Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweden, Day 2

Today I was able to spend the day discovering the birds of Stockholm.  (I am a big nerd, and I love to be out in nature, observing it's beauty, especially birds.)  A friend of many of my birding friends picked me up at the hotel and took me to some great birding spots. I saw some great areas of Stockholm and added thirteen birds to my life list.

Some highlights were:
Beautiful Winter Scenery 
An "elusive" Water Rail
A Great Spotted Woodpecker
We then stopped for lunch and had a traditional Swedish Christmas Buffet.  It was a lot of food, but people normally spend about 3-4 hours eating.  I had some traditional Swedish foods and desserts.  Santa even served us some Glogg.

The Christmas buffet (only about half of the tables)
First Course
The "hot foods"
Santa serving Glogg
After a late lunch, I went back to the hotel to get ready to meet the other GCTs at the Berns Asiatiska restaurant/hotel/bar.  The dining room was amazing.  They were serving a Christmas buffet.  Instead, we just all met on the (indoor) veranda for drinks.  It was great meeting about 12 or so of the other educators and talking about what we do, where we live, and how we got here to Stockholm.  I am extremely excited about the next two days at the Google Teacher Academy and being able to work with, collaborate, and share with all of these talented educators.
The Berns Restaurant
Now, it's off to bed.  I have to get up early for a full day of learning tomorrow.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Day in Sweden

I got up bright and early, actually dark and early, on Saturday morning, to head to SFO to begin my journey to the Google Teacher Academy in Stockholm.  The first flight was great, the plane was nearly empty and I got the whole row to myself.  After a stop in Newark, I got on the plane to Stockholm.  This plane was packed, and there was no room for my backpack in the overhead bins.  So my backpack got to ride in first class.  Too bad I couldn't ride with it.
Artwork in SFO
The plane flights both went smoothly and I arrived in Sweden a whole hour early, at 6:30 am.   The airport had wooden floors and it looked like I stepped into an IKEA store. I took the Arlanda Express train to Stockholm, walked up the stairs, and my hotel entrance was right there.  It was super easy to find.  When I walked in, another GTA participant, Gary Johnston, was in the lobby.  We chatted, then I checked in, dropped off my luggage, and headed back downstairs to have breakfast with Gary.  We talked about our schools, our different education systems (he teaches at an international school in Vietnam), and the Next Generation Science Standards.  I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and learning about their different schools, countries, and education systems.

To combat jet lag, I knew I couldn't go to sleep, even though I really wanted to.  So I decided to visit Skansen today.  A friend of many of my friends, Elisabeth, whom I've not yet met, left a transportation pass for me at my hotel, with a lot of maps.  I figured out what tram to take, and made it to Skansen.  

"Skansen is the world's first open-air museum, founded in 1891. Here you can stroll through five centuries of Swedish history, from north to south, with a real sense of the past all around in the histori­cal buildings and dwellings, peop­led by characters in period dress."  They even have native Swedish wildlife in a "zoo" and there were Great Gray Owl's in the aviary.  

When I walked the corner around the aviary and spotted the first Great Gray, I was amazed at it's beauty. I have waited for 17 years to see one, since my first Avian Sciences class at UC Davis where I was assigned the owl for a report.  Even though it was a captive bird, I am so excited to see not one, but two, Great Grays on my first day in Sweden.  I stayed for the 12:30 feeding of the Great Grays.  You actually get to stand in the aviary with the birds!  

The zookeeper even left the mice on the rail right in front of us to have the owls come right up close.  I was standing about 4 feet away from one of the owls!  I will never forget this experience.  After the owl feeding, I wandered around and took some pictures of the wild birds in the park, then had some lunch and shopped at the Christmas market.  By this point, even in all of my layers, I was beginning to freeze.  I left and took the tram back to the center of Stockholm.  I got a little lost on the way back to the hotel (there are some streets that are above others... I walked in circles, but found my way back).  

Christmas Market at Skansen
Cold day at Skansen
Glassblowing Studio at Skansen
I took a nap (after being awake for 27 hours), woke up, went to 7-11 for some water bottles, grabbed dinner, and am now planning my day for tomorrow.  Elisabeth is going to pick me up in the morning for some birding around Stockholm.  Then I think I will go into the old town, Gamla Stan.  For dinner, some of the Stockholm participants in the Google Teacher Academy have set up a dinner at a restaurant in town so we can get to meet each other before the GTA begins on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Team Hasselblad

All of the educators attending the Google Teacher Academy, Sweden 2013 Cohort are broken up into teams.   There are four teams for this academy, and I am on Team Hasselblad.  Here is a list of the four team names:
  • Celsius
  • Hasselblad
  • Nobel
  • Tesla
The teams are named for famous Swedish innovators.  Being a science teacher, I recognized Anders Celsius, Alfred Nobel, and Nikola Tesla.  But I had no idea who Victor Hasselblad was.  

I decided to Google him.  I found that Hasselblad is a Swedish camera company based in Gothenburg, Sweden.  The company has been around since 1841, but is best known for the cameras it has made under Victor's direction since World War II.  The Hasselblad's company's most famous camera was used on the Apollo mission when man first landed on the moon.  

