Back from Google Teacher Academy, Sydney. Time to debrief.

So I’m back from Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, conducted in the Google offices located in gorgeous Pyrmont.

I suppose you’ve noticed my Google Certified Teacher badge taking pride of place in my blog’s sidebar. I hope that’s more a sign of what I’m going to share than any attempt at self promotion. So, you say, how was it? After the hype (which I half joking referred to on Twitter in Wonkian terms), it’s definitely time to share the experience.

For me, it was a little like T.S.Eliot said in The Dry Salvages –  ‘We had the experience but missed the meaning’, that is to say, it was such a big experience, I had to come away from it to understand its impact. One and a half days in the Google offices but many weeks of suspense, attempts at imagined scenarios leading up to the much awaited day had put us all into an emotional state which delivered us to the Google headquarters as children at a birthday party. The mystery shrouding the event and Google interior wound up the intensity even tighter. It was fun spotting the large Google sign in the foyer of the building, spotting real people whose faces matched their tiny avatars on Twitter or Facebook, meeting for breakfast and become initiates by wearing the Google Teacher Academy name tags.

So, you’re saying, stop dragging out the preamble, get to the point: what was it like? What did you do?

Short answer: It was full on!! The Magic Hat had sorted us into teams; I was in Silverbrook. We sat at brightly google-coloured tables and, shortly after breakfast, were treated to Google Educators giving us an overview of the enormous range of Google tools: Search (web, specialised, multimedia, language, custom), Google Apps Education edition, Docs, Sites, Calendar, Blogger, BooksScholar, News, Blog Search, Alerts, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Chat, Talk, Mobile, and more. Added to these sessions, some of our 55 strong cohort had offered to present Inspiring Ideas. We were treated to Google Spreadsheets (Pat Wagner), Sites for student e-portolios (Joe Donahue), creating an augmented reality school tour (Chris Betcher), e-portfolios using Blogger and Apps (Rob Clarke), using Blogger and Video Chat for minimally invasive education (Tara Taylor-Jorgensen), and an inside view of Google Apps for Education in a school (Dorothy Burt).  At 6pm, in the last session: reflection and review, we shared our ‘Aha’ moments for the day with our group, and at 6.30pm we were treated to a lovely celebratory dinner.

You can breathe now.

How do I do justice to such an intensive day and from all angles? I can’t.  Obviously the breadth and depth of the material was overwhelming, and at times it was challenging to keep up and remain focussed. I really enjoyed what the members of our cohort had to share, and I wish we could have seen more of how the Google apps could be used in creative and innovative ways in the classroom. We really needed more time and I suppose that was the biggest drawback – cramming so much in so little time.

Was it what I expected? I’m not sure. It’s not that Google apps/Apps are not out there for everyone to see and learn about. In that sense, we learned nothing new. But seeing everything in one and a half days, we probably saw more than we would have if left to our own devices. In between we struggled to make a dent in activities which gave us the opportunity to put some of the Google tools to use.

Most of us agreed that meeting up, connecting, collaborating and sharing was the most valuable part of the experience. So many interesting, passionate and innovative people, and we would continue to collaborate on Twitter (#gtasyd and #gct) and the GCT Group (sorry, closed community). I am grateful for new friendships and acquaintances. Thankyou so much to our GTA leaders, Dana Nguyen, Dr Mark Wagner, Wendy Gorton, Kern Kelley, Danny Silva and Lisa Thumann, for your expertise and passion.

Next on the agenda is formulating an action plan – how we will share what we have learned, either through presentations or in the classroom. It’s difficult to decide where to start.

As a teacher librarian, I’d like to say to my colleagues – you are already well skilled in many of the Google tools. We are experts in Search, News, Scholar, Google Books,  and there are experts among us with things like Google Lit Trips. What we don’t know, we can learn from the excellent Google help and crib sheets.

So, having said that, here is my initial idea for a Google action plan – to create a community for Google PD either in Google Groups or Sites specifically for teacher librarians. This would be a place to share knowledge, ideas and material. There are experts amongst us, and it would be good to pool our collective talents to present professional development either face to face, or through slideshows and webinars. Glenda Morris and I are both GCT  TLs in Victoria, and when I spoke to Glenda about this idea, she was happy to take part. There is already so much prepared by Google, for example, take a look at all the material in Google Web Search: Classroom lessons and resources.

What do you think? I would love to receive feedback for this idea. And please, if I’ve missed something you wanted to know about the Google Academy experience, please ask.

(A big thankyou, also, to Lisa Perez (TL in Chicago) who initiated meeting Glenda and me before the conference, and encouraged us to join forces as TLs).


Filed under Google Teacher Academy

37 responses to “Back from Google Teacher Academy, Sydney. Time to debrief.

  1. Hi Tania

    I’m exhausted just reading what you covered in such a short time…I can only imagine how “brain-dead” you must have felt at the end of your Google experience. Great to see that you made so many connections with other educators who share the same passions.

    I for one am still learning about the tools Google has to offer. I’m currently planning sessions to teach our Grade 5 and 6 classes how to use Google search effectively (and I’m learning too!). I would love to know more about how people incorporate Google tools/apps into their teaching – both practical and creative examples.

    I think your Google action plan for teacher librarians is brilliant and I’d love to be involved.

    Congratulations on now being an official Certified Google Teacher and thanks for sharing!

    Kim 🙂

  2. Marie Salinger

    Congratulations Tania . It sounds like you had a fantastic experience – I was watching your tweets from Sydney with envy – but no one deserved a place at the Google Academy more than you. I can’t wait to try out some of these ideas and would really love to do a collaborative art project with Siena , WFC and other art students if anyone is interested. Hope to see you soon.

  3. My suggestion is an initial meetup as per my tweets (I can help with a local venue on a Saturday morning) and then use LearnCentral for monthly webinars. We are all looking forward to learning from you.

    • Thanks for the offer, Judith. Sounds good to me, except for this Saturday. I’m looking to learning with all of you. After one and a half days, I’m no expert, but happy to keep learning and share.

  4. dilaycock

    Well done Tania. I agree with your comment about many of us already/ knowing using Google tools etc., and whilst sometimes it’s enough just to be reminded that they’re there, it’s obvious that the real power of your GTA experience was in the sharing, and in the ongoing nature of your experience far beyond the two “official” days. Thanks for inviting others to share your experience. Being in Sydney, I can’t pop down to Melbourne on a Sat morning, but I’d certainly be interested in the monthly webinars. Cheers 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by with a comment, Di. Looking forward to meeting you in the webinars!

    • My thoughts exactly Di. Any TL worth their pay should have known and be teaching their students about these tools as they have developed. I’m sure as you say, Tania, the best part of the experience was the connecting with other enthusiastic educators and indeed sharing their ideas. Many thanks to Google for providing that opportunity.

      Let’s not be blinded by Google’s promotion and marketing to get students using their products as a result of awarding teacher certification.

      I’m sure the discerning educators who attended have had time also to reflect on the hype of the marketing experience, and just as we teach our students to be critical users of information, so too must we remember to evaluate Google tools objectively and pragmatically.

      Thanks again Tania, for your reflections and tweets. I look forward to your ongoing contributions to our knowledge. :))

      • Fair point, Carmel. I think that Google tools, like any other tools, speak for themselves. It was good to hear presenters talk about shortcomings as well as strengths. As for discernment, I hope, as educators, we keep the learning first and foremost in our sights.

        • Yes indeed, and your blog posts always reflect the importance of the learner. I use heaps of Google tools with students and I always learn a lot from you, no criticism intended… just the cynic in me looking at the success of the marketing exercise. Cheers!

  5. Hey Tania, congratulations. You epitomise the collaborative nature of our profession. Unfortunately many powers that be can’t see this and my former colleagues, who were leading the technology way here in WA, are now unable to blog (or even say that they are unable to blog) or work on their website. Nor can they share resources that they are creating behind a firewall but with no effective means of letting teachers know about them. It is unbelievably short sighted policy. What you and the other GCTs are doing publicly is becoming more important than ever if the TL profession is to survive – keep up the great work.

