Monday, September 19, 2016

Google Certified Trainer Program

Google recently revamped its Google Certified Trainer program.  The program, in my opinion, is much more streamlined, it costs less to complete, and is more relevant to the skills needed to be recognized as a Google trainer.  I decided about a year ago to complete the process, but the decision to pursue it was put off until now because of the changes that were promised.

About a year ago, I had made it a goal of mine to start the process of becoming a Google Certified Trainer.  At the time, the requirements of the process included:

  1. Complete a series of 5 exams on various Google products, including Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and others, and optional items such as Chromebooks, Google Play, and Android tablets. Each of the tests cost $15, for a total of $75.  
  2. Complete a training video of 3 minutes that introduced yourself, showcased your style of training, and a short training of a Google product.  
  3. Submitting an application to Google that included all of the above.  
If accepted to the program, to keep your certification, you needed to complete documentation of 12 trainings in a year.  This part of the process did not change.  However, the rest of the process has changed slightly.  

When I first looked into the program, there were hints that the process was going to change.  At the time, I did not have the time on my hands to fully prepare myself for each aspect of the application, especially the five separate tests.  Rather than diving into the program, I decided to hold off until the changes took places and instead get my Google Certified Educator endorsement.  

At the time, the Google Certified Educator program had also recently changed.  It had gone from Google Certified Teacher to Google Certified Educator Level 1 & 2.  In basic terms, the level one exam could be described as "I have a GAFE account and I know how to use the Google tools."  The level two exam could be described as "I have a GAFE account, I know how to use the Google tools, and I am very good at using them and sparking innovation."  Based on the descriptions, I decided to skip the Level 1 exam and dive straight into Level 2.  

Two of my coworkers, Brad Leimbach and Jayme Rawson, decided to go through the training and exam
together.  Our principal agreed to pay for the exam (which is $25) and get subs for our classes so we could use the entire day to prepare for the exam and take the test, in which Google gives you up to 3 hours to complete.  I am a person that takes very little time to take tests, especially if I know the material.  I did not expect to use the entire 3 hour time allotted for the test, but I found out that it was going to be very stressful as the time ticked down toward zero.  In all, the exam took my 2 hours and 51 minutes.  I was FREAKING OUT during the last part of the exam, wondering if I was going to finish. The test wasn't hard, per se; the word "tedious" is a better description. Ultimately, I did finish and within minutes, my results of "PASS" were sent to me, along with my certificate and GCE badge.  

The new Google Certified Trainer program eliminated the five separate tests on Google tools.  Now, you must pass the Google Certified Educator, Level 1 and the Level 2 tests.  In addition, you must pass a Google Trainer Skills Assessment exam before you can submit an application with a 3-minute long training video.  I already had the Level 2 exam out of the way, now it was time to complete the other exams.  

I knew that the Level 1 exam was going to be much easier than the Level 2 exam, based on the descriptions
that Google provides.  The format of the exam is similar to Level 2, with a 3-hour window granted to complete the exam.  My principal allowed for me to block out a period of time during a school day to lock my door, turn off my radio, close out my email, and turn off my phone so I could be left alone to complete the exam.  I blocked out a window from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM, cleared my appointments, locked my office door and went incognito for the next 3 and a half hours.  However, I was not going to need the entire window of time.  Of the three hours of the testing window, I only needed to use 1 hour and 21 minutes.  Like the Level 2 test before, I had my results of "PASS" within minutes, knocking out step two of the Google Certified Trainer application process.  

The next step of the process was to complete the skills assessment exam.  On this exam, the description read that you would demonstrate your knowledge and skills of what it takes to be an effective trainer.  There would be some knowledge of Google tools addressed on the exam, but it would be more about knowledge of effective teaching strategies when working with adults of different skill levels and technology expertise.  This exam would be administered over 90 minutes.  My principal again agreed to let me block out some time to complete the exam, but I wanted to complete the training modules on the Google website first.  

I woke up one morning with the intentions of going to the gym before heading to school.  However, after working out for 7 days in a row, my body was screaming for a break.  So rather than going back to bed, I decided to take the skills assessment.  I opened the test at 4:15 AM, knowing that if it took me the entire 90 minutes, I would still have time to get to work on time.  There was never any worries; I was able to complete the exam by 4:36 AM, a whole 21 minutes.  The test requires an 80% to pass, I got a 96%.  So step three of the process was now completed.  

I am now in the process of filming my trainer video.  The first minute of the video requires an introduction, an overview of skills, and a description of the kind of trainer I am.  The following two minutes is a demonstration of a skill; in my case, I am going to demonstrate how to create appointment slots in Google Calendar.  I have until October 12 to get the video done, in time for the application window to open.  Applicants are supposed to be notified in late December.  From here, I already have ideas for the next round of applications for Google Certified Innovator and I am planning a training session and test administration for the staff of my school to get Level 1 certified.  For more information on Google certifications, please see the Google Training Center for more information.  

The new school year is settling in nicely, I am adjusting to my new position, and great things are on my horizon; I hope that you are having a similar experience in the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  
Until next time...   

Friday, September 2, 2016

Excitement Abound!

What a first official week of school!  After 3 weeks of working to prepare for my new role as technology coordinator & learning strategist, the work that I put in paid off!  However, it could not even begin to prepare me for what the first week was going to be!  It was a week of ups, of downs, of everything in between.  It was a week of adjustments not just for me, but for my wife heading back to school as well, my 4-year-old daughter going to full day pre-kindergarten AND competition dance team that involves 2 hours of classes on Mondays and Thursdays.  I have enjoyed my first week back to the grind, but I would by lying if I said that I wasn't looking forward to a three-day weekend coming up, and a weekend with college football starting back up as well!

Image result for now i get it meme
To start, the first day of school was strange for many reasons.  First was the drive.  At my previous school, my drive was 7 minutes on most days, depending on how many cars were lined up at the stop sign outside of the school.  My new commute takes me 32-40 minutes, depending on how I hit the traffic lights.  Granted, I had been coming up to the school for a couple of weeks, so I was getting used to the drive, but it still felt strange to leave the house, turn a different way out of my neighborhood, and make the longer drive.  It especially hit me when I started seeing the school buses.  Next was seeing the students.  Walking into school, I unconsciously felt like I was going to see students that I have had in the past.   For a split second, I was confused as to why I didn't recognize anybody, but I quickly came back to my senses.  The last thing, and the "now it has finally hit me" moment, was the "I do not have students in my room right now and I am not passing out schedules and going over the first day of school procedures".  I had my office door open and could see kids going by, and once the bell rang, I could hear teachers in their classroom around me going over stuff.  That was the moment that it dawned on me and it "got real".

I have mentioned in the past how awesome my new principal is and how he wants to help teachers as much as he can on the technology spectrum.  We had talked briefly over the past few weeks about getting teachers going on Pear Deck and spending some of our technology budget on a site-based license.  On Monday, I put in a request for a quote with Pear Deck, and per the email response back, expected to hear back within 24 hours.  I heard back in 5 minutes!  Nick Park, the representative from Pear Deck, informed me that he wanted to expand Pear Deck's footprint in Clark County and the State of Nevada, so he was very glad I contacted him.  He was able to get us a site license for $1500, which came with 120 accounts!  If each one of those teachers paid for it individually, it would cost $12,000!  They even provided a "training deck" so I could present it to the staff to get them started on the program.  I was only able to get to about 10 staff members so far, as there was another training on Google Classroom when I presented, but over the next couple of weeks, I will be getting the entire school on board.  I can't even begin to contain how excited I am!

As excited as I was for Pear Deck, there was plenty of issues to deal with as well.  The main issue that came up, completely out of my control, dealt with student email accounts.  Each student in the district is given a Google email address.  Right before school started, we were informed that all student passwords were reset to a default and that they would be available on day one of the new school year.  What we quickly found out was that was not the case.  Hundreds of students were getting error messages that their accounts were disabled, which meant that anything Google connected to their account was also disabled.  In the beginning, my tech partner and I thought we had narrowed it down to students new to the school and those that registered late.  As the first couple of days progressed, we realized it was much bigger.  Now we were wondering if this was a school issue or a district issue.  I will spare the details, but it turns out that it was a district server issue that knocked over 20,000 accounts out of commission.  As of today, that is still the case, but I am hoping that the long weekend gives IT the opportunity to solve the problem.  We also had some issues regarding some glitches with Chromebooks that were a bear to solve, but we were able to take care of them.

After one week, I can definitely say that even though it was stressful at times, I am very happy with my new job, school, administrative team, and teachers and staff that I get to work with daily.  My only complaint is the long ride (not so much in the morning, it's more of the afternoon commute that is not as fun), but it gives me a chance to listen to some podcasts and catch up on Voxer.  For those of you that are back to work, whether it was this week or weeks ago, I hope your experiences has been great thus far.  If you are heading back next week, here's to an amazing 2016-2017!

Until next time...