Sunday, September 25, 2016

Google Certified Educator Exam Tips

The collaborative and creative nature of Google Apps For Education has transformed the manner in which I deliver instruction to my students.  I find myself using Google Drive, Docs, Forms and Classroom with my students daily and thoroughly enjoy exploring these tools.  If you’re as passionate about educational technology as I am, chances are you’ve considered becoming a Google certified educator.  As an individual that recently attained their level 1 and 2 certifications, I've written this post to provide future Google certified educators with the information I wish someone had given me beforehand.


During the registration process, you will notice a third party company called Kryterion and be prompted to create a Webassessor testing account.  Your registration confirmation e-mail will come from this company, not Google!  It is easy to misplace this e-mail and mistake it for spam.  Unfortunately, I accidently deleted this e-mail and had to wait an additional week to take my level 1 certification.  It was an unnecessary headache that is easily avoidable.  

Once you've registered for your exam there will be a brief wait period (24 hours or so) before your exam is ready.  Thereafter, you will have approximately 1 week to complete the exam.

Studying for the Exam

There are two ways to approach the preparation process.  You can either register for a Google Training Bootcamp with a certified trainer or study for the test independently like I did.  If you choose the latter, I suggest taking advantage of the Google for Education Training Center.  Here you will find everything you need in order to pass both exams.  The exam prep materials are organized in separate categories and specific units.  You can complete each unit at your own pace and track of your study progress through your Google account.  I also suggest implementing the apps into your lessons on a regular basis to deepen your understanding of the software.  Although there are 30 multiple choice questions on each exam, the majority of each exam is comprised of practical “in-app” tasks.    

Suggested Level 1 Preparation

If you already incorporate the Google Apps for Education tools into your everyday teaching practices then chances are the Level 1 certification will be relatively straightforward.  However, it will still take an average of 10-15 hours to complete the fundamental training course for the level 1 certification exam.   For me, studying 30-45 minutes a day for one week was enough to pass the exam in one try.  I made a personal goal to complete one or two units each day.  Perhaps you'd like to set a similar goal to establish consistent study habits?  

Suggested Level 2 Preparation

The Advanced Training skills are significantly more difficult to master.  I suggest studying for this test 60-90 minutes a day for two weeks before attempting to take this exam.  This is a rigorous test.  I cannot stress the importance of studying every day.  The first time I took this exam I failed by two points and had to wait two weeks before registering again (Google policy).  During that waiting period, I forgot a small percentage of what I had initially learned and had to study all the information a second time.  In hindsight the extra studying forced me to master the content, but, it was not fun.  My best advice is to over-prepare for level 2 and complete all the “in app” tasks that are covered in the training center. 

Other Test Taking Tips
  • Sleep well the night before (8 hours if possible).
  • Eat a healthy meal beforehand as each exam is three hours in length.  You cannot pause the timer once an exam session has begun. 
  • Make sure your internet connection is reliable and that your webcam is working.
  • Use the internet to your advantage!  Google is essentially giving a high-tech “open notebook” test so take advantage of it.  
  • Bookmark relevant websites and resources as you study.  These will come in handy during the exam.
  • Once your exam has begun, flag any challenging questions and come back to them at the end of the test.  This will help you efficiently manage your time.

Good luck on your Google journey!  Please enhance this post by commenting below with other test taking tips or questions you have about the certification process.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Challenges of a "First-Year" Teacher

For the past three years I was a full-time music educator in a public high school.  For a variety of reasons, including but not limited to budget constraints, my teaching position recently changed.  I am now split between two buildings and spend the majority of my day working at the middle school level.  The opening two weeks of school have given me a renewed sense of how difficult it is being a first-year teacher.  In this post I’ll share some of the challenges I’ve faced in my new role thus far.

New Surroundings:  Walking into a new building for the first time felt surreal.  I had grown so accustomed to knowing the familiar halls of my high school that I took it for granted.  I visited the middle school over the summer to meet my department chair and spent time in the building during our non-instructional first day.  One might think this would be enough to become somewhat acclimated to my new surroundings.  However, once classes began it was a whole new ballgame.  In many ways I felt like a sixth-grade student; a slightly anxious yet excited 34-year-old sixth-grade student. I’m not ashamed to admit that locating my classrooms during the first two days in less than three minutes was a little scary.  I felt my heart beat a little faster every time the bell rang and I had to ask for directions at almost every turn.  Even basic tasks like making photocopies, utilizing classroom projectors and finding the bathroom were intimidating.  

Workload:  Veteran teachers often forget how demanding the first year of teaching truly is.  In my new role, I’ve spent an average of 3-4 hours after school every day to keep up with my classes.  First-year teachers cannot opt to take the weekend off or leave work early on a whim, that luxury comes over time.  I’m a firm believer that teachers should consistently reflect on best practices and strive to improve pedagogy, but, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few units that I tend to teach the same way year in and year out.  New teachers have a responsibility to create innovative curricula and deliver new lessons 180 straight days.    

Fitting in:  The social aspect of working in a new building can also be stressful for a first-year teacher.  It’s intimidating to walk into a situation where everyone knows one another as the outsider.  On the first day of school I knew a total of four people.  Now that a few weeks have passed, I’ve begun friendships within my department and had the pleasure of attending a social committee event with new colleagues; but it was difficult.  The best advice I have for new teachers on the subject is to smile often and be yourself.

What challenges can you recall from your first year teaching?