Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Google Teacher Academy for Administrators Application Video

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hey! Look! We're Already Here!

As a new administrator (and a fairly young one, relatively speaking), I am often questioned regarding my level of expertise, or I am doubted because I am “too na├»ve” “too green” “she’ll learn”. I smile and know that what I lack in years, I more than make up for in my experiences.

As technologically-saavy people talk about the Net Generation, Generation X, Generation Y, the Digital Natives, oftentimes they warn educators and administrators that the future is coming! Our students are smarter than ever, better multi-taskers than ever, more willing to take calculated risks than ever. But I always hear these stories when referring to people who are under 18. I was raised with computers. I spent my elementary school years learning how to write very basic code and I distinctly recall one particular computer class where we typed a bunch of numbers and words and symbols on the flip side of the floppy disk, took the disk out, put it back in and stuff happened on the screen! I was hooked. I had the power to make things happen at the age of 8.

So it’s almost like an out-of-body experience when I hear keynote speakers discuss the generation that will be coming into colleges and companies, and I’m already here, and I’m already a leader in education. The question needs to be: how do we make sure that folks like me don’t get squelched (not that we’d let that happen, anyway).


I got to the ASCD Conference in time for the general session on Saturday, March 6. Again, I was grateful that there was a place that served Starbucks in the conference center. One of the participants in the Google Teacher Academy was being honored with an award from ASCD or being a superstar educator. And Geoffrey Canada spoke about his experiences as an educator and leader. All the speakers were engaging, but again, one of the best parts was the ability to share little gems and collaborate simultaneously with other people from the #GTAdmin group, and now, the #ASCD10 group. (This probably goes without saying, but I had not previously been active on Twitter. I had had accounts and not used them, didn’t know what to do with it, but now I got it and loved it.)

After the general session, both my phone and computer were nearly out of battery life, so I hooked them up and started reviewing the previous day’s work. Connie and I were able to connect and we went to grab lunch. We tried two different restaurants with waits of 30+ minutes before acquiescing to Fuddrucker’s. Lunch was wonderful – we chatted, sharing life stories, work stories and fun stories. We bounced ideas back and forth and I actually think I benefitted more from our conversation that she did, but she certainly was gracious and helpful! We then had to part ways when going to our next session, knowing we’d still see each other that night for the GTAdmin Reception.

I decided to attend a ticketed session, advertised as centering on 21st Century innovation and leadership. All of the seats were taken and I ended up sitting on the ground in the back of the room, which was fine as long as I could see the projection…which I couldn’t. Sigh. Ok…so I can stand and hold my laptop and it would be fine as long as I could get wifi and perhaps collaborate with other people who were in the same session or out among the conference…no wifi. Fail. Ok…as long as… … … I couldn’t do it. I was regretful that I couldn’t stay, but how could I get over the lack of wifi in a session designed to discuss 21st Century leadership? I couldn’t and I didn’t. I found myself a comfy spot that had spotty wifi access (but at least there was some) and reviewed the previous day’s agenda and started taking notes on possible ideas for my action plan.

I was making some progress with my ideas, but the next session I was to attend was centered on using cell phones in classroom observations. I was conflicted – my cell phone was out of battery life (I left the power cord at the hotel – didn’t make that mistake again) and I was on a roll with my ideas. Besides, I know that I’ll be more prone to use my laptop in observations than I am my cell phone. The usefulness that I might get out of that one session was difficult to override the benefit of my work with my action plan. So I continued to stay and work and play and work and play.

But I was up and ready to go the next day at 7:00am. I had finally adjusted to the time change by Sunday morning. I went to the gym and took my time getting ready before going to the general session on Sunday. I got to the conference center a little early and a man from NASA struck up a conversation with me about the future of STEM education. He was holding a session on Monday, which I would not be able to attend, but I did get his card and hope to continue having conversations with him.

Don Tapscott (author of Growing Up Digital and Grown Up Digital) was the speaker at the general session this time. And while I think he had a lot of valid points that a lot of people need to hear, I again was reminded of my earlier digression. Without a doubt, Tapscott was engaging and entertaining. But more than any difference in labeled generation or age, our students are pushing us to go in a direction that some educators are unwilling to go. This is not a youth revolt, this is not today’s students saying “go away – you have nothing to offer us”, this is today’s young people saying “Come on! Try this! Share this! Learn this!”; and too many educators are saying, “no”.

Gettin' Googley

I woke up, went to the gym and headed to the Marriott Plaza Hotel - a beautiful place and our meeting rooms were easily identifiable with the unmistakable GOOGLE signs. We signed in, received our nametags and lanyards and headed in to find our groups, supposedly randomly assigned.

