#GTASyd14 - It's Google Teacher Academy, but NoTosh you know it

Google Teacher Academy, Sydney 2014

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, completing two days of workshops run by the NoTosh team and a group of fabulous GTA mentors. It was a jammed packed two days where delegates were taken through the design thinking process so as to realise our 'Moonshot Thinking' and make a plan for changing up education and us all to take our aspirations for education and multiply them by 10.

My Moonshot

So what did we do?
The first day was mainly about taking us through the design thinking (see NoTosh explanation of design thinking here) phases of immersion and synthesis, so as to explore and define our 'Moonshot thinking' - this was basically an issue or opportunity we saw for implementing change in education. We used strategies such as hexagonal thinking to connect/arrange our thinking about our issues and ideas before we then tried to capture our moonshot plan within a writing frame. We then adjoined to lunch in one of the many Google staff lunchrooms - a spectacular canteen, located in the 'penthouse' location atop the habour side building. After lunch we got to hear from a range of GTA mentors about how they used a range of Google tools and apps in and beyond their classroom, loosely connecting these to the design thinking process by linking them to the concepts of creativity and curiosity. The day then was rounded out with an inspirational talk from muru-D co-founder Annie Parker who shared her insights into the awesomeness that is the world of start-up incubators and accelerators.

Hexagonal thinking

On the second day we continued to explore the design thinking process to develop our moonshot plan, moving through ideation, prototyping and feedback. To encourage ideation we partook in the 100 ideas challenge where we tried to come up 100 ideas to help realise our plan in 10 minutes. We then selected three ideas - one we considered a safe bet, one we considered our darling or favourite and one that epitomised moonshot thinking. This was followed by a silent gallery where we could survey and feedback on the others' thinking. Then it was time to hear from Google Educational Evangelist Suan Yeo and a Google Programmer whose name escapes me. This was followed by a decent chunk of time to work independently in hope of entering the implementation phase, where we could start putting our plan into action, with celebratory party poppers being let off to highlight any GTA peeps that reached the display phase and put their moonshoot thinking into some kind of action. We ended the two days with a mentor group award ceremony to celebrate our new Google Certified Teacher status.

Officially certified

So what were the highlights?
NoTosh taking over the reigns was definitely a highlight for me. Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry leading us through the design thinking process was fabulous, their tools and strategies supporting each phase, encouraging both depth and rigour. The location and 'being at Google' was awesome as well, and whilst there was no slide (disappointing), there was a spectacular jungle relaxation room and monorail carriage serving as an office within an office to be experienced. In terms of presentations Annie Parker was a stand out - I loved her passion and also love the whole incubator concept and culture (in fact it is something we need to do more of in senior secondary school - I would love to explore the idea of making the whole final year of formal schooling an incubator model for students). The main highlight as always was the people - it was awesome to meet Tom and Hamish in person and lovely to spend a little more time with Google's Suan Yeo and Adam Naor as well. Then of course there was also our team - Team < x >. This was the team I worked with in the lead up to GTA and will continue to work with over the coming months as we develop our moonshot plans. I loved the conversations we had and look forward to ongoing discussions with them - Chris Harte is proving a great mentor, getting the balance of warmth, humour and challenge just right.

Team < x >- photo by Tom Barrett

And what were the challenges?
This was the first outing of the NoTosh led Google Teacher Academy and whilst it was (based on what I have about past Google slam type GTAs) definitely a big step in the right pedagogical direction it was not without it's challenges. I felt like we could have had the whole vision for the new NoTosh GTA articulated a little more clearly up front - I got the sense that some delegates were disappointed at the lack of Googliness - maybe someone like Suan explaining the reframing up front might have helped?? Timing was also a challenge - attempting to immerse in short bursts was challenging at best and bloody frustrating at worst. Whilst we did have immersion activities provided in the weeks leading up to the GTA it was hard to engage when still immersed in other things like teaching. This did improve on the second day, which meant we did get a little more time to dive deep...ish. The mashing up of NoTosh and Google was a little like oil being blended with water at first, with the workshops going from design thinking to Google slam sessions and back to design thinking again. Whilst we did use google apps throughout I did wonder if the NoTosh resources could have highlighted how and which Google tools might best support each phase of the design thinking process? I also wished we could have tried on some Google glasses and heard from Adam Naor about chromebook developments - surely this is what 'being at Google' is all about? 

Still, when all is said and done it was an awesome experience. It was a treat to be immersed in the NoTosh Google Teacher Academy prototype and I have no doubt that with a little feedback, ideation and further prototyping the implementation of NoTosh Google Teacher Academy London and Amsterdam will be all kinds of awesome. 


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