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.
“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.