Professional Development can sometimes be a pain. For some, finding a good provider of Professional Development credits/points/units/hours (or whatever your state calls them) can be problematic. Finding something that is interesting and useful might be another issue. And affordability might hinder a teacher from being able to take the courses or programs that they’d prefer. While there are a lot of professional development programs for teachers out there, there are very few that are as well known or as selective as the Google Teacher Academy or the Apple Distinguished Educator program.
Last week, we looked at the Apple Distinguished Educator program and what it means to be an Apple Distinguished Educator. Today, we’re going to take a peek into the other prominent professional development program designed to support innovation in education – Google’s Teacher Academy.
The Google Teacher Academy describes itself as:
A FREE professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Produced by CUE, each Academy is an intensive, two-day event during which participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in a supportive community of educators making impact.
Those who attend become Google Certified Teachers (GCT’s), which allows you to put a little badge on your website showing off your achievement, but lays out a number of expectations following the completion of the actual academy.
The bulk of the expectations of a GCT following their academy surround the idea that the educators should truly be using the tools they learned about during their training, and creating a community around the tools available to them through Google. According to the GTA website, GCT’s should leave the training planning on:
GCT’s are encouraged to participate in the ever-growing community of GCT’s (not just those from the academy they attended), and are offered the opportunity to give feedback to Google on the products they’re using (quite similar to the Apple program in that regard). GCT’s share their Personal Action Plans (which are peer reviewed), and interact with one another to share ideas and experiences within a Google Group.
Much like the Apple Distinguished Educator Program, the Google Teacher Academy is quite competitive. Only about 50 applicants are selected for each academy (Which are held either two or three times per year in different locations around the globe. 2012 boasted programs in London in April, New York in October, and an upcoming event in Mountain View, CA in December). Applicants hail from around the globe, and are primary and secondary educators, principals and other administrators, technology and curriculum specialists, and librarians. They share a passion for teaching, a background in integrating technology into their classrooms and schools, and Google seems particularly interested in individuals who are going above and beyond to help other teachers and school staff with technology integration.
Applications are submitted online and include short answer questions and a one-minute video on one of three topics: “Motivation and Learning”, “Classroom Innovation,” or “Positive Change in My Community, which then gets uploaded to YouTube (which means there are lots of GTA application videos floating around the interwebs if you’re curious to see what types of things applicants are submitting). Here’s one that we thought was a great example (and the applicant was accepted!)
There are a couple of things we find really cool about the GTA. First, it uses all sorts of tools from Google, which are all free. For many teachers, especially those teaching in public schools, cost can be an issue. Google’s tools tend to be easy to use and pretty popular, so leveraging free technology that many people already use gets a thumbs up in our book.
Second, the GTA is heavily focused on community, sharing resources, and teaching one’s peers. With a variety of educators from around the globe, collaboration around common tools becomes a great learning experience for everyone involved. When all of those skills and ideas are shared and then brought back to each participant’s school, where other teachers are encouraged to use the tools and even shown how, the effect can become much more widespread. This could mean moving from a world where there are a few innovative teachers in each school to one where a majority of teachers are employing new technologies and new ideas to their teaching. Many of the participants are finding really interesting ways to use the Google tools – and when I say really interesting, I mean that Google Docs can be used for a lot more than just handing papers in electronically. We’re looking forward to profiling some of the cool ways that some GCT’s have used the tools in the future, so stay tuned!