    • Thanks, Judi. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity at GTA. What you say is very disturbing; it must be so frustrating for you and your colleagues. Is there anything that can be done to change the situation?

    • Mif

      Judi, how is this possible? Can they blog outside of school – or not at all? Is it just the Dept of Ed?
      It seems so crazy to me that teachers are supposed to educated students for the late 21st century, but can’t access any of the tools!
      It’s not ‘quite’ so draconian here in Vic, but depending on the school, it can be totally open to totally closed.

    • Hi Judi, can you tell us more about these restrictions? Who is responsible for them and to whom do they apply?It must be frustrating to have to put up with such a restrictive and unenlightened environment.

      • Thanks for the comments people. I am not affected – I lost my job months ago – but my friends (and former colleagues) will appreciate knowing they are supported even if nothing can be done within the bureaucracy.

  6. Heather Bailie

    Hi Tania, what an amazing experience! I missed the build up and tweets as I was too busy holidaying in NZ – apart from the fact I was having a wonderful holiday I’m very envious!
    I’m also very interested in being involved in the Google PD community when it happens.

  7. Mif

    Holy cow! How did your head not blow off?!!! 🙂

    It sounds great, and I would LOVE to be involved in a Google Group thingy.

  8. Therese Kenny

    Hi Tania,

    It was great catching up with you at the GTA. And this post is a pretty accurate summary of the experience!

    If you proceed with the suggested Google Action Plan for TL PD, I’d be glad to be involved. Being based in Sydney, sessions in Victoria could be a stretch, but glad to collaborate with you guys to deliver online sessions. As you point out, we possibly need to find a way to offer something ‘new’, to complement the wealth of existing Google resources and tutorials etc?

    Hope to hear more!

    Kind regards,
    Therese Kenny

    Google Certified Teacher, GTA Sydney 2011
    Teacher Librarian @ Loreto Normanhurst

    • Therese! It would be so good to have you collaborate with us in Victoria! I wasn’t really sure if I was doing the right thing focusing on Victorian TLs – who can resist a broader cohort!? I’ll keep you in touch.

  9. Hi Tania, what a wonderful report on the Google Teacher Academy! I like the way you capture the emotion of the event. We really were just like children before a birthday party – full of excitement and anticipation.

    Thanks too for the succinct summary of the presenters including the ‘Inspiring Idea’ contributors.

    It was great to meet you in person after having already followed you on Twitter and your blog.

    Your action plan sounds fantastic. Given the power of Google tools and Google’s mission “to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, it seems to me that a strong understanding of Google tools should be part of any 21st century librarian’s skill set.

    • Thanks, John, for your feedback and encouragement. It was great meeting you; I look forward to further learning from each other. Very true about the Google tools being part of a TL’s skill set. Hope to see you again some time.

  10. That’s a great idea Tania. It’s very generous of you to offer to spread the learning through the Teacher-Librarian community. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. Love the pic!
    Jenny : )

  11. Great to hear your enthusiam seeping through your words Tania …. and I just loved you tweet last week which described the experience in ‘Wonkian’ terms!! It sounds like it was a fantastic experience and as you comment – the best part was meeting up with and sharing the experience with others. Am sure that the learning and sharing will continue between you all over the coming months and am thrilled you plan to share more with TLs in Vic. Unable to attend a Saturday get together, but will keep tuned to other ways of tapping into the learning you intend sharing. Isn’t personal learning so invigorating?!

  12. Penny


    thanks for keeping us informed re your tweets and this great post.
    Due to the nature of social media I felt part of the experience and look forward to learning more about Google Tools.

    I’m not a TL, just a T…but am keen to be part of it all!

    • You’re very welcome, Penny. Obviously the Google experience was not only for TLs, and also not only Ts. I am happy to share with whoever is interested. Thanks for dropping by with the comment.

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  14. Fay

    Hi Tania,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences of this Google PD. Even though like you I use some of the google tools with students, there is always new things and other ways of using them. I like the idea of a TL group sharing ideas and experiences and would be interestedin being part of this.


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