Earlier this week we announced the release of the Google for Education Learning Center, an online portal that helps educators learn about Google tools for teaching and learning. The Center is a one-stop-shop for hundreds of best practice how-to videos, cases studies and guides. It also includes links to online communities and our newly revised exams. By passing 5 exams teachers can become qualified as Google Educators.

We wanted the bulk of the content in the Center to be made for teachers, by teachers. So we worked with some of our Google Certified Teachers to create it. Today we’ll hear from three of those educators to get more information about their tips and tricks for teaching and training.
Bram: What are your top tips for running successful professional development with educators?

Jennie: My tip for training is to leverage the same best practices you’d use with students. Focus on differentiating for your (teacher) learner, engage them in active learning and allow them to collaborate with one another to make the experience social.

Jay: I have two pieces of advice: start small and give it a go. Pick just one part of your course to enhance with technology or just one tool to use more effectively. Learn something new and give it a go. Get support from your peers, school or PLN. Failing is okay, that’s how we learn.

Kevin: Whether you are teaching or training, clear communication is essential. The best slides have the least amount of text. Make images on the slides focused, keeping words to a minimum, to emphasize the point made in the actual presentation. No one wants to “read” a presentation.

Jennie: It is important to practice what you preach. If you're training people on Google Apps, use Google Apps. If you’re leading a session, create a Google Site to share information. Share a collaborative Google Doc so participants can take notes together and exchange ideas.

Bram: What are your most effective training activities?

Jennie: I have a professional development opener I like to call the "Gripe Jam." While I play the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” teachers write down their gripes and I compile these into a Google Doc. The teachers then vote on the most important ones. This is how we decide where we begin our exploration of digital learning. Crowd-sourced PD is a huge buy-in generator. Many teachers respond better to new ideas when we first listen to their current issues.

Jay: I advise people to keep a YouTube playlist for “Stuff I’ve Learned.” I learn a lot from YouTube videos. As I’m looking up videos and learning new things I add the videos to a playlist with other things that YouTube has taught me. This not only serves as a great repository I can come back to for review, it also helps me to model how and what I am learning. This could be embedded on your professional portfolio site to help demonstrate how you are a contemporary learner.

Bram: What is a top piece of advice about Google tools for teaching?

Kevin: The number one recommendation I have for teachers who assign projects using Docs and Drive is to turn the hand-in process upside-down. Rather than having students turn-in their work at the end of the assignment cycle, have them turn it in at the beginning. The first step in any class project is to have students create their document, presentation, or spreadsheet, and have them share it with you as the teacher immediately. This allows teachers to monitor and support students through the entire process.

Bram: Have any recent professional development experiences really stayed with you?

Jay: Recently I was working with a teacher named Rick, a master teacher with decades of experience who wanted to use technology to improve student writing. We started small with the prewriting process and brainstorming with Google Drawings and Docs. I pushed him a little more. He was amazed when we looked at the Comments feature, which allowed him to provide better feedback to his students and they blossomed. He was so energized and excited about teaching writing again. Even with his vast experience and being so close to retirement, Rick demonstrated my two recommendations: start small and give it a go. He was able to rekindle his own passion and effectively integrate technology. We can all do this.