Google It

Jaime Casap, Global Education Evangelist for the world’s top-most visited website, is on a search of his own

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Jaime CasapIt hasn’t always been this way, but for the past decade, it’s been part of the human experience: when you want to know something, you google it. Jaime Casap is the Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc., where he evangelizes the power and potential of the web, technology, and a variety of Google tools in education. Jaime helps educational organizations across the world find ways to utilize these tools in support of new learning models. His team is responsible for bringing Google tools to millions of administrators, teachers, and students across the globe, but it’s Jaime’s own quest that makes for a great conversation here.   

Victor: You have an interesting story. Tell me about yourself and how you came to arrive at your current lot in life.

Jaime: I am a first generation American who was born and raised by a single mother in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. I grew up on welfare in a dangerous community and statistically speaking, I should have ended up dead, in jail, or at the very least, never getting out of the neighborhood I grew up in. The silver bullet that helped me get out of that environment was a little bit of luck and a lot of education. I not only graduated from high school, but I was also fortunate enough to attend and graduate from college and then graduate school, where I got my Master’s degree in Public Policy.

My two children are proof that education can be a silver bullet that has the potential to change a family’s destiny in just one generation. My daughter is currently in her second year of college. She never asked if she had to go and I never told her she had to go. She just assumed she was going to college because I had gone. It’s a completely different mentality from the one that I grew up with. Dropping out of school never crossed my mind.

Victor: It is different. These days the word “disruptive” comes up a lot. From where does your passion come?

Google in EducationJaime: Education disrupts poverty like nothing else. This is where my passion comes from. I want every student in the world to have the same opportunity to change their circumstances like I did — and the way to do that is through education.

A huge part of making that education available to everyone is technology. When I grew up, I was physically limited by the educational resources in my neighborhood. If it wasn’t in the Columbia Public Library on 50th street and 10th avenue, I was out of luck. But nowadays, the world’s information is at our fingertips. The web is fundamentally changing how we do everything — including learning. Students can find the information they are looking for on the web, even if they are researching an event that happened yesterday.

Victor: What exactly is your job description about, what’s your mission and purpose? It’s pretty exciting I bet.

Jaime: In my role, I’m responsible for ‘evangelizing’ the power and potential of Google tools and the web as a learning platform. I help educational organizations across the world find ways to use these tools in support of new learning models. My team is responsible for bringing Google tools to millions of administrators, teachers, and students across the globe.

I jump out of bed every day ready to go because I realize how fortunate I am to be at the beginning of the web revolution and it’s involvement in education. We will look back at this time as the most important time in the history of education.

Victor: You do quite a bit of travel – got any interesting anecdote or quirky story that could be somewhat representative or illustrative of your adventures and mission?

Jaime: I believe I have pretty good travel karma — knock on wood — but I’ve been on my fair share of train, plane, and automobile adventures. In 2008, I took a trip that was going to put me on the road for 14 straight days. I packed a big bag, checked it onto the plane, and never saw it again! Everything I owned was in that bag (suits, shoes, jackets, my coolest clothes). It was an adventure trying to find clothes everyday! I don’t think I’ve checked a bag since.

Victor: Not so lucky! Alright, let’s talk about the luck you make, your company, what they expect of you and where they want you to take “the discussion” or “the conversation” — and what is that conversation or discussion, by the way? For example, is it all about “the future of learning” or “21st century students transforming education by their habits” or — how would you define it?

Chromebooks for EducationJaime: I’m part of an education team that is made up of some of the most passionate, hard working folks I’ve ever had the privilege to be associated with. On our team we have former teachers and current educators, as well as engineers and business development professionals. Collectively, we believe in the power of our tools and the web to transform education. For example, we believe our Google Apps for Education tools help foster and build communication and collaboration skills. We believe YouTube is an amazing tool to bring concepts and experts into our classrooms. I always say in my presentations, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s an amazing education video worth? We believe Chromebooks are designed to help teachers and administrators bring the web to their students in a manageable and scalable way. We believe these things because our communities of educators tell us so. I don’t think any one of us goes a day without hearing someone in education describe how they use our tools to help a student learn, write, collaborate, open up, and so on. It’s our community of educators and users that drive our message and drive us!

We equip educators with the tools that help enable and support their learning environments. They in turn use these tools in ways we could not even imagine. Two examples we captured on video come to mind. First, there is Ms. Nunez who teaches right here in Phoenix, Arizona. She wanted to share how  Google tools helped her connect with her students, even when she was homebound recovering from an operation. Second, Mrs. Waters in North Carolina shared with us how she is using Chromebooks to reach students who she had trouble engaging otherwise.

These are just two examples of the way educators use our tools!

Victor: Alright, broad question: What’s your outlook on education these days? 

Jaime: I couldn’t be more excited to be involved in education. Today’s educators are defining the new learning models for generations to come. Teachers are designing new teaching models that will determine what learning looks like for our children and our children’s children. More and more teachers are breaking away from the “traditional” model of education. I’ve walked into classrooms around the world and have seen students collaborating and learning from one another. I see students working at their own pace. I see a teacher in the corner providing one to one coaching to a student struggling.

