Sunday, July 27, 2014

Becoming a Google Educator

My name is Don and I'm slightly addicted to Twitter chats. I have to say that I get really pumped up talking to educators from all over the globe about ideas to implement in the classroom. I try to attend at least 2-3 Twitter chats per week. One of my favorites is #sunchat. It is on Sunday morning at 8am CMT. I'm usually awake and on the porch with coffee, lots of coffee. During the #sunchat this morning, the topic of Google Certification came up and was of interest to many in the chat. I touched on the certification process in my last blog post "Summer Learning, Having a Blast" (sung to the tune of "Summer Lovin'") but there were a lot of questions still so I thought I would go through the process here for anyone who wants to know more.

The most helpful resource that I found was the Google Training Center site found here: I completed the basic training and took the basic exam. No problem. We've been using Google Apps at school for a little over a year so I knew the basics pretty well. Then, it was on to the Advanced Level. This is the level upon which certification is based. I had to pass exams (with at least an 80%) on Docs & Drive, Calendar, Sites, Gmail, and one elective which, in my case, was Chrome Web Browser (because I thought it was the most useful for me).

Each exam is $15 to purchase, so the entire outlay was $75. I took my time going through the materials for each exam, starting with Calendar. It took about a day and a half to read through the materials and prepare to test. After taking the test, and passing (phew), I moved on to Docs & Drive. Same process. Then, on to Sites, Gmail and Chrome Web Browser. The time investment for each exam was different based on the apps with which I had the most experience. We use Docs & Drive all of the time at school so it took less time for me to master that one. Calendar, on the other hand, took longer. All in all, about 9-10 days was what it took for me to go through the site and master the material. The results of the tests are instantaneous. Click the "Finish" button and your score pops up. It is a nerve-racking two seconds :)

When you've passed all of the tests, you get one of these certificates:

I feel a great sense of accomplishment. The week and a half of immersion into the Google Apps will pay big dividends for myself and my students. The biggest surprise for me was Google Calendar. I had no idea that I could do so much with Calendar and use it for so many things in class. If you undertake the certification process, you'll see what I mean. One of the great things about learning all of the nuances of Google Apps is that I can take seemingly unrelated things from one App and apply them in unique ways to solve challenges in class. A little creativity and a little knowledge makes me a little dangerous! Uh oh, look out!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Learning, Having a Blast!

As we all do, I set some learning goals for myself this summer. I wanted to become a better-prepared teacher for my kids this coming year, especially when constructing a collaborative, student-driven, PBL classroom environment. To that end, I have been faithfully attending a few Twitter edchats each week, and read Drive by Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) and Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave). Both were extremely motivational and validating. I know that, now more than ever, building a classroom in which the students' natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation are nurtured will allow them the autonomy they need to pursue their own creativity and learning. My push to transform my classroom into a PBL environment is in hyper-drive thanks to all of those from whom I've learned this summer.

A second learning goal I had for this summer was to become a Google Educator. In order to do this, one must learn the four base Google for Education Apps (Drive, Sites, Calendar and Gmail) and one "elective" App, in my case Chrome Web Browser. There was a test over each App and I had to score an 80% or above to become certified in that App. I had to pass all five to become a Google Educator. I was able to accomplish that about two weeks ago. Phew!

Now it is time to finish mapping out the first couple months of the year, continuing to develop a blog that will serve as the main communication device for our team parents, immerse myself in Google Classroom (we will be using that as our LMS this year) and putting the finishing touches on other technology odds and ends. The fact that we are moving to a 1:1 Chromebook environment has increased my urgency because I want to give my kiddos the best classroom experience that they've had to date. To do this, I have to know the technology well, map out a logical plan that allows for individual learning and growth and make sure the kids have a fun and rewarding experience this year. With three and a half weeks left of summer break, I am beginning to feel ready for the new school year to begin.