Google Teacher Academy, Washington, D.C. 2009 Final Reflection

Technology and education are a natural fit, like salt and water in the ocean.  Ideally, technology and education should exist together as one, seamlessly bound, and, like the sea, never become stagnant.

The opportunities educators have with technology are also ocean-like, vast and expansive.  In my view, there appear to be endless ways technology can and should permeate the education process, making teaching and learning richer and better, and truly more representative of the processes of living and being in the world today.

Six months ago, the opportunity to start a new voyage in the edtech landscape was presented to me at the Google Teacher Academy in Washington, D.C.  I was in the company of many well known educators who had already accomplished great things in their classrooms, through their blogs, and as presenters or keynote-speakers.  How did I fit?  What could I do?

As the tidal wave of information was presented at the GTA (there is so much to know about Google products and the opportunities they provide educators), the deluge seemed to overwhelm some.  However, I was already very familiar with the products and had used them often.  Here, it was in this realization, I found my purpose: to inspire others to know, and to equip them to use, these products as I did, to start sharing the world I knew.

I recognize that leading companies continuously reflect and evolve to make themselves better, and Google is no exception.  In just the six months since the GTA I attended, Google has introduced a new-and-improved Google Docs suite, added Moderator to YouTube, introduced new products such as Google Buzz, expanded the Google Mobile Android and Marketplace apps, and implemented Google search “left-hand nav” updates.  The casual observer may not take notice to these changes, yet ultimately and collectively they make Google better and more applicable.

To parallel, as a leader in edtech, I, too, need to reflect and evolve in order to continue to inform and inspire others on how to use technology to make their teaching and learning better.  Following the GTA, I  immediately aligned myself with a group of GCTs from the DC cohort to create a user-submitted website providing how-to-video tutorials for Google products called  Additionally, I also began conversations with my district technology leaders and teachers about “Going Google” and sharing the benefits of this arrangement for our school district.  I was happily surprised to learn from our Chief Technology Officer that our school district of roughly 2,000 employees and 16,000 students will be migrating to Google Apps for Education starting the 2010-11 school year.

Meanwhile inside my elementary schools and district, I introduced teachers and administrators to many of the Google products through a series of 1-hour after-school workshops, over a 15-week period, called “2010 Apps Odyssey.”  I also created and taught a 3-hour credit graduate course  for Coastal Carolina University about Web 2.0 and Collaboration Tools for K-12 educators with Google products being the cornerstone for many of the class sessions.

In my own reflection since the GTA, I also have found that most teachers have a difficult time identifying purposes and classroom applications for technology tools.  The “how-to-use” of the product/tool itself comes relatively easy for teachers, but the “why” and “ways to use” in the classroom is where they come up short.

To battle this, I reinvented my blog.  Previously, it served primarily as a sharing of sites, tools, or products.  I now look closely at existing things teachers are already doing in their classrooms.  I then share ideas about how technology can help teachers to achieve the outcomes they hope for from classroom teaching and learning.  Additionally, in my district, I trained my fellow integration specialists about the power of Google Apps for Education and how it can be used in the classrooms at all levels.

Therefore, I have begun to realize the purpose I assigned to myself at the GTA.  My goal for the next six-months is to help to develop a comprehensive, administrative, and professional development plan for the implementation of Google Apps in Education in our school district.  I also plan to present more at local, state, regional, and national conferences.  My final hope it to host a series of Google Workshops for Educators in the SC and NC area.
Some final thoughts…I have to admit that after the GTA, I felt at a disadvantage, as I did not have the GAE in my district.  Many of the conversations in the GTA group were about things that I could not see or have access to without having GAE.  On the other hand, the support of the Google Certified Teacher group has been overwhelmingly beneficial and very positive and receptive to my inquiries and suggestions.

Overall, I believe the experience of attending the GTA in Washington, D.C. has elevated my on-going professional learning, digital citizenship, and sense of responsibility to other educators.  I remain grateful for the experience and the richness of ideas and opportunities that belonging to such a group provides.  I truly love training other educators; I love to play a part in others beginning to feel empowered with the knowledge that they can use educational technology for good, and not just because someone expects them to do so.

I strongly believe, as Chris Lehmann says, “Technology must be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary and invisible” —- a lot like the salt in the ocean.


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