Becoming a Google Certified Innovator

The Google Certified Innovator program is something I’ve wanted to be a part of for a long time. I knew that being a part of this program would mean participating with a community of educators working to transform the learning communities we serve and advocating for change. I was seeking a new space for my personal growth. I was craving another experience similar to that of the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) overseas program I was in at Michigan State University. I wanted a work hard, play hard environment where I could meet and connect with new people who share some of the same passions I have in education.

Four times. I applied to MTV16, COL16, and TOR16. Three rejections, but I wasn’t giving up. My fourth application was to NYC19 and I was accepted! The application process changed since I had applied in the past. My challenge that I submitted also changed. Back in 2016 my challenge was about managing educational screen time (which I think is still a challenge today). My 2019 challenge was about addressing the technology skills gap between adult learners and young students.

How I found out I was accepted in the program was funny. I had been added to a Google Hangout Chat called #NYC19 Innovators. I was a little confused because I hadn’t received an email confirming this acceptance. This seemed to be a common feeling with others in the chat. Ironically, the acceptance email had gone to our spam. We were all relieved to know this was an official, real thing that was happening! I hadn’t even met my cohort yet but we all celebrated in the chat together. We got to know each other pre-academy through this hangout chat, a hangout video call, Voxer chats, and uniting to solve a Breakout EDU challenge. There was already a sense of camaraderie before we arrived at the academy.

Day one of the academy, I arrived at Google early. I sat and waited in the fun googley chairs in the lobby in excitement. I heard a loud and energetic group of people walk in and instantly knew those were my people, my cohort.  It was a surreal feeling. I was greeted with a hug from my coach, Christine Lion-Bailey, they escorted us upstairs and we hit the ground running. The flood of hospitality and belonging continued all week long. We learned that we are 1 out of 2,200 innovators globally. We connected with our teams, went through design thinking, rang the #FailBell, toured the YouTube Space, and became familiar with “yes and” feedback.

Day two began with a sense of gratitude and sharing of G Thanks from day one. We learned about the core skills of innovation: accept every offer, make your partner look good, error recovery over failure avoidance, and zealous communication. Googlers came and spoke to us. We empathized with the feeling of imposter syndrome. We developed prototypes to solve our challenges using no technology. We attended Spark Camp sessions facilitated by peers in the cohort.

On day three, we did identity sketches, went through the user testing phase of design thinking with our prototypes, learned about Google Data studio, visited the Grow with Google space, worked on our roadmaps, launched our pitches for solutions to our challenges, and graduated from the academy. Academy week was a whirlwind and flew by. I left feeling many different emotions. I was mentally exhausted, overwhelmed, inspired, motivated, driven, happy and thankful. I got what I asked for; a work hard, play hard experience, new global connections and friends, professional growth. I was surrounded by great role models and diverse perspectives, or as we like to call ourselves, like-minded wackos.

Being a Google Certified Innovator is still a lot to process. Post academy, I am scrolling through the photos of our short time together. I am lucky to have had this experience. I catch myself reflecting on it often and smile when I get a ping from the group. Our conversations are ongoing and I look forward to the next time we are reunited. We are here to transform, advocate, and grow. We stand by the four foundations for a culture of innovation: curiosity, agency, collaboration, and risk-taking. We are forever connected. We are #NYC19 innovators.





Screenagers Movie

This past weekend, I attended a community screening of Screenagers. The documentary is about screen time and digital addiction. It was great to see a community come together to discuss and reflect on our interaction with screens. While much of the documentary was about youth, I especially liked how they highlighted that this is not just a problem for students. Adults need to know how to find balance too and practice what they preach. The nice thing about this screening being a community event was the emphasis that everyone plays a part. The education system cannot do it alone. Parents cannot do it alone. It indeed takes a village, a community. Similar to the Like movie, I left the screening feeling curious and wanting more. Wanting more because I am passionate about the topic and because I think there is a need for society to be in the know of technology wellness. Again, my wish is for this information to become more mainstream and available just like information on fitness and nutrition.

