Thursday, May 2, 2019

Certifications & Advanced Degrees

In the past few days on both of the podcasts in which I co-host, The BeerEDU Podcast with Ben Dickson and Sons of Technology: The Podcast with Joe Marquez and a rotating set of amazing educators, we focused on the importance of certifications and advanced degrees and education.  It was not planned to have both of these episodes focus on this topic, it just happened to fall into place in this manner.  Both episodes even had three people in common: me, Katherine Goyette, and Adam Juarez.  We also had Corey Coble join the Sons of Technology episode to share his opinions and expertise.  You can check out both episodes through the links below or search (and subscribe) on your favorite podcasting app.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 1
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 1 exam.  
The focal point of both conversations was based on why: why should educators seek out certifications?  What does an educator get out of becoming (insert edtech tool) certified?  Why should educators endorse various tools and act as ambassadors for products and their functions?  And what the conversations really boiled down to was as educators, it's about learning, a growth mindset, and a desire to do what we feel is best for our students.  While there was certainly talk about what tools and what certifications are worthy of pursuing, it all came back to the why.  A great point that was brought up is how much one can and will learn simply by going through the certification process.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 2
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 2 exam.
The best example was the process of becoming a Google Certified Educator, either Level 1 or Level 2.  If you have never taken either of the exams, it isn't simply about completing a form, answering a few short questions, and "earning" your badge.  Not to knock any tools out there and not to mention any names of tools, but there are certainly some tools that offer certification or a badge simply by asking for one.  Google's certification program must more rigorous, and the best part about it, it makes one prove that they are knowledgeable of Google's tools AND can APPLY those tools to an educational setting and scenario.  I certainly recall learning a lot of different things each time I completed the Level 1 and Level 2 exams (I have taken each one twice).  If you would like to learn more about the exams, you can check out the Google for Education Teacher Center for more information. 

There also some other certification exams that while I don't believe are as rigorous, I still learned a great deal and earned the certifications.  Two prime examples of these are the Microsoft Innovative Educator and the Apple Teacher Certifications.  Both programs are free (the Google exams are $10 for Level 1, $25 for Level 2) and do not require the process of taking a long exam and demonstration of the use of tools like the Google exams.  However, the certifications weren't simply a "create your account, provide us with some information and we will send you your badge."  Both Microsoft and Apple required knowledge and application of each platforms tools.  

Not a rigorous as the Google exams, in my opinion, but
I am still very proud of earning this certification!
I earned my Apple Teacher certification a few years ago.  With all of this talk about certifications, I think I need to go back and do it again just because it has been over 2 years since I completed the tests.  The Apple certification breaks it down into two segments: iPad and Mac.  There are several topics within each test, such as skills and application of tools like Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, iMovie, and others.  I don't own a Mac but used one for several years as it was my teacher workstation at a previous school, but I do have several iPads at home.  While I haven't used Numbers, Pages, and Keynote extensively, if much at all, they are very similar to Docs, Sheets, Slides, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so I was able to get through those exams with a little bit of digging and toying around.  I did struggle some with some of the accessibility tools of each platform, but eventually, I was able to earn both the iPad and Mac certifications.  I don't use Apple products much outside of my personal iPad, but I certainly know more about both systems because of the Apple Teacher program.  And they have a wonderful Twitter chat, the #appleteacher chat on Tuesdays (I haven't participated in a while, I'm sure it's still great) and post great things on the Apple Education Twitter account.  And if you want to do a deeper dive in Apple tools and prove your expertise, there is also the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  You can learn more about all of these on the Apple Education page.  

