles don’t bug her anymore. 🙂

We both have Gmail accounts, use Drive and share photos through shared albums in Google Photos, making it super easy so that we have each others photos that we take of our little man on whatever device or wherever we are.

If there was one thing that Apple didn’t get right, it’s their photo management, which is ‘a mess’. The whole iCloud concept that they have is a disaster, where Google Drive/Apps, etc… trumps it hands down.

Hence, my reason for exploring the Nexus 6P.

Nexus-iPhoneDo I miss iOS this week? not really, but as most of my friends and family are iOS users, I’ve been getting the ‘you messages are coming through as texts’… Group messaging and things like that are not really possible anymore being on Android this week, so there’s one thing that isn’t really a deal breaker, but it’s a factor nonetheless.

On Sunday, in a moment of weakness as my friend Tim Robinson would say, taking advantage of the return policies for both companies, I actually took more action and ordered an iPhone 6S as a fail safe. I’m actually contemplating going back to iOS, but I couldn’t get over the price differences in hardware comparing similar models:

  • iPhone 6S – 16GB – $899: Nexus 5x – 32GB – $499
  • iPhone 6S Plus – 16GB – $1029Nexus 6P – 32 GB – $699

Of course, some specs aren’t exactly the same, but for the most part, they’re similar to a degree. and the cost difference alone just blows my mind.

I get to spend a day or two with each device before I make a final decision. I know what I’m leaning towards, but I’ll weigh all factors before sending one of these devices back where they came from.

Stay tuned!