Rolland Chidiac, Waterloo Catholic’s first Google Certified Teacher. Photo courtesy of Rolland Chidiac

Google-certified teacher takes learning to a new level

  • August 29, 2014

Grade 2 teacher Rolland Chidiac is now certified to teach students to Google it.

Early this month Chidiac returned from the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, Calif. The academy allows teachers around the globe to share and develop in-classroom innovations involving technology.

“Once I got there it was amazing to be part of such a unique group of people. I don’t mean to disre-spect my colleagues here, but it is just different,” said Chidiac, who teaches at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener, Ont.

Chidiac, one of 63 from North America to complete the program this summer, is the first educator from the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to hold the title. Google covered the cost of the program and the Waterloo board chipped in the airfare, while Chidiac dug into his own pocket for accommodations.

Founded in 2006 the Google Teacher Academy has since certified more than 800 and has held courses in Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Although Chidiac had been leveraging technology in the classroom for a number of years, it all really started this past school year as he took part in the Ministry of Education’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. The program provides funding for innovative ideas teachers would like to deploy in the classroom.

“The project I was working on was using Chromebooks to blend the learning of my students and to improve my professional develop-ment,” he said. “So the Ministry provided me with funding for the Chromebooks and they provided me with funding to get out of the classroom so I could plan, research and collaborate my learning.”

With the more than $12,000 Chidiac received he purchased 13 Google Chromebooks, a laptop that runs Google’s operating system, and loaded the devices with a number of applications. They were then placed into the hands of students.

“What we’ve also done is allow them to use some of the applica-tions that we have available to us and to use those applications to meet a goal or a task their way,” he said. “At the most basic level they used the technology to facilitate their learning. I’ll give them a task to do online and then they can do it at their own pace, they can do it at their own level, they don’t have to worry about not being able to go back and review things.

“So at a very foundational level it gives them the opportunity to control their learning, how much they take in, when they take it in, how they take it.”

This concept not only impressed Ontario’s Ministry of Education but also the evaluation team at the Google Academy.

Chidiac said with all the resources available online for students to gather facts it is more important to teach them how to find the answers through critical thinking.

“I don’t like to teach my students facts,” he said. “I teach my students how to find the answers. (Technology) has really moved my focus from what they have produced to the process of production.”

Recognizing this and taking advantage of the technology has benefited students at both ends of the spectrum, said Chidiac.

“Answers are everywhere so I can use that to my advantage when I am dealing with a student who is a lower level student, has some really challenging needs,” he said. “We have technology and we have tools to let these students move forward and not let their disability get in the way.”

Students who are above average are able to push their own boundaries further by moving beyond the base level of understanding, he said.

David DeSantis, the board’s superintendent of learning, sees this as the biggest advantage of having technology integrated into the classroom.

“Technology helps teachers reduce the workload that would be required if they adopt a lesson plan strategy that is more facilita-tive as opposed to directive,” he said. “Instead of spending a lot of time teaching the same lesson to all of the kids the teacher can go around and really help focus on those students that need help the most while those that are a bit more gifted ... are able to go forward and not be held back.”

And while things like smart-phones, tablets and laptops were once considered a distraction in the classroom, DeSantis said an increasing number of teachers are embracing the devices.

“More and more of our teachers are embracing (technology) because our students are becoming more and more digital natives,” he said. “It has been a cultural shift and teachers are realizing that the World Wide Web is our oyster.”

When school begins in September Chidiac will encourage his colleagues to further embrace the world of bits and bytes as he shares what the Google Teacher Academy taught him — especially to those still unfamiliar with the touch screen.

“It is almost like I got to go play in the Super Bowl but now I need to come back and teach fundamental football to my colleagues because they don’t know how to throw the ball in a way that is going to get maximum velocity,” he said. “They don’t know but they are interested so it is my job to take their hand and hold it down the path that they want to go.” 

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