If you have been on the Moon for the past two days, you might have missed this.  Google is offering a Google Teachers Academy for Administrators in San Antonio.  After looking at the announcement, I couldn’t help thinking that its basically the same program offered for teachers.  Even the title of the program might suggest that…

Personally, I think programs like this are generally beneficial, but not as beneficial as everyone thinks.  I’ve written about his before, especially in regards to my distaste for the badges that participants display on their blog.  I think most do not consider the implicit support for a commercial entity that results from the use of the badge, especially within the context of being a public employee (in most cases).

I also think that this represents a great opportunity for Google and a great opportunity for administrators.  But, if it’s just the GTA re-purposed, I think it might miss its mark.  Why do a teacher academy for administrators?  I guess it could imply that everyone is a teacher, or it could simply mean the organizers did a bad job of crafting a title.

It’s a different audience with a different need.  And if they don’t know the tools by now, which is a reality, they shouldn’t apply.  That’s directed at administrators, not at Google.

The time has come for a different kind of experience, moving beyond tools.  Tools could certainly be included in the context of the day, but it needs to be more.

Before I give you my perspectives, here are my biases from which I operate:

  • I’m a 12 month administrator and have been for 10 years.  I taught for 15.
  • I work in a school.  I face the challenges that that brings on a daily basis.
  • I’m a Google Certified Teacher by default-I presented at the Chicago conference.  I have not engaged in the Google online community-I do enough of that already, and my engagement online with others must be larger than just Google-focused.
  • I believe that the Google Academy is a good thing for most teachers, although it could stand a heavy dose of pedagogy.
  • My school district has signed up for Google Apps for education, and it is a component of a much larger vision of how learning can occur in digital environments.  Google tools, and what they bring, are incredibly important to us.
  • I think that in 2009, Google represents the true spirit of innovation.  I’m amazed at what they produce.


So, if I were designing an administrator academy, these would be my underlying questions that I would hope the day would answer for attending professionals.  Embedded in this is the understanding that some tools would be explained, and that the experience from the day could be expanded through online community participation.

Here they are:

  1. Will the academy help administrators understand why teachers in their schools could benefit from being part of the GTA program?
  2. Will the academy help administrators understand why they should adopt Google Apps for Education in their schools?  Will the academy demonstrate to administrators, clearly, the affordances that the use of such a system brings, and demonstrate how they know?
  3. Will the academy help administrators understand the necessary policies that need to be developed to effectively scaffold the use of Google tools in schools?
  4. Will the academy help administrators understand how they can meet mandated legal requirements (such as email archiving) when using various Google tools?
  5. Will the academy address strategies for the systemic application of Google technology to support increased student achievement?
  6. Will the academy address initiatives such as Response to Intervention and how Google technology can be used to address the student support required by such programs?
  7. Will the academy address the negotiation of the uses of learning environments featuring Google tools and how that can be balanced against high stakes testing regimes and NCLB?
  8. Given the focus on the role of Google tools, and that they should be used by teachers to help students learn, will the academy address, or offer suggestions and strategies, on how schools might address the technology gaps that exist in under-served populations in schools (defined here as those without home technology) so that access is equitable?
  9. Is the academy taught by fellow administrators or is it taught by the same teachers that instruct at GTA?  If teachers, do they have the requisite systemic experience to understand the larger context of schools that administrators operate within?
  10. Do the presenters, if administrators, have school-based examples to share, in the context of what Google offers, of what works, and can they explain how they know it works?

So, those are my questions.  And while I understand that a lot of administrators aren’t there yet in their understanding of…tools…well, I might suggest that there is a different place where that can occur.  In my opinion, the day should be learning more than tools, and realizing that we can connect to each other digitally.

Administrators have different needs than teachers.  They just do.  That’s not bad, it just is.  Technologies that are offered by companies like Google, and that are used by teachers, require some rethinking of how we operate.  That’s good.  Google could help admins understand that, with a day dedicated to just that.

I’d be glad to offer my assistance in planning or helping to adjust the program, or explaining this in more detail to Google planners.

Please let me know what you think.



24 Responses to “Google Academy for Administrators?”
  1. Ok why not start our own “Think Different Academy” You do the ” dose of pedagogy” I’ll do the integration peice..Let’ bring Karl F & Chris L

  2. Butch Wilson says:

    David – Howie has half my comment already, and however I may assist, I’m in.

    You touched on a couple of things twice, whether intentionally or not. But that’s telling because they are substantially important.

    What specifically caught my eye was this:

    “demonstrate how they know” — Not too many things are better to duplicate than success, yes?

  3. Bonita DeAmicis says:

    Ditto your sentiments. I hope you sent this along to Google?

  4. David, this is outstanding. Thanks so much for sharing. After we traded tweets when I shared the announcement, my first thought was I hope you’d share your ideas for what this event needs to do and be. I don’t know if the GTA crew will take what you have here to heart, AND ASK YOU TO BE A LEAD LEARNER AT THIS EVENT, but in my view, they absolutely ought to. Your voice needs to be heard. (I’m still working on my own post about this…) More later! -kj-

  5. DSJ says:

    @Butch. Yes, that was intentional. Administrators will want to have evidence on why things are good, why they work. Whether its anecdotal or achievement specific, it needs to be presented. In my opinion, technology never improves student achievement, it improves the pedagogy/instruction that improves student achievement.

