Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google Teacher Academy Bound

It's been almost three years since I thought about becoming a Google Certified Teacher (GCT).  After using Google with my high school students I saw the value in these collaborative tools and set out to learn more.  I passed the Google Apps exams and became Google Apps EDU Qualified in December 2010.   I worked with Dr. Mark Wagner to bring a Google Workshop for Educators in 2011 to my county and asked him about becoming a GCT.  He explained there was only one way to become a GCT, apply for and be accepted to a Google Teacher Academy (GTA).  You can also apply to be a Google Certified Trainer, but that is a different program.  It can be a bit confusing at first, so here is a description of both:

  • As a Google Apps EDU Qualified Individual you are eligible to apply to become a Google Apps EDU Certified Trainer, which can be done online. You need to demonstrate your professional development experience (and skills) in this application. It's meant more for people who are interested in listing their services in the Google Apps Marketplace. You can read more on Danny Silva's blog HERE.

  • The Google Certified Teacher program is entirely separate (and older) program. Google Certified Teachers are exceptional K-12 educators with a passion for using innovative tools to improve teaching and learning, as well as creative leaders and ambassadors for change. They are recognized experts and widely admired for their commitment to high expectations for students, lifelong learning and collaboration. To become a Google Certified Teacher, you must apply for, be invited to, and attend a Google Teacher Academy hosted by Google in a Google office.  Here are the details to become a Google Certified Teacher.

When I was helping to set up and deploy Google Apps for Education in my school district in 2011, I met Mark Hammons, a Google Certified Teacher.  Mark was the lead learner for our 3 day Google Workshop for Educators.  He amazed me with his mad Google skills and told me more about the benefits of becoming a GCT.  I set out to apply for a Google Teacher Academy.  The first GTA I applied for was Seattle, 2011.  I did not get in which was very disappointing after putting so much effort into the application and video submission.  I applied again for New York, 2012, and was turned down again.  This shook my confidence.   I skipped the next GTA and finally, I applied one last time for the GTA being held in Chicago in July 2013, and I was accepted!  Looking back, I would have to say waiting and re-applying was actually a good thing.  In the two years it took to get accepted I learned and grew as an educator a great deal.  So, if you are thinking about becoming a Google Certified Teacher, apply and don't give up.  I am excited and honored to be attending the GTA in Chicago and will blog about the experience so stay tuned!

My Google Teacher Academy Video Submission for Chicago, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Seizing the moment: Transforming Professional Learning

I recently read a report in the Implementing the Common Core Standards (ICCS) newsletter from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This report was released by Learning Forward and was called:

Click here to read the article

The report was about the challenging road ahead as schools implement the Common Core State Standards. Change is not easy, principals and school district leaders need to focus teacher professional learning to support teachers and help change mindsets about what classroom environments look like and how teachers and students perform at school.  

Two statements that really caught my eye:

This is key if we are to change education to meet the learning needs of students today.  If students need to interact with technology in meaningful ways to improve learning, then teachers must engage in these activities as well.  Throwing technology and software at educators and expecting it be effectively implemented doesn't work.  Teachers are learners too and this needs to be considered in professional learning environments.  

My three suggestions for addressing the technology learning that must take place with teachers before Common Core State Standards can effectively be implemented in schools:
girl with technology
  1. Differentiate - Teachers are at varying levels of comfort and competency with technology, don't put all of them in the same room to learn the same thing.  Providing access to "just in time" learning opportunities maximizes application of new learning.
  2. Personalize - We learn best when we are interested in something, let teachers choose what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. Personal learning plans let teachers set goals for their learning that can be monitored by administration for progress and support.
  3. Integrate - Stop offering technology trainings! Make sure technology is integrated into all professional learning environments.  Don't isolate technology...integrate it! Leading a session about how to teach students to write arguments to support claims? Then show teachers how students can annotate text using web tools like Google Docs and share their writing with peers for collaboration and discussion.
If we expect students to create, communicate, collaborate and think critically with web tools and technology devices then we need to start with district administration.  If district leaders provide communications and collaborative workshops to site administrators with tools like Google +, Google Docs, Twitter, Learning Management Systems, blogs and YouTube then principals will begin using these same tools to train and support teachers.  As teachers become more comfortable with technology as part of job embedded professional learning, then it will become part of how they teach.  We have to seize the moment, start at the top, and step out of our comfort zone so that student learning environments truly prepare our kids for college and career.