Google for Education Innovator Academy

Stockholm, Sweden 2017

My Google spark came in 2014 as a high school English teacher. My school received a technology grant, and my students and I received a class set of Chromebooks. At the time, I knew nothing about Chromebooks or Google Apps for Education (now called G Suite for Education); however, we quickly learned to leverage Google hardware and software to transform teaching and learning. This involved using GAFE like Classroom, Docs, and Slides to enhance collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

As time passed, I began sharing what I was learning in a G Suite for Education classroom with other educators at local, regional, and national conferences. In my continued quest to learn and grow as an education technology leader, I wanted to hone and enhance my skills by earning Google for Education certifications including Certified Educator Level 1, Certified Educator Level 2, Certified Trainer, and Certified Innovator. The latter distinction, I learned about on August 31, 2017.

The Certified Innovator community is a talented global group of educational thought leaders and visionaries. Part of becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator is attending the Google for Education Innovator Academy. My cohort participated in the academy at the Google offices in Stockholm, Sweden. There we spent three days going through the design thinking process to refine our Innovation Project, one of the critical components necessary for the year-long program.

For me, this was my first time overseas, and the entire experience was truly humbling. I revel in opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with other educators, and the Innovator Academy did not disappoint. Our #SWE17 cohort was the most diverse in the program’s history with 37 educators from 19 different countries. And with the support of our coaches (former Innovators) and members from the Google for Education team (and other Google team members), we were led through a myriad of engaging and transformative activities that helped inspire innovation in education.

Even before we got to the Innovator Academy, we completed several tasks. This included solving a Digital BreakOut Edu and some other early activities in the design thinking process. Also, we did a virtual meetup using Hangouts on Air with YouTube Live, and we even organized a pre-academy meetup for fika (a favorite Swedish pastime where you enjoy coffee and pastries) in Stockholm to start our face-to-face interactions.

Leslie McBeth of the Future Design School and a Google for Education Certified Innovator from the 2016 Mountain View cohort led us through the design thinking process during the academy. The five-stage process includes discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution. This process helped us better understand the problems we were trying to solve, ideate the innovative solutions we were trying to create, and better understand the users we are trying to design our products for.

All of our projects aim to transform, inspire, and innovate in education. Project ideas and products range from mobile applications to websites to educational movements. My Innovation Project is called PLANE PD: Taking Professional Development to New Heights. I hope to develop a professional development framework that helps transform educator training. The final product I decided on is a book that articulates this framework with definitions, examples, and research. PLANE is an acronym for professional development that is Personalized, Learner-inspired/centered, Aerodynamic, Needed, and Engaging.

Not only did we participate in the design thinking process throughout the Innovator Academy, but we also got to hear from Google engineers, hear inspirational Leadership Spark stories from our coaches, participate in a Spark Camp with sessions facilitated by various cohort members, and of course eat some great food at the Google cafeteria.

In addition to visiting the Google offices in Stockholm, I did have some time to visit a few tourist destinations: The Royal Palace and the Nobel Prize Museum in Old Town, the Vasa Museum, and an Ice Bar. It helps that pretty much all Swedes speak English, so there was no language barrier, and everyone was kind and hospitable.

Attending the Google for Education Innovator Academy in Stockholm, Sweden was a once in a lifetime experience. And the academy is just the start of an immense time in my life for growth and development as an educational leader. Through this experience, I hope to inspire change in education and have a positive impact on teacher and student success. Stay tuned, as I hope to keep everyone up-to-date on my #GoogleEI journey. If you’d like to hear me talk more about my experiences, check out Matt Miller and Kasey Bell’s the Google Teacher Tribe podcast.