    Should I ever go in that direction, I appreciate your offer of help.

    @Bonita. I’m sure they’ll see it, the people that run the program are part of my network. So, we’ll see what happens but I think they probably are satisfied where they are at.

    @Kevin. Thanks for the comment, Kevin. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

  6. Diane Main says:

    Hmm. Maybe I missed something, or maybe it has changed since the first GTA in Mountain View three years ago. When I attended the GTA in November 2006, we were presented with tools, but all in a context of “where do you see this going?” and “how do you see this changing learning as we know it?” When my cohort attended a reload in the Summer of 2007, again we talked about context and looked at plenty of tools, several of which are in no way connected to Google.

    I agree with you on this: something aimed at administrators needs to have a different focus than something aimed at teachers. But the admins should also be aware of what teachers would be encouraged to use these ideas for and how teachers may already be trying to push to have change take place in their schools or districts. Some administrators have been out of the classroom long enough to not fully realize how the student experience has changed . . . or perhaps desperately needs to change . . . in their own schools. Many admins are fantastic, current, and involved. But I have known a few who got as far as they could in their positions and then just dug in and stagnated. I’m hoping that some of them could be reached by these programs and perhaps be the catalyst to energize their teachers to look into ways we can change how students experience school these days.

    I really don’t care who provides it, who speaks at it, or who sponsors it: what’s clear is that too many districts either can’t or don’t provide the necessary jolt to make the change happen, so it may take outsiders or even companies who want to influence education for the better. I work in a private non-profit school. Will improve for funds. That’s my motto.

  7. DSJ says:

    @Diane. If you are a competent administrator, being “out of the classroom” has absolutely no bearing towards understanding the changing student experience. It’s actually the opposite, you are intensely aware of what takes place in classrooms because your job is knowing that, and responding to it. That really is the role of administration. But sadly, there are indeed administrators that are oblivious, just like there are many teachers that are likewise unaware of the need for a different classroom experience, and its staring them right in the face…

    If a admin is stagnant, I believe it is the role of the school district, or the school, to either remove or remediate the administrator. Attending a one-day session is probably not going to do it.

    I also think that we are at the point where knowing about these tools is inexcusable.

    My question to you: Is it better to plan and offer a workshop that targets those administrators you describe, or a workshop that helps forward-thinking administrators extend what they do and share what they do?

  8. [...] interesting discussion developed on Twitter and is continuing on David Jakes’ Blog – The Strength of Weak Ties about the nature of this offering. David suggests that the time has come to move beyond teaching [...]

  9. Ken says:


    While I agree with most of what you post here, I think the greatest value is it will help me rethink, retool, and redesign the way I conduct future Google Workshops for Educators. I have done that with the GWE’s I conduct for a University level audience and I do believe it is important to adjust GTA’s and GWE’s to the audience. Admins are a bit tougher to reach and engage because of all the extraneous stuff, but by no means is that a reason to not do it. I hope to cross paths with you sometime before ISTE 2010 so we can talk about this more. I also would love to do a GWE with you so the attendees will get a truly comprehensive day from both a teacher and an admin perspective on the pedagogy of using Google in education.

  10. DSJ says:

    @Ken. That would be fun, indeed.

  11. Diane Main says:

    David, I agree. I am blessed in that I have competent administrators. One of the ways they keep on top of what’s going on is they come and ask us, face-to-face. I work in a small school (about 500 students, preK-8), but I would imagine that the most successful competent administrators in larger settings must adhere to a similar practice. And I am 100% with you on what should be done with stagnant administrators. Sadly, though, politics are alive and well in many places.

    To answer your question, I think both need to happen, but they would of course be in different settings. Stagnant Admin Rehab is not something I would want to take part in. But wouldn’t it be great if the impetus to un-stagnate could come from having one’s eyes opened by the wealth of new tools, ideas, research, and theories now available to us? So it sounds like it will need to be mostly feeding the Goliaths of administration, those powerhouses who CAN see above the crowds to what may be off on the horizon.

    But I still think that to allow someone to stay in a position of trust and authority, but not encourage/force them to become more effective and productive, is the same as denying students opportunities because they don’t seem to care, when in fact they may have a lot to offer if we can just find the right ways to reach them.

  12. Jim Collins said it best..
    Get the right people on the bus
    Get them in the right seats.
    Get the WRONG people off the bus—(good luck in education)
    Final question….Who is driving the bus????

  13. DSJ says:

    @Diane: I love the Stagnant Admin Rehab idea…

    I think that exposing administrators to new tools and ideas is a good thing, certainly. I think that it is also very important to remember that technology includes much more than just what Google offers, so opening eyes would require more than just an exposure to Earth, et. al. And it certainly means more than a one day workshop (although it can be a start), which research strongly suggests is marginally effective (full disclosure: I teach many single day sessions in my consulting work).

