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In this episode, we are joined by a special guest: Fonz Mendoza from My EdTech Life. He is here to share his Google Innovator journey with us.

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Show Notes

Fonz Mendoza

This week, we are joined by Fonz Mendoza from My EdTech Life in Texas, USA. Fonz was a part of the VIA ’20 (Virtual Innovator Academy) class for Google. We were actually guests on Fonz’s show almost a year ago (check it out here), and wanted to showcase this amazing educator for our listeners.

My EdTech Life started 3 years ago. It all started with a cup of coffee. He was at his favourite coffee shop (Reserva Coffee Roasters), when he decided to share pictures from his daily life as an Instructional Technologist. That hashtag took off and built over time as a way of showing the features of his new role in education, showcasing student progress and learning.

It then evolved to become a podcast/live YouTube show due to covid and the need for educators to connect and learn from one another.

What inspired Fonz to become a Google Innovator?

Google Innovator logo

When Fonz first began his role, it was a matter of diving in and making his way through the role and what teachers needed. He saw the need and benefit to get his Google Certifications to help strengthen his skills.

It all started with Level 1, and the earning of a badge, and quickly escalated to include the Level 2. He then encouraged others to get their certification as well, so that they could be more well-versed with the Google tools, an important part of their daily roles in their district.

Once he achieved that, he then went ahead and applied to become a Google Certified Trainer. It was a great way to further improve his skills, while also earning badges!

This journey eventually brought him to the Google Certified Innovator. Fonz didn’t know too much about the process at this point, and he didn’t immediately realize how involved and in-depth this level required.

The previous certifications (Level 1, Level 2 & Certified Trainer) were a matter of studying, completing exams and demonstrating some technology lessons for the Certified Trainer. What many don’t realize is that the Innovator application is much different. He applied, but assumed it was a matter of checking off the boxes, like the previous certifications. He was not successful.

Twitter logo

Fonz embraced this setback and shared it all over his social media. This created a lot of connections with educators from all around the world. The creation of this PLF (personal learning family) helped him to recognize the power of collaboration and connection.

He then visited the Innovator website to explore more about what was involved, and what he needed to do in order to be competitive with his application. He connected with a peer, added Twitter users based on #GoogleEI and reached out to get advice from these people.

One great feature of Google Innovator academy, is that there are different options geographically, and linguistically. Fonz was excited for his application because he could apply in Mexico (Spanish), as well as in California (English). And then Covid hit. He unfortunately had to choose one due to covid restrictions and how it affected the Innovator process.

When applying to become a Google Innovator, you have to approach it with a problem that you want to solve. He had to approach it with “how might” statements – a problem without an immediate solution. You want to problem solve throughout the journey.

The Google Innovator academy is all about how to think about and problem solve. You started with a big problem, and work your way backwards, known as design thinking.

You have to have an open mind, get out of your comfort zone, and connect with other educators and Google Innovators.

Google Innovator isn’t just for tech coaches. It’s important to remember that any educator can be a Google Innovator! It doesn’t matter what curriculum area you teach, whether it be music, English, math, etc. it can be anyone! It can also be technology coaches, administrators, etc. Google Innovator is for anyone and everyone.

Fonz’s focus for his Google Innovator project was about how to protect student identity, and teach digital citizenship for students and families that do not speak English, with a focus on Spanish speakers.

Within the application, there are a variety of questions, and the word count for each are quite specific. Google is also looking for people that are willing to share and collaborate with others. It’s all about building a community of educators willing to learn and share together.

While going through the application process, imposter syndrome was quite present for Fonz, and many others that have pursued the Google Innovator (or any other high stakes application). It is also quite common among educators. The application is great for highlighting your strengths, but also difficult when imposter syndrome creeps in, and you don’t feel like you are good enough.

While difficult, there is such a great and supportive community that you can lean on, and who will encourage you throughout the process.

This application process is such a difficult and challenging experience. There are so many different required components, including a video, and it’s hard to think and believe that you are good enough to make the cut.

At the same time, the journey and the community you build make it so worthwhile. It is so rewarding to find other people and educators who think like you do, and who have such passion for what they are learning and what they are doing. It’s a great opportunity to connect with your “like-minded wacko’s,” according to Luis Pertuz, a mentor that has supported Fonz.

Fonz’s Project – How it Evolved

While it started as a project that dealt with digital citizenship, it naturally evolved throughout the process. Throughout his Innovator journey, he found himself drawn to his show My EdTech Life. He thought that his show was just a project or outlet that he did for fun, but realized after around 50 episodes of his show, that his real innovator project was his show; it was helping educators to connect and feel seen and heard.

Fonz Mendoza's show logo - My EdTech Life

So he embraced the “failure” of his initial project, rang the “fail bell” and embraced the shift to a new focus. It didn’t mean that he gave up, but instead he felt compelled to embrace his show, and to give teachers a voice to share who they are, what they do, and what they are passionate about.

Fonz reminds us that things that you do that you may think are small and insignificant, they could potentially help support others and may end up being very important to others. So never underestimate your podcast, templates, lessons, etc. that you are creating and sharing. Al Thomas, a guest on Fonz’s show, said it best when he said “there is always somebody waiting for you to do that one thing that will change that person’s path in a positive way”

Do you want to connect with Fonz Mendoza? Check him out here:

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