Saturday, June 23, 2007

Google Certified Teacher - The First Eight Months

What has it meant to me over the past eight months to be a Google Certified Teacher? Well... it has changed my professional life in many varied and different ways. In breaking all of the factors down, I come up with three larger themes that everything I have done in the last eight months can be connected to. These themes are tools, connections and accessibility. While these themes seem to be standard, or even mundane, they reflect the simplicity in which I have been able to do my job in new and extraordinarily powerful ways. As I said in my GTA Video; I had an 'EdTech Epiphany' in 2005, but in November 2006, I found the way to get to the place I wanted to move my professional life.

Before the Google Certified Teacher day, I was aware of many of the tools that Google had created, but had only used them in passing and independent of each other. While each tool has its own function, the strength of using the Google tools is the inter connectivity each tool has with the others. From the day following the Google Teacher's Academy, I have used Docs and Spreadsheets on a consistent basis, first as a collaborative tool to work on presentations with a group of teachers to having students create projects where we published them on the Internet for students to see each others work. I had been using Blogger, even before the GTA, but I found that I was able to integrate more tools into Blogger, which made it an even more powerful tool. The ability to embed YouTube videos and Picasa Slideshows have made Blogger a must for every teacher. I know that many of my colleagues have found Google Earth extraordinarily valuable, but I haven't had the chance to really sit down and work with it enough.

The connections I have made with the people I went through the Google Teacher Academy program with have been phenomenal! I have developed several working relationships with other educational technology professionals that they synergy has allowed me to do many things I did not think I would be able to accomplish. Personally, I have done many more teacher trainings inside and outside of my own district due to the 'Google Certified Teacher' label. Just this past week, I was part of a team with Kathleen Ferenz, Jerome Berg and Cheryl Davis that did a Google IT training for 40+ teachers in two sites. I was able to guest lecture to Mary Buckman's Graduate Level Instructional Technologies class and I have collaborated with Rushton Hurley on his non-profit venture, Next Vista for Learning. Over the past eight months, I have done over 10 professional development sessions with over 200 teachers and students in attendance. I know that none of this would have happened if I had not attended the Google Teachers Academy.

The one thing that ties all of this together is the accessibility of the tools and the people. I truly believe that for students to be contributing members of a 21st Century society, they need to have Information Literacy skills and these skills need to extend from the school and into the home. Because of this belief, I have been working on ways to get computers into the hands of students who could not afford them. This past year, with the help of others, I was able to develop a program called 'Digital Bridge.' The Digital Bridge program takes in donated computers, refurbishes them and gives them back to students who would not have the means to buy a computer on their own. I knew that this one step was important, providing Internet access was also a major hurdle for these students. Building a partnership with the City of San Bruno and Artichoke Joe's, we were able to provide Internet access for 40 - 9th grade students who were on free and reduced lunch and would be unable to obtain Internet access by other means.

Once we were able to get computers and Internet access into the hands of all students, we could then leverage the Google Tools to move their skill level forward and become 21st Century learners. To me, being a 21st Century learner is not the ability to 'possess' more information than someone else, because at the rate at which information is increasing, doubling every 48 days or so, no one could 'possess' all of the knowledge and information that is available. Therefore, what we should be teaching students are the skills that are necessary to access the information they need, when they need it and the ability to evaluate that information for bias and accuracy.

It is through this process, that I have found my new calling within the educational community. As we look at education over the next few years, the definition of what it means to be literate is changing. The definition of literacy will begin to encompass 'information literacy' skills as well as the ability to contribute 'meaningful dialogue' (Text, Audio and Video) to the society. )

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