Saturday, December 22, 2012

Google Teacher Academy take-aways

So I've had some time to collect my thoughts since getting home from the Google Teacher Academy. I could go on for pages about the Google campus, the amazing conversations and rapid-fire information I tried to absorb during my two days in Mountain View, California. But I'll try to boil it down to the key take-aways.

1. Google is an amazing company.
I'm sure that there is a great deal of internal and external pressure to succeed on the employees, but the freedom to be your creative best is clearly fostered by a workplace environment where everything you could possibly want is provided to you at work.  From on-site haircuts, laundry services, bowling, dance, yoga, world-class cuisine and transportation, all of the little errands and annoyances that can distract you during your workday are made worry-free and convenient leaving the employees time to nurture themselves and the company they work for.

2. You don't know what you don't know.
Like I've said before, I consider myself a better-than-average searcher. I have often overlooked tools because I thought that they weren't of any particular use to me, when really, I just didn't know enough about them to take full advantage of what they had to offer. Maps are for more than just getting from point A to point B. Search is capable of more than just finding the answer to a concrete question. Scripts and customized searching isn't just for experts. There are many ways to use these tools and it may not be possible to know them all, but what you can know is who to ask for help and where to go to find the answers you need.

3. Youtube is for much more than goofy memes.
I guess that I knew this. I knew that it could be used for students to gain an authentic audience for their work. I knew that video was a powerful tool for sharing information and that some people learn better with audiovisual cues. What I didn't really grasp was the way that Youtube has changed our lives. Not just mine, but collectively. In just 7 years Youtube has created a language of cultural references that crosses national borders and connects people together by sharing moments of brilliance and banality without discrimination.

4. I need to think bigger.
This is going to be a challenge. I began thinking that my action plan would involve the creation of a few videos to explain how search works in a way that my students could not only understand the tool they were using, but in a way that would ignite their curiosity to learn more. That seemed worthwhile, but in the few short weeks since the Google Teacher Academy I have begun to participate in several G+ Communities and have discovered that there are so many people looking for similar resources. Maybe what I create will be able to help them, maybe some of them with partner with me on this project. If I'm thinking bigger than my school and community, what changes would I need to make in my process? What additional information or materials would be helpful to include with these videos? Are we reinventing the wheel? Does it matter?  Patrick Pichette, Google's CFO told our GTA group that when looking into new projects, Google plans to scale of reaching a minimum of a billion people. I may not be thinking quite that big yet, but maybe bigger and better is possible.

5. Process matters.
One think that I love about Dan Russell's search challenges he poses on his blog and that he asks you to explain HOW you found the solution or answer. This is the piece of the research puzzle we often ignore in education. When students turn in a research paper, it should include a reflection on their research process the same way they are asked to show their work for math problems. Do teachers learn more by reading ten reports on "current events" or would having students demonstrate the steps they took to find that information, tell teachers more about that student's preparedness for more challenging work than reading the results alone?

Other members of my Google Teacher Academy Mountain View group have done an excellent job of sharing out resources, tips and tricks from those two days. I wanted to share my personal impressions with the hopes that as I move forward in this process of spreading what I've learned, it will be shared here.


  1. Totally agree. I keep putting off my blog post about #gtmtv, but I think you touched on a handful of things that were at the heart of the Google Teacher Academy.

    Next quarter, I'm going to add a "how did do get to this solution" questions to the google form that they submit work on.

  2. It's the very good idea: not just give the answer, but explain how did you found it. Thank you for the line to think.