Friday, August 5, 2011

Becoming "Google Certified" at the Google Teacher Academy

Almost every surface at Google is
"writable" and adds to the collaborative
nature of the company. Share your ideas
anytime, anywhere! Another idea
for my classroom this fall!
On July 28 and 29th, I got to spend two unforgettable days at Google in Seattle at the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) with a fantastic group of educators and inspiring leaders in technology. You can read a bit more about how I arrived at Google by reading my previous post about "My Google Adventure". The schedule we followed and the list of resources can be found here if you want more detailed information. I have to say, my experience at Google was life changing and I have great pride in the fact that I am now a "Google Certified Teacher" (GCT). I can't wait to share with other educators everything I learned by giving in-services, working one-on-one and offering online help. My students will also be benefiting from my new found knowledge and expertise in my classroom through innovative approaches and a renewed perspective on integrating technology into my teaching. I can't wait to share with them this year and look forward to learning with them too.

One of the fabulous people I got to
know at GTA was Gwyneth Jones,
aka the Daring Librarian
Although the offices in Seattle (where I attended GTA) and in Kincaid (where I attended YouTube Teacher Studio the day before) are different, they share the same philosophy as all the other Google offices worldwide. All employees seemed happy and productive as I walked around and toured the offices. They had easy access to items to provide brain breaks (games, books, kayaks), they had a peaceful (great lighting and comfortable furniture) and collaborative (writable surfaces everywhere) environment and they were always in close proximity to food and beverage. One philosophy we heard more about was the concept that Google employees spend 80% of their time working on their assigned projects and 20% of their time working on a project of their own choosing. What a fantastic idea to implement in the classroom. Think of the engagement students would be in their own learning by pursuing their own interests and passions while learning valuable project and time management skills. This is a concept I know I will be looking into further.

Learning about Google Sketch-up
We spent our day learning from accomplished Google Certified Teacher leaders who led us through sessions on Google Docs, GMail, Google Sites, and other Google Apps. Although these are all tools that I use on a regular basis, I learned a lot about how to use these tools more effectively myself and with students. I also greatly benefited from hearing stories and ideas from the other educators in my cohort about how they were using these tools in their classrooms.

The GTA Team
When asked on numerous occasions upon my return what my favourite part of my time at Google has been, I would have to say having the opportunity to share and hear from the group of educators chosen to be at Google with me. We spent time getting to know each other online before arriving and it is always fantastic to meet people you have gotten to know online face to face. I now have a wonderful resource I can tap into anytime when I have questions or ideas I need feedback on. I have always spent a lot of my time teaching other people how to use online tools like Google Apps, but I rarely get the opportunity to share ideas with people who are at the same level as I am when it comes to integrating technology into education. For me, it is not the tool, but the enhancement the tool brings to student engagement and understanding. Not everyone gets that and it was great to be surrounded by a fantastic group of people who do. Upon reflection, I actually compared myself to students in my class who likely feel like they need enrichment, or the chance to delve further into what we are learning about, but don't always get the chance to do so. I think after having had the chance to live this experience for myself and see how much I got out of it, I will spend more time trying to help enrich the learning experience for my students who need more of a challenge.

My fabulous "Gutenberg" group
After we were done our two days together, we were challenged to come up with our GCT action plans. These are plans we will implement over the coming school year. I have to give more thought to what I will be doing and also reflect upon everything I have learned before I share my action plan. I have to do the same thing for YouTube EDU so I suspect I will be doing a combined project between the two. I will be posting more about these projects in the days and weeks to come.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about Google or YouTube and how to use their many tools in your classroom, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I would love to work with you.

Some of my gifts received from Google
Finally, while I was in Seattle and upon my return, I did numerous media interviews about my experience. Here are a few links to only a few of the stories and interviews I did in case you want to hear more about my Google adventures in a different way. Like I said before, it was more than just learning about Google, but getting to know a fantastic cohort of educators I will be learning more from for years to come!

CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition - July 27, 2011
Regina Leader Post - August 1, 2011
Radio-Canada Saskatchewan, Midi-Plus - August 2, 2011