SET member and teacher-educator Martine Ellis lives and works at the Guernsey College of Further Education in the Channel Islands. She explains how becoming a Google Certified Trainer has satisfied her hunger for technology and how her learners have adapted to a paperless classroom.
We are a small island, so I work in the only FE college where I run our initial teacher training programme. This is a real privilege because I am in the exciting position of being able to help people make the decision to go into teaching.
In the next academic year I will also be teaching the Level 5 teaching qualification, which I am really looking forward to. In addition to that, I have a professional development role working with my teaching colleagues to help them use technology in the classroom more effectively.
Discovering G Suite for Education
A couple of years ago the college was making the decision to change where we saved our documents and how we use technology. It was suggested that the G Suite for Education approach (formerly called Google for Education) might be worth looking at. I’ve always been ‘techy-minded’ and technology is something I get very excited about, so I thought I would do some investigation.
I had already been in the Google ecosystem for a while, using Gmail for correspondence and Google Drive to save documents and collaborate, but for me it was about reaffirming the things that I was familiar with, correcting the way I label things, and finding more efficient ways to carry out tasks.
I found that Google had a suite of qualifications aimed at teachers and trainers, including:
I very quickly began to work through the first stage – it didn’t take me long because all of the resources are online. While I am very much a tech girl when it comes to teaching and learning, personally I prefer a bit of a combination between online learning and face-to-face learning, and that’s how I like to approach my teacher education. However, I found the training course great for speed and accessibility. All you need is a free Google account and the only cost is the exam, which is currently 10 dollars.
The difference between Level 1 and 2 is that you are looking at a wider different range of Google products. There is also a slight increase in the cost of the exam (currently 25 dollars), and this is also valid for three years. Once you’ve completed the exams for both levels they are valid for three years and then you need to recertify, which I think is important because technology changes at such a rapid pace.
Becoming a Google Certified Trainer
As I went up the chain of qualifications to get to Google Certified Trainer, this was when I really started to learn some new things. I felt there was quite a leap to the trainer level, but it has enabled me to enhance and revolutionise my practice and what I do in my professional development role.
The process of becoming certified as a trainer is a lot chunkier and there is a lot more to do – you need a current Level 1 and Level 2 qualification, you have to do an online Google Certified Trainer course, along with a skills assessment exam. You also need to produce a video with a short tutorial showing how you use your Google skills, including a piece to camera explaining why you are ‘Googly’ (which is an interesting thing to explain!).
In addition to this, you are asked complete a detailed application, which involves giving examples of case studies where your practice has influenced your organisation’s use of technology. You also need to recertify every year, take another exam to make sure you are up-to-date with everything, log 12 training sessions with a Google platform, and contribute to a wide range of resources that other Google Certified Trainers use.
The benefits and challenges of a paperless classroom
One of the biggest changes I’ve made which has generated the most feedback in using things ‘all Google’, is going paperless. My learners range from their early twenties to early seventies so they have a wide variety of technology skills. Many have been out of the classroom for years, so some of them the idea of a paperless classroom and having everything tech-based is quite overwhelming.
I start by running an initial assessment to find out where they are on the tech experience spectrum. If they are quite anxious about the process of being paperless then I work closely with them to make sure they are happy using the systems. If someone says they can’t cope with going paperless, that’s fine – I provide them with paper versions. But I think in this day and age, IT is a functional skill, so it’s important I provide the support they need to up that skill level if needed.
The feedback to using a paperless classroom has been excellent – some of my learners are anxious at first and out of their comfort zone, but by the end of it they are usually on board and happy at how efficient it is. The best thing for people is the assessment process and the fact they can work on their assignment in the Google Classroom, close it down and they don’t need to save it – it’s always there and they aren’t losing anything. I give them very targeted feedback using comments in Google Docs so they can see exactly what they need to do with their performance and feedback, and that has been the thing they have liked the most.
Balancing my career progression with keeping up-to-date with technology
It can be a challenge to balance my professional development with my teaching practice, but it’s a must because of the pace of change in technology and it is an important part of what I do. As a Google Certified Trainer I have access to a community of trainers and these people have their finger on the pulse on what is going on in technology, so I get a lot of insight this way.
I also get a lot of information from Twitter and I follow people who are one step ahead of me with technology. I am not frightened to try things out if I become aware of a new tool or approach and I am transparent with my adult learners and explain when we are going to something new. I want them to feel confident with technology, even if things go wrong because there is lots of learning that goes with that.
Becoming a Google Certified Trainer is quite a big process, but for me it’s been completely worth it – it’s influenced my practice dramatically, given me the confidence to advance my career in this direction and allowed me to have a big impact on teaching and learning across the whole college. It has also helped me with my Teaching Space podcast and the things I do outside of my day job. I haven’t got to the final level of Google Certified Innovator, but it is definitely on my CPD plan and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring - both in technology and in my own career.