Google Teacher Academy #GTASyd 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 2.52.05 pmA few years back I set myself a goal to become a Google Certified Teacher.

I know we talk to our students a great deal about goal setting but often I wonder about how seriously we, as teachers, take the concept when it comes to our own learning.

In my experience, the process of goal setting has been more of a school-enforced procedure. Over the years I have had many a “professional learning plan” neatly complied and then duly tucked away in a drawer for review at a later stage (in honesty, sometimes the “later stage” never arrives!”). If this is the case then there is a value, system and process problem along the chain.

Fortunately, our school are operating on a more robust and realistic level these days, thanks in part to my colleague @RachelGeorge38 Our language and actions are now directly related to smart goals, regular ‘checking in’ conversations and a genuine approach to pursuing goals that enhance learning for the STUDENTS and not just the teachers.

As an example, how many times have you seen a teacher’s PLP that states something like “I want to get better at using I.T.”

Meaningless, lacks specificity, deadline-less, no way of measuring etc etc.

Aside from school derived improvement schemes though;

What goals have you set for your own learning? (today, this week, this term, this year, 10 years?)

What aspects of education excite you?

What are you curious about?

What would you like to be an expert on?

On which things can you offer value and expertise for your colleagues?

What makes you / will make you stand out from the crowd of average teachers?

For me, the idea of radical change in education is something I’ve become increasingly interested in as my experience grows.

The work of Michael Fullen, Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin and Ewan Macintosh (fellow Scotsman) have inspired my to think differently, and somewhat disruptively about the question, “What is school for?”

Enter Google.

A more contemporary, forward thinking, innovative organisation you would struggle to find.

I’ve often wondered what it may be like if Google opened schools of their own.

As a result, attending Google Teacher Academy became a dream that I was determined to pursue and realise. So when the opportunity arose to apply in region for Sydney 2014 I felt the time was right.

So on Friday August 15th, you can imagine my delight to receive the following mail;




You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney. After reviewing your application, we believe that you have the commitment and passion to grapple with some of the biggest education challenges we face! The team is excited to have you join us in September 2014 at the Google office in Sydney, Australia.

Without giving too much away, the process of application was both demanding and fun. Here’s a sneak peak.

Question 1. Provide your 6-word memoir.

Out of interest, what would yours be? (leave it as a comment below, go on I dare you!)

One of the most well known, and most public, parts of the application process is the one-minute video.

Here’s mine… (not perfect by then again, neither am I!)

There’s always an element of mystery and surprise over the content of GTA’s around the world, which is cool. But overwhelmingly there is a strong purpose to make sustainable change in a positive way within your school community.

There is also a responsibility to continue to give back to the community after your accreditation, be it as a mentor to other GCT teachers, as a leader of GAFE summits, or simply as an ambassador for change within in your own school.

This is not your everyday turn-up-and-fall-asleep PD session.

With No Tosh as part of the learning and mentoring team, I am excited to learn more about design thinking and to meet a whole new network of educators who think in ways that very few do.

To sign off, I wanted to provide a taster of the theme of #GTASyd 2014.

I can’t wait to update you on our Moonshot Thinking…



Without Failure There Is No Success

Before seeing the below video clip of JK Rowling’s Harvard University commencement speech, I had only ever read her fictional work.

Harry Potter is a life’s work of which any writer would be proud.

But it was the non fictional story of her own life, that laid the foundations for an inspirational address to Harvard graduates back in 2009.

Even now, 5 years on from her speech, her advice, insights and reflections are still so relevant to the students we teach (as well as to the colleagues we work with) and I wanted to share it with you all to provide some further affirmation that is definitely ok to get things wrong.

Without allowing failure to become my key objective (we never try to fail), I seem to find ways of failing a lot in my role as a teacher, especially when it comes to classroom innovation.

No big deal, everyone survives.

Indeed, I would say its the principal calling card of a life long learner.  Having said that, I always fail safe in the knowledge that what I was striving for was something greater, more meaningful or valuable for the kids I teach, and most importantly , I/we learn from it.

As teachers, we must have the courage to push boundaries, try new things and the humility to admit/ accept when things haven’t gone right.  The great thing about working with kids is that they don’t mind telling you straight!

Imagine having teachers modelling this and explaining innovation/failure/success to students as they go over the course of a students school life.

Being courageous then becomes part of their very fabric of living and learning.

Imagine a culture of innovation was the norm, like working at google.

In the words of J.K Rowling;

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”

I hope you enjoy watching as much as I did