I did it! Google Certified Innovator #SYD19

On Tuesday afternoon, I received an email from the Certified Innovator Program with ‘congratulations’ in the subject. I couldn’t believe it. I read the whole email twice just to make sure I hadn’t misinterpreted. Without thinking, I then slammed my hand on the desk in celebration (to the shock of the colleagues around me). I don’t recall any other email or piece of news ever making me feel that overjoyed! Five days later, I’m still pinching myself! I’m going to attend the Google Innovator Academy in Sydney, start a year-long innovation project and officially be a Google Certified Innovator. I still can’t believe it!

I’d like to take a moment to discuss the importance of goal setting and intentionality. Back in July 2018, I blogged about my aims for the next academic year (as I do at the end of every year). One of those aims was to look into the process of becoming a Google Certified Innovator. I then waited for the dates to be announced and set the application completion as a target during a coaching session (we have a coaching system in school that involves all of us coaching and being coached). Whatever you want to achieve, don’t hesitate! Be intentional! This is just the latest example of how my blog keeps me accountable and on track with my targets.

One of the many people who kindly congratulated me on Twitter was Innovator Coach and Mentor Kimberley Hall. The reason I mention her is that I met her in Hong Kong in 2015 at an EdTechTeam conference. In her workshop, she encouraged me and the others to undertake the Google Certified Educator Level 1 course. To get a flavour of it, we all took the Google Basics exam there and then. As I recall, I failed many times! Kimberley’s tweets reminded me of how far I have come since 2015, through years of self-learning, training, failing and integrating. As I said in my Innovator application, my personal journey with Google is one that I am extremely proud of (as teachers, I don’t think we pat ourselves on the back often enough). Click here to see my previous Google certification posts.

To everyone who helped or congratulated me, thank you. It means the world! In particular, Mandy HollingsheadMark Wagner and Carlos Galvez deserve to be singled out for their encouragement and support. I also want to give a shoutout to those who were not accepted this time but still congratulated me and the rest of my Sydney cohort. This says a lot about them and I wish them all the best in their next applications.

The application process

The Google Certified Innovator process includes three face-to-face days at a Google Innovation Academy (there are several locations around the world). Therefore, the application must be completed at certain times of the year (unlike other certifications that can be done any time). Click here to see the upcoming cohorts. Pay attention to the languages and application deadlines (some coming up soon). The application asks you to share your total online reach as an influencer, why you want to become a Google Certified Innovator and an example of how you help to build a culture of innovation in your school. Then, you must identify a problem in education and demonstrate a good understanding of it. This includes interviewing someone who is affected by the issue. Importantly, the application no longer asks you to consider solutions at this stage. That comes later, starting at the Academy.

Criteria for Google Certified Innovator applications

  • Demonstrated experience leading professional development
  • Ability to impact a large number of educators
  • Demonstrated innovative use of technology in school settings
  • A desire to collaborate with like-minded educators
  • A passion for teaching and learning
  • The ability to overcome obstacles and solve problems; “Do-ers”
  • A personal spark and a passion for innovation

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In case you’re interested in the specifics of my Innovator project, I have shared some of the key questions from the application and my responses below. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions but feel free to skip ahead to ‘What’s next’.

Describe a challenge that you’re currently facing in education and why it matters

As someone who benefits from social media every day, it saddens me that it is misused by so many and is causing huge problems in secondary schools. At thirteen and above, students can legally use most social media platforms despite the fact that, in many cases, they have no guidance or supervision. As a consequence, it is having detrimental effects. Common issues include cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, addiction and reduced self-esteem. This serious problem is also recognised by health professionals. The NHS recently launched ‘Scroll-free September’ to highlight the concerns. This is a massive issue that educators (in partnership with parents) urgently need to address. Even people who dislike social media can agree with me on two important points: social media is potentially dangerous AND will inevitably be part of students’ lives. It’s crucial that we overcome these issues so that students can use it responsibly and enjoy the benefits.

Frame your challenge with a “how might we” statement which will prepare you to start researching solutions once accepted into the Academy. Finish the statement below: How Might We…

How might we guide students to use social media positively and responsibly?

Is there already an existing solution for this? What is it about that solution that isn’t meeting your needs?

Many teachers use collaborative digital tools with students from an early age, partly to promote digital citizenship (education platforms like Seesaw and Google Classroom). However, according to research and experience, this positive practice doesn’t necessarily translate to unsecured platforms (Poore, 2016). Education platforms lack negative influences and are too ‘safe’.

60-second Video (Public or Unlisted YouTube Link)

For more examples from this year and previous years, visit the Meet The Cohorts Google Site where you’ll find more information and videos outlining a wide range of Innovator projects.

What next?


Before the Sydney Academy, there will be a number of online, pre-academy activities. This started already with a quick challenge to share a photo that shows my excitement about the upcoming Academy. This was my response:


Next on my calendar is a meet and greet session with my Sydney cohort next week over Google Hangouts (although we have been chatting over email and Twitter already). More information regarding pre-Academy tasks will be shared as I receive it.

Sydney Acamdey 1-3 May 2019

I’m going to Google Sydney! I have actually been to Sydney before so all of my excitement can be focused on the project rather than the beautiful location (having said that, I look forward to my weekend in Sydney after the Academy finishes). The aims of the three-day workshop are to connect us Innovators with each other and Google staff, build our capacities as innovators, allow us to dive deep into each other’s projects and generally enjoy the “Googley” culture of innovation. The full days will include both Spark sessions (to build capacity and inspire new ideas) and Sprint sessions (to push our projects forward using elements of Google’s Innovation Lab curriculum, Design Spirit curriculum and Google’s product design model).

In addition, there are some optional opportunities during my time in Sydney. Due to how lucky I feel to be part of all of this, I don’t want to say no to anything! I will present my own Spark during the SparkCamp and also attend the Energiser Event on Saturday 4th May (after the official Academy has finished).

Look out for my blog post in May that will share my experiences from Sydney and outline my plan for addressing this social media issue.

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The Academy is just the beginning. It will kick-start my year-long project of programming, innovation and professional development. Throughout the year, I will check in with my Innovator Mentor on a regular basis as I develop my transformative project idea for addressing social media misuse. Beyond the first year, I commit to innovating on an ongoing basis and documenting my activities in the EDU Activity App (just like I have been doing with my Google for Education Certified Trainer activities).

I am absolutely delighted to join the tribe of Google Certified Innovators and I fully intend to make the most of these amazing opportunities. If you have any comments/questions about the application process or my project, please share below. Thanks again to everyone who helped me during this application period.

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  1. Congratulations Adam! This is fantastic news. I’ll look forward to hearing about your experience!

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