I’ve been busy of late… mostly, I’ve been busy being a mother, which has meant that a lot of my interesting tech stuff has fallen by the wayside (I would love to have built an automatic pram rocker, but my baby brain would not even begin to know where to start). That being said, some of the more eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that I recently took baby and his dad off to Sweden for a week in order to become a Google Innovator.
So… here’s my write up of yet another crazy and interesting adventure in the world of EdTech: Google Innovator!
Part 1 – The Application Process
I’m going to start off with a confession… this year wasn’t the first time I applied to become an Innovator – I actually first applied in Oct 2014. My dad died in Oct 2014 and I came back to London in a bit of a muddle and took to surfing social media to distract myself. My Picademy friend Eve mentioned she was applying and so I decided to sort of recycle my Picademy application video and hope for the best. As you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to be writing applications, so I was fairly impressed to have been waitlisted – I’m also really pleased that I wasn’t selected as I don’t think it was the right time for me – seeing how the Innovator program has evolved since then, I suspect I may have had a much better experience by waiting.
In the last 18 months, I’ve found myself doing a lot of training with G Suite for education and have really enjoyed when teachers have that lightbulb moment while using it so I had decided to apply to one of the academies this year to level-up my Google skill. However, I put my plans on hold when, way back in November 2018, I found out I was pregnant; thinking it unlikely I could travel with a baby (and the London date was the same week as my baby was due).
While at Bett, I spoke to one of the Googlers who suggested I should apply to Sweden and bring the little one with me and, at the time I chuckled thinking “No way am I going to want to do that”, whilst at the back of my mind, hoping that I would be up to the challenge.
So, like Picademy and ADE, in order to become a Google Innovator, I needed to write an application and film a short video, however, this time it wasn’t about showing off how I was using tech or what I was doing that made me special, it was about identifying a need, or challenge in education that I wanted to solve. What I found interesting was that the focus wasn’t on showcasing Google products, but on solving a problem – and people I spoke to stressed that you definitely shouldn’t have a solution in mind when you go to the academy so you need to really think about an actual issue that you might be able to do something about.
After spending Bett this year talking about accessibility, I was really keen to carry on looking at ways to support SEN students, especially those with less obvious learning difficulties so my challenge pitch was “How might we support students with cognitive learning difficulties to access technology more effectively”. I confess that I nearly didn’t get my application done in time – I had a vague idea around SEND, but it was only in the week leading up to the application deadline that I actually made a start on getting my thoughts down in a doc. The day before the application was due, we got the little one to sleep and I sat in the living room recording my voiceover for a VERY hastly made video. I figured as long as I was able to convey my enthusiasm for the subject and get across how eager I was to be involved, I might just stand a chance.
I have to admit, I took to Twitter and saw so many people enthusing about submitting their applications, but I couldn’t face the thought of explaining if I didn’t get accepted, so I managed to resist the urge to blast it across social media. Meanwhile on the SWE19 hashtag, applications appeared to be pouring in.
I even went so far as to post that I wasn’t going to apply as I was convinced I wouldn’t get my video done in time.
Next came the waiting – 11 days of waiting to be precise – who knew 11 days could feel like so long? Waiting to see if we’d been accepted… waiting to see whether the people tweeting were going to part of the SWE19 cohort, waiting to see if I would be part of the cohort. My mind was doing somersaults – on the one hand, I felt like I’d actually written a strong application, but on the other, what if other people were simply stronger than I? Needless to say, imposter syndrome was ramped right up, but luckily my little man was distracting me.
On the 11th day, at 9.12pm, we finally found out whether we’d been accepted – I’d been surreptitiously checking my email and the twitter hashtag every 20 minutes or so and had begun to wonder whether I had the wrong day – I had resisted messaging my inside man, Andy Caffrey, and was slowly beginning to lose my mind when the following tweet appeared with the #SWE19 hashtag.
I was actually pleasantly surprised to see my name on the list (even though the email hadn’t come through yet) and also enjoyed seeing a few familiar names on the list too.
So, excited about what the future would hold, I started making connections on Twitter and thinking about getting to Sweden.
One of the nicest things about being accepted happened almost instantly – within a very short amount of time, we were added to a Google Hangout where we got to ‘meet’ the other 35 newly minted Innovators along with some of the team and coaches. At this point they were simply names with no faces apart from profile pictures and no back story, but very soon we got to know each other a whole lot better… more of that in the next post!