    I would again suggest that we are at a time and place in education where we need to step forward beyond just an awareness of tools. We need to understand the affordances that such tools bring, how to manage the infrastructure necessary to support dynamic technology environments, including TCO and budgeting concerns, the personnel issues required to support such a movement, professional development required to sustain growth, and the assessment strategies required to evaluate the learning, as well as the impact that the tool itself has.

    If we look at the agenda (http://sites.google.com/site/gtaresources/events/2009-12-09) for the GTA, which I am assuming will be a similar schedule for the Admin Academy since I have no other information than what is present on their Web site, its unlikely any of the above will be addressed, other than the tool component.

    The bottom line is that GTA is a good program. Running the same program for administrators misses the mark in my opinion.

    If the program is indeed different, then the agenda should be published so the administrators wishing to apply can make an informed decision.

  14. DSJ says:

    @Howie. You.

  15. David, thanks.

    I needed a bit more space (and formatting control, lol) so I blogged my response:


    Feel free to respond here, not on my blog, as the discussion belongs here, really.

    Best, kj

  16. David – Thanks for your thoughtful post on the Google Academy for Administrators. I was actually looking forward to putting in an application Google Academy for Administrators.

    I guess I was excited that it was going to be similar to the academy for teachers because I think that administrators need to look at things more from a teacher’s point of view. I would have been disappointed if I was attending a watered-down Google Academy for administrators.

    If we are really going to model what is best practice, I think we need to model what teachers would do and not what administrators would do. Unfortunately, I learn a lot more from my conversations with teachers than I do with most administrators. I appreciate all of the questions that you ask as well. I wasn’t thinking of those in reference to the Google Academy, but I probably should have been.

    I would love to be involved in an on-going conversation with other administrators like yourself who can share best practices in utilizing these tools. Who know, maybe I can even come up with a few ideas myself?

    The question I have is whether or not I should still apply for this academy? I am hoping that my attendance would allow me to come back to my community and provide students, teachers, and parents with new resources which would enable them to do things differently.

  17. DSJ says:

    @Patrick. I would strongly suggest that you apply. It’s a good program and I’ve never said otherwise (I have said it could be better, but what couldn’t?).

    It’s one thing to bring back tools and ideas, and its another to have those same tools and ideas make a difference. That takes an understanding of how to apply those tools systemically, within the climate and culture of a school. I’m not much interested in isolated teachers doing some good things. That’s not enough anymore. I think some smart admins could take those pockets however, analyze what is good,, and amplify them so that impact is more system-wide.

    Good luck with your application, I hope you apply. :)

  18. I have always been skeptical of the “______ teacher academies.” The same reason I am skeptical of corporate giving in schools. Corporate giving, be it cash donations, capital items, or human capital are always burdened by the prime directive of the company (make money for shareholders and grow). Any corporate involvement with public schools is going to be disingenuous. Accepting grant funds, donations, attending training, or listening to keynote speeches (i.e. Marzano at TIES in MN and CUE earlier this year) paid for by corporations are OK if educators realize that a corporate bias is going to try to steer you in a direction that may or may not benefit students but will certainly benefit the share holders. Apple did this in the 80s by marketing their computers to schools and giving discounts, Channel One did this in schools in the 90s by putting televisions and cable in every classroom where they could display commercials for Pepsi in between kid oriented news programming (also most likely infused with a corporate bias), Bill Gates did it in this decade with his Gates Foundation, and Google is doing it today with their teacher and administrator academies. No matter how philanthropic these intentions might or might not be they do encourage schools to take students down a path that falls in line with a particular world view that may or may not be in society’s best interest.

  19. DSJ says:

    @Carl. Well-said. I don’t think participants truly realize what they are doing by posting the badge as part of their digital presence after they engage in these type of corporate affairs. To most, I would think it represents some form of recognition, and that seems to trump any concern for corporate branding and association with a person whose salary is paid for with public tax dollars (of course, independent schools are not, but it probably applies to them as well) with a commercial entity). Such an action implies association, and districts should wake up to this. Perhaps most don’t care, but I’m wondering how many of them would tolerate corporate advertising on their Web site. I know most of those badges go on blogs probably not associated directly with a schools Web presence, but I think its important for all to consider more deeply how they represent themselves. You can get all of the proclaimed benefits without using the badge…

  20. [...] conference. Now, I took some time to read through Miguel’s thoughts then ventured over to David Jakes, Mark Wagner, Daniel Rezac and Kevin Jarrett’s blogs to see what they had to say on the [...]

  21. Hank Thiele says:


    I have just been asked to help plan and lead this event. I will definitely pass along your ideas. Any other ideas can be recorded over here: http://henrythiele.blogspot.com/2010/01/google-administrator-academy.html and I will pass them along.

    There are some great ideas here already!

  22. DSJ says:

    @Hank. No need to do that. They wouldn’t be interested…

  23. [...] any case, I think a few responses are in order. I’ll start (of course) with David Jakes’ post, which was born out of others’ passionate responses to his (admittedly puzzling) initial [...]

  24. [...] interesting discussion developed on Twitter and is continuing on David Jakes’ Blog – The Strength of Weak Ties about the nature of this offering. David suggests that the time has come to move beyond teaching [...]

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