Nikki Lavergne

Google-certified educator, trainer, and innovator Nikki Lavergne participates in a podcast with the Livingston Parish News.

Even Nikki Lavergne — a Google-certified educator, trainer, and innovator who has a deep background in information technology — had trouble navigating some of the online platforms her own children needed to use for school.

Nikki Lavergne, Assistant Principal at the Livingston Parish Literary and Technology Center, discusses her Google Innovator project and how she's bringing that to Livingston Parish to help teachers, parents, and students.

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Knowing her own struggles, it made her heart break for those parents who didn’t have her level of expertise.

“I realized through this past year with COVID that I was struggling as a parent, and I have this deep IT background,” she said. “Those parents who have no background, they’re just lost.”

With assistance from Google, Lavergne is hoping to help parents — who will, in turn, help their students — get up to speed.

Lavergne will soon oversee a series of tutorial sessions in the Google Guardians Online Learning Academy, a week-long virtual event designed to help parents and guardians learn to use the online tools that are no longer a luxury for education, but a necessity.

The online program will launch Aug. 16-20, with sessions starting at 5 p.m. each day. The program is free, and no registration is required. During the program, professional educators will help parents and guardians learn to use Google Classroom and other Google tools.

Sessions will be live-streamed on YouTube, and anyone with questions can submit them in the videos’ comments sections to be answered in real-time. The sessions will also be recorded for those who can’t view at the designated time.

Information on the schedule of events and presenters can be found at the following link:\gguardians

Lavergne will be one of the presenters, and she’ll be joined by several educators in Livingston Parish and beyond who will each have their own topic. Lavergne’s session on Google Classroom — a hot topic last year when schools opened in a hybrid format amid the COVID-19 pandemic — will be offered in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

“The purpose of this is to help [parents] help their students and build confidence in them and their students,” Lavergne said. “And that confidence is going to be seen in the classroom and in their grades.”

The project has been organized by Lavergne, who is currently the administrative assistant for the newly-launched LPLTC Virtual School for students in grades 3-5. Prior to this year, she served as an instructional technology facilitator and STEAM Express director for Livingston Parish Public Schools.

Before moving to her role in the Central Office, Lavergne spent nearly a dozen years teaching at Doyle High.

Lavergne recently sat down with McHugh David, publisher/editor of The News, for a podcast to discuss the upcoming virtual program, which will go live during the first full week of the 2021-22 school year.

During their conversation, she said the upcoming program will be of use to “all viewers,” from parents and guardians down to the students themselves.

“I want to invite all viewers… because I feel like you’re going to learn something and find a benefit from this,” she said.

During the podcast, Lavergne recalled the struggles of the previous school year, which began with teachers, parents, and students learning to navigate a mixture of in-person and virtual learning before traditional learning returned in the spring.

There were “a lot of tears, a lot of stress,” she said.

In the second semester, Lavergne became one of a number of teachers who spent their evenings instructing all-virtual students, an experience she said taught her “a lot.”

“The same problem kept popping up: These parents want to help but don’t know how to help and how to start, and it’s overwhelming,” she said. “You can Google stuff, but you’ll get 5,000 different answers and you don’t know which one is right or helpful, and it’s exhausting.”

With virtual learning and the use of online learning platforms such as Google here to stay, Lavergne decided to create a program to help parents and guardians better assist their students at home.

The result, ultimately, was the Google Guardians Online Learning Academy.

Lavergne created Google Guardians as her project for the Google Innovator program, which chose a select number of educators from across the globe “who are excited to grow professionally, advocate for impactful technology, and innovate to improve classrooms, schools and local communities,” according to its website.

Lavergne said she was one of 14 selected from the U.S. — a frightening notion when she first got the news.

“When I got a glimpse of who is in this group, I actually emailed them and said, ‘I think this is a mistake,’” she recalled with a laugh. “... And he said, ‘Nope, see you next week.’ It was terrifying and overwhelming.”

To develop the program, Lavergne spent the last year working with Google for Education, which decided to take her project initially intended for a Livingston Parish audience and broadcast it on a global scale.

Now, the entire program will live forever on YouTube, giving people all over the world the ability to learn what Lavergne and her team are teaching.

With the exception of the first day, each day during the week-long event will be divided into three sessions that’ll each last between 30 and 45 minutes. Sessions will start at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m.

Along with Google Classroom, subjects to be discussed include Chromebook basics, Google Slides, Windows 10 basics, Google Forms, Kami, Google Gmail and Calendar, Google Jamboard and Draw, and Google Attachments and Google Drive. There will even be a session on student mental health.

A schedule of the sessions can be found on the Google Guardians website.

And the best part — it can all be done from the comfort of home.

“You don’t have to get dressed or look cute or anything,” Lavergne said. “No one will see you at all. You’re just watching.”

“It’ll be hosted on YouTube…. so no app or anything special,” she added later. “You just click the link and watch.”

Lavergne also described the sessions as “stand alone,” meaning viewers can pick and choose which they need without having to watch the others.

“If you know one thing, don’t watch it — click on what you need,” she said.

Though she isn’t looking too far ahead, Lavergne said she hopes to make Google Guardians an annual program, something that can be a perpetual tool for parents and guardians to use to better help them help their students.

“Our goal is to help parents and guardians feel confident helping their students at home,” she said. “That in turn builds confidence in the classroom, so that our kids perform better and feel better about themselves.”

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