My Experiences Becoming a Google Educator and Certified Teacher

Most people don’t know the difference between a Google Educator and Google Certified Teacher” Dan Taylor told me in his presentation in Hanoi last Fall. How right he is.

I just finished my Google Educator exams last week, and after being accepted into Google Teacher Academy for the Certified Teacher program two years ago, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from each in case you’d like to develop your skills as a teacher with an emphasis on educational technology. First though, let me compare and contrast the two:

What Is a Google Educator?

A Google Educator has a documented proficiency of using Google Apps tools with 80% mastery or more. They have a solid understanding of Gmail, Calendar, Sites, Drive and an elective which can be Chrome, Chromebooks or Android. Google has put together a series of free resources on their center for education to help people learn this content. After you have done that:

  • You must take and pass each test with a score of 80% or higher for passing. Go to the Google Testing center and create an account where you can purchase each test for $15.00
  • All five tests must be taken within a span of 90 days.
  • If you fail a test, you have 7 days before you can take it again.
We formed a series of study groups for this on Wednesday after school and went home and took the test shortly after. For some modules (Sites) that were a bit more difficult, some deferred to the weekend to allow for more time to read and study. Here are some FAQ’s about the experience, but what I found about the Google Educator course was:
  • I really improved my efficiency of Google Apps. There were a lot of functions right under my nose that I immediately put into practice. This may vary from person to person however and a friend of mine who teaches early childhood didn’t anticipate using Google Sites with her 4 year olds, but may build one for parents some day. Ditto on Google Sheets if working with data is something you seldom do.
  • It gave me ideas about what is possible. A number of the platforms we use at our school could easily be replaced. For example, we use “Moodle” to organize due dates for student work, but why not Google Calendar?

What is a Google Certified Teacher?

Google Certified Teachers are teachers who show exceptional creativity and innovative skills in using Google Apps in teaching practice and student learning. It’s recommended that one gets their educator status first, but I did it the other way around. There is an online application and certification camps throughout the year and around the world. Best of all: it’s free to attend.

My GTA Cohort in Stockholm, Sweden 2013

It can be a bit more difficult to get in though. I was accepted after my second application and many people I met at the summit also hadn’t gotten in their “first time” either. I have met teachers that have applied a half dozen times and still haven’t gotten in. Some pointers to consider:

  • Make a great video. A one-minute video is part of the application and should highlight your innovation and creativity. I’m a little embarrassed at the quality of my video as my skills have grown so much since then, but here it is.
  • Share your learning. Google certified teachers actively share their learning with the larger community. Present and share such innovations at conferences, or within your school. Google looks for that in candidates. Having a blog, active twitter profile and history of presenting is a plus.
The two-day summit was a breakneck pace of awesome cutting edge applications and within 6 months, I was able to weave them into my content area of practice. I also met some fantastic people with whom I chat online. There were some zeitgeists there such as Jay Atwood, Warren Apel and Wendy Gordon who have been dynamite resources. My big take aways from Google Teacher Academy were:
  • The connections you make. I’ve consulted Warren Apel once or twice on some spreadsheet problems I was having when integrating them into sites and he was more than helpful. Most of trainers are regular contributors to Google + communities.
  • What you learned. If you play enough with the features of Gmail, Drive, etc, you’ll learn most of the features. However, with GTA, I learned numerous other tools such as add-ons, maps features and statistical formulas that I wouldn’t have learned if someone hadn’t deliberately taught me.
  • Google Education Summits. Being a Google Certified teacher gives you a fast-track to present at Google education summits which happen all around the world.

The Bottom Line

The educator course was extremely practical, although I use such tools on a regular basis. If you’re hoping to develop your efficiency of Google Apps in your practice, the educator course is for you. However, if you’re looking for inspiration and cutting edge beta projects, the Google Teacher Academy is for you. Hope to see you Googlers at the next summit, and post any questions in the comment box below!


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Marcin Wichary.

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