02 February 2019

An Undistinguished Educator: Why I'm not an ADE

Why after over twenty years working to integrate digital technology in classroom K-12, I'm still not an Apple Distinguished Educator, or a Google Certified Educator. I'm happy to remain an undistinguished educator. 

So having an Apple logo appended to my signature makes me 'distinguished'? Passing a multiple choice test means Google will 'certify' my teaching efficacy? 

These ‘certifications’ have more to do with huge corporations influencing educators into a form of brand loyalty and in turn using those educators as 'influencers' than it does about genuine continuing professional development.

Now it could be said that it’s okay for me to take this position as I am fortunate to be working in an amazing school; if I was seeking employment I might have to swallow my pride and get me 'some o dat certification', just to satisfy the naive expectations of administrators and schools who should know better. And that may be true, however I’d also have to seriously question whether that the kind of school that values that kind of certification is the kind of environment I would like to work in.

Many moons ago, at the beginning of this branding exercise, I kept an open mind and attended sessions at tech conferences dedicated to both of these qualifications and was absolutely appalled at the focus they outlined; clearly designed by both parties to foster an exclusive focus on their tools to the exclusion of any others, no matter what they might say. Because creating a video and writing a letter is the gold standard in determining educator efficacy?

That sounds like the kind of process that would be dreamt up by a corporate marketing team than anyone serious about improving education to me.  

When I attended the Google certified educator session it was even worse, the admission criteria included taking and passing a multiple-choice test, one where the questions didn’t even match the current iteration of the Google Apps suite that was being used!  So candidates were informed that they would need to answer the multiple choice questions (yet another ludicrous way to determine teaching talent) in a way that aligned with the way the tools used to work... even then what precedent does this set? Based on sample questions we were shown, the sign of a skilled educator is that they have memorised the locations of commands in the menus of the tools they use? That’s not how I operate, if you were to ask me where to find a certain command in Google docs I couldn’t tell you from memory, I haven’t memorised them,  but I know where to look for them when I need them. The criteria for appraising the efficacy of educators in Google is fundamentally flawed, not built on skilful pedagogy but on a naive surface level assumption that memorising the location of functions in software is of paramount importance?

I can tell you that when the institution where I work seeks to recruit coaches/teachers, whether or not they have one of these superficial qualifications is not a consideration.  I’ve encountered many educators who are clearly very poorly skilled and have a very dubious understanding about how tech can be integrated effectively (nouns over verbs, tech viewed more like toys than tools), and their naive display of their certification just served to further undermine their credibility.

The aspect I find most difficult to accept is the way these titles facilitate a kind of exclusivity or 'club', how do people expect to effectively engage in effective professional development if their first criteria is exclusion? Even more ridiculous, you could, like me, be a teacher who has many many years of experience working with tech integration, or/and have a Masters degree in this area, but that will still not permit inclusion to this inner sanctum. When a community values a superficial label over a rigorous professional qualification that takes years to acquire you know there must be something wrong.

So, if you were considering pursuing this certification, my advice is to forget it. Use the time to focus on designing better lessons for your students, and if you’re seeking a qualification, pursue something like a degree, or masters degree instead.