The Google Teacher Academy is built around your idea of a project that changes education. You start this process with your application when you create a vision deck and vision video detailing what you want to do. The academy then leads you through a design process on your project, and that process means you might not leave the Academy with the same project.
I came to the Innovator Academy with a project goal of changing high school for the better. It was built around three principles: 1) changing traditional instruction 2) changing perceptions of the "we have to prepare them for college 3) and advocating for a change. My project was one of the ones that changed pretty drastically, but what's amazing is that I think it can achieve the same goals. One of the amazing coaches, Sandra Chow, suggested I combine my project with an amazing educator from Kentucky named Savannah Denning. Savannah was looking to do much of the same thing at the primary level so what we came up with together was seeedudifferently.com.
Seeedudifferently.com is a simple concept. It's a blog where educators who are thinking differently and doing creative things can share what they are doing. Our ultimate goal is to have a vast collection of stories that others can use as examples and ideas to improve their practice. We also think it's important for users to see what others are doing so people can change their perceptions of what is needed to prepare students for the next level.
From all of this, I think we can achieve the goals that I originally set out in my project. We can change instructional practice through someone seeing all of the great and creative things that are going on in schools every day. We can also change schools from a goal of next level prep to life prep by showing that other levels are doing things differently than the traditional approach. We can also eventually get to the advocate stage by showing our legislators what great things are happening as well as building a great network of educators to achieve those goals.
While my Innovation Project excites me, the best part of the Academy was by far the friendships and connections that I formed. The Academy is an experience you go through together, and they even put you in a team to make it feel more like a family. It's almost like my team was my immediate family, the rest of the cohort went to grandparent and aunt's and uncle level, and the greater community is the rest of the family.
There were so many highlights as far as the relationships that were built. I got to experience the Academy with a fellow Georgia educator, Mary Ellen West. Mary Ellen and I knew each other before the academy, but deepening a friendship is always a great thing. My coach was the incredible Sylvia Duckworth who I admired from afar through her work sketch noting, but now I know personally. I got to meet and work on my project with an incredible educator from Kentucky, Savannah Denning. I got to deepen connections with educators that I already knew from South Carolina and Kentucky. I got to know incredible educators from all over the world, and these are just a FEW of the highlights. I can not wait to see them again at places like ISTE and FETC.
The Academy was an incredible experience, and I encourage anyone who has a great idea to apply! The key is to be different. Think about the issues that face educators every day and try to solve them! Also, make sure you have a creative video...mine was gifcentric!