Let’s read about my edtech journey.
Every school year, I create an overarching goal for the year. This year it was to create a student led classroom. Last year it was to become “Tech Girl”. How would I do that? Why would I do that? How would I know if I actually accomplished the goal? (This is starting to sound like a SMART goal.) The answer to the second question was easier than the first. Why in the world would I want to be “Tech Girl” if I was a self-proclaimed technophobe? Easy, because being a 21st century educator is not about my comfort level but about providing the best possible education for my students that I can. And we all know that having a blended learning environment, embracing and implementing technology, and allowing students be creators rather than consumers will make learning both relevant and engaging to our students. The second question, now that was harder. How would I become Tech Girl? I knew that I needed to learn all that I could about technology. I became active on Twitter (lots of edtech inspiration), started reading edtech books (Catlin Tucker’s Blended Learning started my journey, The Hyperdoc Handbook solidified it), followed blogs (lots and lots of blogs), participated in webinars, took online classes (Alice Keller’s Google Classroom Deep Dive and the EdTechTeam’s Hyperdocs Bootcamp), and attended workshops (Google Summit and #CUE17). How would I know if was actually Tech Girl? After much contemplation, I decided that I would need to become Google certified. Phew, that would be hard to do!!! I’d definitely need some help.
The Google Training Center has excellent modules to help educators learn how to implement Google apps into their classrooms. So last summer I embarked on the Fundamentals Training. The level 1 module has 13 units. Each unit has an introduction, lets you know what you will learn, the products you will be using, and the skills you will need. Within each module, there are generally 3 to 5 sections. At the end of each section, there are 4 multiple choice questions to check for understanding and at the end of the unit there are 6-8 multiple choice questions. I would take the unit review questions before I started the modules as my own formative assessment. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised, other times I knew that I had a lot to learn. I went through every single module, watched tutorial videos, learned how to use Google Help, recorded my quiz results, and even created a Google Fundamentals folder in Drive to store tutorials, notes, and blogs relating to Google certification.
After about a month of studying, I was ready to take the exam. I got signed up, got my password, made sure the camera was working then got started. After about 2 and a half hours I pressed submit. I sat and sat, then the results came in. I didn’t pass. My score was 76%. I wasn’t completely deflated. At the bottom of the results page, there was a list of “needs improvement” areas. Over the next week, I worked on those particular components. Time to take the test . . . again. I was primed and ready to go. Another two and a half hours later, I sat and sat. Much to my dismay, another fail. Yes, it even says that “failed”. This time my score was 72%. What?!? This time I was deflated. I cried. I really did. My husband helped me put it in perspective. He asked me, “Did you learn anything?” Me, “Of course, but I didn’t pass the exam.” Him, “Is it about the learning or passing the test?” Grrrrrr. He knows how to get to me!!! Needless to say, with my new Google skills I would dedicate myself to using them as much as I could during the next school year. And I did just that. I was intentional about using GAFE for purposeful educational endeavours with my sixth graders.
The level 1 exam has educators show fundamental knowledge of the basic GAFE apps. With this in mind, I started to refine my skills with the help of my students.
Google Classroom: I’ve used Google Classroom for two years. The first year was more dabbling, but the second year I felt like I fully implemented G-Classroom. It was a regular part of our classroom structures. Posting announcements, assignments, and utilizing private messages was standard. Students learned the importance of reading directions carefully, collaborating with peers while working through lessons, self-monitoring to make sure assignments were turned in, and checking G-Classroom when they were absent.
Google Drive: For me, G-Drive is the hub of G-Suite. Everything is stored there, can be retrieved easily, and is the source of creating new digital content. I became addicted to color coding and organizing my folders for efficiency. Take a look at my Drive . . .
GoogleDocs: The first Google app I used was G-Docs. Actually, I learned about them from my daughter that was in high school. She was working on an essay and telling us (her dad and I) how she was editing with a friend. I had her show me. Wow!!! This was my first exposure to synchronous online work. It wasn’t until the next year that my district adopted GAFE. But when we did, I was excited to use G-Docs. At first, I closed editing rights and comments to just me, but as time went on, I discovered the power of students working on collaborative docs, editing each other’s work, and the power of the comment function. I taught my students how to give productive feedback with the sandwich method . . . one compliment, one suggestion, and end with a compliment. They became really good about productive feedback. We also learned how to use the Explore feature when writing and researching. I love how it’s built right into the document.