As I started to do a little more research, I found that Victor Hasselblad was a lifelong birder. In 1935 Victor published a book, entitled ‘Migratory Bird Passages’, containing a photos of birds in flight which he took himself.  At the time, it was considered very rare to have photos of birds in flight in published work.

Even though I am a science teacher, and was sad that I was not on a team named after a scientist, I am ecstatic that I am on a team named for a birder!  Although birding is not Victor's main contribution to Swedish history, I think he is awesome.  I am a big bird nerd and hope to do some birding while in Stockholm.  

I am looking forward to meeting Team Hasselblad.  There are a total of six educators from around the world on this team, led by a CUE/GTA Lead Learner.  We are very diverse, with different educational roles and from very different locations.  Team Hasseblad consists of 
I am hoping to learn a lot from my team.  From what I have seen so far, they are a great group of very talented educators.  I believe that we are the best team, and it's not just because we're named after a birder. :)

I got accepted to the GTA!!!!

Last spring I applied for the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago.  I didn't make the cut, but right after I found out, I immediately began to think about how I could make my application better.  I wanted it to stand out.  So I started updating and making changes to the short answer questions.  I took the time to really reflect on my teaching.  When the applications are announced, there is only about three weeks to prepare, write, and create a video.  It is really hard to do all this in such a short time.  So I spent the summer really working on the application.  When the GTA applications for Stockholm and London were announced, I had already written a script for the one minute video and rewritten most of my answers.  

Here are the short answer questions from the GTA Sweden/UK application.  If you are planning on applying to the next Google Teacher Academy, start writing your responses now.  The questions may change a tiny bit, but it really helps to spend the time to think about your answers and your teaching practices.

  • Describe your role as a professional developer.   400 characters max
  • Describe your level of proficiency with Google Apps.    300 characters max
  • List three of your favorite NON-Google technology tools/products that you use on a regular basis. 
  • What inspired you to apply to the Google Teacher Academy?  800 characters max
  • Describe one of your favorite teaching moments. What made it so special for you and your students? 800 characters max
  • Describe an obstacle you encountered in your professional life and how you overcame it.  800 characters max
In the Chicago application, each question had a maximum word count.  For this application, Google had changed the responses to a maximum number of characters.  Be careful when checking your character count.  In Google Docs, you can check the character count, and character count including spaces.  Spaces count!

Another part of the application is the video.  You must create a one minute video on one of three topics.  
  • "Motivation and Learning" 
  • "Classroom Innovation" 
  • "Positive Change in My Community"
Here is the video that I created for the my first GTA application (Chicago).  I chose the topic Motivation and Learning.

When I started to work on writing the script for the second video, I wanted to be more creative.  My last name is Hero, which is the coolest last name ever!, so I thought I would compare teachers to being super hero's. Here is the first video I created for my GTA Sweden application.

When I completed the GTA Sweden application and video, I had some other teachers review my application.  A teacher who was helping me review my application recommended that I make my video stand out even more.  That it should either be funny or show an amazing student story.  He said that it was important that the reviewers get to know me, and that my video stands out from the rest.  It took me a few days to think of a new concept, but I decided to go for funny.  Originally, I wanted to make a song parody of "Holding Out for a Hero", but I was a little hesitant about copyright laws.  The teacher who was helping me recommended a song that was fair use, and it was perfect.  I asked for some volunteers in my AVID class to be actors in the story, and I filmed it the next day.  Here is my final application video.

Here are all of the application videos I could find for the educators accepted to #GTASWE 2013.  I think I am missing three videos because they were kept private on You Tube.

After finally completing my application, I still had a week until the deadline, but I waited to submit it.  After a few days, I thought of some additional things I could add to the application.  Don't rush to get your application in, because you never know if something else will come to you.

After the deadline, I only had two weeks to wait until the announcements came out.  On the day that CUE and the GTA were going to announce who was accepted, I was actually presenting at the Fall CUE conference in Napa, California for the first time.  I was extremely excited to be at the event and I was scheduled to present on using iMovie Trailers in the classroom for the first session that Friday morning.  I was a little nervous about presenting at my first CUE event but my session went amazingly well, and I had a full room of excited educators.  After my session ended, I wanted to drop off all of my extra tech supplies (I was a little over prepared).  I began walking out to my car and looked at the time on my phone.  An email notification popped up with the subject line "Google Teacher Academy - Stockholm 2013 Invitation" and the first lines were "Hi Melissa Hero, Congratulations!  You have been selected to participate..."  I had to stop what I was doing.  I thought I was reading it wrong.  It was so amazing!  I really had been accepted into the GTA!  I thought it was a complete long shot and I would be applying for years before I got accepted!  But I was going to Stockholm!  

Next week, I will be leaving for Stockholm.  I will spend a week there exploring the city, and spending two full days at the Google offices.  I am extremely excited and know that it will be a life changing experience.  I can't wait to meet my team (Team Hasselblad) and all of the other amazing educators in attendance.  This blog will allow me to document and share my experiences of this amazing opportunity.