I earned half of the points at CUE 2018, the other half?
I completed some tutorials while watching the 2018
World Cup one morning in June 2018. 
The Microsoft Innovative Educator came about as a perceived necessity.  When it was determined that I would be moving from Las Vegas to Northern Nevada, I knew that Washoe County School District (Reno/Sparks) was a Microsoft district, not a Google district like most other districts in Nevada.  So when I went to Spring CUE 2018, I made sure to seek out session on some Microsoft tools to become more familiar with the ins and outs of Office365.  I hit the jackpot when I went to a three-hour long CUE Rockstar session that was hosted by Tammy Dunbar.  She went over some common tools like PowerPoint and OneDrive but introduced others that I had never used like OneNote and Sway.  After the session, we were presented with a promo code for points to be used toward the Microsoft Innovative Educator certification, which added up to about half of the points needed.  See, Microsoft gives you a lot of different options in getting their certification.  You can pick and choose from different topics, complete the tutorials and exams, and earn points that will get the certification once you earn 1000 points.  There are a variety of badges that you can earn with Microsoft that demonstrate knowledge of tools, evidence of training teachers in Microsoft tools, and many more.  Like the Apple Teacher program, I learned a great deal about a lot of the Microsoft tools, and while I ended up getting a job in another Google district and don't necessarily use the Microsoft skills often, it's another perspective that I was able to learn about.  If you would like to learn more about the Microsoft Education program, check out their resources, there are a ton of them, plus the Microsoft Education Twitter feed.  

I have a few other certifications and badges to my name as well.  I am a Pear Deck Certified Coach, a distinction in which I had to be nominated for.  Nick Park, an employee of Pear Deck, and I struck up a relationship at first professionally when I worked with him to purchase a site license of Pear Deck for a school.  While we don't see each other much, we do keep in contact and chat every now and then, but he nominated me for the program where I had to complete some webinars and live chats, submit a Pear Deck presentation for review, and now that I am a certified coach, I am part of a group that can share ideas, learn of updates, and "Share the Pear" at conferences.  It's been a lot of fun being a part of the group and promoting such a great product, in my opinion.  I also sport a Flipgrid Certified Educator badge for demonstrating my use and knowledge of Flipgrid.  

My proudest achievement in the certification world!
My favorite certification, by far, is my newest one, Google Certified Trainer.  The process of becoming a trainer is lengthy and rigorous.  You must be a Google Certified Educator, Level 1 and Level 2, complete a trainer assessment exam, complete an application that demonstrates your abilities to train people in Google tools, as well as provide feedback attendees of sessions have given you, and complete a video (here is mine if you'd like to see an example) that tells the world why you should be a trainer and a screencast demonstrating a Google tool.  I applied to be a Trainer in 2016 and was rejected.  I tried again in 2018 and was rejected again.  Finally, in 2019, I applied and was accepted into the program.  Now I am part of a group of educators that can share ideas about how to use Google in the classroom, learn about updates ahead of the general public, and I am listed in a directory of Trainers where people and schools may contact me to inquire about training.  While I love the fact that I can share my expertise, the best part is the opportunity to learn from others and build my professional network further so I can learn even more!  

Further oneself professional is so much more than certification in various tools.  Educators often need to obtain an advanced degree in order to keep up on advances in our field, and if one wants to earn more, districts often require advanced degrees to move along the pay scale.  I earned my first master's degree in 2010, completing a Master's in Education from Southern Utah University.  In 2014, I earned my educational specialist in school administration from Nova Southeastern University.  And now, as of May 2019, I have completed my Master's in Special Education from Western Governors University, a degree that was more out of necessity to get a job when I moved to Northern Nevada.  However, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me realize how much I love special education.  I like to joke with people that I am now one of the most educated people in my school without a doctorate.  All jokes aside, I learned a ton about pedagogy, leadership, and technology going through each of these programs.  I am also very marketable, so if I ever need to move again, I am certified in social studies, physical education, health, special education, and school administration.  Will I pursue a doctorate?  Perhaps, but definitely down the road more.  

What are your thoughts on certifications?  What lessons and knowledge have you learned from your certifications and advanced degrees?  I would love to hear more from you on Twitter, and as a shameless plug, if you have anything that you would like to share on my podcasts, please let me know as we are always looking for great guests.  

Until next time... 


  1. I have been using Google for over 10 years now, as a teacher that created a google sites for my students and was told by my union that I could not do that! Now, teachers are voluntold to do the same. I never got my certifications until the last two years, because I did not think I needed it. Now I realize the networking opportunities, PD sessions I have led, presentations I have been fortunate to take on. All of this was due to getting a certificate! I had the skills, but now I have the "paper" plastered all over my office! See here:

    1. Thank you for sharing your story! And I love your wall of certificates!

    2. My pleasure for sharing! I also have a animated gif as my signature based on listening to your show: