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Teachers, Build Your EdTech Portfolios
By Matt Harris 03-Jan-18
I suppose what I’m suggesting here is applicable to all educators, regardless of where they work, but we international educators are a bit different. Our average tenure in a school or country is less than four years. We work in schools that have little to no affiliation with one another. And we work with different curricula, school cultures, and resourcing systems every new place we go. Not to mention the languages and diversity of our colleagues, parents, and students. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to teachers, but to school management and leadership as well. With this amount of turnover and inconsistency, how do educators document their skills and abilities as they look for new jobs? Having worked in school leadership involved with teacher recruitment, I can attest to the fact that this is an issue. When considering candidates, we rely on resumes and references, reinforced with Skype interviews and gut feelings. Unlike local school systems, we have few avenues through which to verify skills, trainings, or abilities beyond what the candidate provides. To boot, the non-standardization of university degrees and certificates makes evaluating formal education quite tough. In short, candidates have difficulty proving their skills and employers find it difficult to validate their claims. There is, however, one area in which educators can document their skills and distinguish themselves from others: Educational Technology. But why focus on EdTech skills? Unlike other pedagogic knowledge or curricular competencies that are non-standardized, EdTech is global. The use of technology to enhance learning works in every school, regardless of the operating system or the communications system they employ. A school may run the A Levels when an educator has only worked with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. However, the skills needed for collaborating with students using Google Drive are the same as those required for Office 365. Further, schools are implementing EdTech more and more each year. In a large portion of international schools, technology usage for learning and communications is a core competency among educators. Schools are increasingly aware of the need to develop computational thinking in students, place greater emphasis on personalized learning, and strike a balance between student-created materials and consumed information. School boards are using technology-infused learning as a measure of their competitiveness in the global market and as a tool for recruiting students. Finally, the EdTech market for tools and services is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is no longer a case of asking can educators use technology, but rather how they should use it. How then do educators differentiate themselves in their use of EdTech? By creating a portfolio of EdTech knowledge and accomplishments. A portfolio of EdTech skills can be demonstrated through certifications, recognitions, online presence, and a collection of learning activities. Several EdTech companies offer certification programs for their products. They vary in depth and quality, but all of them demonstrate functional knowledge of tools and services found in schools. The better ones will start with tools knowledge then show applications of those tools in learning and assessment. Most of these certifications are free or low-cost and come with completion certificates that can be included in a portfolio. Examples of these might be the Microsoft Certified Educator or the Apple Teacher. By completing certification programs, educators show their technical knowledge, as well as their commitment to continued professional development and growth. Beyond basic certifications, recognitions are available from both EdTech companies and educational organizations. Like certifications, these recognitions evaluate an educator’s skills with technology and offer training, but they also recognize achievement in using EdTech for learning. Many of these recognitions include membership in worldwide professional learning networks at no cost to the school or the educator. Examples of these recognitions would include the Seesaw Ambassador Program, Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certified Educator, or the CUE Rockstar. These recognitions demonstrate the teacher has access to resources and learning networks that can aid that individual’s colleagues and improve the reputation of the school. However, certificates and recognitions are tied to products or organizations. A well-rounded EdTech portfolio will include connections and contributions to the overall EdTech community. Educators should show they stay current on best practices and tools by being active in professional learning networks, reading publications, and engaging in social media. Yet, to truly demonstrate competencies in EdTech, educators need to contribute and have presence. They should maintain a Twitter account highlighting their work and the work of others. They should write articles or blog posts describing their successes. And most importantly, they should be easily searchable. The most organized educators will keep a blog or website with links to all their materials and networks. A simple link on a resume can direct schools to their work. Finally, and most importantly, a strong EdTech portfolio should demonstrate actual learning activities and products of learning. Educators should outline what technology they used, how it was used, what lessons were taught, and what learners created through their experience. Notice, I didn’t say “students.” A well-rounded portfolio will show student learning experiences and professional development activities the educator led or helped plan. When showcasing work, educators should include materials and activities rather than planning documents or assessment data. Educators can upload presentations, pictures, videos, or completed work to an organized website or blog. The same website can be used to develop online presence. Again, by sharing a simple link to the site, a school will get a real sense of the educator’s capacity to use technology for learning and, by extension, of their approach to the classroom. An EdTech portfolio can be very powerful in helping to demonstrate an educator’s skills and competencies with technology. It can supply talking points during interviews and perhaps give a leg up. However, a weak portfolio can be a detriment to educators’ candidacies. If you don’t maintain your sites, blogs, certifications, or presence, you may be perceived as lacking commitment or out-of-touch. An EdTech portfolio is a fluid entity that should be kept up to date. Refresh regularly, as with personnel records or a CV. http://mattharrisedd.com
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