How Awesome Is the Google Teacher Academy?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Google just announced an unprecedented number of Google Teacher Academies during 2014 and have reached out to CUE to assist, as we have done since the inception of the program in 2006. Applications will open soon.

By CUE Member David Theriault

The number one question everyone asked me when I got back to school last September was “How was the Google Teacher Academy?” If I had to use one metaphor to capture the craziness of a Google Teacher Academy (GTA) I’d say,  it was like a huge Canadian family reunion a reunion where you haven’t met everyone yet, but they are “family” so they are just like you in many ways. A GTA looks a little like this:

Theriault Family

Well actually it’s more like this:

Photo by Bradley Lands

So What Can You Expect?

Before you get there:

You will get an email from Google telling you that you were accepted, it might end up in your SPAM folder or some notifications folder so don’t panic. Try not to gloat too much online because, for every person accepted there will be 10-15 of your online friends who didn’t get in. So keep it slightly mellow.

Instantly the craziness will start. As soon as we found out we got in, Cat Flippen was putting together a spreadsheet for everyone AND a GTACHI Twitter list. It’s going to be that way. Everyone will do all sorts of really nice things for your group. You know how you are that “person who does that cool tech stuff at your school/district professional development.” That’s everyone there.

Before you leave home you need to do the following:

  • Share the news with friends and co-workers. Send out a press release, if you think this is a big deal where you live and work. Google will provide you with a pre-made press release.

  • You will schedule a Google Hangout with your CUE Lead Learner and your learning cohort. Make sure you make it. One of our members did it via phone in a McDonald’s parking lot late at night, since it was the only WiFi in town. I loved Maureen’s dedication.

  • Do SOMETHING to help out your cohort before you get there– I made stickers with our mascot, for our group to use and wrote a blog post about all 60 GTA acceptees so that everyone would get to know each other BEFORE the event. One of our Team Navin members, Nick Giacobbe, made mockups of our team T-shirts and then had them made and brought them with him. Get involved.

Photo by David Theriault

Photo by David Theriault

  • Make SURE you reserve a flight that gets there early. You need to meet up with everyone the night before, trust me- networking with your cohort is the best thing you will do. I was scheduled to leave at 9am PST but my plane didn’t leave until 2pm PST, due to weather.  By the time I got to Chicago everyone had already eaten. Luckily a group of nice Texans joined me for a late, late dinner. Don’t schedule your flight too late or think you can make it with an early AM flight. You worked hard to get in. Make sure you are there early and leave late.

Photo by David Theriault

First Day:

Wake up and don’t worry about breakfast. What you hear about the food is ALL TRUE. It’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory in there. You will all wait outside while they check each of your credentials and make sure you signed your Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Consider it the “kiss your aunts” part of the family reunion and just go with it. You’ll meet up with that one crazy cousin who is wearing THOSE glasses. Maybe he’ll take a picture with his glasses.

Picture courtesy of Ben Hommerding’s Google Glass

Tips To Make The Most Of Your First Day:

  • While it’s important to get to know your learning team, make sure you circulate around the other groups during lunch, dinner, in the evening etc… the event goes fast. You can sleep when you’re dead.

  • Be an active learner in your classes. Ask questions, create a shared folder and document for notes. Crowd-source your learning.

  • Feel free to share events as they happen via Twitter, FB, Instagram etc.. I created an IFTTT recipe to make a picture blog post every time someone hashtagged #GTACHI with an Instagram photo so people even w/o Instagram could follow the fun. Document, Document, Document, just don’t violate your Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) Feel free to have fun (you will) and share those PICS

Photo by David Theriault

Photo by Lauren Teather

  • Be respectful of the Googlers. They are busy making more awesome stuff. Be quiet as you travel through their work areas and DON’T get lost. I’ve heard horror stories of people stuck in hallways. You need a special key pass to get though many of the doors.

  • PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, network, make friends, and hangout for dinner and after dinner. You need to find out what your family does and what it can do, because you are about to become a TEAM.

Photo by Chris Webb

Second Day

The Second Day will be similar to an EdCamp. Based on a survey there will be specialized sessions on specific learning goals. They tell you the second day is “optional.” Seriously? Don’t miss the second day. The second day will be your chance to move beyond your learning team and talk to THAT GAL or THAT GUY you’ve been dying to start a project with.  Yes you will be tired. Grab some great Google coffee or make a Kale power juice in the Google juicer and get GOING.

You will probably get lucky and hear from a Googler. We had an awesome talk with a lead engineer who answered my question about the reality of Google’s 20 Time policy and what it means for use in the classroom.

Photo by Maureen Cullen

or you just might be photobombed by CUE Lead Learner Jay Atwood.

Photo by Jay Atwood

Take advantage of the early stop time of the second day to NETWORK (aka have fun) some more, go to dinner, go to a museum; I mean just LOOK at us WORKING hard at creating a learning network from Maine to Illinois to Texas to Michigan to California. Whew, it’s almost harder than farming.

Photo by Christy Fennewald

Then, if you are really smart you’ll book your plane for as late as possible the NEXT day and do some more stuff with your new “family.”

Photos by David Theriault

So why did I call this a family reunion when it’s just a bunch of strangers getting together? Because family is made of people with shared values, with a shared culture, and a shared history. Everyone at the Google Teacher Academy is JUST LIKE YOU. They love DOING things, they love taking RISKS, they love asking “What if?” From the moment you arrive to the moment you get back on that plane you have finally found your long lost family.

We still get together whenever we can.

Photo by David Theriault

 And if we can’t there’s always Google to bring us together:

Light up the #GTACHI Batsignal (PS this chat has gone on 24/7 non-stop since our GTA)

Light up the #GTACHI Batsignal (PS this chat has gone on 24/7 non-stop since our GTA)

David Theriault

David Theriault has taught AP English Literature, AP English Language and Composition, and College Prep English for the past eighteen years. He’s also served as a Journalism adviser, Academic Decathlon coach, and coaches various youth sports. He recently graduated from the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago.

He co-founded and moderates #CAedchat, the weekly teacher Twitter chat for the state of California. He also is the co-founder of edcampHOME.org the world’s first completely online edcamp. David blogs at thereadinessisall.com and has several big ideas up his sleeve just waiting for the right moment.

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