Considering the value of corporate educator certifications such as Microsoft Innovative Educator, Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator reminds me of an age-old question: "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" Allow me to explain.
When I moved from being a classroom teacher to an instructional technologist, training and professional development was my bread and butter. Soon after, I became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer and Expert Educator. Corporate certifications are a natural progression for many educators looking to beef up their résumés and improve their credibility.
The fact that I mentioned training and professional development separately was very intentional. I believe it’s crucial to differentiate between the two. I view training as the how — a user manual on devices, software, apps or websites. Click here to do “x,” share a doc by doing “y,” etc. Training is necessary because teachers must know what the tools are, what they’re capable of doing and how to operate them.
On the other hand, professional development is all about the why. It’s focused on building the teacher’s capacity to shift away from traditional didactic teaching strategies to methods that fully engage students in the learning process. It concentrates on the importance of sound pedagogical practices and how to leverage technology to provide learning opportunities that don’t otherwise exist.
I look at it like this. Teachers want training because it makes them feel more comfortable with how to use the technology. But they desperately need professional development in order to understand why to use it. Understandably, it’s difficult to think about altering your teaching if you’re not comfortable operating the tech. Hence the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.
For the most part, corporate certifications are examples of training. Are they meaningful? They certainly don’t hurt, but the greater issue is whether these certifications make people better teachers.
What I fear most is that training without professional development could just lead to poor teaching being delivered faster and more efficiently. While training should certainly be part of the equation, it should take a back seat to professional development. When it comes to education technology, pedagogy should be the driver and technology the accelerator — otherwise, technology will simply end up being the brake.
This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.