Thank You Google

The emails went out today for Google Teacher Academy and I AM IN!!!! Thank you to everyone who kept their fingers crossed for me. I can't wait to learn, learn, learn and share, share, share. Watch for more info to come after the GTA on November 18th in New York City.


Google Teacher Academy - Please Pick Me!

Several months ago, I noticed that a few of the people I follow and learn from online were Google Certified Teachers. I searched Google, and found out that they had attended Google Teacher Academy which is a one day intensive training offered only a few times each year. I registered to receive emails on future academies and found out that Google would be offering their next academy on November 18th, in New York City.

Google Teacher Academy is an opportunity to get hands-on practice with Google tools and other technologies, learn new and innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues and the amazing chance to absorb the creative corporate environment that is Google. The only thing they ask in return is that you share what you learn with other educators.

Only 50 people are chosen for the academy and I can only imagine how many apply. Everyone in the world is invited, but preference is given to those located in the region nearest the academy. It may be a long shot, but I think, well worth a try.

Here is how the website defines a Google Certified Teacher:

Educators who attend a Google Teacher Academy become Google Certified Teachers.

Google Certified Teachers are:
*Exceptional K-12 educators with a passion for using innovative tools to improve teaching and learning.
*Creative leaders who understand their local needs and can spread innovation as a recognized expert.
*Ambassadors for change who model high expectations, life-long learning, collaboration, equity &
inclusion and innovation.

Google Certified Teachers are expected to:
*Develop a "Personal Action Plan"
*Lead at least three local professional development activites over the course of 12 months.

*Actively participate in the Google Certified Teacher Online Community.
*Share the impact of their work with other Google Certified Teachers through an end-of-year reflection.

In additon to a free day of training, Google Certified Teachers get:
*Access to the GCT Online Community
*Access to additonal free ed tech resources
*Opportunities to give Google feedback on educational uses of tools
*Invitations to join Google at special events
*The right to post the GCT web badge on their website or blog

The application process is a few essay questions and a one minute video that demonstrates "Motivation and Learning" or "Classroom Innovation". ONE MINUTE! Can I just tell you that a one minute video takes a whole lot longer than a minute to plan, prepare and create....? I probably spent at least a week stressing over what show in a minute. It finally came down to the basics for me. GTA is about learning and sharing. The way I got the position I am in now is by learning and I told my story. And, hopefully inspired Google to see that I'm capable of spreading what I learn from them to many others... here's the video submission to my application. I'd love to hear what you think...and I'll let you know what Google says in the next few weeks when they announce the academy members.


After I'm Gone

As my eighteen year old daughter and I got ready to head out the door today, I stopped to spritz my hair with hairspray. For some reason, the smell transported me back to the years where I was a little girl sitting on my grandmother's bed watching her tease, hairspray and put her hair up in bobbypin curls. I told my daughter the story and we had a long conversation about old hairstyles and what "teasing hair" means.

Then I thought, I wonder what sights, smells or sounds will be imprinted the strongest in the memories of my offspring. So I asked my daughter, "What kind of thing do you think will make you start thinking of me?" My daughter thought for a minute and then said, "You know the sound the computer makes when you start it up?" Oh well, I guess there are worse things she could remember about me!

*Photo taken in 1990, from left to right: my daughter, me, my mom, my grandmother and my great grandmother


A Helping Hand

I think all classroom teachers need a person on staff they can go to for troubleshooting issues whenever they need it. Technology is a beautiful thing....when it works.

Perfect example: A fourth grade teacher at my school wants to do a voicethread project with her large class but there are only two desktop computers to use. So I say, "No problem, we can use our cart of Mac laptops and get your whole class to record their thread at the same time. It will only take 20 or 30 minutes."

So, Day One, I go to the class and set up the wireless routers and show the class how to record their voice with their image in voicethread. As I begin to set up the laptops and have kids log on I realise the signal is weak. It takes at least five minutes to load a site. I try to attach two to land lines eventually and they are doing the same thing. By this time, it has been over thirty minutes and the teacher needs to move on to preparing the kids to dismissal. So I pack it all up and set up a time to return the following day with a plan.

Day Two, I head back to the class with a much less ambitious plan. Main goal is to help this teacher get the project done, so I hook two macbooks to the land lines and try to set up voicethread. Once again, the loading of website is taking forever and failing. After ten minutes, I scrap the idea of using the macs and run back to my office to get external mics to use the desktop IBMs. I'm sure that will work. Log in, go to site....and the SAME PROBLEM.
I finally realize that all student ports are not allowing the use of voicethread. What?!? I call the Technology Help Desk in our county and they tell me that student computers will not allow you to upload any content on the web. Ugh! In the meantime, everytime this class sees me show up they look at me with expressions like, "Maybe today, she'll let us do it." Sigh.
Day Three, I show up before school with the intent to not leave this classroom until they have completed their voicethread. I bring my own laptop this time because I know it is A) a teacher computer B) I can log in to a teacher port and C) I have recorded on voicethread with my computer in the past, so I KNOW it works. I log in easily and call over the first student to get started. She reads what she wants to add to her image and when we replay it... no sound. Really! I have to then send her back to her seat while I proceed to troubleshoot sound settings and then sit on the phone with Technology Help Desk for 40 minutes while they screen share my computer and try to diagnose the problem. I end up with a "ticket" for someone to come out and look in person. (I'm sure at this point the teachers in the classroom are wondering why I have this job!) I borrow the laptop of the teacher in this classroom and log in there and WA LA - it works! No problem, easy peezy. I have the whole class done in under 20 minutes. If you want to peek at their thread you can do that here.
My point to this post is that if I were the classroom teacher in this case, what are the chances that I would have given up and not finished the project? Would I want to do this project again? Who would I call for help if there wasn't a technology person on staff? These are the reasons that I begged to take on this job. I hope I can make a difference.


And the World Gets a Little Smaller...

This may only be our first full year as a faculty connecting ourselves to the world online through blogs and social networking, but we have some exciting projects brewing.

Students Teaching Students is a project that is the brainchild of Kim Cofino, from the International School Bangkok, Thailand. It will focus on sharing teacher and student reflection and work in the Lucy Calkins model of Readers' and Writers' Workshop. At the beginning of the summer, I saw a blog post Kim did about how her school was learning to teach in workshop model and I immediately contacted her to share that our school had been in that model for ten years. We are actually a National Model School for America's Choice which is a reform movement that includes workshop model teaching in literacy, math and science. Kim graciously agreed to connect us with two of her fifth grade teachers, Chrissy Hellyer and Aly McAloon, as well as a few other teacher from around the globe. A fifth grade teacher at my school, Jessica Lipsky, has already begun to share her student work and class lessons on her blog. She says the kids in her class feel their work is so much more important because it is being shared with a global audience. Look for more to come on this empowering project - I know these kids will exceed our expectations.

Dean Shareski's Blogging Mentor Project is a project where he requires his pre-service teachers in Saskatchewan, Canada to follow classroom blogs and comment regularly thereby making themselves a presence in that classroom. We were honored to be included in this project. Developing relationships with these future teachers will be a win-win situation for first grade teachers, Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard, second grade teachers Melissa Ross and Carrie McLeod and fourth grade teachers Meli Launey, Dorry Lopez, Rick Pinchot and Angela Phillips.

We had the pleasure of virtually meeting these students last week through Elluminate, which is a virtual classroom environment. Due to the time difference, we huddled around my coffee table at 10 pm (with snacks and socializing while we waited) as we introduced our class blogs and teachers and listened to others do the same. It was interesting to follow the students' back channel chat during the meeting. They seem really excited about the project and we're looking forward to getting to know them better. I wish someone had done something like this with me when I was in college!

The year is off to a great start, and especially since we're on a Virtual Learning Adventure, Around the World in 180 days, this year.... we'll be looking for more friends to connect with around the globe. If you have an interesting project you think we might collaborate with you on - let us know!


My Donors Choose Project

After being inspired by a colleague of mine, I wrote my first Donors Choose grant. Donors Choose is an awesome website where teachers can create an account, submit a request for materials and donors can log in and choose what programs they want to donate to. After Melissa recommended the site to my faculty, many others have applied and received book sets, microscopes, radios and variety of other classroom tools.

What I really wanted to acquire is some Flip cameras for teacher checkout, so I took about 25 minutes and wrote up my proposal. I'm excited to see if it will get funded. I know that if I can get those cameras available for the teachers to use they will stay checked out. Try Donors Choose and see how easy it is to get some cool tools for YOUR classroom!