Action Plan, Meet Google.

Dream Big (2)

Back in December, a couple of my colleagues (thanks Charles) nominated me for the Google Certified Innovator program. I had heard of the program and thought it might be worth applying, but when two people suggested it, I thought I might as well throw my hat in the ring.

As it turns out, the application process involved a little more than throwing a hat. It was more like ideating a concept for a hat, designing the hat, making a prototype, and testing it out on a few different heads before finally producing a hat, and then trying to sell the hat to, oh you know, just those people who run GOOGLE. No big deal.

And of course, Last Minute Leslie left this until the day before the deadline to start. I had to come up with an idea for an action plan, fast. But thanks to Cohort 21, I already had a few ideas brewing.

Dream Big (1)

As it turns out, the Google Certified Innovators program is taking a page from the Cohort 21 playbook: 35 participants (the cohort) each develop a project (aka action plan) that they’d like to work on over the course of year, supported by face-to-face sessions and online connections with coaches and facilitators and other cohort members. Sound familiar? It’s no coincidence that the Google Innovators program and Cohort 21 have a lot in common. Cohort 21 was actually born out of the predecessor to the Certified Innovators Program, the Google Teacher Academy (thanks, Justin Medved @jmedved). Although back then, the program was one weekend, not a year long supported endeavor as it is now (I like to think Google borrowed that idea from Garth and Justin).

Long story short, developing an action plan for my application was pretty easy: it’s my Cohort 21 action plan on steroids. Google encouraged us to dream big in our applications, and so big I dreamt:

Dream Big

My HUGE goal is to build a school where students are outside in the community, learning from the city and from experts in many areas, rather than sitting in a classroom listening to me talk. Students would be collaborating on real world problems that have authentic audiences and they would be creating rather than consuming ideas. They would be driving their own learning and designing their own projects while teachers would act as facilitators and guides along the way. Technology would be use to facilitate and manage these experiences.

My BIG goal is to create a resource to help other teachers around the world implement and manage project based learning using technology.  It could include inspirational videos, how-to toolkits, links to other great stuff already in the world, tips on using technology to facilitate this type of learning, best practices based on pedagogical research, or even just a community for people to share and collaborate.  

My MEDIUM sized goal would be to collaborate with other teachers in my local network in Toronto to share ideas about how design thinking and project based, place based approaches to learning can put students in the driver’s seat and how we can leverage technology to make that happen. I know there are others in my area who are doing similar things to me. Building a local network would open up possibilities, be a launch pad for collaboration, and make all of our work better, together.

My SMALL goal would be to refine my own use of technology to improve the way that I manage student driven projects and share that learning with others. For example, I recently gave two presentations at the Toronto Ed Tech Teams Summit featuring Google Apps for Education on how I manage student driven learning using Forms, Docs (otherwise known as the “docAppender changed my life” presentation) and Hangouts I’d like to explore other tools for managing and  tracking student progress and providing timely, effective feedback to students and then share what I learn with others.

The above images are slides from my 10-slide “vision deck” for the application. I also submitted this YouTube video to accompany my presentation, and had to design my “Dream Classroom“, for which I used a Google Map – who needs classrooms when you have the city?!


There is no way that I could have developed this idea, had it not been for all of the deep thinking that I’ve been putting into my action plan for Cohort 21. And as it turns out, Google liked my big dreams.

Next week, I am off to Google in California (!!) to spend three days with 35 teachers from around the world as we kick off our action plans and work together to shift the education paradigm…just a little.

Already, the group has been collaborating online: we’ve had a Twitter chat (#MTV16 – for Moutainview Cohort 2016) and Google Hangout On Air. We’ve been collaborating on a BreakoutEDU game (more on that to come in another post) using Google docs and an app called Voxer, which is new to me. It’s been overwhelming as everyone is so smart, has great ideas and has so much energy! It’s been interesting and inspiring to see the incredible ideas that other teachers have, and to discover that there are a lot of common themes between our projects (and Cohort 21 action plans): student-driven learning, teacher-driven PD, leveraging technology, and shifting curriculum. Here is the entire playlist of Innovator’s videos:


I’m so lucky to now belong to TWO amazing Cohorts of teachers working on incredible projects.I’m terrified and excited about what next week will bring and I can’t wait to share what I learn with everyone here, in the “original” Cohort.

Dream Big (3)

Stay tuned for an email next week with more detail on a Google Hangout that I am planning to bring the two Cohorts together, live from the Googleplex in Mountainview, CA.

A special thanks to @gnichols for supporting me (as always) in turning my idea for a hat into an actual hat and providing insightful feedback on my ideas as they were developed, at the last minute, of course. Also, thanks to @rutheichholtz, @ddoucet, @mjolicoeur, @ksolowey, @chazzard and @shelleythomas for the challenge via Twitter to finally write this blog post!

9 comments to “Action Plan, Meet Google.”
  1. Hi Les,

    Great post on your ever-expanding community of innovative educators – thanks for letting us take a peek inside the looking-glass of Google. Don’t forget we have a Google Hangout planned for when you’re down there (worlds colliding!).

    Nice hat!

  2. Wow, Les. Just when I thought you couldn’t be more of an inspiration! I can’t wait to continue following your journey on your blog and, maybe just maybe, be a part of that medium-sized goal. Good luck in CA, and I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  3. What a great story! I love that you document your students’ learning and make it visible. It makes putting together a last minute application to the Innovator program a little easier I am sure!

    You continue to inspire and your Huge goal is amazing! I would definitely apply to work at your school. Looking forward to being a cog in your medium sized goal!

  4. How exciting! You will be an amazing Google cohort member I am sure! I love your big idea of education, what a fantastic way to think about learning. It’s interesting how physical structures that we are so committed to can restrain our creativity of what can be achieved outside of school. I’ve been toying with the idea of applying to Art21 cohort, which is kinda a similar to Cohort21 or Google but dealing with contemporary Art. After reading this post I’m going to put my application together for this. Thanks for inspiring me!

  5. I love your idea of a school with no classes, that’s one of my dreams too! And that feeling of not being in control and knowing the right answer is very familiar to me. I love your ideas and the way that you have framed them. I can’t wait to hear all about your experience and when you “build” that school with no classes, I’m coming to teach there 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *