Monday, July 7, 2008

Google Teacher's Academy: The Beginning

The Application

I always try to stay connected by signing up for Tech-Ed list serves and I try to keep up with reading all the amazing Technology Education Blogs, but most of the time the day to day “to do list” takes priority and I end up deleting the list serve e-mails and saving the Blogs for another day. One day in the middle of May, I ended up reading one of my Google for Educators list serve e-mails and noticed an invitation to apply to the Google Teacher’s Academy at the Google-plex in Mountain View, CA. For the first time ever Google was opening up this academy to teachers outside of the San Francisco area and people from all over the world were encouraged to apply. I had to fill out a lengthy application and create a one minute video on classroom innovation. I thought I’d throw my name into the hat and see if I could earn a spot in the Google Teacher’s Academy.

Using one of Edina’s strategic directions I made my video on Classroom Innovation. My tag line…”Because building the perfect school isn’t about the walls…but rather everything beyond them.” In Edina we have a vision that we need to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. I used Adobe Elements Premiere to edit my video and found some music at jamendo. I submitted my video and application and had two weeks to wait to see if I would get an invitation.

June 5, 2008

I tried to act pretty casual on the morning of June 5th. This was the day Google was going to let 50 teachers know they had been accepted to the Google Teacher’s Academy. What if I didn’t get in? I didn’t want to act too disappointed, but knew I was watching for the little envelope in the bottom right hand corner of my computer constantly!!! The little envelope caught my eye about 8:07am and I checked my e-mail immediately…it was from Google. Before I could think too much about it, I opened the e-mail and at first glance saw the word, Congratulations! I was ecstatic! “Congratulations Molly! You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy at the Googleplex. We are excited to have you on June 25th out in Mountain View, CA.” I quickly filled out my acceptance survey and began my Google Adventure. I had to quickly check on flights, call some friends in Palo Alto to see if I could stay with them…and then I got to tell some fellow colleagues, friends and families! As my excitement grew, my boss jokingly said, “You’ll probably come back with a Google tattoo.”

The Social Network of the Web

Only days after I received my invitation to the Google Teacher’s Academy, Mike Walker saw a tweet from a social network twitter that there was a wiki started for teachers who had been accepted to the Google Teacher’s Academy. Sallie, a teacher from rural Virginia wanted to see if she could connect some other teachers attending the GTA on June 5th. Mike sent me the wiki and I logged on. I was the 12th teacher to find the wiki. We added our name, a short bio, a bit about our job and our life. We uploaded a picture and our video we made for the application. The wiki kept on growing and I was getting a chance to virtually meet a lot of the other teachers I would spend the day at Google with. A few days later the discussions started on the wiki. Where were people staying? Did anyone want to meet up for dinner the night before? Did anyone need a ride from the airport? Did anyone want to join the PodPirate at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium the day after the academy?

Teacher's Going to Google :)
Check out the wiki to learn more about other Google Certified Teachers

Out to the San Francisco Bay Area

I arrived in CA on the Monday before the GTA. I was staying with some great friends in Palo Alto. Jenny and Dave had lived in MN for three years before moving out the Bay area for Dave to attend Stanford Business School. Jenny works for Google in the Advertising and Marking department (how perfect!) I had a great dinner with them in Palo Alto and was so thankful for their hospitality.


I headed up to San Francisco on Tuesday for a day of exploring and shopping. I’ve been out to the city every summer for the last three years so I know a few hot spots that I like to visit. It was a beautiful day in the city and I got to do some sightseeing and shopping while enjoying the sunny 60 degree weather.

Because of the wiki connecting the “Teacher’s Going to Google” we had decided to meet the night before the training for drinks and dinner in Sunnydale. We had never met in person but the moment I saw the PodPirate in his Hawaiian shirt, I knew I had found the group. Fourteen of us sat around at dinner introducing ourselves, telling a bit about our lives, our jobs and sharing our excitement for tomorrow’s day at Google! It was a cool reality that the social network online is real and can truly connect people from around the world. One of the guys at dinner came all the way from New Zealand!

Google Teacher’s Academy, June 25th 2008
My day at Google

Because Jenny works at Google, I jumped in the car with her and we headed into Google for the day. We arrived a bit early so I had the chance to sneak a peak at her office, micro-kitchen (more later) and meet some of her co-workers. I was so impressed with how excited these people were that I was accepted to the Google Teacher’s Academy! They were really excited that Google was providing this kind of opportunity for educators.

The actual day was a whirlwind. There is no other way to describe it. The agenda was chalk full of tech tools, networking, listening to phenomenal speakers, learning from other Google Certified Teachers, exploring ideas for each of the Google tools and just trying to soak it all in! Our keynote speaker made a great analogy that being at Google was like winning the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The feeling of being at Google was truly like this, I felt I had won the Golden Ticket! I was so impressed with the company as a whole. Each and every person there was happy to work there, eager to do great things for the company and respected for the unique qualities they bring to the company. Google has a philosophy of 80-20. You are required to spend 80% of your time at work for the job you were hired for but, you are also allowed to spend 20% of your time working for the good of Google in your personal interest area! The Google Teacher’s Academy is a result of Christin’s 20% at Google…how cool! Thanks Christin!

Now that I am a Google Certified Teacher I have a few responsibilities to fulfill. My job is to try to spread the word like wildfire as to how Google can be integrated into education. I am required to have a three part action plan so that I can share all the amazing ideas that I learned with as many people as I can. I will try to bring as much “Googleness” back to Edina as I can. I want to see our students and teachers learn how to use Google as an amazing tool that will connect them to the world outside their classroom walls. I want our teachers and students to feel just like I did at Google, passionate, excited, motivated, creative and most importantly successful in learning.

What now?

The first part of my action plan is to start introducing Edina teachers to Google tools and applications in our August 11-14th Tech Camp. One of the classes I am teaching is Google for Educators. I’m hoping to introduce the teachers to many of the tools and hold follow up sessions with each teacher to figure out how they can use one or more of the tools in the upcoming school year.

The second part of my action plan is to blog about different Google Tools on As a part of this Blog I will send out a Google Tip of the month to all of the teachers encouraging them to have me into their classroom to help launch one of the Google tools. I also plan on visiting staff meetings throughout the year to demo some of these great Google Tools.

A third part of my action plan is to try and present at some local and or national technology conferences to spread the word about Google for Educators.

A Network of Google Certified Teachers

I’m honored and excited that I am part of a group of educators that are passionate about teaching teachers and students how to use Google tools to help student learning. The energy that each of these teachers have towards technology and education is contagious and I plan on using each and every one of the 400 Google Certified Teachers as an amazing resource.

Stay tuned for the first Google Tools post in September!

1 comment:

Manaiakalani said...

Hi there Molly

I saw the link to this post on the GCT list today and it was great reading your story about that special day - brought back some warm memories. I didn't know that the GTA was a result of Christin's 20% work. Good on her.
I hope your projects are working out as you planned. If they are anything like mine they will have taken on a life of their own!
All the best
Auckland, NZ