Eric Patnoudes
Are educator certifications — such as Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator — meaningful? No

Thinking about the value of corporate educator certifications, such as Microsoft Innovative Educator, Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, reminds me of the age-old question about the chicken and the egg. Let me explain.

When I made the move from classroom teacher to instructional technologist in a 1:1 district, training and professional development was my bread and butter. Soon after, I became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer and Expert Educator.

I mention both training and professional development for a reason. I believe it's crucial to differentiate between the two. I view training as analogous to a " "how to" " guide or a user manual for 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, how to operate them and what they're capable of doing.

Professional development, in contrast, is all about the why. It's focused on building the teacher's capacity to shift away from traditional didactic teaching strategies and toward methods that fully engage students in the learning process. It concentrates on the importance of sound pedagogical practices and how to leverage the affordances of technology to provide learning opportunities that wouldn't otherwise exist.

I look at it like this: Teachers want training because it makes them feel more comfortable knowing how to use the technology. But they desperately need professional development to understand why they are using it. However, 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.

Not to take anything away from those who have earned a corporate certification — I have one myself — but for the most part those programs are examples of training. Are educator certifications meaningful? It doesn't certainly hurt, but I think the more important question is, do these certifications make for better teachers?

What I fear most is that offering training without PD quite possibly means that bad teaching is being delivered faster and more efficiently than ever. While training is certainly part of the equation, it must take a back seat to professional development, because when it comes to ed tech, pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator — or else it will simply end up being the brake.

A former teacher and instructional technologist, Eric Patnoudes has a B.A. in special education K-12 and elementary education and a M.Ed. in curriculum, technology and education reform from the University of Illinois. He works on CDWG's Education Strategy Team providing curriculum and technology departments with insight and resources to make sure that common goals are identified and pursued responsibly, cohesively and strategically. Follow him on Twitter @NoApp4Pedagogy.