I just returned from the Google Teacher Academy
(GTA) in Sydney, an amazing mind-blowing two days. I am now officially a Google Certified Teacher (GCT), a true honor and privilege, and I join the ranks of 1,000 worldwide GCTs. Lucky me.
Yay! I'm a Google Certified Teacher!
As I think about how to explain this experience to others, I am flooded with swooping, game-changing, reach-for-the-stars verbs that I merged into the word cloud above. Fifty-two educators from 13 countries were invited to the Google Sydney office to inspire, connect, collaborate, create, engage, learn, laugh, share, synergize, and plan a forward course of action. We are each ambassadors of change in our various learning environments. These two days were but a pitstop as we paused on our journeys, refueled, and designed a plan of action to move forward. Between us we directly influence 32,727 students, 40,311 teachers, and therefore indirectly influence 1,410,885 students. And we’ve only just begun.
Google Teacher Academy Sydney 2013
What is the GTA?
The Google Teacher Academy is joint effort between Google and Computer-Using Educators
(CUE), an educational non-profit organization. It launched in 2006 and seeks to Improve teaching and learning by leveraging innovative tools. Admission is by invitation-only, is extremely competitive, and is the only way to become a Google Certified Teacher.
What does the day look like at GTA?
It’s a mind-blowing, hold-on-tight kind of experience. There are no beginners. We were divided into small groups with lead learners even before the conference began and continued with our group members throughout the day. We are all active members of a community within Google+
so by the time we arrived we recognized many others by name. The agenda was fluid and changed as needed, but generally the day was a mix of short presentations by Googlers and small group breakout sessions led by GCTs. The sessions were fast-paced creative exercises using Google tools on a new level. For example, in the Discovering Your World
session, we realized that exploration is not over: we can still create, edit, share, and contribute to the maps of the world. We used some advance Map
features to create, edit, and share maps with others. In the Creating Your World
session we used YouTube editor
to create a short inspirational film starting with a still image and using Creative Commons footage. In Collaborating with your World
, we used a variety of tools like Story Builder
to share to social media platforms. In Automating Your World
we saw how advanced scripting can save teachers heaps of time. I ran out of time on everything, even though I’m generally fast, and have a lot to play with once I get home. For sure.
What pedagogy is used?
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact model, but it’s certainly a student-based, inquiry-based, active learning environment. Creative energy flowed through the room. There were a few short presentations, but mostly we were given the tools we needed, thrown into the ring, were given a task to produce, and were supported along the way. Things moved fast. we got up and moved a lot. Everyone had at least one device active at all times. There was never enough time to take it all in or finish something completely. The agenda was a living document that changed frequently, loaded with resources and links. Backchannels were active on both Google Plus and Twitter. Feedback and reflection were built-in. We were doers, thinkers, creators, and active participants. No one was a passive observer.
What tools are introduced?
Heaps. More than a person could ever master. Old friends were taken to a new level (e.g. Maps, Earth, scripting, Google Art Project
, Chrome, YouTube editor, Google Books
). New friends were introduced (e.g. Google Lit Trips
, Story Builder
, World Wonders Project
, Google Cultural Institute
, and dozens of Chrome extensions like Voice Comments
, Timeline JS
, and Video Notes
). Everything that was introduced was looked at through the lens of “How can this (website, tool, app, extension) improve student learning?” That was a necessary and powerful connection. It’s never about the tool – it’s about the learning.
How is the Google office in Sydney?
Google is awesome. I am bound by a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t discuss many details, but I can say that Google believes and lives it’s motto to work hard, play hard. They have a strong company culture of innovation and it shows in every detail. The food was phenomenal. The workspace design and atmosphere was truly inspiring. They are continually working to improve the user experience and we got a sneak peek at some powerful ideas in the works. I must say it is extremely fun to have a Q&A with a Googler, to hear why they do what they do, to suggest changes and give feedback within certain apps, and to hear about what’s up next. Technology will continue to improve and change the way we interact with the world, and I have no doubt Google will lead the pack.
What is the second day un-conference?
After sleeping on the dizzying amount of information from the previous day, we were ready to better connect in small focus groups on specific topics. We used Google Moderator
to submit and vote on topics. There were a few rules that governed the day: no spectators, only participants; if you are not learning or sharing use your feet to move somewhere else where you are; whatever you talk about, that’s what you were meant to talk about; whatever group you’re in is the right group for you, etc. The conference facilitator went through the topics listed in Moderator and small groups formed all over the place. There was a lot of moving around, and a lot of learning and sharing. It was a great time to pick everyone’s brain around me and I have a long list of ideas to look into.
What did you learn?
I learned a lot for sure, but it’s more than that. It’s what I felt. It’s what I wanted to be. Do. Share. Create. My biggest takeaway wasn’t a new tool or trick, though we used some great ones, but it was the reminder of what can happen with shared creative energy. It’s that creative spark that we hope to capture and recreate for our students, that desire to learn when no one is watching and when there’s no grade. I relearned many things too: that educators are amazingly brilliant people who care about their students, that technology can be leveraged in powerful ways for learning, and that it’s up to me to make a difference in my community.
How do I apply?
There are specific qualifications
that are released when applications are accepted and it is very competitive. But don’t let that discourage you. I was fortunate to present two sessions at the Google Apps for Education Summit in Sydney
during January. That opened some doors and I was encouraged to apply for GTA. I never in a million years thought I would get it. I almost didn’t even try. Many of the others were in the same boat: simply surprised and grateful to be there. Creating the one-minute video was a fun challenge. Here’s mine along the theme of making a difference in my local community:
As Google Certified Teachers we create an action plan that will be peer-reviewed and reflected on in 12 months. In short, we are to develop a project that shares with others innovative ways that Google tools are being used for learning. We are encouraged to think big, dream big, and be the change we want to see in the world. With that, we can start small, take baby steps, and eventually it will come together. We will continue to grow and our ideas will gain momentum over time. We will feed into and gain from the GCT community. I’ve got some ideas, but I’ve been encouraged to sleep on it for a bit, let it all settle, and then dive in and move forward. I’m still stewing. GCTs from other cohorts have developed some inspiring projects. It’s really about student learning and empowering others. We are not only using technology to improve learning, but we are empowering students to become creators of technology. They will build apps, write software, and design hardware. They will be ambassadors for change as well.
Let’s do this.