Monday, 27 February 2012

Google Teacher Academy

Five hours, yes, I'll say it again... five hours! That's how long it took me to create a one minute video to submit for my application to the Google Teacher Academy 2012. I was still not happy when I finally uploaded it, and I also complained on Twitter about just how long it had taken me.
But, as I now realise, it was definitely time well spent. Why? Well, I am one of the very fortunate people to have been chosen to attend the Academy in London in April, 2012. Out of fifty places, twenty five have been given to overseas teachers, coming from places as wide ranging as Mexico, USA, South Africa and Argentina.
That makes me even prouder that two places from the UK were given to teachers from Norfolk. Sheli Blackburn (@SheliBB) was also accepted, and we have already got hotels and trains booked.
While I am already a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, I have always wanted to be able to take part in a Teacher Academy. I suppose because I am first and foremost a teacher, I love being able to explore and share how Google Apps are being used to support teaching and learning. Going through the process of becoming a Certified Trainer was great, but a very solitary activity. Once you complete the six online tests, you then have to submit a portfolio of work. The Googlers back in the USA then make the decision about whether or not you have met their standards. I know it is not a straight forward process as I'm aware that they are quite selective about who gets through.
But, the Teacher Academy is almost the complete opposite of this procedure. Even the process of creating the video and writing the online application ended up being a collective activity. So many great people were tweeting and sharing their thoughts and ideas. The level of support and collaboration was amazing. Those who were slightly more organised and had got their videos completed before the deadline were more than happy to share them.
I think this was one of the reasons that, while being ecstatic at being accepted, I felt bitterly disappointed for those who did not get there. With only fifty places, it was always going to be hard, but there are a lot of fantastic teachers out there who helped and supported many of us, but who did not get in.
I've made many great contacts as a result of going through this process, and the Academy is still six weeks away. I can't wait for us all to meet up, but I know that a lot of us will be tweeting furiously during the two days to make sure that as wide an audience as possible can get a flavour of what is going on.
Simon McLoughlin (@simcloughlin) has already started a shared document so we can find out who else is coming, and who will be around for the Tuesday evening before the real fun starts! Jo Badge and Kate Farrell have also been doing a great job getting a GTA circle going on Google+.
The collaboration, interaction and sharing is what I am most looking forward to, before, during and after the Academy. I think it will be an amazing experience that I hope I will be able to share with many other teachers through my role as an ICT Adviser.
For those who have not experienced the richness of a Personal Learning Network - I would suggest that following #gtauk on Twitter might help make you aware of some amazing people out there around the world who are willing to share, support and discuss almost anything! I know I learn something every time I spend any time on Twitter and Google+. I'm greedy now - I want more! I just hope I can give back as much as I take?!

Monday, 13 February 2012

What do you want to do?

During the two fantastic Saturdays that I spent with the Cloud Educator Group, the same question got repeated several times: should we be getting iPads in school?
I've been saying this for quite some time - that is the wrong question. The question we really should be asking is 'What do you want to try and achieve?'
Don't get me wrong, I think iPads are fantastic tools and there is already evidence of some amazing learning happening in schools (@SheliBB is a great example
But....I've always said, 'Give a good teacher a brown paper bag, and they will do a good job with it.'
Technology will never remove the need for good teachers, but it can enhance and empower teachers and learners in ways that we are still discovering.
I know that we will always need those moments of, 'I wonder what would happen if....'. Without them, the amazing innovation that we see in schools wouldn't take place.
But, we do need to take a step back and work out what we are trying to achieve. I occasionally wonder if some schools feel like they should be keeping up with the Jonses, rather than having a clear idea about what impact their spending (with diminishing funds) is going to have.
The Self Review Framework from NAACE refers to an outstanding school as one where, 'The school frequently reviews and updates the place of ICT within its overall vision. It explores and evaluates the potential of emerging technologies, new initiatives and practices. Reviews take account of internal evaluations and changing learner practices within and beyond the school.'
If schools are going to be in a position to make informed judgements about current and future technologies, a good place to start would be reviewing what is already in place, and what impact it is having.