Google Teacher Academy: Reflection

I was one of fifty lucky teachers to be accepted on Google’s Teacher Academy in London this week. Held in their offices in St. Giles’ High Street, we were treated to two days of training from some of the world’s best educators. From the second we sat down to the introductory talk, we were hit with ideas and inspiration, until our heads hurt! I had been warned to have an early night before taking it all in and I was glad I did. There was so much to take in that it would take several blog posts to encapsulate it so I’m going to summarise my personal highlights. I have set myself a personal goal to make videos based on some of the things I learned so I’m going to get going on that over the coming weeks.
Advanced Google Searching
I thought I knew everything about searching on Google. I know about using tildas, squiggles and all sorts of symbols to make my search experience better but within 3 minutes of Lisa Thurmann’s talk, I learned that Google has lots of secrets. From the fun, (search for sexy Snape and click “I’m feeling lucky”), to the incredibly useful, (you can search by reading ability), searching Google is a lot more than I ever thought.
Awesome Whoops (Slam!)
There were a lot of Americans at the training and their enthusiasm was incredibly catching. While we Irish and British are quite reserved, every trick and every new thing learned was met with a holler and a whoop from our Atlantic friends. By day two, we were whooping along. Another new word to my vocabulary was “slam!” which only sounds good in an American accent. Used to affirm the awesomeness of something that just happened, I haven’t stopped using it since.
Ngrams
This nifty tool kept me occupied for ages. Essentially, you search for a number of words using this tool. Then it checks every book ever published from a start date to and end date and graphs how often the words appeared. I obviously chose the words “awesome”, “slam” and “whoop” and the results are shown below.

The Food
We were told that Googlers (Google employees) are never more than 150 feet from food and we were rarely never more than an hour without access to food. As legend has it, Google food is awesome (and I use the word awesome correctly here!) Not only did we have full access to the Google canteen where all meals consisted of food that you generally get in proper restaurants, there was an overflowing supply of coffee and loads of treats outside the lecture room. My favourite were mini Mozerella and Pesto bites. I also ate one of their brightly coloured cupcakes, which may have contributed to my general head spinning experience.
The Workshops
The days were divided out into reasonably short workshops but there were loads of them! Some of the highlights of the workshops were

  • Tom Barrett using lots of Google Apps to tell the story of his six year old’s day
  • Jim Sill’s unique presentation style when teaching us all about Google Calendar
  • Zoe Ross’ competition to challenge us to design an Olympics Google Site in less than five minutes
  • James Abela’s brilliant video about a child’s mind when he first sees Sketchup
  • Dana Nguyen’s Demo Slams with Danny Silva’s “slam” responses
  • When Wendy Gorten revealed the world of scripting in Google
  • James Sanders video collection
Chrome – Settings and Extensions
Chrome is Google’s Web Browser and you can add nice tools to it using extensions. We shared some of our own favourites, (mine are Delicious, Evernote and BufferApp) but we were shown some other great ones. Turn the Lights Out for YouTube darkens the YouTube screen apart from the video and Cleanr gets rid of everything from the screen except the video. I also like the Google Tasks Extension. However, my favourite tool is the ability to switch between different users on the same browser. This allows me to have my home profile and work profile in the same browser but still totally separate. That means no logging in and out of gmail every time I need to check things out on either one.
There were plenty of other highlights during the two days and I’m sure I’ll be mentioning them in articles over the next few months. I have gained my Google Certified Teacher badge and am proud to have received it. I’m now part of a group of a community of Google Teachers. At the start of the event, we were given some numbers to show how many people the fifty of us would influence as a result of the training, based on the survey we filled out before we arrived. Β According to the figures, if we added up the number of teachers and pupils that we can reach together, the total would be 1,200,875! There’s only one word for that:Β Slam!

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