The film brought to light many things but I’d like to quickly share my biggest takeaways. The idea of technology contracts came up.  One family wrote a contract of expectations for their child to sign, but it was later suggested that families create a contract together. All family members should participate in creating and signing it. This is very similar to Capturing Kids Hearts social contracts that educators create in their classrooms. Everyone is involved and everyone plays by the same rules.

It is mentioned that the digital divide conversation isn’t necessarily about access anymore, it’s about how the device is being used. This reminds me of how people have different philosophies and views on technology and phones in schools. On one end of the spectrum, some schools completely ban cell phones. The other end of the spectrum is that schools allow cell phones but it is the wild wild west. I’m an advocate for that “somewhere in between” spot. It is important that students are taught responsibility, respect, and mindfulness when interacting with their digital devices.

I jotted down the names of many people featured in the documentary; Larry Rosen, Sherry Turkle, Simon Sinek, and David Levy to name a few. David Levy’s book Mindful Tech is now on my “To Read” list. While exploring his website, I came across his cellphone observation exercise, which I’m curious to do. As I begin to research more and more, I discovered that there is a whole category for books on Amazon called Human- Computer interaction. This made me happy to see this category on something as mainstream as Amazon!

Screenagers was another gateway to many other blog posts soon to be written. My hope is for society to find balance and self control as technology users. I recommend checking out some of my favorite resources from the Screenagers website; Tech Talk Tuesdays, Screen Time Contracts, Internet Addction, Sleep & Screens.


The Like Movie

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a community screening of the Like movie. Thank you to University Liggett School for hosting this event. The documentary is about the impact of social media on our lives (Ironically, how I found out about the event was through Facebook). It was great to watch and reflect on what that impact is. The message of this documentary is a necessary reminder to be mindful of the way we choose to interact and engage with our technology. I’m happy to see that this message is being shared, especially in a community setting.

The evening had a powerful start. One of the students opened the night by performing Touchscreen by Marshall Jones.

While technology can be positive in so many ways, it is still important to consider negative consequences. Too much of anything can be bad. A connection I make to this is nutrition and how humans need to find a healthy balance of nutrients. There seems to be copious amounts of information regarding nutrition available for society to learn from. It’d be nice to see that same amount of information on how to find a healthy balance when it comes to technology use. I feel that the information is out there but many people do not have that awareness. I often present on technology wellness and feel that I’m more aware of it simply because of my background in educational technology. My wish is for this information to become more mainstream for the general public. I strongly believe that this will be the case in the near future.

The documentary was very though provoking and I could go on and on about all of the connections I made (Those are topics for several blog posts to come). Watching this film really resonated with me. At the screening, the community had the opportunity debrief the film through a Q & A session with Max Stossel. His message that stuck with me the most was that it is our responsibility as educators, to help children learn focus, patience, and how to be without their devices.

After this experience, I’m looking forward to attending a community screening of Screenagers next week.






Holy moly ISTE! The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference was a blast.  I’m still in the midst of processing it all and letting it soak in.  It was an absolute joy to run into friends and meet new people.  I even ran into my old boss from Kamehameha Schools!  So much learning happened and it sparked so many ideas.  I have quite a long list of aspirations and things I’d like to do in the upcoming school year.  It is taking me a long time to synthesize my notes, tweets, photos, and digital handouts.  As I go through it all, there are many things I want to hold myself accountable to.  The ISTE conference has me motivated and eager to make it all happen.  At first, I felt overwhelmed and just needed to pick a starting point.

I’ve spent the last couple days getting organized and prioritized.  Now, I’m hitting the ground running. The first thing I’m holding myself accountable to is changing the way I will conduct some upcoming professional development sessions.   ISTE has given me so much to work with and I’m very thankful that I was able to attend.  Many thanks to Oakland Schools for supporting me in many different capacities, especially with my professional growth endeavors!

Some fun facts about my first ISTE ever:

  1. There was a giant ball pit!
  2. I presented! TWICE! Stefanie Cairns and I presented a session called Gamestorming TPACK and we were invited to speak at an ISTE Bytes session.
  3. I acquired 54 stickers from the Expo.






