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Journey to Google for Education Certified Trainer: My Q&A with Google

by Randy Fairfield, 11/8/16

What is your name?
Randy Fairfield

Are you currently a Google for Education Certified Trainer?
Yes

What is your official job title?
Technology/Instructional Classroom Support Teacher. I was hired with the original title, but the first two words were later removed due to shifting administrative vision.

How long have you been in your current role?
1-2 years.

What was your previous role?
Classroom teacher (ELA/SS) in two very different alternative school settings. One was a dropout recovery school, and the other was a parent partnership program with students who primarily came from a home school background.

How did you first hear about your current role?
I interviewed for a literacy coach position I didn’t want and heavily focused on how I could serve as a technology/instructional coach. The head of human resources told me I gave a great interview, but it was for the wrong job–which was exactly what I intended. The following year my district created the position I was looking for and encouraged me to apply. 🙂

Who or what most influenced you to become an instructional technology coach?
Google Apps for Education and Edmodo helped me transform from a mediocre teacher to a distinguished teacher. I hated leaving the classroom, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a broader impact on the field of education by spreading my passion. While I sort of paved my own way into the role I was hired for in my district, it was Google for Education Certified Trainers Allison Mollica and Kristina Wambold that opened my eyes to the “treasure trove” of opportunity out there.

To prepare for this role, did you participate in any formal education/training?
I hadn’t really had much in the way of formal education/training to prepare for the role I’m in now, though I’ve taken a great deal of pedagogy-focused professional development since moving into the role. After seeing the power of educational technology in the classroom, I turned down three full-time jobs to take a half-time job at a school that was open to innovation. It was a financially risky move for my family and me, and—instead of subbing the other half of the time like I was supposed to—I would go and hole up in the public library to hone my craft. The personal learning network I developed through Twitter, Google+, and reading blogs was important in my development, but what helped the most in terms of developing the technical skill required for the position was simply taking the initiative to explore myself. When I went to the Seattle Summit Featuring Google Apps for Education last year, I discovered I already knew the bulk of what the presenters were sharing and I decided then and there that I wanted to join their ranks!

Outside of your core role, please describe any other responsibilities you regularly take on.
I am developing the website for my school using Google Sites, have taken on the roles of AVID Site Co-Coordinator and ATP Co-Chair (for parent engagement), and also serve as a mentor teacher in my building.

Please list any top resources (websites, publications, online forums, etc.) for getting important information or learning content relevant to your role.
Google+, Twitter, and various blogs are helpful. I find myself sometimes looking at other resources by Google for Education Certified Trainers. I especially appreciate Eric Curts’s and Alice Keeler’s blogs. I always learn something from the demo slams hosted by Lee Webster too. I also enjoy sharing my expertise and am working hard to be a resource for others as well.

What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Many of the people I work with—particularly administrators—simply don’t know what they don’t know. It often seems to me that the IT folks don’t have much of a grasp on the instructional side of things, and the instructional folks often aren’t ready to embrace technology. The challenging role I have attempted to play in the past is to bridge the gap between these two groups, but the lack of a growth mindset from both sides sometimes leaves me frustrated. As such, I have shifted my focus to teachers that have expressed a willingness to learn. The only response I’ve ever gotten from teachers is, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Can we get more training?” The power of the tools to enhance instruction and transform learning is an easy sell to those with an open mind.

How would you change this role to be more rewarding?
I was just listening to an interview of Robert Gottlieb (a well-known editor and writer) on The Diane Rehm Show the other day on NPR. Gottlieb said a few things that resonated with me immediately. He said, “All I wanted to do was the work. I wanted to be a part of it. It was so much fun…. What I came to realize was that I loved to be in a collaborative situation with like-minded people…. I didn’t really have much of a family…. I’ve spent the rest of my life creating families around me…. I never really differentiated between where I worked and my office where I had fun.”

I wish I felt more of that in my workplace, but instead I often feel that the skill set I bring to the table is incredibly under-utilized in my district and in my building. Unfortunately, providing teachers with professional development on the tools that have been dropped in their lap has not been a priority in the place I’m at. I still scratch my itch by getting up at 5:00 AM almost daily, creating tutorials, posting on my website, and presenting at conferences, but I wish I had more of an opportunity to do what I love where I’m at.

What are the main professional objectives in your role?
â—‹ Present to staff on introducing new technologies in the classroom
â—‹ Train/coach teachers on new technologies
â—‹ Train/coach teachers specifically on Google tools
â—‹ Work with school leadership to plan for change management
â—‹ Act as technology expert / IT support at my school site/district
• Other: Implement our student-centered coaching model

What metrics (if any) do you track to measure your progress towards your goal?
â—‹ Number of teachers trained/coached
â—‹ Hours of training/coaching sessions
â—‹ Google Educator Level 1 or Level 2 Certifications
• Student performance outcomes
â—‹ Percentage of product adoption
â—‹ No metrics

Have you set a concrete goal around your objective? If yes, please elaborate. (ex. By end of academic year, I hope to get the entire school site using Google Drive)
My evaluator said the only goal I needed to have for last year in my role was to “just survive.” We are expected to measure the overall impact of our coaching by looking at student pre- and post-assessment data, and while I get that student performance outcomes are the bottom line, I see some of the other metrics listed above as incredibly useful in measuring my overall impact as well. I also feel that it’s hard to look good and learn new things at the same time, which is why measuring the immediate impact on student learning might not be the best measure of the impact of my coaching when a teacher is trying to learn how to integrate technology into their classroom.

When do you feel most successful? Please describe.
I feel the most successful when I am able to support a teacher in becoming a more effective integrator of technology in the classroom. I realize it takes most teachers a significant amount of time and training, but helping a teacher get to the point where they reach the sweet center of the TPACK framework is incredibly rewarding for me. I believe—and research supports this idea—that quality professional development for teachers can have some of the greatest impact on student learning.

I also feel successful when I know I have left someone with the spark and the initial oomph they need to get going with integrating technology into their classroom. I love it when trainees leave a session I’ve led with a look of inspiration and wonder because I know that means they are going to follow through and start doing some amazing things. I know because I’ve seen it!

What is your next dream role?
I would love to be able to get on with a team of edtech trainers and spend more of my time delivering professional development. I have spent a lot of time getting certifications and getting my name out there in the edtech community over the past year and will continue to do so. I am not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen for me, so if a team doesn’t come knocking on my door I will most likely try and build one myself.

Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard for me to narrow my focus because I love doing so many things: web development, blogging, delivering training, creating tutorials, district planning, etc. Because I love the process of learning new things and because I have such a diverse skill set, I know I often fail to fully utilize my strengths. I am hoping to get better about that… but I want to learn Google Scripts, PHP, and MySQL too, on top of ninety other things. Utilizing my strengths, scratching my itch to learn, being an amazing husband and father, and sleeping sometimes feel like competing interests that I try my best to manage. 

My latest passion, however, has been developing Google Sites for Schools. I really think that having a Google Site as a centerpiece and digital hub of activity can be incredibly beneficial for a school that’s “gone Google.”

What else (if anything) would you like the Google Apps for Education team to know about people in your role?
I think that sometimes people in my role can get so narrowly focused on the use of technology that they forget the importance of using it to enhance research-based, pedagogically sound practices. I hope that the Google for Education team will continue to keep their ears to the ground and look for avenues to make sure they are listening to top educators about how Google products can best support instruction and student learning.



Randy Fairfield is a Technology/Instructional Coach in the Richland School District in Eastern Washington. He is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer, Edmodo Certified Trainer and Hapara Certified Champion Trainer.

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