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The Case for Completing Corporate EdTech Certifications

Educators’ participation in AT, GCE, MCE, and CSM programs can benefit the entire international school community
By Matt Harris

Recently, Apple announced the company would extend its Apple Teacher (AT) certification to countries outside of the United States. Having completed the program a few months ago, I was excited to hear that the program would be available to the international school community.
Certifications from companies invested in Educational Technology (EdTech) are often very worthwhile programs for teachers working in international schools. Though they are funded and delivered by for-profit multinational corporations that base the training on their own products and services, they are mostly designed to improve teaching practice. Further, they are usually free or low-cost and they offer a form of professional development that is not always available in international schools.
How educators benefit
I have had the pleasure of completing the major certifications from big EdTech companies (Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator, Microsoft Certified Educator, and Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certified Educator to name a few) and I have benefited from each of them. I’ve also encouraged teaching colleagues to complete training programs such as these because I have witnessed their immense value both for schools and for individual teachers.
Teachers who complete these certification programs gain tools in well-known EdTech products as well as the pedagogic knowledge that allows them to effectively apply those tools in the classroom. Those having completed these programs are more skilled, less apprehensive about using technology for learning, and are able to apply their knowledge directly both during and after the training. These certifications also beef up a resume.
Though one could argue that they are not verifiable indicators of any specific skill or knowledge, they do stand out. Certifications show those of us reviewing potential candidates that a teacher is committed to professional growth, looking to try new things in the classroom, and may have a level of interest that could benefit the school. At the very least, they become a talking point in the interview, allowing us to learn more about a teacher’s motivation and experience.
What’s in it for schools
For schools, certifications improve collective knowledge without breaking the bank. Being either free or affordable, a school can enjoy valuable professional development (PD) with little allocation of resources. When several teachers on a staff attain these certifications the academic benefits will transfer to colleagues who work with them. I have found that questions such as, “How do I use OneNote to share a workbook for Science?” or “How do I create Youtube channel for my Grade 5 class?” tend to be answered in faculty groups when my teachers are certified. That’s why we allocate time and support in our PD budget to help teachers gain these certifications.
The bottom line
Let’s address the big question underlying this approach: are certification programs such as these primarily designed to serve the needs of these corporations? Of course they are. Corporations such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are in business to make money for themselves and their shareholders. They need to build programs that attract users to their ecologies, and certifications do that well. However, I have found that these programs are also mutually beneficial for schools, teachers, and students.
Few international schools operate without Apple, Google, or Microsoft technology, whether for academics or operations (and all should implement Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship standards). In short, we are already customers. These certifications offer our teachers a means to become better users of these technologies by gaining insight from the companies themselves.
Further, such certifications are not sales pitches or glitzy product tours. All of them include an element of rigor and a focus on pedagogic application of the tools, not just functionality.
In the Apple Teacher (AT) course, participants engage with materials that cover the full scope of products and services Apple offers to schools. They discuss the key and lesser-known functionality of those tools when used directly with students. The final AT assessments are made based on how well each participant manages to apply these tools with learners, rather than on a quiz testing their abstract familiarity with features and limitations.
The Google Certified Educator (GCE) program is a rigorous two-section course. In Level I, educators learn nearly every detail of the Google ecology with examples and interactive materials that discuss the ways in which these tools are used in classrooms. Level II assumes that the educator understands functionality and focuses completely on the application of these tools for pedagogic purposes. It presents the how and the why of each tool, rather than the what. Further to their rigor, the GCE exams are three-hour sessions testing knowledge about the products in an educational context while asking teachers to apply that knowledge in a live Google environment.
The Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) program takes teachers through the company’s growing ecology of education-related tools to help them understand what Microsoft can do in the classroom. Their program takes pedagogic commitment a step further by tying their training to the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. The MCE exams mix product knowledge with an understanding of how technology impacts learning, as with the UNESCO framework.
The Common Sense Media (CSM) is a not-for-profit organization. Its Digital Citizenship Certified Educator program allows teachers to demonstrate their understanding and to apply Digital Citizenship concepts and CSM resources in their teaching. It is an annual certification; as such, teachers must demonstrate actual classroom practice and community engagement every year.
Several other certifications offered by smaller EdTech companies are also worth exploring. International schools and individuals should take the time to investigate these programs, as well as the others listed above, then commit to completing them. Such certifications are incredibly beneficial to everyone involved.
Twitter: @mattharrisedd

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