Since last Saturday (30 September), I have been in Stockholm, Sweden. Right now, as I write this, I sit in the London airport, on the last leg of my journey, still trying to absorb all I have done and learned over the past week. The reason for this trip is do something I've been wanting to do for a long time- attend a Google Innovator Academy. I arrived in Stockholm a little early so I could do some sightseeing before the academy.
Before the Academy
Google did an excellent job of building community among our cohort before we even arrived. You can meet all the folks in my cohort and see their projects here. We'd been chatting together for nearly a month on our cohort's Google hangout, so when everyone began to arrive Tuesday night, several of us met for dinner at a restaurant called the Hairy Pig.
The next morning, before we went to Google to begin our big adventure, most of the cohort also met at a local cafe for Fika.
I felt like I already knew many of these folks before we ever met, but the few days that we spent at the academy only strengthened those bonds. I know these folks 100% have my back with getting my project off the ground, and I have their backs too. It's unbelievable how much I miss these folks right now! #SWE17 forever!
We were told that our cohort is the most diverse cohort of the Google Innovator program to date. 37 of us represented 19 different countries. What an amazing, passionate, and talented group of educators!
|Such an amazing group of folks!|
The Adventure Begins
Finally, around 3pm Stockholm time on Wednesday, the real adventure began when we entered the Google building for the first time.
As we arrived, they greeted us and gave us the badges we'd need to move about the building while we're here.
One of the first activities they had us do after arrival was work together to do a BreakoutEdu activity. The team I was on broke out with 1:44 seconds remaining on the clock. Whew!
Later, they split us up into smaller teams and assigned each team a coach to support us as we worked through the innovation process during the academy. We were to choose a team name, a team cheer and a team song. Our team chose the name "Frozen Hairy Pigs" because several of us went to the ice bar as well as a restaurant called Hairy Pig earlier in the week. Here's my amazing team, with our coach, Thomas.
|From left to right: Laurah J., Matt, Emma, Thomas, Carsten, Stanislava, Mark|
Throughout the week we worked hard to hone our projects, working through the design-thinking process step-by-step so that we would be ready to take the first steps to iteration when we returned.
|Working with my fist-bump buddy, Nadjib|
|Getting feedback on our projects from our cohort colleagues|
|Learning the design process with my high-five buddy Isabel|
We also had lots of fun together with our cohort- both at Google and in the evenings. Also, Google fed us amazingly well (I think I got spoiled)!
|Manuel and Mel during Partner Yoga|
|Quin and Mark watch the magician one night during dinner|
|An amazing Googley breakfast!|
|Photobomb by Mason|
|An after-academy visit to the Ice Bar|
My project is The #ELLEdTech project, and is all about partnering with businesses and the community to put technology in the hands of our ELLs and ESOL teachers, providing training for ESOL teachers on how to use educational technology to support language growth, and working toward changing the existing culture in schools surrounding ELLs, ESOL teachers and ESOL education. Though my project has pivoted a bit since inception, you can see my original project video below that was submitted as part of my application.
After a week of powerful learning, community building, and the most fun I've ever had during professional development, we graduated and officially became Google Innovators.
If you've been considering applying for the Google Innovator program, I highly recommend it. I would say it was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of my life. As sad as I am to leave (I miss my cohort buddies already!), I can't wait to dive into my project and start working to make it a reality. I'll keep you up-to-date on my project over the next year (and beyond), so stay tuned!