Sunday, May 19, 2013

So you went to Google Teachers Academy?..."Share the Love"



 After a sleepless night of waking up and checking the clock to see ‘is it time yet?’ I excitedly made my way into Google Sydney, ready to embark on an incredible experience. As I crossed the Harbour Bridge I thought of all the people who had travelled 1000’s of kilometres to be here. The sun turned a sleeping city into a maze of glinting buildings. In the funky suburb of Haymarket gathered a group of people with the commonality of innovation, education and collaboration. The excitement was tangible. The anticipation made us all nervous. 

Hello Google Teachers Academy Sydney 2013.
Google Teachers Academy Sydney Cohort 2013
What a humbling and inspiring experience. Humbling to be selected to be amongst so many professional and inspirational educators, not to mention the amazing Googlers who gave up their time to share insights into their world and encourage us to ‘share the love’ of what we would learn with those around us. Inspiring because we had a taste of how we can change the world – a little bit at a time. I’ll expand on this a little later.

The two main questions I have been asked about GTA are:
“What is the GTA?” and “What cool things did you learn there?”

The formal answer to the first question is:
“The Google Teacher Academy is a two-day intensive program that recognizes educators who are doing innovative and exciting things in their classrooms with technology. 50 participants will get hands-on experience with Google's products and technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, and receive resources to share with colleagues. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local regions and beyond.”

In practice it is so much more.  Imagine 50 educators coming together hungry to learn, collaborate, be challenged and change the world they are a part of….in short 52 participants reach 32,727 students. If we ‘share the love’ of what we have learned at GTA, we then reach a staggering 40,311 teachers and
Team Tesla hard at work
they in turn affect 1,410,885 students world-wide. Big things are possible…especially when you are a part of a team. A typical day in the GTA looks like a non-stop brain workout – just what I love! From the moment you sit down to breakfast, the conversations don’t stop. Every session is filled with sharing of ideas which can make a difference in education, new ideas, things that have worked, collaborative problem solving, experimentation with new tools, critiquing of ideas within a culture of respect and support, dreaming big and gratitude for such an amazing experience.

In answer to the second question: “What cool things did you learn there?”
Too many to mention (I will complete another blog post on some of the amazing apps we explored)but after the realisation, where I thought I knew a bit a bit Google Apps for Education, I quickly realised I have only experienced the ‘tip of the iceberg’. you can choose to be daunted by that or you can embrace it and set yourself up an action plan of how to go further, deeper and wider…I’m going with the second option.


Inside Google

I loved hearing from the Googlers who gave us valuable insights into the way Google works. Lucinda Barlow gave us a run down about Google’s innovation principles - focus on the user, open will win, ideas come from everywhere, think big, start small, Fail fast, launch early and iterate, be a platform, float all boats, make it matter. How true are these principles in education. I’ll leave that one to you to mull over as I could write a thesis on how this looks in the classroom.

Another aspect which resonated with me was Moonshot thinking (follow this link to see the YouTube clip) – Basically Moonshot thinking is about taking “proposals that address a huge problem, suggest a radical solution that could work, and use some form of breakthrough technology to make it happen” (see solve-for-x blog or their website for more info). This kind of thinking is all about innovation and the open mindset – it requires resilience, creativity, communication, collaboration and all the skills we know are important to develop in our students. Believe you can make a difference in the world and you will.

One of the most striking features of the event was instant community. This was incredible. I knew only one person before I attended GTA – Chris Betcher who was one of the amazing Lead Teachers
One of the collaborative spaces
at the event. I have come away now knowing that if I were to ask a question or ask for support from the GCT (Google Certified Teacher) community, that any one of those 800+ people would willingly help out. There were some people attending the academy that I follow on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs, read their work and whom I think are pretty ‘big’ in the education world…you know, those ones that you say under your breath “Wow, that’s *insert guru educator here*” and award them movie star status. I came away from the Academy appreciate of those ‘movie star’ status people who tirelessly share their ideas, are passionate about shifting education and about making a difference in their world.

If I leave GTA as a GCT(Google Certified Teacher) and rave about how wonderful it was yet do nothing with it, then I waste the opportunity to make a difference. Hello action plan! This is the next part of where we go from here.

I do believe in making a difference in my world. I may not make headlines and I may not change the whole world but what if I make a difference in the world of my students and equip them with what it takes to make a difference in the world they are a part of? What if I equip/support a whole ‘bunch’ of teachers with skills, resources and thinking that then has an impact on all the students they come into contact with? You do the math – that’s a whole lot of people that we ‘share the love’ with. I may not change the whole world but I sure can make a difference.

So how are you going to change your world?


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