Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lightning in a Bottle: My GTAdmin Experience

As I sat in the Houston airport waiting for my flight back to Newark, I couldn’t help but to sit and reflect on my experience at the first ever Google Teacher Academy for Administrators.  The conference was held on March 5, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  This was by far the most intense, and rewarding professional development venture that I have ever been a part of.   Brought together by innovative practices, and a desire to integrate Google educational tools with sound pedagogy.  I joined with 50 other exemplary administrators all on a journey that took our learning to levels not readily imagined; hence my analogy to “Lighting in a bottle.”

As I mentioned before, the day was INTENSE, which was right in my wheelhouse as a concrete sequential learner.  Each session moved seamlessly from one to the next within an eleven-hour time span.  During the session, I readily observed one of the most important attributes of an effective administrator – MULTITASKING.  This was visible in the form of simultaneously listening, taking notes while utilizing Google Docs, engaging in a Twitter backchannel, and of course, the sharing of ideas on how we as administrators could effectively and efficiently use the array of Google tools. 

The fact that backchanneling was encouraged was cool in itself! Anyone reading the tweets from #GTAdmin could feel the excitement, I am sure.  I found it particularly challenging at times to tweet what I felt was compelling information, due to the fear that I would miss something during the process.  That’s how good the Google Academy was; “Riveting,” is the word that immediately comes to my mind.

The atmosphere in the room was similar to Christmas where we as educational administrators were receiving all of the gifts stipulated on our lists to Santa Claus.  Who doesn’t appreciate FREE educational gifts (I know all of us involved with web 2.0 and technology do)? The energy in the room never dissipated as we learned how these gifts of knowledge could be used to establish collaborative, engaging, and transparent learning environments in our respective schools. You can view my notes for #GTAdmin by visiting GTAdmin Notes 3-5-10

My notes give a pretty good snapshot of our action-packed day.  However, another important take-away here was the presenters, or lead learners as Dr. Mark Wagner referred to them as.  Each lead learner facilitated passionate discussions on virtually every Google app that could be used in education.  They were extremely prepared, modeled effective practices, and applied the tools in a way that we as administrators could use them.  This Academy really was catered to and designed for administrators.  Each presenter’s dedication to ensuring that we fully understood how to implement the various Google tools was greatly appreciated by all.  At the conclusion of the day I was still craving more.  How many of us could honestly say that after a 3 hour professional development training, let alone 11 hours?  In a nutshell the blueprint developed for #GTAdmin was fantastic.

Learning did not stop for one minute at the academy.  In my opening paragraph I made mention to the educational leaders that I was fortunate enough to spend the day with.  Whether it was at dinner, the night before, during breaks, at meals, or late into the night after the academy, conversations on what we had learned and how we were going to utilize this, “Lightning in a bottle,” that was graciously handed to us never ceased.  Talk about bang for my buck!  The additional knowledge and insight that I acquired from my esteemed peers was priceless in itself.  Many of our conversations focused on which specific Google Apps we were going to implement first and how.  Administrators committed to change through innovation, collaboration, sustainability, and transparency were definitely underlying themes and catalysts for the intriguing discussions that took place.

I could go on and on about this experience, but I am just too exhausted and should probably get a nap in before I land.  My goal now is to return to my school and empower my staff to engage all learners, collaborate with each other, and take a more active role in the educational process using Google Apps for Education.  This experience, combined with my Personal Learning Network (PLN) serve as driving forces to provide the very best learning opportunities for the students and staff of New Milford High School.  Who knows, maybe now I will start an official blog using Google Blogger? Wait, I just did. I can’t wait to unleash this lightning in a bottle!


  1. Eric,

    Sounds like you had a great time and were inspired! Congratulations on being selected. I am so excited you have entered the blogosphere. It is a long time coming since you are such a change agent. Can't wait to read more!

  2. Sounds like a great experience. How did you hear about this and when might another one come along? I use Reader and gmail in addition to maps and a bit of calendar, but have only used Google Docs sparingly. It seemed to work well for students in a group activity. I would like to have more training with it. Not sure how much our division would use as we are Microsoft heavy!

  3. Sounds like a great experience! Looking forward to more of your blog.

  4. I heard about GTAdmin through Twitter. If I had not been on Twitter I would have missed out.

  5. For teachers in schools who did not have their leaders go to this conference, how can we use Google Apps in our classrooms, or even in our daily preparations?