My Why: Life is a Giant Field Trip

At Future Ready Schools Detroit, Tom Murray gave us time to reflect on why we do what we do.  This really resonated with me and I enjoyed being able to have time dedicated to reflection.  At years end, I make sure to set aside time to reflect every year.  I usually write a long list of accomplishments in my career.  This year, I’ve decided not to share my list.  I decided to share my why.  My Why is the drive and reason behind my list.  It trumps the list entirely.

My Why:

When you travel, you take in the world around you.  You wonder, you ask questions, you figure things out, you problem solve, you try, you fail, you succeed, you learn, you research. There is no way you can run out of things to do in this world and there is so much to learn; not in a classroom but just from experiencing, living, being immersed, feeling and reacting to different emotions, seeking understanding. It’a all a path leading to the next path to the next. Set goals, stay curious, and love learning because life is a giant field trip and that is a beautiful thing. And aren’t field trips fun and exciting?



My other computer costs $35

Last week, I was lucky to participate in Picademy at the Ann Arbor District Library and am now a Raspberry Pi certified educator! This was an amazing experience to connect with a cohort of like minded educators from all around the globe and learn physical computing. Our instructors were stellar! Raspberry Pi used to be intimidating to me but thanks to them, now I can see its many affordances. Raspberry Pi has a variety of educational resources. I am excited to start integrating this in my school district and share it with the rest of my technology integration team, administrators, teachers and most of all, the students! I encourage you to try it.

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One of the most powerful activities we did was learn how to transition from coding in Scratch to Python. I loved the way this activity was scaffolded and it was a great way to transition from block coding to text language. I want to do this activity with students so that they can make connections between the two. That feeling of hooking the Raspberry Pi up for the first time and making a light illuminate is incredible! To make it light up again in a different way made me feel extra accomplished.

We explored many different components and projects over the course of two days. I learned how to use the camera, button, motion sensor, motor, sense hat, Sonic Pi and servo motor. I was able to make several iterations of a photo booth, a ferris wheel, pixel emoji art, scrolling messages, and music. We also played around with orientation, humidity and temperature.

My favorite project was The Beethoven Project. I worked with a small group to make an automatic page turner for sheet music. As we started to brainstorm, we realized that this invention could also work as an assistive technology for individuals who have a limited range of motion, too. By the press of a button, the page turns. We would want our next iteration to be able to flip the same page in reverse and be able to flip multiple pages. This was my favorite project because we did not use the servo motor in any previous activities and we figured out how to use it.  I wrote the code for this project and learning the code for servo motors was not easy. I was proud of myself for making the Raspberry Pi do what we wanted it to! This activity was different because we weren’t writing a predetermined code and altering it. Our code was new, unique and I wrote it!  Check out tweets from The Beethoven Project team below.



Thing-a-ma-jig, thing-a-ma-bob, thingmy, ThingLink!

ThingLink is a great tool to use to spice up presentations, lesson materials, handouts, you name it.  It allows you to annotate video, images, and 360/VR content to make them interactive.  Things that you can link to (ba-dum-ching!) could be maps, text, other images and videos, links, and audio.  After a thinglink is created, it allows you to view statistics on engagement with your particular thinglink.  Images are free and the video and 360/VR are features of the paid versions.  These are a great way to share thinking and learning that is happening in your classroom.  To push your thinking, I’d like to challenge you to think about how you could make a tool like this work for you in your context.

Here are a few examples of ThingLinks I made…

My journey of global opportunities.

I created this ThingLink to show the amount of information you can gather from 140 characters.

This is a ThingLink I made when I presented on AR at MACUL with Mary Wever.



Makawalu: A 5th Grade Capstone Project

What I witnessed today was amazing.  The fifth graders at my school presented their Makawalu Project to younger peers.  It was set up as a live museum and students dressed up based on their research project.  From my understanding, they tied in Native Hawaiian, Native American, and European views into their projects and shared how they connect.  I give kudos to Karyl AhHee and Corrina Kay for planning such an amazing learning experience for our students. Not only was the topic and content of the project fun and engaging, but they covered so many learning goals.  The presentation of all the projects was magnificent.  I could tell the students worked really hard on their projects because each and every one of them were dense and overflowing with information. Students had great interaction and activities planned for their peers to engage with their presentations.  It was definitely not a “sit and get” ordeal.  Every student shared knowledge in their own unique ways.  Seeing them present to their younger peers made me proud for some reason. I can’t really explain why, but that is how I felt.  Watching their interaction and leadership was incredible.  I was blown away.

