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because Google had not updated their tests, we would be tested over features and  interfaces that are currently either outdated or defunct.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:

google apps are down   Google Search

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

The Perks of Empowerment

This past week was a blur of activity in the library. The end of the semester brings a barrage of students busting through the library doors frantic to “finish” which in many cases is slang for “begin” semester projects. I spent a great deal of time directing them to the research and creation tools links I had organized on the library web site and helping them decide how to best utilize the tools they wished to use in their projects.

But the highlight of the week had nothing to do with my instruction. It was when “Doug,” a normally quiet, socially awkward student, interrupted my demonstration of a video tool to say, “why don’t you share the One True Media site I told you about before break.”

Gulp. The truth was, I hadn’t even looked at it. Who’s socially awkward now? I had made the conceited and myopic mistake of assuming that the tools I was sharing were the best available, and I dismissed Doug’s input and subsequently forgot about his suggestion over break. Now, however, his question was alive, staring me down in a room full of 25 attentive students anxious to get to the business of creating. “Well, sure,” I stammered. “I can share that one too. One more resource can’t hurt.”

When I pulled up the site in question, all it took was one quick scan of the home page to see that the features available here were better than on the tools I has so carefully selected. In fact, this tool solved the biggest problem/complaint associated with the tools I was teaching: this one allowed unlimited length projects. Brilliant!

Doug could tell that I was ignorant of the obvious capabilities of the online software, since I didn’t immediately dive into demonstrating the tools on the Smart Board. So he did the opposite of what I expected  him to do. He locked eyes with me and said, “I could come up and show them how to use it if you’d like.”  Oh, yes, Doug. I would like!

And he did. And it was beautiful. And some of the students in his class were motivated to immediately try the new tool.  And in an instant, this socially awkward young man was transformed into a confident content Expert, answering the questions I was used to answering. In the end, he showed the project that he had created with this tool, and the result was a group of students with stunned expressions who immediately began working furiously to create their own pieces of magic.

Doug had inspired his peers and raised the proverbial bar of project quality. And I smiled as I feasted on Crow.