After learning about the acceptance into the Google for Education Certified Innovator program, my London Cohort (LON17) began to chat with each other over our new Google Hangout group. Random strangers whom I was about to spend the next year working with began to say ‘hi’, post photos, talk about their excitement…the energy was palpable. Without hesitation, we started making activities that would help us get to know each other. People posted photos of their day, links to their blogs, stories about people celebrating their acceptance into the Academy. Almost immediate the discussion focused on creating a sticker for our group to commemorate the achievement, symbolically linking us together. Soon a new vision deck was created and each member of the group created one slide, filled with getting-to-know-you links, photos, gifs, and resources. The conversations went around the clock as people in different parts of the world carried on a constant conversation through the time zones. It was not unusual for me to wake up in the morning to find 68 messages (or more) waiting for me in the Hangout Group.
One of the first activities from the Google Innovator Academy was to host a live Hangout, allowing each member of the cohort to make an introduction and meet the gang. It was the first time we had the opportunity to see and hear people that had previously just been text messages and photos. It was also the first time that we were able to meet our coaches, the people who would be with use during the Academy, and who would continue to provide us with council during our year together. The conversation was surreal and exciting, exemplifying truly global collaboration as some members called in from New Zealand, Singapore, and Mexico.
And then it happened. A member of the group posted a photo to the Hangout of a mysterious box that arrived from Google. And then another person posted. And then another. It seemed that Google was sending everyone something of great importance. For the sake of future Innovators, I won’t provide too much information about the contents of the box. What followed was a puzzle that needed to be solved, and inside the boxes, we each received clues. Our daily Hangout chats quickly became a blurred series of problem-solving, sleuthing, and collaborating. The resourcefulness of the group was readily apparent as each person chimed in with thoughts or ideas about ways to solve the puzzle. Google Sheets were created and shared to help us document and track the clues as the puzzle grew. My phone consistently buzzed throughout the day as people unlocked new mysteries and we crept closer to finding our solution. Unfortunately, my box did not make it to my address in Jordan, which is not an uncommon experience. I had to live vicariously through my LON17 crew, all the while hoping that my box would not contain the final clue needed to solve the puzzle. I’m happy to say the puzzle was solved a few weeks before we descended on London. We were left with one final task, to place an object inside the box, create our own puzzle to open the box and bring the box with us to London.
The brilliance of this activity is that it was an amazing way to bring us together as a group before we had even met each other. We all bonded over the shared excitement of wanting desperately to know what each puzzle solution revealed. It also helped to break the ice, and we shared stories about our experiences or even our day-to-day activities as we chipped away at the puzzle. By the time we all met in London on our first day, it was like we already knew each other, as friends and as collaborators.