The nerd in me just needs to tell you all about things I was totally geeking out about and super excited to see.  As a technology teacher and maker, I was overwhelmed with the creativity I saw. There was a variety of high tech and low tech.  I saw homemade costumes, posters designed with great aesthetics and piled with information, business cards, green screen videos, QR codes, augmented reality, puzzles, building with blocks, word searches, lassos, musicians, dancers, food, homemade props, Sphero, artwork, drawing, acting, arts and crafts, trivia games, interactive maps, and the list goes on.  The variety was unreal.  All stakeholders were engaged and immersed in a rich learning environment.  Bravo papa ‘elima!

Reflecting on a Great Year of Learning

Usually, I reflect on my year and write a note to myself in my Evernote or on my Facebook.  As I started to reflect on my year, I realized a lot has happened for me in the education world and I just had to write a blogpost.  This is also probably the reason I haven’t been blogging as much as I would have liked because I’ve been super busy (aren’t we all?).  I am so thankful for my own education and the opportunities I have to educate children.  I learned a lot in 2015.  Here’s what happened…

  • I got to share my music skills with the 1st grader in their music class with Cindy Debus.  I played my clarinet, my saxophone, and shared my Spartan Marching Band experience with them.
  • We skyped with schools in Tahiti, Mexico, California, Big Island and Michigan (of course)
  • I met Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair when she visited our campus in February and was able to reconnect with her when she came back in October.  She even wanted to quote me on a story I shared of my sister and I playing “manual instant messaging” growing up (we wrote notes to each other on the same piece of paper).
  • I got to meet Angela Maiers when she visited our campus in March
  • Reshan Richards skyped with one of our 5th Grade classes in March and I got to meet him when he visited our campus in person in September
  • I co-presented at Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning Conference (MACUL) with Mary Wever on Augmented Reality
  • I presented on Making and Coding at Hawai’i Island TechEd Collaboration Conference (HITC) (and I connected Kamehameha Schools with Brad Waid & Drew Minock and they came to Hawai’i!)
  • I got to meet Kandance Logan when she came to campus for Responsive Classroom workshops
  • I presented on Making and Coding at the Kamehameha Schools EdTech Conference in Honolulu (and I connected Kamehameha Schools with Mary Wever and she came to Hawai’i!)
  • Mary and I went to listen to Daniel Pink speak at Punahou School and we got to meet him
  • I learned about Lego Stop Motion from Shane Asselstine at the Kamehameha Schools EdTech Conference and connected with him later in the year to become trained in Code.org and Minecraft
  • I started the #EdChatHI Voxer group with Karen Corbell
  • I helped plan and presented at the Global Resources in Education and Technology Conference (GREAT) in Galway, Ireland
  • I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Michigan State University in Galway, Ireland
  • I got to play clarinet and bass clarinet in the orchestra for West Side Story at Kamehameha Schools
  • We got to learn with SEVERAL different new technology tools: Sphero, Dash, Ozobots, Google Classroom, Minecraft EDU, Makerbot, 3Doodler, Little Bits, Snap Circuits, Squishy Circuits, Paper Circuits, Makey Makeys, etc.
  • We participated in the Doodle 4 Google contest
  • The KS Makers program more than doubled in size! We even had visitors from some DOE schools to check out our model for our makerspace so they can begin to launch programs at their schools.
  • I participated in the IMUA challenge at work and learned about wellness
  • One of our 5th Grade classes did a project on #TheGreatListen
  • I helped lead a coding workshop with Carmen Richardson at our campus
  • I get to experience my second Founder’s day at Kamehameha Schools.  This is a VERY cool day to be a part of and I am looking forward to Friday.  What a privilege it is to work for Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi.

I’m sure I missed plenty of things that have happened over the past year but these are the ones that stuck with me.  Man, do I feel blessed.  2015, you were so good to me.  Here’s to a new year full of even more learning!