Saturday, October 4, 2014

Google Mission Control [#GTASYD14] / Destination Moonshot!

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney with 50 other amazing educators from across NZ and Australia.  This academy, the first to be rolled out under the facilitation of +NoTosh Captain's Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry (along with our GTA mentors) was an exciting opportunity into a new style of academy for Google that put the focus on pedagogy.  Don't get me wrong, there was Googly-goodness in our two days on site however we took a different trajectory to past academies.  Just like in our education settings, the use of integrating technology in learning is driven by our curriculum and learning needs, so too was the underlying theme towards our journey in this academy.
photo: +Suan Yeo
The academy was centred around the concept of creating and planning for Moonshots using a design thinking process that NoTosh have used extensively in educational settings. A moonshot is a project or proposal that: 1) addresses a huge problem; 2) proposes a radical solution; 3) uses break through technology.  I first hear of Moonshots and saw the video at our own Festival of Education so knew the two days would be full of challenge, questioning and pathways.  The framework that NoTosh use of immersion, synthesis, ideation and prototyping/feedback was carefully scaffolded with useful mini activities to support our thinking in small groups.  Useful take-outs that I know I'll use again are: Hexagon thinking strategy, Critique Protocols "be hard on content, soft on people" using HAKRS, HMW framing template for our Moonshots (pictured) and the 3-step drawing for prototyping our ideas (& thinking).
The 50 participants were divided into 8 groups.  I was in Team Black Sheep, which aptly embraced the Moonshot definition. I'd like to thank our Team Black Sheep members: +Chris Woldhouis, +Michael Ha, +Alfina Jackson, +Angela Lee, +Nick Wilson and guided by our mentor +Rich Lambert for the collaboration, connection, challenge and conversation that started prior to our arrival and will continue over the next 6 months as we report our progress towards achieving our Moonshots.

Whereas in past academies participants may have sat in mini workshops related to learning about different Google tools/products, this year the mentors flipped this idea and led sessions that fitted into the pedagogy first theme.  Sessions were facilitated around the themes of community, curiosity and creativity to work our what Google tools we could then use to support these components of future focused pedagogy.  

The immersion in Google-life was a big feature of the academy.  We had the opportunity of visiting 3 of the Google buildings in Sydney's Pyrmont area of Darling Harbour.  The work spaces are unique as are the modes of transport that can be used between buildings (if walking is not enough for you why not try a scooter, skateboard or a unicycle).  The album below features some of the common spaces that we were allowed to view.  We were treated to meals at three different staff canteen's that had a huge array of healthy options for us to dine on and some stunning scenery!

A highlight for me was listening to invited guest speaker Annie Parker of Muru-D who embraced the idea of thinking big and promoting entrepreneurship spirit in our kids.  The process she discuss was a practical life example of the design thinking process we were working through in our Moonshot using the NoTosh framework.  She ignited a personal project that I've been sitting on quietly for the last 10 years that I am keen to bring to fruition in the next 12 months [so watch this space!]. I loved this quote that she shared that really hit home that each one of us can make a difference by Margaret Mead.  Having participated in this Google Teacher Academy I can officially say that I'm a Google Certified Teacher - I love how a fellow GTASYD participant Rob McTaggart describes a GCT from his reflective blog post... "A Google Certified Teacher is someone who sees a problem with no easy solution but will go about finding a way to do it anyway.  These educators believe they can make a big difference to education.  And many of us will." 

While I'll be keeping in touch with many of the #GTASYD14 via online networks and through continued hangouts (particularly with Team Black Sheep).  The other special group that I'll have a lot of face to face opportunities will be the kiwi contingent of the #GTASYD cohort (and in particular the Auckland based GCTs).  Here we all are:



The tweets that were #GTASYD:


The Album that is #GTASYD:


I look forward to posting more about my Moonshot and progress, soon...WATCH this SPACE.

Application - Google Teacher Academy: Sydney 2014

I was determined this year to get accepted into the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Sydney to become a Google Certified Teacher (GCT). This academy was to be the first lead by NoTosh using a new format focusing on design thinking where we would be exploring, designing and launching solutions to some of education's chunkiest problems. As with all GTA's there is an emphasis on personal growth and collaboration, while GTA Sydney is also all about empowering us to make sustainable change in our communities.  
Google Certified Teachers are:
  • Outstanding educators with a passion for using technologies and approaches to improve teaching and learning.
  • Creative leaders who understand opportunities and challenges and have a desire to help empower others in their local community and beyond.
  • Ambassadors for change who model high expectations, life-long learning, collaboration, equity, and innovation.
For the application process we had to complete an online form, however I found it was best to copy the form to a Google Doc and compose your answers first before completing the online form. Many of the responses were limited to 200 or 400 characters (not words) so like an extended tweet. I found this process to suit my learning style as it meant that I had to be very concise with my answers and it also meant that I was careful to embed links into my answers to show further on-line evidence to support my responses.  I knew using the Google Shortener for URL was exactly 20 characters and this was included into the character count. The application questions revolved around the three main criteria for being a GCT and you were also asked to show examples of how you met each of the three GCT criteria. This was where the external links helped.  

To start the application process you had to record a six-word memoir to describe yourself. I put out a Google Form to colleagues to get them to come up with six descriptors and to help me identify which of the three GCT criteria (above) they perceived to be my strength, which was to be the focus of my one minute video. This was an interesting processin itself, seeing what others perceived to be my area of strength. In the end I chose my memoir to be "Enthusiastically projecting positivity and continuous improvement" along with being a Creative Leader
Here is my one minute video that I chose to do in the style of a Google Hangout: