Finding Innovation at The Google #TOR16 #GoogleEI

As I look at my blog, I realize it has been over a month since I last posted.  I had been writing more frequently up until September, and in reality, so many great things have been happening since then.  I have had a great start in my new position, quickly finding ways to fit into my new school.

So why haven’t I been blogging? What could have been demanding so much of my attention? Simple, I was incredibly fortunate to be included among the remarkable group of educators attending the Google for Education Innovation Academy in Toronto.  When I first got the notification I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t understand the commitment, nor did I really understand the honor of joining a relatively small community of incredible people doing incredible things in education.


The program began with the excitement of acceptance, a long awaited email, followed by an intense collection of notifications making it very clear I had entered into a whirlwind of excitement.  Just over four weeks until the Academy would begin and our cohort was furiously building connections.  We completed a series of tasks and challenges that asked us to work collaboratively, problem solve, and do all of the things you’d expect from innovative educators.  We were challenged in ways that helped us get to know one another.  We also built the beginnings of relationships that I expect to last a lifetime.

This period went by quickly even if it seemed like it would take forever.  I don’t want to overshare the details, because in truth, not knowing what was coming next was a huge part of the excitement for me during the process.  Before I knew it, the time had come to board my flight to Toronto.

I had an instant connection with many of my innovator cohort.  So much so, that one amazing individual, Andy Dobbie helped me through the process of re-imaging my old laptops using cub linux operating system.  It essentially becomes the equivalent of a chromebook.  It works amazingly well and it is so simple he has grade 6 students doing it to create a new arsenal of functional technology in his district.

Andy offered (without solicitation or a second thought) to pick me up at the airport.  He was of course the embodiment of what this cohort is all about.  Kind, dedicated, intelligent, and inspirational.  At every turn I see him thinking of others and trying to find ways to build ways to empower others around him.  As a group I cannot think of a better way to describe my new family.

The day started with a “Canadian Welcome” from our northern hosts.  It broke the ice in a hilarious way! It was followed by finding our team and our coaches.  I couldn’t be happier to get paired up with Donnie Piercey and Team Timbits! I must say our team was amazing.  Steve, Melissa, Brennan, Mary Ellen, Jennifer, myself and of course Coach Donnie! I was touched by the incredible honesty, passion, and gratitude these people showed for where they were and the people they wanted to help.

Over the next three days I would spend all my time learning, working, and socializing with highly motivated, intelligent, dedicated individuals. Their ideas, hard work, and drive are inspiring.  I won’t tell you all the details, you can read my cohort member’s blog posts if you want more details.  I enjoyed the surprises! By the time I left I had enjoyed one of the most incredible experiences of my professional life.  One of the last things we talked about was, what will the 30 second story be when people ask me about my experience at Google with the Innovator Academy, so here it goes:

What is the Google Innovator Academy all about? It’s about family. We are a family now, we are also part of a larger extended family that we can call on and also be there for when needed.  It’s about learning how to channel your passions to make a positive change in education.  It’s about a culture that is supportive, cares about people first, and is dedicated to making  a difference.

It’s also about learning how to build that culture in your classrooms, schools, and districts.
Design thinking to find solutions for problems is a huge “topic” take away, but to me it is all about how we learn to spread the Google innovator culture.

The academy was designed for that purpose, our group have literally known each other a month and spent less than 4 days together. Yet we are still talking about missing that experience and each other. We are all still trying to explain it to “outsiders” in a way that will help them understand what it’s like to be immersed in that culture and feel compelled to spread it wherever you go.

I have already been asked by several people if they should pursue this in their future.  I responded with a resounding yes.  I am grateful to the Innovator community for the opportunity, my cohort for all they are and how much they now mean to me, and my family for putting up with me!

I look forward to the ways I can give back to education, the Innovator community, and future Google Innovators as they experience their journeys.