But why I hear you ask?
- As a teaching professional and one intent on doing the best for my students, I realised that I was not preparing my English students sufficiently for the outside and future world by having them learn my course through traditional pen and paper.
- I love the ability of digital/modern learning to prioritise the journey AND the destination.
- Students become increasingly collaborative and independent and reflective through the use of digital learning.
- I wanted my Year 13 students to be digitally competent, confident and safe.
- I believed that my teaching workload would drop significantly (as it has).
- I wanted the dominant atmosphere in my classroom to be one where students learn rather than me teach.
- Aorere College has become a GAFE institution in late 2014. I therefore felt I had to walk the talk!
- Lastly, I love learning about new educational ideas, pedagogies and digital matters.
Where did I start in my Google Education journey?
- By using Google Apps for Education. To be Google certified or even just competent using GAFE, no amount of theory beats using the apps as much as appropriately possible. Thus use becomes almost natural and you quickly establish an intuition in terms of the thinking around GAFE and how best to deploy. As Nike says "Just do it."
- Learning from others and making mistakes. I didn't invent GAFE nor was I was one of the first adopters. So very early on, I tried to find out as much information as I could about other people's experiences (the good, bad, brilliant and horrific). How many new Google users freak out when they can't find the "save" button or share a link with everyone or forget to make a new copy before naming a doc, slide or sheet? No matter what mistake I made, I was prepared to laugh it off and learn from it, most of the time.
- I empowered my students. Students are very quick adapters and adopters of digital technology. My students in particular were fantastically critical in terms of whether they thought the tools in use were the most appropriate. Even better, they became and still are the problem solvers (thank goodness!).
- I also ensured I surrounded myself with people who knew more than me about Google, GAFE, all things digital. I became a student to their teaching.
- I asked questions, many and often. Our fantastic digital learning coordinator at Aorere College and one of our senior HODs and digital advisors must feel at times they are my personal GAFE help-desk. To their credit, neither of them have ever put me on hold.
- Lastly but probably most importantly, I established a clear vision of where I saw my digital/GAFE learning heading. The great thing about digital educating oneself is that you have to focus only on the journey as the destination changes often and quickly.
- I also committed myself to being the best Google Educator I could but also to prioritise my digital learning via enjoyment & collaboration.
- I ensured myself and eleven others from the Aorere Digital team attended the annual Google Summit. Believe me, there's nothing better than being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded passionate digital advocates and having face-to-face access and contact with world-class GAFE practitioners.
- I joined twitter. In my opinion the absolutely best learning platform for anyone interested in modern professional learning. My twitter connections are the ultimate global classroom and PLG.
How to pass the Google Educator exams...first time (even if just!)
To pass the Educator exams, you need to get at least 80% achievement in the four compulsory topics (Gmail, Sites, Docs & Drive, and Calendar) and your elective (in my case, Chrome). You must also pass all five exams within a 90 day period. Each online exam is 60 multiple choice questions over a period of 90 minutes.
- Read thorough the webpage https://www.google.com/edu/training/get-certified/?utm_referrer=https:%2F%2Fwww.google.co.nz%2F This page gives a really google introduction into Google Education and the support available.
- Sit the Basics exam right now! That's right. Before doing any study, by sitting the exam, you'll get a feel for the exam setup and no doubt you'll be surprised at just how you already know about GAFE.
- If you are NOT interested in sitting the exams, I recommend that you work you way through the basic lessons for all the different elements of GAFE (see below). Moving through each area of study will give you a good overview of the GAFE ecosystem.
- Study and then sit the exam on your strongest topic first. Why? Well obviously I wanted a good start and to be honest, knew way more about Docs & Drive at that stage than the other three combined. I then sat Gmail, Calendar, Sites and then Chrome, (in order of knowledge and then ultimately my elective).
- Don't skip any of the basic lessons no matter how much you think you know. 80% sounds reasonably straight forward for an online test, but be warned some of the exam questions are ultra-specific and refer in some cases, to one single sentence mentioned in a basics lesson.
- Don't rush your responses. I achieved exactly 80% in my Google Calendar exam because I didn't check my answers sufficiently at the end of the exam and in some cases, "interpreted" the question. If you move at a reasonable pace, the time limit won't be an issue. Rushing and making costly mistakes could be.
- If there is a question you can't answer, leave it and move on to the next one. The Google exams are really nice in that before you submit your answers for testing, you can check all your answers and the questions you haven't answered are highlighted for you. Use this nice function!
- Use two computers. One for sitting the exam, one for research. The best and most efficient text to use during the exams I found was the Google Support website . This website has a fantastic search function that was always quicker than revisiting the relevant Google lesson.
- Have appropriate exam space. Turn off your phone (yes, there has to be sacrifices made to be Google educated), warn the family that you're sitting an actual timed exam and effectively make yourself invisible from civilisation while sitting the exam. Also make sure you have power that will last for the whole exam period and then some! Lastly make sure you have stable internet access.
- Actualise the questions while sitting the exams. In the case of Google Sites and particularly in the Chrome & Gmail exams, I found it easier to answer the questions by live-trailing the questions e.g. completing a task on a Google Site etc, using the omnibox in Chrome, using labels in Gmail). In the Docs & Drive exam, there was less need as I had a pretty good understanding of the setup and abilities of this GAFE element.
- Study really hard for the Calendar exam. I must admit I was a bit cocky for this exam to the extent I just passed. One, I hadn't used Calendar before, thus it was completely foreign to me and two, the questions in the Calendar exam were the most technical for me by far and ultra-specific in terms of language and foci. I also felt that the questions for this exam were at times far more ambiguous than in the other exams and coupled with less-than-needed preparation, learnt some wonderful "life-lessons" in attempting and scraping through this exam.
In the end, I did pass all five exams and have to admit that by the time I became "certified", I was more delighted with the journey I had undertaken than my ultimate destination. Of course, I was excited at becoming a Google Certified Educator but it was more important that I had significantly advanced my digital competency and confidence not just for my personal & professional benefit, but for the learning and assessment benefits of my students and the wider Aorere College community.
I thoroughly recommend that anyone engaged in Google learning or in a GAFE institution undertake their own personal Google Education journey. Just think, you've got everything to gain and nothing to loose. Good luck and good study. I look forward to you being "certified".