Teachers gather for Google Apps summit

Starting today, more than 600 educators are coming to Franklin for a teaching conference, and this time, officials want them to see more of the city.

This is the second year Franklin is hosting the Google Apps for Education summit, where 640 educators from throughout the state will learn about Google products they can use in the classroom. Last year, when Franklin Community High School hosted the event for the first time, 507 people attended from as far away as Ontario.

Once again, visitors from out of town will stay in hotels around the city, in Greenwood, Edinburgh and Indianapolis because Franklin does not have any three- or four-star hotels, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

But this year, city and school officials have come up with plans to try to attract the hundreds of visitors to Franklin’s shops, restaurants and breweries.

“Any way to expose people to our community, it’s obviously a good thing,” McGuinness said.

One of the ways Franklin schools wanted to expand the summit this year was to involve the community more, said Matt Sprout, Franklin schools’ director of technology. Typically, at conferences, visitors spend their day at the conference and then the rest of the night in their hotel room, he said. Instead, Sprout wants them to experience what the city has to offer beyond what they see at the high school.

Introducing visitors to downtown Franklin will be a focal point of this year’s Google summit, Sprout said.

If you’re out and about this weekend, you might notice five 6-foot-tall Google pins in front of certain downtown businesses. Those are part of a contest for visitors, who can win GoPro cameras or a drone if they take a selfie with the marker and business name then tweet it using a specific hashtag.

Franklin school officials also will be responding to tweets that come in asking questions about Franklin by using the hashtag #VisitFranklin. For example, if someone is wondering where they can find barbecue food, they can ask on Twitter, and a school employee will respond with a downtown restaurant suggestion, such as Triple Play Barbecue, Sprout said.

About 20 Franklin students and 40 residents will take photos during events, give directions and serve drinks at a coffee bar — one of the elements from last year’s summit that remains this year.

While Google employees are scheduled to speak at the conference, Johnson County students and teachers will also lead classroom sessions.

Landing a statewide conference two years in a row is an impressive feat, McGuinness said. Before last year’s summit was over, Google had already asked Franklin officials to host the event again.

Having large-scale events, such as the Google summit, is one reason why a three- or four-star hotel is needed in Franklin, McGuinness said. Undeveloped land near East King Street and Interstate 65 could be used for hotels in the future to provide rooms for conferences, college events and other festivals in Franklin, McGuinness said.