Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Boom! That just happened" - My Experience at the Google Teacher Academy

David Theriault, one of our many amazing lead learners.
Photo courtesy of Brian Briggs.
My time at the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View (#gtamtv) was nothing short of amazing. The learning, the people, the food, and the Google campus all contributed to a unique experience that I will not soon forget. Two days of PD went by quick, but the fun isn't over yet. In fact, it has just begun.

Having read about the amazing professional learning I would be part of at the GTA, I thought that I was mentally prepared for the barrage of innovation that I would be immersed in. I am happy to report that 1) it didn't disappoint, and 2) I was still overwhelmed (in a good way) with the learning sessions that were planned for us. 

Without further ado, here are the top ten things that I heard several times, in one form or another, and seem to have "stuck" with me:

1) Challenges can be daunting so it is important to find something that I can connect to within a challenge, something that I am passionate about, and start from that point by taking a risk. 
2) My learning/work space, and that of my students and colleagues is important and requires as much consideration as all of the other things that are considered when working on solving problems.

A panoramic view of Google HQ
3) I need to continue to lead by sharing how I am innovating and the good, bad, and ugly parts that go with it. Show people the beginning, middle, and end of a learning process and the incredible outcomes that can be achieved by stepping out of the 'comfort zone'.

4) Creative leaders find others like themselves, are engaging, and work on sustaining the energy needed to learn. Creative leaders work hard to provide resources and support to sustain the community that they are working with. 

A photo of "Stan", the T-Rex on Campus.
There are flamingoes all over him...Google encourages its employees to have FUN at work. 
5) I need to do what I can to help establish/foster a culture of innovation and a growth mindset - one that focuses on building capacity by iteration (initial learning, improving learning, and trying again until a desired outcome is reached).

6) Get inside other peoples spheres - see things from their perspective and then support them as they start small and establish a growth mindset.

Lunch at one of the campus cafeterias - the food was fresh, flavouful, and unique. 

7) Engage students, empower them, and then ask them to take responsibility for supplementing their education outside of the four walls of the classroom.

8) We live in an interactive world where anyone can acquire knowledge/information - increase focus on higher order skills - for myself, my students, and my colleagues. Technology is not the be all and end all to learning - it exists to influence and augment learning.

Google looks like this all over the place.
9) Perfection is not always required: try something, see what worked and what didn’t work, then adjust based on new learning. It’s a nice learning cycle that ensures action rather than worrying about being perfect.

10) Don't forget about the power of relationships. Rapport and trust can take a team far when working on daunting tasks. People who trust each other are more likely to share their wonderful ideas and take risks!

I noted above that the professional learning was amazing, so how do I describe the people I met and worked with? Amazing times 10! Everyone, including our lead learners and organizers, were kind, passionate, and motivational. Before our arrival, +David Theriault (one of our lead learners and the one who referred to the Canadians as #Maplesyrupedu) suggested to us that we meet and speak with as many people as possible during our time in Mountain View. Boy oh boy, was he right. I took his words to heart and took every opportunity to introduce myself to whoever crossed my path. Everyone else took him seriously as well, as I observed people connecting with others and experienced being approached by many members of the cohort. I am grateful for the ‘risk’ they took in seeking me out and look forward to the collegiality and growth that will most certainly come from the connections that were created at the GTA. I am inspired and honoured to be part of this group of educators.

After reading many of his blog posts and tweets, I finally got to meet David Theriault.
JR Ginex-Orinion (standing) and Jon Corripo (red shirt)
leading us through the "Are You a Google Iron Chef?" session. 

The Teacher Academy wasn't all about work, there was a lot of play as well. We certainly had fun throughout our two days together. There were lots of laughs as we worked together and learned about each other. 

The slide in the main entrance foyer!

One of the many Google bikes around the Mountain View campus. Employees are dropped off on campus and then hop on a bike and get to their particular building/work area. 
Michelle Armstrong and I grabbing a snack from one of the many Micro Kitchens before heading to our next session. Michelle is also CANADIAN!
With a little bit of free time at lunch we decided to have a seat in one of the many outside areas set up for reflection and or collaboration.
Canadian Google Certified Teachers, Mountain View 2014.
Google Teacher Academy, Mountain View, 2014 Cohort. 

With over 70 people in the room, I never felt disconnected from the other participants - it felt tight knit and intimate. Not sure what the secret is, but they should bottle it and sell it.
Speaking of tight knit, in walks +Jaime Casap to sit down and chat with the group. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to speak to him and get a photo. 
When I found out that I was going to be a participant at the GTA I blogged about it. I commented in a tweet that getting into GTA would be like winning a golden ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. When they finally let me into the "Factory" I made sure to say hello to +Danny Silva, aka Willie Wonka!

Meeting everyone at GTA was special, but meeting Danny Silva, the Director of the Google Teacher Academy was out of this world. 

As I wrap up this post about my experience at the Google Teacher Academy I can't help but reflect on the family that I am now a part of. As a Google Certified Teacher I am recognized as an 
  • Educator with a passion to use innovative technology to improve teaching and learning.
  • A leader with a desire to empower others in my local community and beyond.
  • An ambassador for change, life-long learning, collaboration, equity, and innovation.
My hope is that I will continue the tradition of being open to and supportive of the people who seek me out, just like the GCT's that I have, and continue, to seek out with questions and ideas. I also hope that the people who come into contact with me don't get too upset when they find out that I will be learning as much, or more, from them as they will be from me. 

It's official, certificate, pin, and photo.