My group was the Ruth Wakefield group, and Sarah Rolle, one of our Lead Learners explained that she chose that name because Wakefield was the inventor of chocolate chip cookies. Which is perfect, because I love baking chocolate chip cookies! :)

Google was providing breakfast and they had a wonderful spread - I was particularly grateful for the coffee. On our seats were canvas tote bags filled with Google swag.

Our first session began with a dynamic overview and welcome from the lead learners. While similarly structured to the Google Workshop I had previously attended, this was faster paced with more energy – it was a safe and open place to be our geeky, curious, educational, kid-loving and idealistic-thinking selves.

We flew through a variety of Google Apps – search, docs, sites, calendar, spreadsheets, gadgets, forms, groups, talk, video, moderator, chrome. We also covered legality issues and heard three inspiring stories about how Google Apps were used in schools, how they were rolled out and the impact that it had on kids. One thing that stayed central in each and every presentation and incidental conversation, was the impact and importance this could have for our students. There was a hearty group of us that were tweeting on the backchannel and I’ll own that I puffed up a little when Mark Wagner retweeted my “I feel like a dolphin in the ocean who’s found her pod” tweet.

There were brief moments when I had to pause and try to think about what the best approach would be for this new-found inspiration – who could I tell? How could I explain? What was the best way for my situation? I decided to e-mail Jerome Burg, a type of myth for me as an English Teacher – the maker of Google LitTrips – the coolest thing made for English teachers who were techie, too. Jerome also, serendipitously, recently retired from the school at which I am now the Vice Principal. I knew he knew the culture of my school and district and I wanted to pick his brain. I e-mailed him, and even though he was at his own conference (C.U.E. in Palm Springs), he wrote me back within the hour and said he would connect with me.

Somewhere in there, we also had lunch and dinner. All meals were excellent and the key lime cheesecake for dessert was pretty heavenly. I was one of the last 15 or so to leave, and had connected with Connie White to see if she wanted to toss ideas back and forth the following day, since we were both staying for the ASCD Conference (among many others, as well – Google had also planned an evening reception for us to be held Saturday night).

As I left the Marriott around 8:00pm, my adrenaline was still pumping. The evening was pleasant, so I walked along the Riverwalk, enjoying the sights and sounds and vibrancy of San Antonio. I felt alive.

I ultimately made it back to my hotel, at which point I paced my room, thinking, thinking, thinking. I called my mom and then Jerome called me. I spoke with Jerome for nearly an hour, and it was so comforting and thrilling to know that I had this whole new group of collaborators at my fingertips. He helped center my thoughts and focus (some of) my energy. I spoke with my mom again. And then I got the chance to communicate with Kyle Brumbaugh again (he was, naturally, interested in how the experience had gone since he was unable to attend, due to the same conference Jerome was attending). I finally crashed, with a little bit more focus, but still excited. I had a hard time sleeping that night, because of all the new ideas, applications and implications. But I was okay with that.

Around 5:00pm on Saturday, March 6, I headed back to the hotel from the ASCD Conference to change and go to the GTAdmin Reception at Acenar’s. Mark, the bellboy at St. Anthony highly recommended Acenar’s, and while I don’t know if I would trust Mark, I would trust Google – they probably did their research, but I’m just guessing. It. Was. Wonderful.

There was a room designated for us, with an outside partitioned area, so we could go wherever we chose. Each table had little light-up balls in all the primary colors, of course. If you push the button on the bottom of the ball enough times, it will eventually circle through the colors. The waiters and waitresses were fantastic and they started the party off by bringing out platters of margaritas with (of course) Google light-up stir sticks (which also change colors). There was a table of Google socks, which were also fantastic, but I do regret to report that I was too slow and when I finally went to get my socks before leaving, they were all gone. BUT, I could have done without all of the swag for the experience alone (and I’m a big fan of swag, so that’s saying a lot).

We had a wonderful dinner and Danny Silva and I watched Melinda Miller try her first tamale – I’m sure Melinda is still grateful for Danny ordering some milk for her. As the night wore on, we talked about different ideas of how different applications can be used in the classrooms and systematically. We got to know about each other’s families and stories and it was absolutely fabulous. By the end of the night, Danny, Mark, Donna, Melinda and I were left, happy and chatty. Once again, I went back to my hotel room and this time, I really did crash.

San Antonio, How I Miss You...

I recently spent a weekend in San Antonio for the Google Teacher Academy and the ASCD Conference, and fell in love...

I was staying in the St. Anthony Hotel, slightly off of the famed Riverwalk and two blocks from The Alamo. It is rumored that the St. Anthony is one of a few haunted hotels in San Antonio. Built in 1909, it’s reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining. The large crystal chandeliers, winding staircases and creaking elevators all contribute to this analogy. I half expected a pair of young girls on bikes to come around the corner at the end of my hallway every time I walked to my room.

