Google Certified Innovator Academy Days 2 & 3

As I sit in the airport and start to write this post,  I really don’t even know where to begin. The past few days have truly been some of the most inspiring, uplifting and mind-blowing days of my life. I will not be able to do justice to express my gratitude and pure excitement in this post, but I’m going to give it a shot!

Over these two days we heard from so many brilliant people, the Global Director of Google for Education Bram Bout, Google’s X Marketing Events Manager Gina Rosales, EQ Schools Founder & Chief Happiness Officer Roni Habib, Google’s Director of Product Management for Docs and Drive Jonathan Rochelle, French teacher and well known sketchnote artist Sylvia Duckworth, author and member of the Raspberry Pi foundation Carrie Anne Philbin, Google’s Director of TechDev in the L&D Department Erica Fox, and more. These guest speakers were above and beyond our amazing coaches, many of whom I’ve followed on social media and admired their work for years. Our coaches and members of the EdTechTeam who helped put everything together were Mark Wagner, Wendy Gorton, Mark Hammons, Jay Atwood, Danieta Morgan, Sandra Chow, Monica Martinez, Kevin Brookhouser and Michelle Armstrong. And of course, none of this would have been possible without Becky Evans and Justin Lacap from Google. (*Don’t worry, I will fix the images to turn them right side up!)

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So all 34 of us had to submit a vision project that we wanted to work on this next year with the help and support of Google and the existing Certified Innovator tribe. Much of the two days was spent challenging us on those initial ideas and encouraging us to brainstorm and think bigger… to create the lightbulb and not just a fatter candle! 

This pushing to expand the mind began with Google’s X Marketing Events Manager Gina Rosales. Google has an entire divisin dedicated to “invent and launch “moonshot” technologies that we hope could someday make the world a radically better place,” and by “someday,” they mean 5-10 years down the road (from the X website). What’s a moonshot? We didn’t know either at first, but now we’re all reaching for it. Google defines a moonshot as something that falls into three categories:

  1. a huge problem that affects millions/billions people,
  2. would require breakthrough technology to solve the problem and
  3. has a radical solution, or a crazy idea that you think may not work.

If you did’t know about this division of Google before now, stop what you’re doing and check out the video below. Read more about current Moonshots like the self driving car, Project Loon (balloons to bring wifi to areas of the world that don’t currently have it) and some other awesome ideas at their website


Of course, the education world does not have the resources that Google does, so we have a slightly modified version. An education moonshot takes a meaningful problem, finds an innovative solution using appropriate technology. Believing that truly anything is possible really helped some of us pivot our original ideas or actually start to believe that this might really happen. I mean, if balloons can help get internet access to the 2/3 of the world that still does not have it, then anything is possible! Check out what others around the world are saying about Moonshots in education using the hashtag #MoonshotEDU.


I was also very inspired byEQ Schools Founder & Chief Happiness Officer Roni Habib. He talked with us about the importance of happiness and play in education. He had about 40 adults standing up in the room acting out animals, throwing imaginary balls, signing our extra large John Hancock’s with our hands and hips… while facing someone else (in cheer camps we used to call this ‘spell your name with your butt say what, say what’). It sounds so silly, but it was really fun. Not a single person in the room had a frown on their face. I would even go as far as to say not a single person in the room wasn’t audibly laughing and extremely engaged in both the games and the more serious discussions that happened afterward. It was the perfect segue into discussing our ideas with our teams and being more willing to put ourselves out there in front of our peers who we all respect and admire and were once afraid of looking dumb in front of each other. We felt safe and willing to share. I found it very powerful.

The Hedgehog

Jay Atwood, one of our coaches, talked about finding your hedgehog. Why a hedgehog? Because the hedgehog is really good at one thing… curling up into a ball, so it’s prey can’t hurt it. It has perfected this one thing. We went through a series of activities that helped us narrow down our hedgehog, but in essence, your hedgehog is these three things:

  1. something you are really, really good at,
  2. something that you get value for effort out of and
  3. something that you are really passionate about.

Once you know what your hedgehog is, you can focus your efforts on seeing that thing through.

That Internet Thing

life before googleWe had the pleasure of having a talk from Dan Russell, Google Senior Research Scientist for Search and User Happiness and search extraordinaire.

He left us with many thought provoking anecdotes, but I will just share a few.

90.5% of people do NOT know how to use Ctrl+F on a webpage to find something.
51.1% of teachers do NOT know how to use Ctrl+F on a webpage to find something.

Yikes! That is just one super quick and easy shortcut for using computers. He continued to explain that while young people can look up videos on YouTube and can pick up a new game in no time, that does not necessarily mean they know how to use the internet effectively for their education. It’s up to us to make sure they know how to do that. In a world with internet in stratosphere-balloons, it’s not fair for us- as teachers and school administrators- to say, “I don’t know how to use that internet thing… just assume you’re going to be learning for the rest of your life.”- Dan Russell

He went on to discuss how easy it is to look up just about any given fact with a quick search in Google, again further perpetuating that we need to change how and what we’re teaching. We still need to know a lot of “stuff” to connect the dots that Google can’t do for us (like in the breakout game we played on the first night of the academy), but there is a brand new set of skills that are required for students.


There are a few other things I want to write about, like Erica Fox’s talk about finding, developing and growing Google employees, and what can be taken from those concepts and applied to schools. But, I think I want to save them for their own posts.

Now I will leave you with some pictures from around Google… the stuff everyone really wants to see!

As my fellow Innovator, Matt Wigdahl said, “it’s not goodbye… it’s here we go!”

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What’s your Moonshot idea for education?


Tech To You Later!

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