Christopher Merkert is no stranger to innovation.
Mr. Merkert, who heads the East Hampton Middle School’s science department, will take part in Google’s Teacher Academy in New York City early next month. He’s one of 50 educators chosen from around the country.
Launched in 2006, the academy is a professional development program designed to improve the K-12 experience by introducing teachers to innovative technology. This is the first of its conferences to focus exclusively on educational leaders.
Run by Computer-Using Educators and WestEd, California-based nonprofits, it give educators a chance to experiment with Google’s latest products in the company of their peers.
For the past 17 years, Mr. Merkert, 40, has taught at the Middle School. A resident of East Hampton, he is married with three young children. As a “Google Certified Teacher,” the hope is that when he returns home, he will share his new knowledge with colleagues.
Whenever possible, Mr. Merkert already uses technology in the classroom. Last year, the Science Teachers Association of New York State named him Suffolk County’s science teacher of the year for his use of “flipped teaching.” Instead of lecturing during valuable in-class hours, Mr. Merkert made short videos or podcasts of the material, which students could later watch at home.
“The days of kids making a PowerPoint are antiquated,” he said last week.
When teaching earth science, rather than relying solely on textbooks, Mr. Merkert prefers Google’s Chromebooks. Students use them to collaborate and work on group projects, communicate back and forth, and make videos.
Mr. Merkert is particularly excited about the opportunity to network with other educators from around the country and around the world.
“We’ve already had a few Google Hangouts and gotten to know each other,” he said. “There were teachers from California, Indiana, Texas, Singapore, and Ireland.”
Mostly, he’s anticipating what promises to be an exhilarating couple of days. “I’m looking forward to effectively using technology in the classroom in order to best leverage my contact time with my students,” said Mr. Merkert, before dashing off to class.