Thursday, July 24, 2014

Google Teacher Academy ATL 2014 Reflection

Google Teacher Academy - Atlanta 2014
It’s now almost a month since I attended Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Atlanta. I began using GAFE in my classroom in 2007, and it was a long term dream for me to attend the GTA, but personal and professional circumstances made it difficult for me to apply before last year (I applied to the GTA in Chicago last year, but wasn’t selected). This year, there are 11 GTAs around the world, so it definitely provide more opportunities to be selected.

Google Teacher Academy was a chance to meet some amazing educators from across North America and around the world. It was less about the Google tools that we use (although we did get an early introduction to Google Classroom) and more about making connections and problem solving. Through the idea of “Moonshot Thinking”, we were pushed to consider problems that we experience in education and envision ways that we might work together to solve them. Andy Plemmons (@plemmonsa) has posted a very detailed reflection on the Atlanta GTA that includes thorough descriptions of the kinds of activities that we participated in, and I’d recommend reading it if you are interested.

New Canadian GCTs
at ATL2014
One of the things I was thrilled with, was to see how many Canadians were selected for the two GTAs happening this summer in the US. The GAFE community is growing rapidly in Canada, particularly in Ontario and Alberta, and it’s great to see Google recognizing this and supporting Canadian educators.

The GTA reflected what I believe is the strength of Google in Education. The agenda and resources are publicly accessible, so while only a relatively small number of teachers are able to attend the GTA, anyone can use the ideas that were shared in their own classroom. The GTA also helped develop my confidence in pushing harder to see the changes that I think are necessary in education. My own passion, is to re-imagine the way that professional development is delivered to teachers and, if they aren’t getting the PD they need, to help them learn strategies to connect with communities of educators and get it for themselves. Along with Jim Jamieson, I will continue to organize our YRDSB EdTech Camps, but we are also developing opportunities for administrators to develop their own digital leadership skills. I want to try and make sure that I don’t give as many “one and done” professional development sessions by making more screencasts and offering PD opportunities via Google Hangout.

Another takeaway from GTA was how fortunate we are to work as educators in Ontario as opposed to many jurisdictions in the US. Many teachers I spoke with at the GTA and ISTE talked of needing second jobs to support their families over the summer and stringent standardized testing for all students that impacted both their compensation and their tenure.  While I think that we are generally respected as professionals, I developed a new appreciation for the role of our teacher federations who work to ensure that the gains teachers have made over the years for both themselves and their students are not eroded for short term economic reasons.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Google Teacher Academy and become a Google Certified Teacher.  I look forward to collaborating with my cohort of GTA ATL 2014 on projects and helping connect the teachers I work with on a regular basis to the network of passionate GCTs. Thanks to all the folks at Google and CUE for organizing these opportunities, our lead learners and the amazing educators who shared their experiences and expertise.

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