Google for Education announced yesterday that the former Google Certified Teacher program is now called Google for Education Certified Innovators. With this name change comes a complete overhaul of the training and certifications available to educators. Perhaps most telling in the announcement is the first line of the message:

Technology can help transform education, but only as a support to amazing educators who have received effective professional development.

The previous Google Educator training lacked any pedagogical foundations as far as applying Google tools in the classroom, and the folks at Google for Education knew this. When I was at my GTA in Austin last December, we got a sneak peek at the revamped education training. I really appreciated the shift to creating educational scenarios and focusing on how Google apps could help address or solve a problem in the classroom. I’m actually looking forward to re-upping my Google Educator soon, as I’m nearing the 18 months from my previous test. Here’s a teaser from yesterday’s announcement:

Google for Education Training Center

The new Training Center was built by educators for educators and delivers high quality lessons that are:

  • Interactive, with goal setting, reflection questions, application activities, and formative assessments throughout

  • Multimodal to cater for all learners

  • Relevant, containing tips, ideas and thoughts from educators

Along with the new Training Center, we are also launching 2 new certifications for educators. You will notice that we now have Google Certified Educators Level 1 and Level 2. In the future, the Google Certified Educator Level 2 certification will be a new prerequisite to becoming an Innovator.

As far as the Google Teacher Academy was concerned, the program was mysterious and somewhat confusing. I received lots of questions as a higher education professional, fielding everything from “why?” to “what is it?” after I was accepted. I just recently re-watched my interview with Dr. Tim Green about my experience and some of my other work. Some of the words I found myself repeating included “intensive” and “innovative.” See for yourself:

To say that I am pleased with the new title and direction would be an understatement. The Academy was always about innovation and recognizing innovative educators. We had school administrators, educational consultants, and other non K12 educators, like me, in my GTA cohort. Google knew and embraced this diversity. However, I think that was particularly confusing outside of the Googleverse. My own colleagues across the U.S. in higher education were perplexed at why I would go after such a program and how I was accepted. From the outside looking in, most assumed it was all about K12 teachers. From the inside looking out, it’s always been about changing education for the better, regardless of your role. Beyond that, though, GTAs (are new now GFECIs?) constantly encountered individuals who completed the Google Educator training/tests and labeled themselves “Google Certified Teachers.” The reality here is that they were in fact Google Educators. It was confusing, unless you were a GCT and knew the secret handshake; i.e., “What cohort were you? I’m GTAATX14!”

These changes will help better distinguish between training/professional development and certification that recognizes “outstanding educators, creative leaders, and ambassadors for change.” Here, read from the rest of yesterday’s announcement:

Google for Education Certified Innovators are the next generation of Google Certified Teachers. New Google for Education Certified Innovators will continue to be ambassadors and thought leaders who push forward the field of education through creative Innovation Projects. All existing GCTs will be granted the new certification and receive updated branding.

Google for Education Certified Innovator

The Google for Education Certified Innovators program was introduced to recognize outstanding educators, creative leaders, and ambassadors for change. We realize that innovation occurs at all roles in the school community, not just classroom teachers, and have updated the branding of the program to reflect that.

What Does it Mean?

Current GCTs

For those of us who are existing GCTs…we’re now GFECIs with all of the rights and privileges therein. Honestly, it doesn’t look that much different for us. We’ve always known that we need to keep up our training exams and now we can feel more confident with the Google Certified Educator Level 2 certification as a pre-requisite for the GFECI program. We’re still expected to be ambassadors for innovation and change in education. We’ll still pilot new Google for Education tools. And we’ll still abide by that NDA we signed (note that this post is published after FRIDAY, JUNE 26 AT 9 AM PST — when the training announcement went public).

Future GFECIs

For those of you who are looking to become a GFECI, the process is still somewhat the same. You start with the Training Center, completing the Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Educator training and subsequent exams. Note that the exam fees are now lower! Level 1 will take approximately 120 minutes for the test and cost $10. Level 2 will take approximately 180 minutes and cost $25. This is about $40 less than the prior system of taking five different exams at $15/exam. Also keep in mind that you’ll want to dedicate time to working through the actual training materials for each test.

The application for the Innovator Academy (formerly Google Teacher Academy) is still an unknown factor in this equation. It may look completely different than what I completed less than a year ago. It may look exactly the same. Google hasn’t yet announced academies for this year, and applications likely won’t open until 60-90 days before each academy. Keep in mind that different academies had different application forms under the old program. For example, we noticed that the questions for GTA London last year were different than those that we answered for GTA Austin.

If you’re headed to ISTE in Philadelphia here in a few weeks, stop by booth #1808. The Googlers and GFECIs there will be happy to chat about the program and changes, answering any questions you might have. The bottom line is that the program now more accurately reflects Google’s image and our desire to bring about innovation in education.

What’s a Certified Trainer?

The Google Certified Trainer program added another layer of confusion for some. GCT? GET? Alphabet soup is always fun. In this case, it makes sense for the Certified Trainers to hold the GCT moniker. Some GFECIs are also GCTs. Some are not. I’m one of the latter (for now anyway). You do not have to be a GFECI to be a GCT or vice versa. Certified Trainers have demonstrated proficiency using and implementing Google tools in various settings. Becoming a GCT recognizes these efforts, provides access to resources that will let you deliver more impactful training, and opens doors to let you expand when and where you are called upon to deliver training. Again, the first step is to complete the Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Educator training and subsequent exams. If you’re already showcasing Google apps and tools on the teacher conference circuit or within your own school/district, you really should consider looking into the program.

Teacher Education

I want to close out this entry with a few personal thoughts. In the past six months, I’ve chatted with a number of my undergraduate and graduate students, both pre- and inservice teachers. I’m honestly leaning towards add in the Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Educator training and subsequent exams into my advanced tech integration course that is offered every other summer. I’m also lobbying my undergrads to consider completing these exams during their Methods semester, ahead of student teaching. I’d love to hear from other teacher educators about their thoughts on this. Will it better prepare our students? Will it help them on the job market? What do you think? Let me know either in the comments, by email, or on social media. I think it’s a conversation to have.