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Google Teacher Academy Reflections

gBike

I spent two days last week at the Google Teacher Academy at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Even though friends who have attended previous academies assured us it would be “life changing,” I had serious reservations about even applying.

First, I’ve been in edtech long enough to know how much money is at stake in this industry and how hard companies work to win us over. I wondered, what business does a multi-national, multi-billion dollar tech company have “certifying” teachers? Aren’t we certified and licensed enough? Aren’t huge corporations exactly who we want to keep out of education? Is this program a type of edtech elitism? Those are valid questions, but I decided to put them aside for now and trust those who went before me.

I’m glad I did. The experience was great and I met many great people.

Of course, the two-day event was packed with learning. We delved into Google Apps and learned a lot of new tips and strategies from CUE’s lead learners. A special thanks goes out to Jim Sill who led our team. Presentations from an impressive lineup of Googlers, including CFO Patrick Pichette and “Education Evangelist” Jaime Casap were also really great. We were also treated to video chats with developers and Googlers sharing some new features.

I could go on forever with tips and tricks we learned. But for me, the real value of the Academy was seeing first hand how Google operates. Google’s focus isn’t education, it’s innovation. As Pichette told us, they have a mandate to innovate. They know that giving employees space and autonomy is the perfect recipe for doing great things. That’s why employees are given 20% time to work on their own projects, and the results are sometimes amazing.

Photo Dec 05, 12 43 09 PM

“Everyone deserves to whistle to work.” – Patrick Pichette, CFO, Google

I think that schools could learn a lot from Google. Instead of over-scheduling, over-testing, and over-teaching, how about a little autonomy, or maybe some 20% time? I think we’d be surprised at what students would learn and create on their own. I applaud the teachers who have already started this with their classes.

Listening to Google employees speak, you can hear that they love their jobs and believe in their work, which is pretty amazing. We should be aiming for the same thing. Our students should be excited about their work and their projects. We just need to get out of the way.

 
 

Do you EdCamp?

So there’s a quiet revolution happening in professional development. Teachers across the country (and around the world) are turning professional development on its head and making it what they want. It’s a resistance. A resistance to the top-down, high stakes culture that reduces students to numbers. And if that weren’t bad enough, this culture attempts to essentially do the same thing to teachers by way of mandated, and often meaningless, professional development.*

I’ve said this before, but teaching is a creative endeavor. Not because our students are blank canvases or pieces of unshaped clay, but because we create experiences for our kids. The thing is, creative types like to hang out and learn from other creatives. But when does this happen? When do teachers get an opportunity to learn from other professionals outside their own school or district WITHOUT someone else dictating the topic and schedule?

That’s what EdCamps are all about. I’m not going to go into the history of EdCamps. You can get that from the EdCamp Foundation site. But take this example from EdCampOCLA last year:

An attendee, we’ll call her Em, wanted to learn about Edmodo. She had heard about it before and heard that teachers were using it in their classrooms to provide students with a private online space to interact, submit assignments, and collaborate. So Em took a notecard, wrote “I want to learn more about Edmodo” on it and put it on the session board.  Later at the session, Em got a demonstration and a rich and relaxed discussion from fellow teachers who were using Edmodo. Em left with something she could use in her class the next week.

Now multiply that by the thousands of passionate educators attending EdCamps around the world. Awesome, no?

And don’t think that EdCamps are only about technology. I’ve spoken to some friends who are really excited about sharing what they are doing in their classrooms, would like some guidance on lesson planning, or are just looking forward to meeting other educators.

So if you’re anywhere near Los Angeles, or feel like taking a trip, we’d love to have you at EdCampLA on January 12th. It’s free and I guarantee you’ll have a rich experience. Register at www.edcampla.org. If not, find an EdCamp in your area or start one yourself!

 

*Of course there are exceptions. Many schools are actively resisting sucking the creativity out of teaching and reducing students to test scores.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in EdCamp, Professional Development

 

Google Teacher Academy, Here I Come

I’m pleased to share that, about a month ago, I was accepted into the Google Teacher Academy to be held in Mountain View, CA at the Googleplex. After submitting applications that included a video component, about 60 of us were chosen from a applicant pool of about 300.

GTA is a two-day intensive workshop during which educators from around the world learn about the latest and greatest from Google and how to use it in education. It’s led by a group of Google Certified Teachers who will guide us through a process that previous attendees describe as terrific experience. I’m really looking forward to learning from the #GTAMTV crew. I’ll report back in December.

If you’re interested in applying, keep an eye on this page, Twitter, and Google+. Announcements of the next GTA seem to come out of the blue, with only a little time before applications are due. And they’re not always at the Googleplex. Others have been held recently in NYC, Seattle, and the London.

Here’s my application video. Make sure to check out the videos from the other applicants. Good stuff.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Google, Professional Development

 

Here we go again…

I’d really like to get blogging again. I think it’s a useful tool for reflecting on your practice and sharing with others. Here’s to trying again.

By the way, what was that last post about? It reads like a stream of consciousness on digital spaces. I’ll try to be a little more coherent next time.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Rambling

 

Conceptualizing Digital Spaces

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about space. Not outer space, but physical and digital space. The concept of physical space is endlessly fascinating. How we interact with our surroundings as individuals, groups, and societies has profound, and mundane, implications for our daily lives. So much attention is being paid to how good design can foster creativity, make us more at ease, and promote social interaction.

But I wonder what attention is being paid to digital spaces? Of course, graphic designers spend time with visual layouts. I’m thinking about how digital spaces that are not primarily visual are conceptualized and created. How will visitors interact, and through what medium? How will presence be represented, if at all?

This is getting complicated. Still thinking…

As always, I would love to know your thoughts.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Thinking Out Loud

 

Hiatus

Hi folks,
It’s been way too long since I have last updated. I’m hoping to pick things back up again soon. Until then, find me on Twitter (@matt_arguello).

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

I’m not convinced about 1:1…

Those abreast of trends in education know the fervor with which traditional teaching is criticized. We should throw out our old models of desks in rows, sages on stages, empty vessel filling, and preoccupation with standards and test. I agree. Period. Let’s stop teaching like it’s 1955.

I shouldn’t have to mention it, but criticizing the current paradigm of education is not an attack on teachers or administrators. There are larger forces at play that make it near impossible for well-meaning educators to change things.

(c) Matt Arguello

I’m going to add another idea to the mix. I’m hesitant about the rush to adopt 1-to-1 programs. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Why is 1-to-1 better? Why not 1-to-2, or 1-to-3?
  2. Wouldn’t one device for two or three students improve information literacy and access WHILE fostering real life collaboration?
  3. Are devices becoming the new desks? With desks, students are isolated despite being in the same room.
  4. Adults don’t share devices (generally, with good reason). Do we really need to give kids a head start? I don’t believe sharing devices will hamper students’ learning to use them. On the contrary, collaborative learning is often more efficient.
  5. Many students have plenty of time to work alone at home. Must we really use precious school time for independent screen time?
Of course there are situations in which each student needs a device, typing essays comes to mind or other individual projects. I’m just not convinced we should be rushing into 1-to-1 use in all contexts.
As will all posts and opinions, I’m willing to be shown the error of my thinking. What good is a blog if one cannot think out loud and get feedback from others. What are your thoughts?
 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Insights, Thinking Out Loud

 
 
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