So You Want To Be a Google for Education Certified Innovator?

“Better late than never.” I’ve heard the phrase a million times and today I am FINALLY writing a reflection on being a part of the Google for Education Certified Innovator Colorado 2016 cohort.

The Acceptance

After submitting an application (and being rejected once before), I felt optimistic about my chances. But I also was realistic. These are some of the most inspiring educators in the world that hold that title. Do I really belong with them? The day that the cohort was being announced was one of those days where you are excited about receiving an email, but nervous that it won’t contain what you want it to contain. More stressful than the days of applying for college. The anti-climactic reveal is that I was accepted. (Why would I write the reflection if I wasn’t?)

Innovator Acceptance

The Anticipation

In the month between being accepted and actually traveling to Boulder, I started to form relationships with 35 other people who I really only knew online (Twitter, reading their blogs, etc.) I had met a couple in person before, but it was really nothing more than that. This time of forming relationships with my new tribe drove my wife crazy. Every time a new Hangouts notification made my phone beep, she would roll her eyes. (She is not in education. but completely supported me, so don’t think she is a bad person. Her eye rolls were tongue-in-cheek….except when the notifications were in the middle of the night.)

Each person was sent a BreakoutEDU box with a clue in it. By working together online, we had to solve a series of clues that led us to different clues or information that we needed. This communication helped us form a strong bond before even meeting.

Of course, the whole time we were also working on designing a #COL16 logo and planning swag that would be exclusive to us.

#COL16 Logo

The On Site Cohort

The group officially got together at the Google offices in Boulder on Wed night. (We unofficially found others at ISTE in the days leading up the event. One of the benefits of all of the communication.) We got to experience the BreakoutEDU bus with a Google themed game and did a get to know you activity in small groups. We then had dinner and got to know everyone else in a more informal way.

The two and a half day program was led by some of the most inspiring people in education. These are people who are already Google Innovators and Education rock stars. Of course, they are all normal people, but I couldn’t help but to be in awe of how inspirational and motivating they are.

Innovators Sign

My Takeaways and Project

I hesitate to give too much information about what occurred during those days for two reasons. First, if you apply and get accepted, it should be as special for you as it was for me. I don’t want to take that away from potential Innovators. Second, it is a moment in time that has bonded me with 35 other educators and so I hold the events somewhat personal.

I will share my thoughts and reflections though. I learned new things about processes that are incredibly important to me for how I am trying  to shape schools in my small corner of the world. It reaffirmed my belief that status quo isn’t good enough in our schools. Our students and the world deserve more.

I am working through my Innovator project using these processes with the support of my coach, mentor, and cohort. Some of the most difficult steps have been where and how to get started, but every time I can complete a step I get really excited.

This whole experience has given me a voice and a confidence that I didn’t know I had. I have transformed in the same way that I want to see students transform. If you have any thoughts of applying, please do. The hardest part is becoming vulnerable in sharing your ideas. The best way to get your ideas moving is to share them in a community of people who dream as big as you do.

The entire cohort.
The entire cohort.
My team.
My team.


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