GTL, January Edition, Finding Our Focus

picture this

There I sat, my toes in the sand, the sound of the waves soothing my pre-state-test nerves down to a soft murmur.  Looking to my right, I could see other teachers from my grade level, sipping from icy glasses of lemonade. In front of us stood our principal, our very own fearless leader, providing a training that was directly connected to our teaching.

Does this sound like your last professional development (PD) opportunity? Probably not. This next one may sound a bit more familiar.

Sweat dripping from my brow as I hoisted my over-sized teacher bag from one shoulder to the other, I ran through the parking lot into the middle school cafeteria. I scanned  the room for an empty chair and found one that seemed to be a universe away from my own grade level colleagues. Shrugging, I began the trek and couldn’t help but think about my growing “to-do” list.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? As teachers, our lives can be marked by the papers we carry in our bags, the random objects that we collect from our students, and those PD hours…

a better way

It is my privilege to share with you today what I would consider a revolution in professional development. As an instructional technology coach at Educate LLC, my colleagues and I came together with experts at Google for Edu and the NYCDOE to host our first event. It was a learning opportunity, which we are affectionately calling Google Teachers’ Lounge (GTL). An opportunity like no other, GTL brought teachers together into an official Google space in Chelsea Market. Teachers of varying backgrounds, each with a unique perspective, gathered together, connected by their propensity for innovation in education.

A stark contrast to the usual PD experience, GTL began with an assortment of food provided graciously by Google (worlds better than the typical snacks I find squished in the bottom of my teacher bag). Our own fearless leaders, Becca Garrison and Kyle Liao, then kicked off the evening with words of inspiration. They ensured teachers that the event was designed with them in mind. Teachers would walk away from this first GTL with an actionable step. How refreshing – to actually walk away from a PD experience with something you want to try.

take advantage

By the end of the the evening, I came to the conclusion that GTL offers three great advantages over your typical PD experience:

  • GTL offers authentic “facetime” with other teachers. It gives teachers the opportunity to exchange and explore fresh ideas with others outside of their direct school community. If for nothing else, come to recharge your batteries!  
  • GTL offers professionals the chance to…be professional! The self-directed, “ed-camp” format allows teachers to explore what is relevant to them and their students at that very moment in time.
  • GTL offers teachers a supportive learning community. With all of the “extras” expected of teachers in these modern days, it has become increasingly difficult for them to experiment with new instructional practices. Mentors from Educate as well as the NYCDOE provided guidance and facilitation, in at most a 1:10 ratio with participants. Coming together with other educators in this environment offers support and encouragement to take risks and try something new! 


As LeVar Burton would say, “…but you don’t have to take my word for it.” Come and check out GTL for yourself at our next event:

Secret Agents: Students as Self-Directed Learners

Thursday, February 23rd, from 4:30 – 7:00pm

GWB Tech Talk (Use Google entrance next to USPS on 9th Ave)

76 9th Avenue

New York, NY 10011

Click here to be added to the waiting list!


Can’t make it? Be sure to keep an eye out for another GTL blog entry, February Edition, highlighting some of those fresh ideas!

By Emily Kirsch @Ed_Tech_Em

Educate Spotlight on: Stephanie Carlsen

Spotlight Stephanie Carlsen

For our inaugural Educate Spotlight, we are proud to profile Stephanie Carlsen, high school math teacher at LaSalle Academy. Stephanie believes that learning begins with solid relationships, and she seeks to build those relationships with students by giving them a voice in her classroom and by letting them know that she is always there to support them. Her Catholic-school education imbued her with a service mindset, and she comes to school every day mindful of nurturing and supporting her students in any way she can.

“My students are my life. I don’t say this lightly. I’m always thinking about them, and trying to figure out how I can better reach them. I want for them to feel and be successful in school and beyond. I’m hoping that I’m helping them to become their best version of themselves. I wake up each morning for these students.”

Stephanie’s first educational experience was being homeschooled by her mother in Petaluma, California (a town best known for its butter, eggs, and potholes), and her early experience with a personal approach to education has helped form her instructional philosophy. Her third grade teacher, Mrs. Giacometti, and her Honors World History teacher, Mr. Kavanaugh, both taught her to expect more from herself and to push herself to become her best.

While this is Stephanie’s first year at LaSalle, she has already worked with Educate coaches for several years while teaching middle school math at Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary School, also in New York City. Because of her curiosity and ingenuity, Ms. Carlsen would inspire students wherever she taught, but she feels that working with instructional technology coaches has helped her to feel supported as she finds new ways to use technology to support her teaching.

Ms. Carlsen looks for EdTech tools that put students at the center of their learning, and for this reason, Google Classroom, Nearpod, and Khan Academy are some of her favorite tools. Khan Academy helps her  provide instruction that meets the needs of individual students, and also allows her to design inquiry-based activities where students pursue their own growth. Google Classroom helps her communicate with her class and to check for understanding on a consistent basis.

Recently, Stephanie designed and led workshops at LaSalle on using Nearpod to make presentations more interactive. She worked with roughly twenty teachers who were used to using slideshows to supplement their lectures, and she showed them how the transition to interactive slideshows could help students to be more engaged in lessons, and to get real-time feedback on how much students are understanding.

Coaches at Educate love to work with teachers like Ms. Carlsen – not only does she embrace technology and innovative practices for her students, she is committed to building a community of learning among the teachers at her school. She is constantly developing her teaching craft, and shares what she learns with her peers and through her twitter account. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @Ms_carlsen.

By Jeff Lisciandrello @EdTechJeff