What a year I had. Actually, in less than a year, I became Google Certified Educator Level 2, Google Certified Trainer, Google Certified Innovator, presented for first time outside my district, presented at CUE & ISTE and more than quadrupled PLN on Twitter. By no means am I bragging, but damn I was busy. Oh, I forgot to mention, in that same time I also co-founded a regional edtech/pedagogy hashtag and Twitter chat that has grown beyond my region across the nation and world.
Of all the things I have accomplished in the last year, earning the honor of Google Certified Innovator is what stands out the most. There are less than 1,500 Innovators in the world and I am so blessed to be part of such an exclusive, amazing group of educators. Traveling across the world to Sydney, Australia was unforgettable and highlight in my life. The feedback I received on my project, learning about design thinking and absorbing the Google vibe were, by far, the best professional learning experience of my career to date.
My journey to Sydney began on a whim some time during the Spring of 2016. One morning while I was checking emails, an idea popped into my head. As a tech coach, what if I could pull students, who need a challenge, out of class for enrichment to aid teachers in reteaching standards to students who've yet to master them? I asked permission from the principal and got the green light. My first pull out lesson was with middle school science. A group of four students came to the first iteration of what became the Cardinal Innovation Center. They screencasted, blogged and created websites for biomes. When they finished, the teacher was impressed with their work and display of their learning.
The next step was to develop a way for students to display their work to a larger audience. It was then I began developing a website to display student blogs, booksnaps, memes, sketchnotes, videos and more. As the Cardinal Innovation Center evolved, being a Google Innovator was not on my radar. At the time, I was a Google Certified Educator Level 1 and I was fine with that.
As the 2016 school year would down, I dealt with some serious difficulties in my personal life. To get my mind of those difficulties, I "took the plunge" and began applying to present at as many conferences and summits as I could find. Slowly but surely, I started to get accepted. It was at these conferences where I connected with Google Certified Educators, Trainers and Innovators. These people, one in particular, encouraged me to continue presenting and further develop my Cardinal Innovation Center idea.
As 2016 wore on and 2017 kicked off, my personal life had turned around and my Cardinal Innovation Center idea was becoming a real thing. It received a tremendous shot in the arm when, for the idea, I was recognized as a CUE Leroy Finkel Fellowship finalist. It was after this when I took the initiative to become a Google Certified Trainer and apply to become a Certified Innovator.
My first attempt at Google Certified Innovator, London, did not pan out. I have to admit, I was a little bummed, but I knew more opportunities were on the horizon. I tweaked a few things in my application and submitted for Sydney. I planned to submit for Washington, DC, but mistakenly missed the deadline.
At ISTE 2017, I connected with countless more incredible educators who had applied for Google Certified Innovator and had yet to be accepted. At first, I felt better about my initial rejection, but then the whole process seemed more daunting than I previously thought. At ISTE, I crossed paths with PLN member, a future Sydney cohort member, Judy Blakeney. We talked about applying to Sydney and joked about sharing a flight if we were "lucky" enough to get accepted. Little did we realize that our little joke was about to come true.
Stay tuned for Part 2.