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Best Present Ever? GAFE in August.

Though there are a plethora of individual, interesting, and engaging Web 2.0 tools available to enhance learning, THIS is the suite I crave for our district. My primary goal this summer has been to attempt to convince district officials, through emails, demos, and other means, that it is past time to provide students and staff with at the very least, a domain-based collaboration suite. Add FREE to the mix, and GAFE is a no-brainer! So far there has been no word on whether it will happen. In the meantime, these millions of users can’t be wrong … right?

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Aside

So you wanna be a Google Certified Trainer Part II

In my last post I discussed the week-long workshop I participated in through ITSCO that covered the six modules and  tests that serve as the first step to becoming a Google Certified Trainer. After failing one test (ironically, the AppsMail test – I KNOW. My embarrassment called and wants it’s own zip code!) I’ve used Gmail for several years and never realized there were so many settings, options, offline modes, and ghost protocols, let alone the intricacies of IMAP vs. POP features, LABs add-ons, and Domain administrator settings) I was able to retake the test on the final day of training for an additional $15 fee. By the grace of (A. God B. Luck  C.Karma D. The Spirit of Larry Smith) I passed, and it felt like I’d won the TechGeek Superbowl!

Passing the six ninety minute tests (yes, you will use all 90 minutes for each test), however,  is but the first requirement in a series to become an actual Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer. Once an applicant receives “Qualified Individual” status by passing the tests, Google outlines the next steps, which applicants have up to 12 months to complete. From Google’s training site:

“Certified Trainer” individual applicants must:

  • Have previously achieved ‘Qualified Individual’ status.
  • Complete a case study demonstrating your experience in technology instruction and/or professional development. Additional strong references from school or business clients are required.
  • Submit a 2 minute video introduction about your background, role in education technology, and innovative approach to using Google Apps
  • Create sample learning materials and produce a short video which demonstrates your familiarity with Google Apps features.
  • Demonstrate extensive experience using and training Google Apps to educational organizations prior to application.
  • Commit to conducting at least 3 professional development activities related to Google Apps every quarter
  • View the complete application here.

I’m not worried about the videos. I have used Jing, ScreenCastOMatic, and a trial version of Camtasia to create How-To screencasts for my staff and students. What worries me about this venture is that we are NOT currently a GAFE district. Nor have we adopted any district-wide LMS. Our students currently do not have a way to transfer files from school to home. They do not have a way to co-author and create shared documents. Many outside blogs are blocked. All email is blocked. We allow students to register for their own Private Google accounts, but we our thin clients run an  old version of IE, which does not support Google Apps. In short, our students currently have extremely limited options for engaging in real-world educational collaborative experiences. Not that Google is the Be All End All of platforms, but it does have distinct advantages:

1. The entire suite, complete with storage, backup, security, apps, tools , live support, real-time updates, collaboration and publishing capabilities is FREE. Did I mention FREE?!

2. Read much more about the advantages Here

My hope for future posts, is that I will be able to document the implementation of  GAFE for Heath City Schools.  

So You Want to be a Google Apps for Ed. Certified Trainer?

Of COURSE you do! Who wouldn’t want to earn that type of mad techie GAFE street cred? Imagine wielding such awesome powers as setting up district-wide permissions and wowing students and staff with the power of little-known gems like Moderator and Groups? If you are an active personal user of Google Drive (as I am) and have considered simply logging in on a random Saturday to take the six 90 minute tests you must pass as the first step to becoming Certified, my advice is: DO NOT DO IT.

Just don’t. No matter how knowledgeable you think you are, I am here to tell you, You Are NOT Ready. Seriously. You need professional help. And by that, I mean training. Time to go through Google’s online training modules and take notes. Time to ask questions and get into the administrative dashboard to click, play and explore. Time to learn the exact terminology for each individual tool (in AppsMail, is it your “primary” task list or a “default” task list?  Is a site contributor an “editor” or a “collaborator?”)  Time to memorize the exact series of clicks that will allow you to reconfigure a wayward user’s Chromebook from a Android phone in the Ukraine. (Okay. I made up that example–but some of the questions were actually that daunting!) AND, time to discover a plethora of cool feats to perform with Spreadsheets.

IF, however, you can speedily answer the following questions, then by all means, go ahead and don your pj’s, open your Chromebook, and shell out the $90 to take the tests. *Disclaimer: the following are not actual questions from the exams, just similar in structure.

“When using a Blackberry  to access Gmail in offline mode, which calendar view is not available?”

A. Appointment
B. Month
C. Week
D. A and C
E. All of the above

 “To access district-level page permissions in Sites, which is the correct order?”

A. More, Pages, Permissions
B. Dashboard, Sites, Pages
C. More, Permissions, Collaborators
D. None of the above

Not only did the questions hit on some extremely technical policy/permissions minutia , but we discovered that because Google had not updated their tests, we would be tested over features and  interfaces that are currently either outdated or defunct.  (Google is scheduled to release the new tests sometime in July…or …Next Week)  SO as we glossed through the modules it went something like this:

Trainer 1: “This module covers the intricacies of Google Video…which no longer exists. But was cool when it did.”

Trainer 2: “Let’s look at the administrator dashboard. We are viewing the current dashboard, which is not the one you will be tested over.  In the old dashboard, you accessed the permissions on the back end; however, the new dashboard permissions exist on the front end, so when you train your teachers, you’ll need to know what is now true, but for the test, you will need to know what used to be true in the past but is now something altogether different.”

Is it any wonder that our group of 15 tech-savvy educators took Every Available Moment of the tests to pour through the questions, analyze every word, and second-guess ourselves with internal dialogue like, “Hmm. I know you can do that Now. But I’m not sure if you could do it Then.” or “Well, that IS/WAS possible, but only if an Administrator enabled the service, which is Not the default setting, nor is it recommended, SO… What Does Google Want?”

Was the training grueling, confusing, and at times even maddening? YES.  Was it Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Not only do I now feel capable of answering even the most obscure questions from my colleagues regarding Google Apps, but I feel energized and excited to share and advocate the amazing ways that GAFE can unify a district, ensure meaningful collaboration between students, staff and parents, and afford teachers and students opportunities to be uniquely creative, productive, and efficient, all in a free, secure platform.

Need more convincing? Just ask Google:

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Stay tuned for my next entry, where I will discuss the remaining requirements necessary to attain GAFE Certified Trainer Status.