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Google education event attracts about 300 in Grand Forks

To illustrate how technology can open the world for students, Rushton Hurley, who trains teachers in the use of technology, told a story to about 300 educators gathered Saturday in Grand Forks.

It involves a boy at a San Jose, Calif., school who, because of autism, is awkward in social situations. His schoolmates shunned him, and he couldn’t explain his condition to them — until his teacher helped him make a video that allowed him to express himself.

The video has been shared globally on YouTube.

Hurley, the keynote speaker at the first Google Technology Summit in the state, said technology can be intimidating but it holds endless possibilities that teachers should take advantage of. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a teacher.”

It’s good for students, too, he said. They’re lucky to have the opportunity to change the world with the click of a mouse, he said.

Jeremy Cebula, an English teacher at Schroeder Middle School in Grand Forks, said he already uses technology on a daily basis with his students through blogging.

He attended the conference to take it a step further, he said. “I want to learn how to connect my students to that huge outside world and using Google you’ve got so many opportunities to do that.”

Sharing knowledge

The Grand Forks Google Technology Summit is the 20th such event the company has put on this year so far.

Throughout the weekend, educators at the event learned about new apps and other classroom resources in seminars such with names such “The Magic of Digital Media for Powerful and Engaging Learning” and “Google Glass in our Schools.”

Google’s comprehensive approach of sharing information through message boards and Twitter also allows the information to be available to teachers who didn’t attend the conference.

For example, Hurley talked about, which provides scholarly articles at all reading level, and, which allows students to record audio slideshows through cell phones. As he talked about the websites, they appeared online on the conference’s blog and Twitter pages.

Digital resources

In Grand Forks Public Schools, educators have started becoming “Google Certified Teachers” to learn about the possibilities technology can provide.

Monte Gaukler, a technology facilitator for the school district, was certified after her training at Google headquarters last year.

“It gives me these infinite contacts,” she said. “Like, if I don’t know how to do something, I have a list of people I can contact and ask how to do it. It gave me these resources that are just phenomenal.”

Google came to Grand Forks to provide even more teachers with these resources.

Eric Sanders, an English teacher at Grand Forks Red River High School, said he was excited about the networking opportunities. “You see ‘Google certified teacher’ and you know they’re going to be doing something pretty awesome.”

On the Web: To see material from seminars at the event, go to To follow the summit on Twitter, look for the #gafesummit hashtag this weekend. To see the video by the autistic student, go

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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