GoogleSites: I have to be honest, years ago I created a class website using G-Sites. It was a very cumbersome process. And at the end of the day, I didn’t use it very much. But . . . along came the new G-Sites. I kept seeing Twitter post from people that were able to beta test the new G-Sites. I was really looking forward to the release date. Once they became available, I made one of my own, then walked my sixth graders through creating their own G-Sites as Digital Portfolios. They turned out great and we used them all year long. The collection of work in them is phenomenal. And best of all, they are so easy to use!!! I wish I could show you one, but they are closed within our domain. But here’s a blog post about how we created them.
Gmail: The first app I used was actually Gmail. I’ve had a personal account for several years. But once I started studying for the exam, I discovered the organization techniques built into Gmail. My students don’t have access to Gmail, so I was on my own without my tech-gurus to help me out.
GoogleCalendar: Okay, so this is the app that got me the first time. My husband is a super organizer and planner. He’s the expert in the family with G-Calendar. He keeps everyone up to date with appointments, invites, and scheduling dilemmas. Google Help and online video tutorials really helped me learn about G-Calendar. I’m pleased to say that I now my calendar regularly. The best part about calendar is the mobile app. I love getting reminders on my phone.
GoogleKeep: Once again, an app that my husband introduced me to. (Wait, maybe he should be getting certified?!?) I first used G-Keep on my phone exclusively, then eventually started using it on the desktop. I use it more for quick note-taking and downloading images or photos that I want to remember. I love checking off items off the list. I didn’t have my students use G-Keep this year, but I plan to next year.
GoogleHangouts: My first exposure to G-Hangouts was through the mobile app. My husband and I would use it to make video calls when one of us was traveling. Later, I was able to be part of G-Hangouts during the Hyperdoc Girls online class. I took the EdTechTeam’s Google Bootcamp and had fun learning the ins and outs of hangouts with the group. I knew the basics, but there were some nuances that I needed to figure out.
GoogleGroups: Full disclosure, I never used G-Groups. I learned about to use the functions I was exposed to during Fundamentals, but I have no practical knowledge. I need to figure out how to best implement the app for purposeful instruction.
Towards the end of the year, my district hosted a county wide Google Bootcamp. I have to say, the two day workshop was phenomenal. Although I thought I could learn the material and pass the test without the workshop, attending the workshop, collaborating with other educators excited about Google, and completing tasks was well worth the time and money. (Principals, send your teachers!!!) Shout out to my trainer, Sean Williams, from the fantastic training. Man, I was the nerd in the front asking questions and probably too excited to answer questions. (Think Hermione in Harry Potter) He gave us Blackbelt challenges to test our skills. I loved them so much that I started creating them for my students. Check them out here.
So now with a year of working with the Google apps with my students and family, it was time to take the exam again. I have to say, I was super scared!! I went through the Fundamentals unit review questions again and had a few F2F study sessions with a friend. But I was still SUPER nervous. I bit the bullet and registered. On the day of the exam, I got myself set up, made sure I had notebook paper with me to write down tasks, activated the camera, then set off to take the test. It took me two and a half hours. I stayed focused, kept track of time, and paid particular attention to details. I pressed submit. This time, I didn’t sit at the computer. I went to my bedroom and called my husband. Then, with him on the phone I went to check the results. I passed!!! I can’t tell you the relief I felt. I didn’t want to tell him that I felt really good, but once I knew I passed I told him.
I am proud to say that I am now a Google Certified Educator. I now completed my goal from two years ago.
If you’re thinking about becoming certified, I highly recommend it. As my husband reminded me, it’s all about the learning and what we can take back to our classrooms. Our students deserve to have a high quality education. In the times we live in now, the “basics” include being literate in technology. Not for technology’s sake, but for the sake of our student’s futures.