Saturday, August 12, 2017

Google Innovator Academy #WDC17

A LONG Time Coming...

At my school Vancouver iTech Preparatory, we teach using a project-based learning and S.T.E.M. approach. We believe in having students re-do and fix the work that they submit to us. We believe in growth mindset, We believe in grit and perseverance. Some people that know me call me stubborn, but I like to look at it as being persistent. I really don't like being told no, especially if I believe in what it is I'm doing. I will re-think, re-plan, and re-do my work so that myself and my students will be successful. If I ask my students to have/work on this quality, it should be something that I embody as well. This begins my Innovator story...

Back in April of 2014 I first became a level 1 and 2 Google Certified Teacher. I also found out about the Google Innovator Program, which was then called the Google Teacher Academy. I felt that I fit the criteria for what they were looking for, even though I was still in my first year of teaching. So I sat down, and got to work on my application for the academies in Mountain View #GTAMTV and the one in Atlanta #GTAATL. A week later I got the rejection emails. I didn't feel too bad, so I applied again that fall for the the academy in Austin #GTAATX. I got the same response. Three applications and three rejections, still not a big deal and I was ready to apply for the next one. Little did I know that the program was begin overhauled and relaunched almost a year later as the Innovator Program. When the new applications opened I applied for the Mountain View #MTV16 cohort, and then again for the Denver #COL16 cohort. 

Along with the applications for the Innovator program, I applied for the Google Geo Teachers Institute #CAGTI16 and got accepted. This was an incredible experience that I definitely won't forget where I meet some amazingly talented and passionate people like Leslie FaginSylvia DuckworthNatalia LeMoyneJerome BurgRichard AndersonJordan O'DonnellSharon Mumm, and Brooke Whitlow. They loved what I had been doing and encouraged me to keep applying. Feeling rejuvenated, I applied to the Toronto #TOR16 cohort. One more time, I got the rejection email... I was down, but not out. Every rejection only made me want it more. I got some great advice from Desiree Alexander to just focus on what I am already doing, because it was amazing. And, that's what I did. I went back and made my application about me and my students, about what we do in the classroom everyday. I focused on why Social Studies needs to be engaging and how I can help others to do the same things. I hit the submit button, and this time... SUCCESS!!! Seventh time's the charm! I am beyond thrilled to be one of the 37 educators in the Washington, D.C. Google Innovator cohort, the only one in North America this year. 

Day 1: #BuddyUp, #SharingOurInspriations, and #Teamwork

To get to know one another we participated several icebreaker activities including one of my favorites, a Breakout EDU. We had all participated in a cohort-wide digital Breakout before we even got to the academy. This one was a hands-on experience as we worked our way through our knowledge of Google and its tools. As we moved on, I found out that the brilliant and creative Amy Burvall was our team's coach for the academy. Our
#ZiggyMoondust team consisted of Kitty TrippTodd DeSandoLisa BerghoffChristina Whitmire, and Tyler Capton. We each shared our Breakout boxes about ourselves as we got to know each other a bit more. Then, we sate down at dinner to come up with our team's name, an entrance song, and a team cheer. Our walk up song came to us rather easily, Fly Me to the Moon, was a pretty unanimous selection. Our team name took a little bit longer, but many of us are David Bowie fans and our team involved the phases of the moon, so Ziggy Moondust also came to us rather quickly. As we started to work through our ideas we created a Google Doc to keep track of the info. In honor of David Bowie, and in true Amy fashion, we didn't really create a team cheer. Ours was more of a performance piece. We had props, each of us had our acting roles, and it incorporated a little piece from all of us. It really was an team creative process, that I absolutely loved.

Day 2: #GoogleyValues, #MoreSoon, and #DesignThinking

It was a long day, but day two really kept our momentum going. We started off performing our team cheers/skits and had some really large, deep from the belly, laughs. Next, we learned more about Googleyness and the traits that we all possess that help make us Googley. What I loved about our cohort was the way that we were not afraid to move quickly and embrace the madness that was unfolding before us. 

There were many other sessions throughout the day that had us focusing on Innovator projects. The idea that our projects will lead towards creating something that will impact
Myself, Derek Doucet, and #LesIsMore McBeth
education is exciting and invigorating. We worked through the development process, using design thinking. This is something that I use in my classroom when I design the projects for my classes, and it was great to be able to apply this thinking to another aspect of my work. Les McBeth from the Future Design School led us through their process which worked really well. I highly recommend their workshop and training if you are in the market for some professional development in that area. 

One of my favorite activities to get us in the design mindset was to work with our booty bump buddy to design a chair. We interviewed each other, sketched out some designs, questioned them again, re-designed, and then worked together to build a prototype out of tin foil. When we went around the room to share out, we saw that no two were same. I really enjoyed this take on the design process and will be using it with the rest of my colleagues and in my classroom this year. 

