Whether it’s the American Library Association’s Annual Conference, state conferences, or the International Society of Technology Educators Conference, librarians seem to get a lot of their professional development during June. Colorado hosts the Innovative Education in Colorado Conference (InnEdCo). During this year’s InnEdCo in Copper Mountain, I learned new tools and strategies to improve student performance, and the event has motivated me to strengthen my own knowledge so I can be a better resource for the teachers I work with. I decided to get as well-versed as possible with Google Education Apps.
I have increasingly seen the need for school librarians to step up as professional development leaders in our buildings. As 21st century librarians, supporting our teachers with resources, including technology tools, is really important. In my building, this means getting ready for new 1:1 iPads. This influx of technology means working with every teacher, classroom, and student as they explore instructional tools and apps.
Because my district adopted Google Applications for Education a few years ago, teachers and students are already familiar with these tools. I know use of Google Apps is going to skyrocket, so I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to become a Google Educator to expand my own knowledge of what the Apps can do. I really feel the need to become an expert on these tools so I can better support my staff and students. Here is how it works.
In order to earn your Google Educator Certificate, you must successfully complete coursework and pass five exams. There are four required exams (Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Sites), plus your choice of one of the additional optional exams. You can choose Chrome, Chromebooks, Administration, or even “Tablets for Play with Education.” The Google site says that the “exams are designed to challenge your knowledge and understanding of Google Apps for Education.” For each 90-minute online exam, there is $15 fee. Once you pass your first exam, applicants have 90 days to pass the remaining four exams. If you fail a test, you must wait seven days before retaking it, and yes, there the $15 fee has to be paid again. A passing score is 80 percent or above.
I have a solid working knowledge of these tools, but I knew it was going to be challenging. Nonetheless, I studied diligently and took the Gmail test first. It was as hard as advertised and more detailed than I thought, and I failed it by just a few points. But now I know the structure of the tests. Next I tackled Calendars, and I passed. I am continuing to study and learn all I can so I can conquer one test at a time. The courses are helpful at illuminating the hidden gems in the applications and really emphasizing the benefits available for staff and students. Even the electives are strong. You really need to know the capabilities of each application and a bit about the Google education package. You also need to be an intrepid, efficient researcher in order to pass. I recommend using two computers: one to take the test and one to research the questions. I do have to say that failure brings lots of opportunities for growth as well. There are supportive communities like the Twitter #goocertPLC that Nancy Jo Lambert set up. There are Google Apps summits around the country. Each training or collaboration provides another layer of skills you can use when assisting students.
What a huge learning curve this has been for me! I really believe we all must push ourselves to continue learning so that we can be better resources for our staff and students. Refining our skills as a 21st century professional development leaders will dramatically strengthen not only our learning opportunities but our students’ success as well. Keep exploring opportunities for professional development in your neck of the woods. Let me know how it goes.
Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado.
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