Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Becoming a Google Certified Teacher

Image courtesy of +Kasey Bell 
I had the opportunity to go to Austin, Texas this week to attend the Google Teacher Academy. It was an intense experience, to say the least. Two long days of learning, sharing, and problem-solving, but that doesn't even begin to describe it. Trying to put it in words is like trying to keep a cat in the bathtub - it's difficult.

We spent our time working on defining and understanding a problem. Not just any problem, but one that's important to who we are and the challenges we face. I defined my problem with a "How might we..." statement, as set out in Stanford's d.School design thinking principles.

How might we create a culture of comfort with not knowing for educators in order to build empathy in teachers who are active facilitators of learning?

That's certainly not the most powerful way of saying what I want to say, but it fits the model. I'll be reworking this to better explain what's at the heart of my message. There are a few things that I feel are holding educators back when it comes to the challenge of integrating technology into teaching.
  1. It can be frightening to attempt something new that is untested.
  2. To cede control of learning to students is a novel concept for many great educators.
  3. Being vulnerable is something we do, but we do it privately.
I want to tackle this issue. I want to create a culture where it's okay to not know. Learning should be celebrated, and learning is messy at times. If we want to model the learning process, we need to be comfortable with the notion that we'll fail at times, in front of our students, and they'll learn about how to handle it when it happens to them, too.

An environment like that depends on a positive and supportive community. I strive to foster that atmosphere in my classroom, but not all areas of a school are like this. I tend to stay out of staff rooms, not because I'm anti-social, but because I don't like that it can become a place to air grievances. There's no safety in being vulnerable there (for me, at least).
Team #awesomesauce

So to tackle this, I'm going to build a safe place. I have my safe places. This blog is one of them, but I also have my community on Google+ and Twitter, and a network of friends I lean on when I have questions or face challenges. Not everyone understands the power that these spaces can hold, so I want to create somewhere that's got more freedom of expression. It won't be audited, it won't be tied to your presence online, and it won't reflect on you.

What it will do is connect you with ideas that can help when you've struggled. It will encourage you to fail forward, to learn, reflect, and try again. And it will ask you to offer support to someone else who might be feeling intimidated, frustrated, or even hurt by a failure they've experienced.

That's about as specific as I can get right now. Partially because I don't want to give things away, but also because I'm not yet certain how it's going to look in its final form.