The #WDC17 and #CAGTI crew, Natalia, myself, and Leslie! 
One of my other big takeaways from day two is about being present and responding in a timely manner/giving updates quickly. I am always one of those people who like to keep their inbox as low as possible. Sometimes I hold off on sending an email, because I don't have all of the answer, yet. What happens is too much time goes by and sometimes things don't get done and slip through the cracks. By taking the view of a bias towards action, you can respond to those emails quickly. By adding in the phrase "more soon" you are acknowledging the person/people in the email, and letting them know that you have received their message and will get back to them again as soon as you have more of the info. It seems almost too easy, and I can't believe that more people don't do this already. Acknowledging someone quickly with what you know, even if you don't have all of the answer, shows respect and will help foster better relationships.

Day 3: #RuleOfThree, #BringYourWholeSelfToWork, and #FailFast

If the last day was going to be anything like the previous two days, then it was going to fly by as well. The day did indeed move (Taylor) swiftly, but there was a tremendous amount of work, failure, and growth that was accomplished. We started the day learning more about what updates had just been made to Google Classroom, and we got to ask questions about certain features or lack thereof. I'd like to share more, but... 

After the updates part of our day we were exposed to the rule of three. Many people are familiar with the rule of thirds from photography, and this is a take on that. Our students' ability to engage with new learning is not as long as we'd like to think they are. Knowing this we need to make things concise and provide easier ways to retain the new info that we have just given them. the rule of three does this. It is much easier to students, and adults, to remember information given to them in three's. So, where I'm being asked about my Innovator project, or creating my takeaways for my lesson plans, I'm going to make sure there are always three.

The second piece from day three that really spoke to me was when we discussed bringing our whole self to work. Does our classroom/teaching reflect who we truly are? Do others, including our learners, know who we are and our story? I am proud to say yes to those questions. I beible that the relationships that we build are one of, if not, the most important things that we do as educators. Being able to share our story with our students creates an atmosphere of respect. It is also vitally important to know who are learners are. I Wish My Teacher Knew is an incredibly eye-opening way to build relationships with our students so that we can get to know who we are teaching and see things from there perspective.

The last thing that I took from our last day was the not a new concept to me, but rather a new perspective on the idea. When you walk into my classroom, one of the first things anyone sees is my F.A.I.L. sign. I believe that failure is how we really truly learn. We learn from mistakes and grow, after all it is just the First Attempt In Learning. The new take on being willing to fail, came as the concept of failing fast. If we, or our students, know that we are working through things and expecting to fail, we don't want to hold onto it. We must fail quickly, learn from the mistakes and either move on, or pivot and make the work better. If we, or our students, hold onto the failing ideas/work we are only delaying the inevitable, and our learning.

Final Thoughts: #FallInLoveWithTheProblem, #ThinkBigStartSmall, and #KaraokeMindset

My my first takeaway from the academy is to fall in love with the problem. The solution
WILL change, multiple solutions may present themselves, and that it is okay to pivot. Remember that as the solution evolves, it is the PROBLEM that we are addressing. The second one is to think big, but start small. It is as I tell my students to tackle a project you have to break things into manageable chunks. By starting small, one can utilize the resources that they have. They can show successes and then build momentum. Think of the snowball at the top of the hill. It starts small and then builds on itself and grows as it keeps moving. My last takeaway was presented to us on the last day, and was created because of how our cohort family came together. It is having a karaoke mindsetThis came from of our passion, willingness to fail, and our ability to bring our whole self to work. (We also karaoked almost every night we were there, too.) I want to make sure that I sustain this mindset because it is really brings together qualities that one needs to be successful and googley

These three plus days in Washington, D.C. were truly extraordinary. I left energized and with so many new ideas, thoughts, and friends. It was humbling to be in the presence of such passionate, talented, and engaging educators. Seeing all of the projects that our cohort are creating brings me hope that there is a shift in education happening. Empowering teachers to bring critical thinking, technology, and other skills to our students is happening. I'm proud to be apart of the #WDC17 team and the Google Innovator family. It has been a long journey to get here, but in reality the journey is just beginning. 

If you want to be apart of our projects as we test and launch them, please feel free to contact us. If you want to know what #WDC17 is up, click on the picture below to follow each of us on Twitter #GoogleEI. To see each of our Innovator projects you can watch our videos on YouTube.

Let's Innovate and change the world together!

Click on a member to see what they are up to on Twitter!



  1. Hey John, congrats on making it to the Washington Academy!

    Love your post and really related to it, as I applied multiple times too before making it to #LON17. Interestingly, I also wrote about being rejected multiple times in my blogpost (
    Not easy to make yourself vulnerable, but I do think it inspires potential educators out there to keep trying and never give up!

  2. Yiu, thanks for the comment. I believe that you are correct about how it is difficult to talk about one's failures, but I believe that it is the only true way that one grows. If you don't embrace the failures, then you can't move forward. Nice write-up on your experiences as well. London is a city at the top of my bucket list, I'm glad that you made it into the family and go to attend. Stay in touch!


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