On Wednesday April 4th and Thursday 5th April 2012, Google held their second UK Google Teacher Academy in London, and I was lucky enough to have been selected as one of 50 educators from across the globe to attend.
What is the Google Teacher Academy?
The Google Teacher Academy is a free professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment.
How did you apply?
As a secondary ICT Teacher in Dagenham, I constantly strive to improve the teaching and learning opportunities for my students. I consider myself to be a reflective practitioner, always looking at the way in which young people learn, questioning the current classroom techniques and practices and developing innovative ways that perhaps have not been employed before. This personal journey usually leans towards innovation in the classroom and effective use of technology. All our students are digital natives, who have lived in a world where the Internet has always existed. Access to information is instantaneous, and we are beginning to question what is it we are teaching and how we are teaching it.
I use twitter to collaborate and share ideas with like minded teachers across the UK and the world, and it was in this forum that I first learnt that Google were accepting applications for this years Academy. There was a lengthy online application form to fill out and every applicant had to make a one minute video about ‘Classroom Innovation’ or ‘Motivation and Learning’.
Then it was a case of waiting for a verdict from Google, whilst trying not to watch other applicants entries on youtube. At the end of February I received an email from Google congratulating me on being selected, but I had no idea what I had signed up for.
What happens at the Academy?
Like Alice in Wonderland I had no idea what I had stumbled across before I attended the academy. Friends and colleagues keep asking me “What does it mean?” “What does it involve?” and I could only shrug my shoulders.
On the first day I was introduced to 49 other educators from across the globe. Approximately 25 of us were from the UK, not all teachers, some worked in the education sector as advisors or developers. The other 25 were made up mostly of Americans, who explained to me that being a Google Certified Teacher in the US is an important and recognised professional development for any teacher.
We were put into groups and attended sessions on Google Search, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Calendars, Youtube for schools, Google Scripts, Google Maps, Google+ and Google Apps for Education. These sessions were fast paced all with an educational slant provided by a previous cohort of Google Certified Teachers. I got hands on with a Chromebook for the first time, which was such a good experience that I may invest in one. We were also privileged enough to be invited to have Google hangouts with developers in the US who demonstrated what was coming next for Google docs and Google+ which was one of the highlights of the day.
The second day was called the “unconference” giving us the time and opportunity to look into some of technolgies more closely, ask questions of those in the know, and to make connections with other educators.
It was the best professional development I’ve ever experienced as a teacher, and it has led me to rethink my use of technology in my teaching. My classrooms will no longer have walls. With Google’s tools I have been able to create a Google site which students will be able to access from home and at school to watch Youtube videos that I have created or sourced through youtube for schools, to learn the concepts needed for the lesson. I will write my lesson plans through a blog, that students can access on any device, leaving more lesson time to engage the students through activity. I will have flipped my classroom to make full use of technology that is in each school child’s pocket or home.
At the end of the day we were all given our Google Certified Teacher Status. I now have access to a community of GCT’s from across the globe through Google Groups, and have networked with educators who are already making a huge difference in the US.
What happens next?
Each GCT is required to write an Action Plan for change. This year’s GTA has asked its members to think about how they can change the world. Quite a daunting task for a little teacher from East London, but Google have inspired me to try. We have deadlines to guide us through the action plan, and the project we design should take on average a year to complete. I have a few ideas which I want to put to my students before I write up my plan, and we are encouraged to share our plans with another GCT who acts as a peer mentor.
My twitter account and my Google+ accounts have gone crazy ever since. I am part of a community that shares and collaborates like never before which is incredibly exciting. It’s also made me feel that I am not alone in wanting change, and I hope I get the opportunity to visit my teacher contacts in the US to see what they are doing with Google, even perhaps get to see Mount View.
Some people have questioned the appropriateness of a company like Google being involved so much in education. I am not a spokesperson for their company, only a humble teacher who uses their tools. I can guarantee that a lot of the children in this country already use them, and if they are not then they may be left behind. Of course they are not the only tools we use, and Google were very open to teachers discussions on the day of the use of other web tools in conjunction.
What I experienced will make my teaching better, and I hope to share that with my students as soon as we return to school next week, and all teachers I come into contact with.