Getting Googley – My Google Innovator Journey

During the past 4 years, I have been on an incredible journey to become “Googley”. Having just arrived back in New Zealand from an inspiring trip to London to attend the Google Innovation Academy, I can now say that I am a Google Certified Innovator, and I now feel as Googley as ever!

So what did it take for me to be a Google Innovator? Initially, becoming a Google Innovator was not on my radar. Through the work I had been doing with other teachers in regards to using technology to enhance learning, I decided that I would work towards becoming a Google Certified Trainer. The first step towards this was to complete the training and pass my Google Certified Educator exams at Level 1 and 2. For teachers that have been using the Google Suite for Education in their classes, these exams are fairly straight forward, and I would encourage everyone who is using it to get certified. The next step was to become a Google Certified Trainer. This took a bit of work and I learnt a lot along the way. I had to pass another exam as well as submitting a 3-minute screencast of a training in any Google Suite for Education application. I was rapt to have my application accepted, and I now had the benefits of being part of the Google Trainer group, having my own Google Training domain and being included on the Google for Education Directory. If you are interested in getting Google certified, click this link.

At this stage it was a natural progression to see what was next. I began to read about becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator. It was a highly selective process with educators from all over the world applying for each cohort. It was apparent from reading various posts from those that had been involved in the program that it has been hugely influential on their educational journeys. Still not sure if I had what it takes, I suddenly received an email saying that I had been nominated to apply to be part of the next Cohort in London (thanks Saunil Hagler!). While reading my nomination, I started to believe that I had done some pretty cool things and that I could be a slim chance to be chosen. So I decided to start my application. This process involved choosing an innovative idea that I wanted to pursue to transform learning. I had to complete a vision deck with my idea, a number of questions and a short one minute video outlining my vision. Check out my video application below:

Once submitted, I had to play the waiting game for a month. On the morning of the 16th of March, I woke up to one of the most exciting emails I had ever received:

Excitement quickly turned to panic as I realised I had under a month to book a trip to London from New Zealand! With the logistics sorted, my attention turned to the many challenges that we were sent to ensure that we worked closely with the rest of the cohort to collaborate together to solve problems. It was amazing to see the collaboration that took place as we worked online to solve our first Breakout Edu Challenge. We then had the opportunity to meet everyone via a Google Hangout. From here we were tasked with gathering more information for our individual innovation projects - all of this was the beginning of diving deep into the design thinking process.

So before long, I was on the plane heading to London. Many of the cohort had decided to meet at a Pub (where else!) just before our first session at Google. Within 5 minutes it was evident that I was in a room with some outstanding educational minds. The excitement grew as we were about to head into the Google Offices for the first time. Once in the building, it was great to have the standard ice-breakers to meet everyone, and we were then we were given another Breakout Edu challenge. This was the most epic problem-solving challenge I had ever been involved with! After 30 minutes of struggling through the challenge, we then had the privilege of having a Hangout with James Sanders, who is the co-founder of Breakout Edu and also a Google Innovator from a previous cohort. He explained how each of the problems needed to be solved and what we had done well and had missed along the way - mind blown! If you haven't heard of Breakout Edu yet, be sure to check out their website: Breakout Edu is a great way to get students and adults to think critically, collaborate, communicate and get creative and is something I will definitely utilise in the future.

We were then put into our groups that we would work closely with for the next three days. My group - Team X - consisted of the following amazing people - Carla Staffa, Nancy Watson, Jaime Chanter, Ben Forte, Adam Llevo and our great coach Claire Lotriet. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to work closely with everyone in this group. One of our first tasks was to have our teams complete our own mini Breakout Edu that we had to create before sharing our educational stories. I was instantly inspired by each and every person in Team X and it is great that I can now include them all in my Professional Learning Network.

Before long it was dinner time and we were all treated to our first experience of the amazing food at Google! This place knows how to treat their employees and I ate like a king for the duration of the academy. In fact, we were told that Google has a rule that you cannot be more that 150 feet away from snacks and drinks anywhere in the Google buildings!

Over the next couple of days, we were treated to an amazing array of speakers and workshops. We looked at a range topics such as reimagining what is possible, the future of Chrome, design thinking, emotional intelligence, and what it means to be Googley (to name a few). We were given time to work on our Innovation Projects and gain valuable feedback from others. It was great to be able to have conversations with the likes of Mark Wagner (CEO of The Edtech Team), Les McBeth (Future Design School) as well as all of the other outstanding coaches. Moreover, the most valuable conversations were the informal ones (often over our amazing meals!) with each of the other 35 educators (and now Google Certified Innovators!) in the #Lon17 cohort.

So what does it mean to be Googley? Googley people are innovative. They have an open mind. They have a readiness to fail and take risks. It was this sort of mindset that was instilled in us over the three days at our Google Academy.

During one of the many amazing presentations during the academy, one quote stuck out:

"Fall in love with the problem - not the solution"


With this sort of attitude, we are more likely to be willing to learn from our failures and remain adaptable in our approach to various problems. This is something that I am sure will help me with my innovation project as well as in my ever evolving educational journey.

So what’s next? The Google Academy was just the start of a 12-month journey to complete our innovation projects. We will each be paired with a mentor (a Google Innovator from a previous cohort) to help us through the process. All of us are now part of the online community of Google Innovators and this will be an invaluable resource to continue to utilise in the future. Most importantly, I come away from the academy more inspired and motivated than ever to continue to reimagine what is possible and make a positive impact in education.  

For those of you that are considering applying to become a Google Innovator, take the plunge! Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And if you don’t get accepted the first time, look at what you could do differently and apply for the next one!