Tall Poppies And Google Teacher Academy


It was from my Australian friends that I learned the phrase “Tall Poppy Syndrome“.* So it’s somewhat appropriate that I try to write about my time at Google Teacher Academy in Sydney with a measure of humility and gratitude and quickly followed with how I’m supposed to change the world.

Sitting in the room.

In a conference room in Google HQ Australia, I look around a room and saw strangers, twitter acquaintances, and friends. There were fifty-two educators from 13 countries, directly influencing 32,727 students, 40,311 teachers, and therefore indirectly influencing 410,885 students. These were amazing teachers who want to do amazing things for their students. In other words a powerful bunch of educators.

The fantastic Team Silverbrook, lead by my friend Chris Betcher. A great cohort of educators, who I got to spend the days learning with.

Nominally it was a tech conference (here’s a really great write up from another Google Certified Teacher about the Google Teach Academy from Gretel for the nitty-gritty). It was Google-y. We saw demo-slams. We learned techs and tips. But it was really about meeting people, re-connecting with people, and finding a community of innovative, positive, supportive educators. There were a lot of people who had the right to act like a tall poppy, but everyone just rolled up their sleeves and got to work. I can’t tell you how great it was to sit in the room with teachers who didn’t need to be convinced technology would benefit our students’ learning.**  The energy in the room was crackling and buzzing.  People were excited to play around with new technologies and brainstorm ways to use it in the classroom. I can’t tell you how privileged and lucky I was to sit in that room.

Things I’m geeking about.

In reading about the conference, many describe the Google Teacher Academy as a “fire hose” conference…in other words lots and lots of talking about tools and things Google can can do. For me, high-pressure spewing of information doesn’t sound the most enjoyable way to spend the day. And while the days were crazy, the emphasis of on pedagogy from all the Lead Learners was noted and truly appreciated. The days were spent talking about teaching and learning, which is always the forefront of my thinking. A few days later, here are things I am still geeking out about***.

  • I am already trying to figure out how I can get Google Hangouts turned on at my school. My kids are already informally using Skype and GChat to do homework and I think I can use this innately social nature of my kids to help them learn, locally and globally. And I honestly think Google Hangout, Google Hangouts on Air, working on GoogleDocs in a Hangout and Hangouts on YouTube are going to be transformative to student learning.
  • Using Google technologies and critique protocols – I learned about this from Chris Harte and I’m always geeked to find out ways to help my kids learn from each other.
  • Geek Gurl Diaries! Created by a Google Certified Teacher Carrie Ann Philbin, I am very, very intrigued by this. Getting girls into the tech world is important and complicated. I hope I can beg, borrow, and steal things from Carrie Ann to help my girls enter that world.
  • Design Thinking. I had the good fortune to talk to Tom Barrett about Design Thinking, an inquiry method using real-world strategies for solving real world/ungoogleable problems****. I have a feeling I’m going to be embarrassed very soon about how little I knew about the pedagogy behind Design Thinking. I also have a feeling I’ll be bugging Tom about it as I figure out ways to integrate it into my classroom.

Next Steps

Part of being a Google Certified Teacher is creating an action project that will bring about change and then get it done. People have done intimidatingly incredible action plans. The change can be local or global, but we were encouraged to dream big. To-The-Moon-Big. It’s a little scary really, because I really feel that if I come up with something good, Google (and all the Google Certified Teachers out there) will help me. That’s no-excuse territory.

So what I’m thinking is a global conference, similar to Google Teacher Academy, for students. It would be run by students for students, supported by Google and Google Certified Teachers. It would help them develop the skills and networks needed for Moonshot Thinking to become a reality for them. This is a nutshell of an idea. There is more for me to think about and for me to figure out.  This will evolve and I plan on failing fast, getting feedback, and to keep on moving. But I know that my passions lie in helping kids become empowered learners and active world citizens. And if Google can help me just a little bit, then I plan on exploiting my tall poppy status to make that happen.

*Of course, as an American I don’t believe in cutting down the tall poppy. In the States, we’re all tall poppies. It’s what makes us awesome. And at times, annoying. 🙂
**It’s not to say I don’t have these communities elsewhere (Coetail, Twitter, people at school). But it’s always incredible to find another group of people who will help you get better.
***Here are the notes Katie Christie and I took during the conference which shows a small amount of all the amazing things we learned. And there are dozens of things I still need to explore (scripting!). I had to take out a few sections that fall under the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Mentioning the Non-Disclosure Agreement does suggest that I’m a tall poppy. I’m okay with that, because it’s kind of cool.
****This is simplistic. Also, a sign of how being in the same room allows for some serendipitous conversation. And seriously – check out the No Tosh site.

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tall Poppies And Google Teacher Academy

  1. Hi Rebekah

    A small group of us organised a student conference here in Hong Kong last year and are planning to do the same thing this upcoming December 2013 (in conjunction with the 21st Century Learning Conference) let me know if you’d like to know more or be involved!

    website for last year: http://www.stucon2012.com/


    • Justin-

      I’m definitly interested. Let me know what you’re thinking and how I could be of use. Looks like you have a really interesting model for a student led conference and I’d love to learn more. Can’t wait to learn more!

  2. Rebekah, thanks for the reflection and the inspiring ideas. It was wonderful to see you again, on yet another continent! I’m so glad you felt that the focus on pedagogy was obvious… we really tried to make it that way, so the fact that you and others noticed is a wonderful thing.

    Justin, that stucon event sounds fab. I’ll be in HK for that conference so would love to be involved somehow.

  3. Chris-

    Always good to see you and already wondering where our paths will cross next.

    I could definitely feel a shift to pedagogy from the conference. I think that’s something really positive and something I talked up to friends at work. I know I would have walked away as geeked out if all we talked about was tools. So thanks for being a part of that shift. It was noticed.

    See you!


    • Love your moonshot idea! It’s starts with an idea…and the crazier the better. 🙂

      I was so happy to hear that there was a shift towards pedagogy at #gtasyd. Many of us have the basics of Google Apps figured out and we are ready to go to the next level. Nice job #gtasyd lead learners!

  4. Pingback: See Think Wonder: Digital Literacy and Visible Thinking | Rebekah Madrid

  5. Pingback: Google Teacher Academy 2013 | Think Fizz

  6. Pingback: Creating Questions: Ideation in a MYP World | Rebekah Madrid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s