Victor: Where do you see education and learning headed in the next few years? What will be the watchwords, the major trends that influence everything else? 

Jaime: With the world’s information at our fingertips, we can use the web to create new learning models — models focused on setting up clear objectives and delivering a well-designed and appealing learning experience that asks students to think critically as they solve problems in a collaborative environment.

The new learning model will focus on applied project based learning and will be competency based, defining and measuring progress towards a mastery they will never achieve —this is a good thing.

Students will be able to have a say in what and how they learn, based on what they find interesting and relevant. They will be able to determine their learning style and utilize that to their benefit.

We will stop talking about “technology in education,” and instead focus on how the technology and the web help enable the efficiency and effectiveness of these new learning models. If you look at ideas like blended learning and flipped classrooms, you can see that we are already beginning to think this way.

Victor: What are some illustrative examples of places people and schools where things are hot and working?

Google in Education image1Jaime: We have over 20 Million teachers, students, and staff around the world using Google Apps in their schools and universities and there are now more than 2,000 schools using Chromebooks in their learning environments.

With all these users, there are thousands of stories about how schools are transforming their learning environments, or how they are using our tools and the web to help students build the skill set they need to be successful.

For example, Mr. Hathorn at Harford High School in Vermont introduced technology and the web into their Digital History Class to create an immersive digital experience for students. Everything in the class from the initial research to the websites they develop and the presentations they give utilize the web.

Leyden High School in the Chicago area has been working on bringing the web into the classroom to create a more collaborative learning environment and help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the future. The principal at Leyden talks about the paradigm shift that has come with the web. He believes his students now live in a digital age and his goal is to take advantage of this in education.

At Fond du Lac in Wisconsin, they are focused on helping both teachers and students not only become digital citizens; they are committed to creating digital leaders. Teachers are taking advantage of the web to create more interactive lessons that engage students and facilitate participation in learning. Students are learning at their own pace and teachers are assessing students in real time.

Just last month, I had the honor and privilege of visiting the Richland Two School District in Columbia, South Carolina. Besides having the opportunity to talk to a thousand students about the importance of education and what it’s like to work at Google, I got to see first hand the transformation taking place in their education model. I saw teachers in one of their elementary schools moving away from the traditional classroom, where they stand in front of rows of desks. Instead, teachers fostered a team-oriented environment by clumping desks together into working groups. The students all had access to Chromebooks and were using them to research their assignments and projects. You felt the energy as soon as you walked into every room!

These are just a few examples of schools and districts that I personally have a relationship with and there are a thousand more stories like this.

Victor: What edtech conferences have you been to that are really on to something, what makes you say that?

Jaime: There are a lot of edtech conferences that one can attend. I just came from speaking and participating at FETC in Orlando, BETT in London, and TCEA in Austin, all within the same week! These are some of the biggest conferences. BETT gets 40,000 visitors, and FETC and TCEA get 12,000-14,000 visitors. Of course there is the ISTE conference taking place in San Antonio this year. In addition, there are hundreds of other conferences taking place all over the country. I always encourage principals, superintendents, and other administrators to at least attend their local conferences. So many times I hear a superintendent say, “I wish I knew of another school district doing what we are trying to do,” and the school district they are looking for is the one a town over! These conferences have great sessions to attend and learn, but also give participants numerous opportunities to network and learn from each other.

The conference I am looking forward to this year is the SXSWedu conference taking place in Austin during the first week in March. Full disclosure, the main reason I am looking forward to it is because I was named a distinguished speaker and I’m excited to share my thoughts on utilizing the web in education. I spoke at the conference last year and received some great feedback. It has the SXSW aura to it, full of energy and promise. It seems the attendance has doubled year over year and I believe they are expecting 5000 people this year to be in Austin.

Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize, areas we haven’t touched on that you wish to elaborate on?

Jaime: This is an exciting time in education! The web is still relatively new but it has already transformed how we do things. How many of us can go a day without engaging with the web? Many of us engage with the web even before we get out of bed! The potential of how the web can help enable and support new learning models is tremendous and we have only begun to scratch the surface!

The technology and web innovations we are seeing are progressing at an accelerated rate. We are seeing education web solutions improving, getting easier to use, and integrating with what teachers are trying to do in the classroom. There is an explosion of high quality content, both free and paid, which has become easily accessible.

Today there are 2 billion web users in the world and that percentage grows every year. The web is the most disruptive technology we have ever seen. It is helping decentralize learning, bringing the world’s information to billions of users, lowering costs across industries, and improving the life experience of millions.

And to think that we are just getting started! If this isn’t the most exciting time in education history, I don’t know what is!

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. Get your story told through case studies, white papers and other materials you can share at trade shows and on your website. Write tovictor@edtechdigest.com

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