Long post alert….you’ve been warned!
Beginning of June…submit application for the Google Innovator Program in Venice Beach, California
End of June….received notification that I have been accepted into the Google Innovator Program
July 9, landed in LAX, walked from terminal 5 to 3 to meet Sean and back to 5 to meet Jennifer, hugged it out and got picked up by An in her Google Innovator Taxi-van. Smiles, hugs, and warm welcomes all around.
We headed straight to the YouTube offices where we met all of the amazing members of the #LAX18 cohort as well as our awesome coaches! It was awesome to finally be able to put a face with a name after conversing via Twitter, Google Hangout and Flipgrid in the weeks prior. We were fortunate enough to go on a tour and see the creative spaces. On the day that we were there, Kids Bop was recording! How cool is that? Our tour guides gave us the low down on how content creators (YouTubers) start to monetize their channels and how they can earn the opportunity to come and record content at the YouTube space. It had a very creative and innovative feeling walking through that space. A lot of the rooms were blank canvases, ready for content creators to come and turn them into sets to film content, which I though was very fitting for the experience that we were about to embark on. We walked into this journey with an idea of a problem in education that we wanted to solve and a blank canvas for how we wanted to solve it….sounds simple, right??
|Photo bombed by Mark Wagner!|
|The lanyard makes it real!|
From there we headed over to the Google Venice offices where we received our official Innovator t-shirts and lanyards! Talk about an “ahhhhhhhhh” moment! Some of our cohort members, Manuel and Sadie, created us all personalized buttons with the Innovator lightbulb and our faces! I told you we had some talented folks! I presented everyone with an Atlanta Braves flag. Hey, I had to bring a little bit of the south to my peeps! We received other swag and goodies from our new friends. Everyone was so thoughtful and amazing! And then...there's the food! If Google does one thing well….it’s food. More about that later!
|Team "Beats of LA!"|
We were formally introduced to our coaches and put onto teams. My team was “Beats of LA” and was lead by the amazing Jornea! Our team was made up of Misty, An, Chip, Ian, and John. We had to come up with a team song in addition to a name. We jumped into our BreakoutEDU boxes and took turns breaking into each other’s box. The stories that came about through this activity were very personal and heart touching. This was the perfect activity to bring us all together. It was in this moment that I grew closer to the team that I had just met! We also collaborated on how to create the perfect chair by thinking BIG but starting small. Then we competed against each other in an epic “rock, paper, scissors” type battle until the T’Challa Water Chair was the last design standing! You had to be there!
We were told that we would be excitedly uncomfortably while we were at the academy and that was definitely the case! It was during the opening presentation that we learned that we were 1 of 37 members of the #LAX18 cohort and 1 of 1700 Google Innovators across the world! Say what??? I can’t lie, I definitely experienced some “imposter syndrome” (@edtechari) wondering how little old me deserved to be in the presence of the other 36 phenomenal innovators that were chosen as well as the coaches! Like how did I deserve this? I definitely took several deep breaths and centered myself in gratitude. I know there there were obviously people that believed in me and my idea and felt I was worthy of being there, so why shouldn’t I?
|Les and I!|
We were immediately thrown into learning all about the design thinking process and Les took us through it all! She joked that she got paid to be a professional interrupter and I do believe that it’s true! Every time you thought you were getting deep into thought, she turned on a dime and brought us back together to consider something else. It was fast paced and I understand why. She didn’t give us too much time to think about things as she didn’t want us pondering, questioning our thoughts, and changing our minds for hours. Her whole thing was to get our ideas out on paper, IN SHARPIE!!!!!!! Once it was out into the atmosphere, you could then make alterations as needed going through an iterative process.
At the end of the first day, we were greeted at our hotel with a mystery delivery of a candy filled taco piñata! I can’t make this stuff up! Somehow, the “mascot” if you will, for our time together was a taco and it took on a serious life of it’s own! I’m talking taco stickers, taco blow up life rafts, actual tacos, taco cookies….this group is UBER creative!
|Presenting my prototype to Team "Beats of LA!"|
Day 2 was probably the most intense as we really delved into our projects and even more of the design thinking process. We sketched out ideas, created a prototype, got feedback on our ideas, gave feedback to others. It was definitely one of the most intense things I’ve ever been through, simply because of the pace. BUT the quick pace was NEEDED to move everything along. It made sense! Day 2 happened to be Tuesday and in alignment with the theme, it was a Taco Tuesday! Complete with a live guitarist, a magician, massage chairs, caricature artists and a full taco bar! It was a night to decompress from the intensity of the day, fellowship with our cohort and really begin to wrap our minds around all that we had accomplished that day.
Day 3, the last day, was definitely bittersweet. We wrapped up our prototypes, received even more feedback and put together a 90 second pitch that we would share with a group of about 15 of our peers. We then received their feedback. I’m going to step out on a limb and include my pitch here. I definitely welcome any feedback that you have to offer. Keep in mind this is a new project idea and it’s in the very beginning phases!
Throughout the academy we were also able to hear from all of our coaches in the form of Spark Sessions! They didn’t disappoint! Mark Wagner offered words on “More, Now.” Being in the moment and dreaming BIG to change the future. Jornea Erwin offered her 3 keys of resilience for the art of living. She shared her love of New Orleans and her passion for life! David Chan spoke about the importance of doing right by children in a creative podcast themed way! Ari Flewelling spoke about having imposter syndrome and why we question the goodness that comes to us in our lives. To stop wondering why you, and start asking why not you? Michael Kosko took us through an epic crowd sourcing activity after talking to us about a gaming app that addressed medical advances in HIV/AIDS research. And last but not least, the ever so witty, Micah Shippee exposed us to some AR awesomeness and even gifted us all a Merge Cube! Each of these sessions, although very different were extremely inspiring! I can’t wait to take bits and pieces from all of them and merge them into my daily practice!
|I created the Google "G" on my nail!|
We were also able to take part in Sparks put on by some of our cohort members. I learned how to do nail art with Lisa, the basics of sketch noting and creating with Manuel, and gameifying your class with Ben. It was cool to learn from our peers on what their passions were. Other sessions including beat boxing and spoken word, juggling, aquaponics, breakdancing, coffee making, and others!
Two innovators from previous cohorts called in through Google Hangout to share their growing pains and successes with us. Derek Doucet and Quin Henderson were awesome and took time to answer our questions. I immediately connected with Quin as our projects, although different, look to solve the same problem in education.
|It's officially official!|
Once the pitches were complete, we walked across the stage in our graduation ceremony. Members from previous cohorts came back to offer us words of advice for going forward. That was an awesome surprise! Being able to see friends like Ken Shelton and Meghan Kelly made me smile and I was grateful that these people traveled all the way to Venice to offer us words of wisdom and celebrate with us.
The problem that I am passionate about solving in the field of education, aligns with my dissertation research. I am looking to address the issue of teacher attrition for new teachers within their first 3-5 years of teaching. My solution (in its current iteration, as I’m sure there are plenty more to come) is to first, create a YouTube video explaining why I want to address this issue, what the send of urgency is in solving it, and how I want to solve it. I am also going to create a website that will host more information, FAQ’s and interest forms for new teachers that want to receive a virtual mentor as well as veteran teachers that want to serve as virtual mentors. I am going to match the new teachers with their mentors after going through their interest forms and announce them on a “Match Day!” Kind of like how they do in medical school! We will meet virtually as a collective unit and then each pair will meet monthly via tools like Google Hangouts and Flipgrid with a monthly focus that addresses the growing pains that come with being a new teacher. Most new teachers receive a face to face mentor at their schools once they begin teaching, however there is something to be said about having a mentor that is outside of your school and district to bounce ideas off of and to begin to grown your PLN. I hope that by having new teachers paired with veteran teachers, I can address teacher attrition in some form, shape or fashion.
Since leaving the academy, I’ve already come up with a name for my project, started creating the bones to my website, created a logo, and have started drafting the curriculum! My brain has not shut off since leaving! And I’m loving every minute of it! In the next few weeks, we’ll be matched up with our Innovator Mentor and I can’t wait to see who it is!!!! Eeeeekkkkk!!!!
Going through the Google Innovator Academy made me excitedly uncomfortable, took me out of my comfort zone, exposed me to some amazingly innovative educators and fanned the flame for my passion to help solve a problem in the educational space. I am so humbled, grateful and eternally thankful that I chosen out of 400 applications to be a part of such a life changing experience. I don’t take the responsibility lightly at all. I look forward to keeping in touch with the innovators of #LAX18, seeing how their projects progress, failing forward, thinking BIG, wanting and demanding more, now, and watching us all change the world of education, one innovative idea at a time!
|Team "Beats of LA!" after graduating!|