Last month, more than 300 Franklin students filed into their high school auditorium with tablets, cellphones and Chromebooks in hand to accomplish one thing: overwhelm the school’s Wi-Fi capability.
The drill was one of many preparations the school district has been making before hosting this weekend’s Indiana Summit Featuring Google for Education, where 450 teachers from across the country will learn about how to use Google-based products in the classroom.
School personnel have been preparing to host the conference since they learned last year that Franklin was picked to be one of about 70 summit sites across the country. That has meant testing the high school’s Internet capabilities, getting about 20 rooms ready for sessions, finding and training volunteers to give directions or information about the school and making room for a race car that will be brought into the school tonight, technology director Matt Sprout said.
Teachers from other states and local communities will be at Franklin Community High School on Saturday and Sunday and can attend 91 different sessions focusing on how to use the Internet to their advantage, specifically using Google products such as Google Drive or Gmail. Google summits in Wisconsin and Ontario will be going on at the same time as Indiana’s conference.
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Google officials originally estimated about 200 to 250 people would participate this weekend, but about 450 people registered.
That allowed 43 Franklin staff members to attend the conference for free, Superintendent David Clendening said. When the school initially applied to host the conference, the school said it could hold up to 800 during the weekend.
Since Franklin was picked, officials on Google’s education team have talked to Sprout at least once a month. Starting in January, the calls increased to once a week, he said.
Google team members will fly into the area today, and they will handle everything from catering to registration to assigning the presenters for the weekend. Sprout and other school officials will make sure the Google team has access to the classrooms they need.
Sprout said the conference is run by mostly Google employees.
Four local teachers and administrators from Johnson County will lead sessions at the conference, on topics such as using Google Chrome for teachers and how to edit papers through a program called Google Classroom.
When he applied for Franklin to host this event, Sprout provided a list of activities, monuments or landmarks and restaurants in the area that visitors could do or see while in town.
Once Franklin was picked to host, school officials worked with the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and Aspire Johnson County so any questions could be answered about local restaurants, bed and breakfasts, malls and entertainment spots in the county.
“We knew there would be a lot of visitors coming into the area, so we’re helping promote Johnson County,” Aspire Johnson County director of business development Dana Monson said. “This is a really unique opportunity for Franklin and Johnson County. We want them (visitors) to know how great it is.”
Just a year ago, Franklin English teacher Eric Jenkins moved to Indianapolis from out of state, and now he’s presenting at the conference this weekend.
“I don’t know if I’d be able to go if I had been further away,” Jenkins said. “I thought it was so cool that we’re getting this opportunity.”
Since the school purchased 1,700 Chromebooks this school year, Franklin had a slight edge in hosting the event, Sprout said. Schools across the country could apply to host the events, and Sprout assumed Franklin landing an event would be nearly impossible but decided to apply anyway.
He had to submit three rounds of applications, describing the atmosphere of Franklin, its proximity to major airports or larger cities and entertainment options, and the high school’s capabilities of fitting hundreds in the building while maintaining Internet access.
Before this weekend, school officials had to make sure that the wireless system could handle 450 teachers on laptops or phones at one time. And with the conference being all about using the Internet, having access to websites and online documents is imperative, he said.
Google’s team has been on top of any snags, Sprout said. For example, if too many people try to use the same Wi-Fi port at once, the Internet could short out or become slow.
So Google told Sprout to spread out the conference sessions. So sessions are scheduled in 15 classrooms, and the conference will use every wing of the high school to make sure everyone has access to the Internet, Sprout said.
Google already has asked school officials if Franklin would be willing to host a conference again, Clendening said.
Here is a look at some details of the Indiana Summit Featuring Google for Education in Franklin:
People estimated: 200-250 people
Registered: 450 people
Franklin teachers or administrators attending: More than 60
Students volunteering to give directions, information: 12
Johnson County teachers presenting: 4