It’s only the beginning…

On the 5th October I was one of the luckiest people alive to be able to attend the Google Innovator Academy held at Google Canada’s Head Office in Toronto. The journey had begun 4 weeks earlier, when I received an email telling me that I had been accepted to the Innovator program. You can read more about my feelings to being accepted here.

Day 1

I met fellow innovator Jody Meacher at the airport as we were on the same flight and we headed off to Toronto!


Welcome to Google Canada

We were told to arrive for 4pm at the reception of the Google Office where we were met by our coaches (Sylvia Duckworth, Sandra Chow, Rafranz Davis, Jeffery Humphries, Afzal Shaikh and Donnie Piercey), the organisers (Becky Evans from the Google For Education Team, Michelle Armstrong, Wendy Gorton and Mark Wagner from EdTechTeam) and all of the new cohort of innovators.


My Name Badge

After being escorted upstairs (and being told what we can and cannot take photos of!) we were led into a room for the welcome and introductions. We formed our groups (we decided to be GSweet7) and met our coaches (our was Rafranz Davis). We also introduced our American friends to Canada by performing a dance for them


Then the fun began. We went off in our groups with our Breakout EDU boxes which we had been sent to us in the mail. We had to work out each others Breakout puzzle and then they told their story. It was a great way to get to know one another, and really broke the ice. We also took part in a larger Breakout Challenge in one of Google’s meeting rooms, which found us pulling the room apart to find clues. We failed… but again we got to work together!


After we had got to know one another it was time for dinner, and I got to meet someone who I have known for a few years online being a GEG Leader and a Google Education Trainer, Justin Lacap. Justin makes all the things happen in the background for the GEGs, Innovators and Education Trainers!

Day 2

Day 2 started with Breakfast and in typical Google style it was healthy and fresh! Once we were fed, and ready to go we were led into a room which can only be described as incredible. It had a stage, a full production suite and was totally awesome.

Once we had got seated in our teams, and listened to introductions from Becky, we were given a lightbulb challenge. Each team was given the task of building a lightbulb out of pencil lead, D batteries, a mason jar, a foil tray and alligator clips. Not only was this task a lot of fun, it was another great team building activity and allowed us to begin to communicate with one another, getting the creative juices flowing. The feeling of achievement once the lead lit up, was incredible and the whole task was a lot of fun.

img_20161006_095428Once the task was over, we were introduced to Liz Anderson the Head of Adoption for Google for Education. Liz’s story and her message were not only inspirational, but also made us feel like we were joining a larger family. Mark Wagner then followed telling us about previous innovators successes. People like my friend and colleague Tanya Avrith who rolled out a 1:1 chromebook program in my school board, and the incredible Les McBeth whom I have had the pleasure of working with at MapleSyrupEDU over the past 12 months. I was fortunate to spend time with a lot of members of MapleSyrupEDU over the three days I was at the Innovator Academy. Michelle Armstrong, Jeff Humphries, Sandra Chow, Marie Andree Ouimet, Sylvia Duckworth, Les McBeth and Charity Helman.

We were then introduced the idea of Sprints and Sparks. The rest of the two days were split into a series of activities, where we were either being inspired (sparks) or we were working on our project (sprints). The sprints were all based around Design Thinking and led by Les McBeth from Future Design School (She was also in the MTV 16′ Innovator Cohort), and we were walked through a range of activities from Crazy Eights to developing and prototyping our ideas.

It was during this process of developing our ideas that Larissa Aradj and I realised that our projects were almost identical, and we decided to combine our projects. This allowed us to focus on the rest of the time we had as a team rather than working on two separate projects.

In amongst our Sprints, we were given sparks, these included:

  • How to write your signature story by Rafranz Davis
  • Zooming out by Sandra Chow
  • Sketchnoting by Sylvia Duckworth
  • Learning to Juggle by Donnie Piercey
  • A Maker Activity with Little Bits by Afzal Shaikh
  • The Power of Google Maps by Aaron Brindle (Google Canada)
  • An update from the Google for Education Team

The end of Day 2 saw us eat dinner, and be treated to an experience of what it is like to work at Google by having massages, a tour of the offices, and caricatures. A group of us then headed up the CN Tower.

Day 3

Day 3 saw us follow Sprints & Sparks again throughout the day, learning more about Design Thinking and working on our Sprints. Before we wrapped up we took some time to share what our takeaways were from the academy, Wendy led us in celebrating our achievements and learning. Mine was design thinking. Once we had shared someone ran down the line, and we shared with the next person.


The day culminated in our Graduation.

After graduation we were asked to pick a mentor to work on our project with, as Larissa and I are working together we get two mentors! We then took a group photo and celebrated with champagne and sushi!


The future

So now we look forward, the inspiration from these 46 amazin people may be over, however, the inspiration inside is still burning, and with this we move forward with our projects and put our passion into changing the future of Education.

Larrisa and I will be working on an academy for students to learn skills to present their passions to teachers and students, to inspire others to use the skills which they have learned. We hope to empower a generation of students, and allow them to change their education.


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