The room itself was lovely and filled with character. It probably wasn’t for everyone, but I’ve stayed in my fair share of hotels from Hiltons to Motel 6s. The bathroom had a pedestal sink and a separate bath and shower (which had bars at the top of the glass door – an interesting, jail-like addition, I thought). The tile floors were chilly in the mornings, but it just added to the experience for me. The room itself had a four-poster bed, in rich cherry wood. The cabinet that held the TV was modest in size, but intricate in detail. A pair of armchairs lined the wall that had the door to the closet – ah, the closet. A walk-in closet, larger than my own at home, complete with a built-in shoe rack. Finally, there was a working desk facing the window, which overlooked Travis Park. When I first entered my room, I opened the curtains and simultaneously noticed the exquisite view, made slightly brighter at that moment by the horse-drawn carriage, lined with perfect white lights, carrying an elderly couple – a sight that would’ve made the biggest cynic show just a sign of a smile. But I’m not that cynical, so I let out an audible, “awww”. And subsequently laughed at myself. I had business to attend to – like unpacking and getting ready to go to Rosario’s.

I prepared to head out to Rosario's Restaurant to meet up with others who would be attending the GTAdmin. We arranged this meeting via Google Wave and Twitter, and we had approximately 30 of the 50 folks show up to raise a glass to our upcoming adventure. It was like meeting old-new friends. I had already been playing Words with Friends with Donna, tweeted with Debbie, Connie, Michelle, Mark, Eric and Brian and negotiated our way through Google Wave with everyone else!

There was a palpable energy in the room and I could only imagine how it would be the next day, when we had all of us together with focused energy. Donna was kind enough to drive me back from Rosario's, and I got back to the St. Anthony at about 10:30 (which, of course, felt like 8:30) and I was still wired.

Somewhere around 2:00am, I finally fell asleep. The alarm was set for 6:00am. I did get some R.E.M. sleep, though, and the only reason I know this is because I had a bizarre dream about Mark Wagner calling me to make sure I had everything I needed and if there was anything he could do - apparently, I did have everything I needed - I seemed very calm and collected in my dream, even if I was internally bouncing off the walls.

The Perfect Storm: How I Came to Attend the Google Teacher Academy for Administrators

I flew from Oakland to San Antonio, with a connection in Houston on March 4, knowing that I was in for the best professional development of my life.

Less than two months ago, Keith Pickering-Walters, Video Production educator extraordinaire, walked into my office and asked if I had seen that Google was holding a Workshop for Educators in Merced, CA on January 19, 2010.  I was instantly excited and wanted it....now.... I asked our Principal if he thought I could go and he was graciously willing to support me and my excitement, if for no other reason, but because in these budgetary times, it is of the utmost importance for us to find ways we can use the resources that are already accessible to us, more widely used.

I didn't expect that I would completely get my geek on while in Merced, and yet I did. Kyle Brumbaugh was the lead learner and his energy and passion was infectious. I kept up with his presentation while I watched how everyone interacted with just a brief glimpse of the plethora of Google Apps for Education. I wanted more.

Kyle had mentioned that there was going to be a Google Teacher Academy for Administrators in March and that the applications were due exactly one week from that day. I was familiar with this piece of information, but I had initially decided I would wait until the academy was held in Mountain View again. By attending the Workshop, I knew I couldn't wait.

One week, one application, one video and one due date later, I had finished and submitted.

Then I waited one week, 3 days and 16 hours until I got the almighty acceptance e-mail.
March 4, 2010, I'm sitting on a Southwest flight, trying to keep myself distracted as I waited in Houston for the emergency hatch to be fixed.

I was so close. I was excited about every aspect of this trip. The anticipation of what was to come, and the untapped potential that I knew would be extracted.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First Ruminations - GTAdmin - 3/5/2010

It's been a mere 48 hours since I was humbled to be in the presence of some of the most passionate leaders and learners in my life. I've been thinking a lot about how I could possibly begin to translate the visceral reactions and practical applications that are now brewing in me.

Google Translate can't translate this stuff.

Describing the plethora of resources for students and teachers that I'm now playing with is insufficient, and I'm afraid listing them here would be excessive and not really get to the heart of my inspiration.

Pinning it down to one (or even multiple) "ah-ha" moments would also water-down the experience.

I am compelled. Compelled learn more, share more, do more, say more and believe in myself more that I did before. The team of people I have met, and continue to meet, compel me on our common path and there is little in this world that can replace the push of new-found empowerment.

Complacency is not an option.

So bring it on like Donkey Kong - bring me your tired, weak and weary, because I have something to learn and something to share.