Sunday, February 28, 2016

Innovation Across the Nation (Part 1 - Personal Reflection)

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett

Over the past 6 days, I have been fortunate enough to travel to California to attend the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy at the Googleplex in Mountain View. This has been a life-changing experience, and to fully do it justice, I need to split the experience into two parts. This is my personal reflection and you'll find my professional reflection here.

Typical pose with Mari
The best personal memory from this trip was the chance to spend a day with my partner-in-crime Mari Venturino. Mari has probably been mentioned in more than half of my blog posts and we have become super close over the past year. However, we had never met before this week. On Saturday, she picked me up and we went to EdCampSV in Palo Alto. After the EdCamp, we went to Windy Hill, which had some incredible views. We recorded an on location EduRoadTrip, which you can check out here. Finally, she took me for my first In-and-Out experience. It was amazing, to be blunt.

Karly, Mari, and me
The EdCamp was fun (with lots of learning to be covered in Part 2) and I got to meet some of my Twitter friends (Karly Moura, Craig Yen, Ben Cogswell, Joe Young, and probably more that I am forgetting) and make some new ones!

Outside of preexisting friends, I made a ton of new close bonds with the #MTV16 Innovator Cohort. (Team Black Eyed P.E.A.C.E. represent!) I could list all the people I consider friends at this point, but then I would just retype the entire Innovator list. I have memories with each of these people and I look forward to continued friendship with them all. I will give a big shout out to my German-South African roommate Adriaan van der Bergh, who brought Lindsey, Natalie, and Ari to our room the first day. To #TeamES and #Team378, thanks for making the hotel fun!

Jump shot attempt 187
While I was in San Francisco before the Innovation Academy officially started, I got to visit the Golden Gate Bridge with Jess, Chrystal, David, and Jared. After about 273 attempts to make a jump shot picture, we finally got one great one of us over the Bridge. We wandered around San Francisco, talked about life and education, and got to just generally enjoy our time together.

With Bill Baker at Alcatraz
The following day, I channeled my inner Sean Connery and visited The Rock (Alcatraz Island.) I am ashamed to say I forgot that The Rock was in San Fran, but as soon as I found out, I dropped all plans to go to the Full House house (sorry Mallory) and went here. I was joined by Katie, Angie, Maggie, and Erica (only one of which who has seen The Rock.) The audio tour was extraordinary and it was surreal to be inside the actual prison. The entire experience came to a head at the end of the tour. A former inmate named Bill Baker was on site talking about his experience and signing copies of his memoir. I bought one and had a wonderful discussion with him. He told us that the average IQ of the inmates was actually higher than the US national average at the time. In his words, "they were the dumbest smart people in the nation."

Credit to Mattcopter for the incredible photo
But by far the coolest place I got to visit was the Googleplex itself. I got to ride the famous Google bikes, tour the campus, drive Google Earth in the Holodeck, eat some incredible and unique food, take a nap in the nap pods, and take all the selfies. I quite literally felt like I was in The Internship. This is definitely crossed off my bucket list and now I need to find a way to get to the Marvel Headquarters.

On a personal level, this trip has been an amazing experience. You can check out the vlogs I made about the experience on YouTube. It is honestly hard to go back, but I am excited to see Mallory, Conner, and my students again. I will never forget the memories, experiences, and people I met along the way.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience and welcome to the community! It's a wild ride!

  2. Great story! It's hard to sum up such an exciting experience in just a few paragraphs, but I think you captured the magic!