  6. Congratulations! How exciting to read about your experience! You are always finding good sources, posts and sharing them with PLN - thank you. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. (just as a side note, you and I started blogging on the same day!) Cheers!
    Yoon @doremigirl

  7. Eric,

    It was awesome to follow the conversations on Twitter. Thanks for the notes. I hope you will continue to share the ways that you are integrating all that you learned at GTA for administrators.

    Now to have you blogging! That is awesome. Hope you catch your breath a bit before Monday, but I sense that your adrenaline from GTA will keep you going.

    Disney World and now GTA not a bad daily-double. What's next?

  8. Congratulations on your work, Eric. Please keep us posted on your progress in the implementation of some of the learning and resources gained at the Google Academy.

  9. Welcome to the blogosphere! Your brain sounds like it is sparking like Zeus' lightning rod (took my kids to the movie last night).

    Although I've taught teachers and students how to blog, I've as yet only experimented with blogging myself. Feeling that I need to break out of the 140 char. limit now though.

    I'd like to know more about the process of becoming a Google certified educator if you had contact info you could pass along.



  10. Eric,
    I am jealous of the teachers at your school! I am very excited for them about the new knowledge you are taking back and the impact it's going to have on instruction and student achievement. Soaking up that kind of knowledge and networking has got to be such a recharge. A recharge of white lightning! I can't wait to hear more about it.

  11. Thunder is good. Thunder is impressive but it is lightning that does the work! You are definitely lightning personified and your staff is indeed fortunate to have you as their leader.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your first official blog and will definitely add it to my Admin and Blog pages once I get my CPU back!

    I look forward to all of your posts.

  12. Eric,
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience with everyone. I saw the link to your notes on Twitter and they will be quite valuable to myself and my colleagues as we become a Google Apps school. I echo the sentiment of others on here when I say I am glad to see you have taken up blogging. It is a just one more way to connect and share with your PLN.

  13. Hi Eric - welcome to the GCT family. I am so thrilled about your experience at the Google Teacher Academy for Admins. I attended Mountain View '08 and remember the same feelings and exhilaration. At even though the day was great - you will be amazed by the passion and energy of the sharing that will continue with all the other GCTs online. My learning has not only been challenged by this group of educators but has connected me with all other kinds of thinkers who are in their PLN.

    I am thrilled that Google has extended this type of PD for administrators. We need both teachers and admins to share a common vision of how technology can support student learning - no matter what tool is used.

    So glad you are blogging - I already added your blog to my Reader and look forward to hearing more about your journey.

    Colette Cassinelli

  14. Eric
    Your first Post sets a high standard. The people commenting tells of the respect you have rightfully earned from Collaborative Educators who are also well respected by so many. I look forward to more posts.
    I also wonder what percentage of administrators today would have the needed skills to participate in such a tech-intensive professional Development

  15. Eric,

    This is so exciting to hear about! Watched all the tweeting going on and I just wished my principals could have been there too. Welcome to the world of blogging! I look forward to your future reflections.

  16. Eric,

    Thanks for sharing your reflections. I'm going to pass this post along to my administrators. You're a model for administrators looking to engage in the conversations educators are having online.



  17. I am interested in your comment on the encouragement of backchannels during learning sessions. So often chatter in the classroom is not irrelevant, but the result of actual stimulation in the learning process. As a matter of effective management, we usually have to squelch it, but I wish there was an intelligent way to tap that excitement. I recognize that adults can handle these sorts of things better than most students, but still, I wonder if there isn't a way...

  18. Great new blog! Looking forward to following it.

    Enjoy the day.

  19. Eric,
    How very cool to be working at a time when we can make a huge difference in the lives of our students! We missed connecting with so many for so long and google apps are possibilities that will surely work with many. I also appreciate your willingness to multi-task when your gender :) and your learning style make it not so much fun. Hooray for you!!!!!

  20. Great post. The backchannel was very intriguing. Instead of being random chatter, it was like a supplemental training for me as I stumbled on link upon link from our peers in the room who had all this great information to share. Great meeting you.

  21. Nice job! I feel like I will be learning a lot from your experiences! Looking forward to reading more!

  22. There's nothing like going to a conference where you actually learn something- so much of prof development is irrelevant to what we actually do in the classroom. Hope your enthusiasm finds its way into practical application for our high school.