20 hours of my life #GTAATX

Walking into the Google Teacher Academy experience, I hadn’t actually sat down to think about my expectations. I spent so much time processing that it was happening that I forgot to think about what I expected out of it. I knew a good number of the attendees through our Voxer group and Google+ community, and I knew that I enjoyed them already. But what content was I hoping to be exposed to? What would our lead learners offer us? What would Google and CUE challenge me to think more deeply about? These thoughts hadn’t crossed my mind. So, even though the 20 hours of PD have ended, I think it’s worthwhile to explore these questions and articulate my responses. So here it goes.

What content was I hoping to be exposed to?

Knowing that our time was to be spent at the Google offices in Austin, I knew that I would be in a pretty innovative and creative workspace. Have you seen pictures of Google offices? (They keep a lot of it under wraps.) Bright colors, random artifacts and decorations that seemingly have no place in an office setting, games, comfy couches, raised desks . . . not your typical work space but definitely one that allows for out-of-the-box thinking.

I guess a part of me expected to be shown some magical Google tools that have been hiding from me. Maybe someone would enlighten me on the genius of Google Drawings that I struggle to see. Maybe Google Classroom would be toured in exciting ways that I hadn’t seen before. Maybe I would get time to explore Scripts and Add-ons that I’ve been dying to get a better understanding of. FIngers crossed – maybe I’d get to tell Google that they should consider a quest-based Google Educator Exam interface rather than the multiple choice, read-and-test-out one that exists now. Maybe I could even get some insight into gamification!

What would our lead learners offer us?

Let me first define what a “lead learner” is: a Google Certified Teacher who has been asked to come back to a Google Teacher Academy and design/facilitate learning sessions for the new Google Certified Teachers.

Walking into this, I recognized only 1 of our lead learners: Jennie Magiera. But I had seen her Ignite at #ISTE2014 and knew that she had presentation skills that would entertain and inform simultaneously. (Check out her TEDx talk from November, 2014.) She walks the walk and talks the talk, and I was just excited to spend a concentrated amount of time with her – maybe even get to chat a bit.

As for the other lead learners, I was sure they’d be fantastic and inspiring and smart and engaging and nice and generous. right?

What would Google and CUE challenge me to think more deeply about?

So pretty soon after we received our acceptance letters, we were made aware of the concept of Moonshot Thinking. (PLEASE watch this short video on the theory – game changer for any change maker out there.) The whole concept is lofty and depends upon the principle of 10x thinking. So, rather than making an important and attainable change, how could you ramp up the change 10 times to make something that is seemingly impossible actually happen? This is something we would be grappling with at the Academy. I also knew of an action plan that I would be tasked to design that spoke to my community and was focused on sharing not only Google ideas and tools but resources that would provide solutions for my local (and eventually global) community.

This intimidated the hell out of me. What could I possibly dream up that I could actually work on that matters to not only my local Loomis Union School District community but the GLOBE?!!? Holy smokes! No pressure. I’m not a maker. I’m not an artist. I’m a skilled organizer and creator and I know how to problem solve, but the problems I deal with are not Moonshot worthy. So, this idea scared me and was one that I didn’t spend too much time worrying about because I really just needed more information. Unless. . .

Well, what could I do to increase attendance at my monthly district professional development sessions? How could I schedule my time to be more present on school campuses and be more comfortable on those campuses? How could I connect more teachers to each other to help them better their craft and reinvigorate their passion for learning and leading? What role might I play in sharing my passion for quest-based learning to others?

REALITY. . .

I can honestly say that my experience at the Google Teacher Academy was not what I was expecting. . .exactly. Here are a few of my takeaways, in no particular order.

  1. The Google Office experience was AWE.SOME. Not disappointed in the least. It’s no wonder Google is the number 1 best company to work for according to Fortune Magazine.
  2. The magic of Google resides in each of us – if you’re eyes and mind are open you will see it. It really wasn’t about unearthing some new Google tool, though I walked in hoping that would happen. The magic of Google is being so practiced and researched in Google Tools and STILL having those moments of “OMG That’s so cool!” when looking at an app or add-on or tool. The magic of Google is being around some of the Googliest of educators and seeing and hearing them have those same moments. That’s when you realize that the magic of Google is really about you – the learner, the seeker, the risk-taker – and what you do with the same old tools day in and day out that are just a means to an end for those that you have the gift to educate each day. Who knew I needed to go to Austin to discover that I WAS the magic of Google.
  3. That said, there are some pretty rocking Google tools out there that were definitely new to me. nGram Viewer and Google Trends (thanks to Chris Aviles) help you honor your curiosity in ways you never knew you could. YouTube Video Editor (thanks to Jennie Magiera) has undergone some serious reconstruction in the last year or so and rivals iMovie in ways I never thought it could. “No PD video should be longer than 59 seconds.” Woah, Jennie. The game has changed! Mobile photography (mobileography) is actually a THING (thanks to Cory Pavicich and Nicole Dalesio). I love thinking about the everyday functions of my Smart Phone in new and creative ways. Snapseed may be my new favorite app. I’m grateful for the kindness and all the time put into the session by our lead learners, and I’m especially thankful for the kindness and support of Amy Mayer and Katie Christie who not only introduced many of us to new Drive Add-ons but also just brought their calming and empathetic energy to the space.
  4. Change is inevitable – our role in the change is for us to define and embrace. Finally, I will say that the bulk of our time was spent thinking about our communities back at home. I thought about the teachers I work with, the administrators I support, and the district office staff that I am in the trenches with. I thought about the priorities of our Curriculum and Instruction Departments and came back hungry to define those according to our district mission. I returned with a new vision for professional development and a need to spend more time getting to know my community so the PD could reflect the concerns of the practitioners. There’s so much to do and I am excited to see how it comes together.

In the end, I wouldn’t have changed my GTA experience for the world. It was intense and heavy when thinking about the challenges in my professional life. It was light and fun when chatting and giggling with some of the most supportive and innovative cohort members I could have hoped for (midnight hotel conference room karaoke WHAT??!.) It was challenging and worrisome to think about HOW all this change can happen when there’s already so much changing via Common Core Standards alone.

But mostly, it was inspiring to know that I am not alone – none of us are. We joked around as a group on our Voxer chat about the fact that we are often viewed as complete aliens in our communities. We speak a different language that requires translation. We see sides of initiatives that others don’t see and often would prefer to ignore. We are excited about tools and resources that most others “don’t have time for.” And we always make time to connect with each other and learn something new. So, the biggest gift of #GTAATX for me is my community, and I hope to provide a similar community to the educators I have the privilege to work with.

So stay tuned. . . things are about to get #eduCrazy!

SHOUT OUT to my #lusded family who inspire me each and every day to be a better tech coach and seek out the most accessible tools to help them be better leaders and learners for their students. I am lucky to work in your presence. 

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