Google Innovator Academy – Boulder 2016 #COL16

(This is just the first blog post in a series as I work on my Innovation Project.  I will have more reflections to post in the future but I wanted to post something to get the big ideas out first.)

Last week I got to participate in what should be a career altering experience at the Google for Education Innovator Academy in Boulder.  I got to spend 2.5 days with 35 awesome educators, a great bunch of coaches, and of course some Googlers.  We took part in many learning activities and got to listen to some great talks by our coaches and some other great people.  We even got to participate in a brand new Breakout Edu game in the Breakout Edu bus.  (Special thanks to James Sanders for that one.)

breakout collage

Here are my biggest takeaways:

  1. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate – From listening to those that work on projects at Google to all of the discussions with other educators, it is clear that anything we do is just a single point on the whole timeline.  We are never set with a finished product and we can always keep moving forward and improve.  This is very clear from those that work at Google but it is also a point made by all of the coaches of our group as they shared their failures and successes.  Google tends to propose getting a product out there and making iterations along the way as you get feedback and find out what works or doesn’t work.  This is something I believe we should be doing in the classroom as it can model to students how we can learn as we go along and that nothing is going to be perfect the first time you try it.  Too many teachers get stuck waiting for perfection and never get started.
  2. Stepping out of your comfort zone leads to learning. – We had the pleasure of having Sylvia Duckworth join us for the Academy.  She is very well known for her use of sketchnoting and that is something I have been interested in for a while now.  I am definitely not known for my artistic ability but using my growth mindset, I view it as something I can work on.  I like the idea of sketchnoting as it could be something we can teach some students as a powerful way for them to take notes, there is no one way to take notes and this could be a very effective way. Sylvia did a great job creating sketchnotes for the 2 full days of our Academy. I attempted a sketchnote using my new iPad Pro 9.7″ with the Apple Pencil (which I had used all during ISTE and it was the best device I have ever used while at a conference – more on that in a future blog post).  I have a ways to go but if I want to get better, I need to expose myself to new ideas and try out new things.  You can find one of Sylvia’s sketches  at and mine is below.  Mine is the main ideas for my Innovation Project.
  3. Find Your Tribe – The best part of this whole experience is getting to spend some time with people who go beyond the definition of the word “awesome”.  I feel very connected to a group of educators who will push me to be better.  They have so many great ideas and have some great strengths that will help me as I continue to learn and grow.  While we were split into 6 groups for the bulk of the 2.5 days, my team being “How ’bout them apples!”, it was great to work with all of the groups.
    We were constantly told that our group had done more before the Academy than any other group.  We had used more avenues of communication and worked closely leading up to our time in Boulder.  We had used Wechat, Hangouts, Spaces, and even a Google Spreadsheet that is still being added to today.  We had in depth conversations about our own norms as we completed the challenges given to us.  We shared a lot of who we are and what we wanted to learn.  This is a group that I know I can work with for a very long time.  They are ones who will keep me going forward and are helping give me new energy as I continue to grow.  There is a reason why we put the word “family” on our shirts.

I want to thank everyone involved with this academy as I believe this is what I needed to ensure that I keep moving forward.  This was the perfect way to spend 3 days in Boulder and I think many of us wish it would have lasted longer.  Thank you to our Program Managers: Becky Evans, Mark Wagner, Wendy Gorton, and Michelle Armstrong.  Thank you also to our great coaches: Kern Kelley, Sergio Villegas, Sarah Thomas, Jennie Magiera, James Sanders, and Molly Schroeder.  Thank you to Google Boulder for hosting us and feeding us very well, I am very jealous of the people who get to work at Google as they have a great work environment.  Most of all thank you to the rest of my #COL16 family for such a great experience so far and I am very much looking forward to working with you all as we work on our projects and beyond.


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