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Tech-savvy teachers join Google academy

Last updated 09:09 19/05/2013

JODY O'CALLAGHAN

PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ

ONLINE LEARNING: Amesbury School teacher, Matt Ives has returned from a Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, pictured with pupils, Anaiya Bhola 10, Madi Thomas 10 and Michael Draper 10.

PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ

A group of technology-savvy Kiwi teachers are now Google-certified after attending an exclusive academy across the ditch.

Nine primary and secondary teachers, from Wellington, Auckland and Nelson, were part of a group of 51 from 14 countries selected for the two-day Google Teacher Academy in Sydney last week.

The company's Asia Pacific head of education, Suan Yeo, has hailed the Kiwi participants' competency in the area of technology, and predicted amazing things once all schools get ultra-fast broadband.

They will join a league of only 1000 teachers around the world to attend the Google academy, which has been teaching participants about online education tools such as blogging, maps and apps since it began three years ago.

Tawa Intermediate teacher Stephanie Thompson said being accepted into the academy was "a bit like winning the golden ticket".

Her application included a couple of essays and a video explaining the Wellington school's approach to learning through technology. "It was quite cut-throat to get in."

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They participated in "part training, part networking" inside the company's offices at Darling Harbour, where great things happened inside, she said. "Like, did you know Google now has newspaper articles going back to 1850, online?"

The amount of online information "at the kids' fingertips" was great for learning. In fact, her pupils already knew many tricks, including online chatting to her during her trip and tracking her movements through the city.

"I could also see some of the work they were doing online while I was overseas."

Nearby Amesbury School teacher Matt Ives, who Thompson often collaborates with on all things "tech", also attended the academy.

He said his school "instantly got it" that Google apps helped pupils learn, and getting official training helped him learn the best, hands-on uses.

It wasn't about being distracted by "new shiny tools".

"Technology works the best when you don't really notice it, it's a natural part of school life or learning. It's there when you need it, it's simple."

Teachers at the academy were innovative, he said. One had already started building an app they thought of during the course.

"You get kind of ignited with this passion when you're among people like that.

"We're doing some amazing things and it's about sharing the awesomeness between schools."

A few hundred teachers applied for the academy, and it was exciting to have nine from New Zealand among the chosen 51, Yeo said.

This year also involved teachers from remote parts of Nepal and India, who despite having limited infrastructure, were passionate about technology.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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