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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My day at Google Teacher Academy



Tomorrow on this blog, you'll get a lot of links. Also, I have a post coming from Google docs with my notes.

Although it is 12:10 on the east coast and I'm dead tired, I just have to reflect on my thoughts about Google Teacher Academy today.

It was a wonderful experience. To be here at such an icon of our time... the company who showed what it was like to become so wildly popular as to literally become a verb, I felt like a part of history.

I am proof that a teacher who was formerly behind and didn't know a thing about anything Web 2.0 can jump into these tools and combine a commitment to excellence with a desire to learn more and share the process of learning -- can make a difference.

And I'm not the only one. There are many of us teachers who are reaching and connecting like never before.

I dream of a day when many teachers present at 5-6 conferences a year about best practices in the classroom. I dream of a day when pd is embedded as part of our day and that reading our rss reader will be considered important PD rather than "goofing off."

I dream of a day when it isn't about edtech bloggers but we have an lit-edublogosphere sci-edublogosphere hist-edublogosphere lang-edublogosphere -- even more than we have today. Where blogging is more mainstream and each discipline has its own "coolcatteacher" -- a practicing teacher who discusses ALL the tools of teaching that discipline.

We've got to do a better job of connecting teachers in their own discipline. Should we make a list of bloggers by discipline? What should we do? It is time to move it past edtech because these tools are so important in every class.

But it is not just about the technology - it is about great teaching.

Today, I shared this video from the miracle worker -- it is who I am. It was very personal to share and I always tear up when I see it. Every teacher, every professional developer (you're a teacher too) -- this is our holy grail of teaching.

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, is my epitome of the greatest teacherpreneur. This is who I want to be.



I hope you listened to the end. Teacher.... Teacher.... Teacher....

That is me.

And we are in an era where progressive companies who understand education (by listening to educators) want to include rank and file teachers in their equation.

Cristin Frodella, the manager of the Google Teacher program, Mark Wagner, from CUE, and Mike Lawrence, Executive Director of CUE, did a phenomenal job of organizing. And the google technology crew, filmmakers, av team... they were "tack sharp." Wow! Absolutely amazing.

But perhaps the thing that impressed me the most was Cristin's willingness to encourage all innovation of all kinds. It was not the kind of conference where we only talked about Google tools, although those were definitely the focus. Insight into the innovative mindset of the company taught me a lot.

The Google Culture
Google sees the big picture of innovation and culture... having good food to eat, large large green areas (but small elbow to elbow work spaces), and a strong knowledge of who their company is. I see why Google is successful.

This place oozes creativity. Tons of bicycles, a casual dress, and unique, beautiful natural areas. Interesting decor from a sea kayak to large balancing balls that one can grab to sit on.

I learned a lot. Not just about technology but about a culture of excellence that doesn't have to be restrictive and tight.

No Wool Suits 4 U


I recall my early days at GTE -- it was a wool suit EVERY day -- in 105 degrees, there I was in my heels and wool suit, traipsing to work.

The Day I let my hair down to present
And today I took a chance and did something I've literally NEVER done before. I'm shocked at myself. I let my hair down, literally -- I've always put my hair up either in a barrette or (ugh) a bun or french twist.

Now, you men may not understand this, but I have been so brainwashed to the point that I had to "look the part" and I still know there is something to it. However, for some reason, I felt OK just being ME. The atmosphere of "be yourself but be incredibly good at what you do" is contagious and you know what, I wasn't distracted. It was nice.

I'm a teacher. At 39 years old, and OK with who I am. I love my husband, my three children, and my students. I love my school and my job and it is really cool that a few times a year I get to go to some amazing places like Google Teacher academy and become a better teacher.

I want this for more of you, my friends, the teachers because it is about time that we connect. It is time that we all let our hair down and be who we are and be OK with it. It is time to realize that we have a job to do and that many things are just a distraction.

We want kids to come to school and want to improve the dropout rate -- and yet, what do we do? We tighten the dress code, we serve food that is worse than most prison food, and we test students like crazy. WE put them in class sizes so large that their teachers don't know all of their names and put them in uncomfortable seats. Now, work is always going to be a little bit unpleasant for most of us at least at some times, but how about making the MAIN THING the MAIN THING.

It is about learning. It is about educating. Teaching students to think, create, problem solve, and be successful in life. To help them see the larger world and have a purpose.

Today, I used my example about a cupcake and ask if cupcakes are good or bad and then I show a cupcake that says "I hate you" and ask if it is good. (The point is that any tool can be good or bad, it is the use.) At least 10 educators responded that they ban cupcakes at their school. "We only allow healthy non-sugar choices," said one. Another said, "we only allow presealed treats, cupcakes might be poisoned."

What?

So, instead of teaching proper behavior, it has come to the fact that we no longer allow kids to eat cupcakes in school.

Many people blame blame blame today's kids. I was always taught by my Mom that if I pointed at someone that four fingers were pointing back at me. These kids are not only a product of our society but they are a product of our education system. If we're not happy with today's kids, then we should also not be happy with ourselves.

We don't let them eat cupcakes. They can't play outside. They are bad if they play video games all day. They are bad if they hang out at the mall and spend money. They are bad if they veg in front of the tv. Don't go building a fort in your front yard, the neighbors won't like it.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the kids of today. We've taken away a lot of the great things I remember about being a kid. And we wonder why they turn to technology? What else can they do?

I'll tell you that the students I've worked with give me amazing hope and excitement about the future. (But then again, we eat cupcakes. ;-) When I get discouraged is when other teachers tell me how many things they CAN'T do.

Life is messy and not perfect. Kids make mistakes. A zero discipline problem, no controversy school is not possible.

I just know that if I'm going to have issues w/ parents, I want it to be because I do the right thing not because I'm being slack. I want these kids to thank me, today and in the future. And I want what I have in my classroom for more teachers.

I think that is why I travel sometimes. I want others to know that there is a better way and it doesn't come from being a Mini Cool Cat Teacher -- it comes from educating oneself as a teacher and having the empowerment to customize your classroom to the students and objective.

In a world that doesn' t need cookie cutter students, we no longer have room for cookie cutter teachers and cookie cutter curricula, and the training experiences like I saw today help make teachers and professional developers qualified to customize their classrooms.

OK, it is very late now and this has rambled quite a bit.

If you ever get the chance to apply for Google Teacher academy or you were one of the 200+ people who didn't make this class, PLEASE PLEASE apply again -- take a look at some of the videos that people submitted and go ahead and film and make your case so that when some more classes are announced, you'll be ready.

Such a time in history when classroom teachers, technology integrators, principals, curriculum directors at the local level count enough to be involved in an icon of our time. Be a part of history (and improve yourself in the progress.)

I'm proud to be a Google Certified Teacher. Does it mean I'll use Google exclusively, no? Does it mean I'm connected with amazing educators who know a lot about getting the most out of Google... oh yeah, and that is the best thing... the connections.

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