On June 22nd, 2013, my life changed a bit. I had been waiting, anticipating, and agonizing over the moment I would walk on the grounds of the Googleplex to get my Glass. This year has been an incredible journey thus far. My wife andd I moved into a new home in February, and at the end of March, we went on an amazing trip to St. Louis on the spur of the moment, and it was there that I received my notification that I had been selected to take part in the Glass Explorers program. It was on April Fools Day that my Google Plus notification came. I thought someone was messing with me at first!
My wife wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of spending that amount of money, particularly since we still hadn't sold our house that we have had on the market for two years. I was nervous about that too, but I wanted to be part of something huge. Something that could potentially revolutionize mobile communication. Plus, as my wife will tell you, I really like to be on the bleeding edge of things.
We headed home and the next day I went to pick up our dog, Vegas, from the kennel. We had Vegas for 9 years and he rarely stayed at that kennel because he just didn't seem to do well there. Unfortunately, by the end of the day on April 2nd, we had to put him to sleep. He had gotten Bloat, meaning his stomach had twisted. My parents dog died of the same thing a few years back. Ironically, he had stayed at a kennel as well. Seeing my dog in such pain and knowing that we had to ease it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. I'm not sure what that says about me, and I hope it's not that I haven't done enough difficult things in my life. At any rate, we still miss him, but it got easier as the pace of life seemed to really pick up from there.
I had decided that I wanted to eventually become a Google Certified Teacher and Trainer. I knew it was going to be tough, but I felt it was going to be worth it. In February, I had signed up to go to the Google Education Summit in Milwaukee that was taking place in June. I felt this would help me prepare for applying to Google Teacher Academy (GTA) at some point. I was hoping that I would have Glass by the time I had to create a Googly video as part of the application. However, I wanted to become a Google Apps Trainer first. I love helping other people solve issues especially when Google is involved. Being a trainer would allow me to spread my passion for using Google tools to enhance education and people's lives.
For those who don't know, Google Trainer Certification begins by passing a series of 6 tests on Google Apps for education. They cost $90, you get 90 days to pass them, and each test is timed. Luckily, I had done my homework and learned that you need to be able to search for the answers when you take the tests, and while I was always close on time, I completed the tests the first time through. I learned many new things about Apps that I didn't know before and I now knew where to find answers to things if I needed them.
I forgot to mention that I am also the head boys and girls track coach at Winneconne and that this was my first year as head coach. I also live an hour from where I work. What I'm trying to say is that I didn't have a lot of extra time. However, I received an email from our excellent tech administrator, George, telling me to fill out a form about innovative uses for Chromebooks in the classroom. George and I have very similar views about technology and visions for what we can accomplish at Winneconne. He had also applied for Trainer Certification at about the same time as I did and we were both waiting to hear back from Google.
With George's urging and a submission from him about my use of Chromebooks in class I was selected as an Innovative Chromebook Teacher in Special Education. The next thing I knew, I was taking up lots of airtime on a Google+ HOA (Hangout on Air) hosted by Google in Education and Googler Steven Butschi. Through the Hangout, I met several other amazing special educators. I had a blast, and I learned about some great Chromebook tools as well!
All the while, I had been keeping an eye out for my invite to pick-up Glass, but it hadn't come yet. For those out there still waiting for your Glass invite, I know how hard it is to watch other people get theirs while you wait for yours. Every time Project Glass would post something you get that little excited feeling in your stomach. However, my invite still hadn't come, we were nearing the end of the school year, and my 4-6 weeks had come and gone for my application to be a Google Certified Trainer. George had submitted a couple of weeks after me so he still had a little time left.
The track season had just ended and things were starting to slow down a bit. We were in the last two weeks of school, and Google in Education and GTA posted they were accepting applications for GTA Chicago. I felt unprepared, I had not gotten Glass yet and this caused me to rethink my video. We didn't have much time left in the school year, and I needed to use some students in my GTA video. It could only be a minute and had to be on one of three topics. I immediately chose Innovation in Education and got planning with some of my students. They were a huge help. One of them did camera work for me and starred in the video as well. The collaboration was great, and they helped to quickly hone in on what we should do. I really enjoyed working with them. Once that was done, I edited it all together and used a few other Google Products to help out, and filled out the application for GTA.
With that finished, the end of the school year was upon me. I still hadn't heard about Trainer Certification and was feeling that I must not have made it. However, I have always felt that there are many many other amazing educators out there that know so much more than and I do and do more incredible things with their classes than I could ever imagine. So I was willing to apply again if I needed to. After all, I was going to get more training in just over a week at the Google Education Summit in Milwaukee. At least I knew that I was going to know one way or another about GTA on the 19th of June!
That night on the way home from the last day of school, I got my Glass Invite! I was super excited! Now Misty and I had to plan our trip to San Francisco, and my summer was really booked pretty tight. We began planning that night, and decided to leave on the last day of the Google Education Summit. The next day we were still planning our trip when I got an email from George; he had gotten notification that he was trainer certified. I was really happy for him, but a little disappointed that I apparently hadn't qualified. I noticed that I had an email waiting, and there was my acceptance. My parents were visiting at the time, and I was so happy to be able to share that moment with them and Misty!
The planning for our trip to San Francisco and Mountain View continued over next several days as we booked hotels, cars, tours, and restaurants. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the Google in Education Summit. I was really excited to learn new things and meet new people. The Summit didn't let me down, and I met a ton of new people including Katie Grassel, a GTA Certified Teacher and Apps Certified Trainer. I got to know Joe Du Fore and David Tess, one of the other educators to make it into #GTAChi. Joe and David work at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee and put together the whole Summit. They did an amazing job, and I look forward to getting to know them even better! I met and befriended three wonderful young educators from Chicago, Anthony Gonzalez, Pete Drinan, and Andrew Boland. These are three great guys, and exceptional teachers. Their school is very lucky to have them. Throughout the Summit I met many wonderful educators, helped out others who were new to Google Apps, and caught up with, learned from, and continued to be in awe of educators like Ben Friesen, Molly Schroeder, and Chad Kafka. Thank you to everyone ,especially those I helped on projects. I learned as much from you as you did from me!
Katie and I really hit it off and I learned a ton from her throughout the week. We made Google Weiss, and played guitars with Les Paul together on Katie's last day at the Summit while at Discovery World. We had a complete blast and it was during a tour of the aquarium that I received notice that I had been selected for GTA! It was an amazing day.
Now, I am getting ready to spend two days with more extraordinary educators from all over the world. 56 to be exact. Educators like David Theriault, who is in the process of writing an outstanding blog about each of us that will be attending GTA Chicago. Which you can check out here. If David Theriault, David Tess, Chad Kafka, Molly Schroeder, Joe Du Fore, and Katie Grassel are any indication of quality of people and educators that I am about to get to know, then I am going to have my life truly enriched beyond anything I could have ever dreamed about. Thank you Google for all your cool products, but more importantly the connections and memories you have helped to provide.
Actually, I guess my life has really changed more than I had imagined and really, it wasn't just one event on June 22nd. It was all the experiences leading up to that as well. Visiting Google and getting Glass was just another great experience where I met awesome people such as Googler, Raphael Feldman. Raphael works on the Glass team; he helped me get situated with Glass and gave Misty and I an amazing tour of Google. I cannot wait to use Glass to capture some exceptional memories at GTA Chicago. See you all there. A HUGE THANK YOU to my parents (especially my Mom who was my editor on this), my wife, and everyone who has touched and enriched my life!