Upper Canada College Middle Division information and communication technologies integrator Sarah Barclay was invited to the Google Teacher Academy in London, England on Oct. 27 and 28, as its organizers believed she had “the commitment and passion to grapple with some of the biggest education challenges we face.”
The academy at Google’s impressive new United Kingdom headquarters provides participants with hands-on experience with Google tools, innovative instructional strategies, resources to share with colleagues and a chance to immerse themselves in a supportive community of educators who are making an impact.
Barclay joined about 50 other teachers from around the world at the academy, and getting in wasn’t easy. Her application involved replying to a series of questions which could have used essays to answer but had to be kept to 400 characters or less. The questions revolved around the three main characteristics of Google-certified teachers:
Another part of the application was writing a six-word personal memoir. Barclay’s was: “I thrive on ‘let’s find out.’”
Barclay also had to include a 400-character statement from an advocate explaining why she would be a good candidate for the Google Teacher Academy. She asked Prep theatre/English teacher and character integrator Laurie Fraser to write hers (as well as to edit and provide feedback on the application), and this is what she came up with:
“Sarah inspires her colleagues with a balance of passion & professionalism. She has lifted a faculty of 60 teachers to a place of teaching & learning with technology that many never thought possible. She has the organization & practicality to make us feel safe and comfortable, yet the curiosity and creativity to push us beyond any perceived limitations. We are grateful for her vision and zest.”
The final part of the application was creating a one-minute video illustrating a candidate’s capabilities in one of the three above-mentioned characteristics. Barclay chose “outstanding educator” and based her video on last year’s Halloween costume when she took on her Google Girl alter-ego, who you can see in action here.
Successful applicants were put in groups of eight with a mentor who’s already a Google-certified teacher. They brainstormed problems in their academic environments that they’d like to solve and were provided with three challenges to work on to help them more deeply understand the depth and breadth of the challenges they face. The theme is “learning first, tools second.” The mentor groups worked together at the academy for their two days there and will continue to work for six to nine months afterward to try and bring real change to their learning environments.
“I hope to join a community of educators that are motivated and energized by the same technologies that excite me,” says Barclay. “I look forward to the synergy that is created by sharing ideas, collaborating and problem-solving. I will make connections, build my international network of colleagues and return inspired and eager to support the students and teachers at UCC and across independent schools in Canada.”
The Prep professional development budget paid for Barclay’s flight and accommodation, while the rest of her costs were be covered by Google.