Summer of PD: Educational Technology Certifications

I’m setting goals for myself each week this summer to beef up my resume, gain valuable professional development (PD), and create content for my future classroom. Last week I set out to obtain three specific certifications: Microsoft Innovative Educator, Minecraft Educator, and Google Educator Level 1. As of right now, I am a proud Microsoft Innovative Educator and a Google Certified Educator Level 1, and I am waiting on the Minecraft Certified Educator to come through! [Edit: As soon as I published this, I received notification that I am now a Minecraft Certified Educator!]

The goal of this post is to share my experience with each of these certifications from start to finish. I’ll start with some general comments and then go into each certification area in a bit more detail.

Finding Certifications

I have been wanting to gain more experience in the G Suite for Education and the Microsoft Office 365 for Education platforms for a while now. I listen to a couple of different podcasts that focus on one or the other, so I had a general knowledge of the platforms’ uses in education. I have been an avid user of Google’s cloud services since high school, so I have a background in the personal use of the G Suite. My university currently uses the Microsoft Office 365 suite, and I am gaining experience specifically in Outlook and Groups. The high school I will be student teaching in next year also uses the Office 365 suite and has a 1-1 laptop program with the Windows 10 operating system.

But I think it was the Minecraft: Education Edition‘s website that introduced me to certifications. I signed up for an account and discovered that there was a badge program for certifications. I then searched for similar certification programs for both Microsoft and Google Classroom. I bookmarked the websites and created an account on the Minecraft and Microsoft websites, which got me set up before the Memorial Day weekend. My plan was to achieve all three certifications in the short work week at my university Help Desk work-study job.

Last week began with a slow start. On Tuesday, I had an interview at noon with Larry Jacobs of the Education Talk Radio podcast. I spent the morning prepping for the interview and the afternoon sharing out the link to the show.

But on Wednesday, I began making major headway on my certifications.

Minecraft Certified Educator

On Wednesday morning, I logged into my Minecraft Educator account and began earning points. The goal is to achieve 1000 points, and points can be earned for various tasks. Just creating my profile on the site earned me over 200 points. Finding and favoriting other educator profiles, training lessons, and lesson plans created by educators earned me about 10 points each. Engaging in conversations on the discussion board also earned me points by creating new discussions, commenting on discussions, and favoriting discussions. I believe I also earned points when people responded to discussions that I was a part of and favoriting my profile.

There are “trainings” on the website, but they simply consist of links to YouTube videos. There are no points given for completing the trainings and no assessment measures to go along with the training module. The badge description is accurate in that points are only earned from interacting with the community.

I then spent the afternoon adding two lesson plans to the website. I had already come up with the ideas the previous week while watching this MINECON presentation.

I chose not to publish either lesson because I wanted to add custom cover pictures and a few additional pieces of information. I chose the Save as Draft option, but I lost access to editing privileges and noticed that the lessons are now “Pending Approval.” I hopped onto the discussion boards and discovered that other users encountered the same issue, though it appears that editing is available again after approval. I am still waiting on approval for these lessons 5 days later, though the MEE Community moderator account did respond to my comment on the discussion board regarding the Save as Draft option’s dysfuntionality. I’ve been checking the website at least twice a day to see if there has been any progress on those lesson approvals.

I also received a promotion code to use in my Microsoft Educator account to showcase my Minecraft Certified Educator badge. I was allowed to add the badge on that account, despite not having all the points required for the actual certification.

I noticed that the community is not very active. The most recent lessons and discussions were added around 6 months ago. However, it is an international, interdisciplinary, and multi-grade community ranging from core subjects to language acquisition to computer programming to school counseling. I also confirmed that there are hardly any non-narrative based lessons created for high school English classes. This is part of the reason for my English Educraft quest. I will create a blog post about this soon.

I am currently up to 845 points, and I believe the approval of my lessons will skyrocket my total and earn me the certification. These points were collected in less than one shift at work (probably 5-7 hours worth of work on the site). I will add more to this post when that occurs (and share links to my lessons).

[Edit: I was right, the publishing of my lessons did push me over the edge. Since my progress bar has disappeared, I don’t know how many points I have or how much a lesson is worth… but I know I have at least 1000! As promised, here are the links to my lessons: Writing Unit – Ender Dragon and Poetry Unit – The “End Poem”]

Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator

I knocked out two courses on the Microsoft Education website by the end of the day on Wednesday:

Each lesson or module is composed of text, and some sort of video/interactive video component. Lessons often have lesson checks for formative assessment and a summative assessment that determines completion of the module. The educator must get an 80% on this short summative assessment to earn credit for the lesson, though retaking the assessment is available instantaneously. The summative assessments cover recall and often use the exact wording of the text above or the comments made in a video. The educator has access to all of the content while taking the assessment.

Completing courses gives the users points. 1000 points are needed to collect the certification. I earned 500 points each for completing those two points (and an additional 3 points per lesson for sharing them to Twitter). However, I did not receive my certification because, as I later discovered, only certain courses apply to each certification. My OneNote course did not count, so I had to wait until Thursday to complete the certification.

All told, the Microsoft certification only took me about 3 hours to complete. I spent about an hour on each of the two applicable courses, and about an hour setting up my profile and figuring out the website.

Now, I knew that there are a lot of other courses I could take. I also discovered that most of these courses are compiled into certification groups. Completing all courses in the group earns the educator a badge and a certification. All of the badges can be found on this site. Most of these courses cover the current updates for the Office 365 suite and Windows 10, though a few had outdated information. I was able to comment directly on the lesson to notify the company of the need for updates, however.

I spent the rest of the day working towards the Microsoft in Education certification, which the OneNote course I took the day before counted towards.

Contrary to the Minecraft Education Community, the Miscrosoft community is very active. Again, this is an international, interdisciplinary, and multi-grade community. Educators can also create and share lesson plans. I have only taken a fraction of the courses available. I have to admit that the accountability for assessments is weak, but I recognize that I have learned a lot of useful information about Microsoft products. I especially enjoyed learning about OneNote, which I will use heavily in this next school year for myself as a student and as a teacher.

Sharing tweets out about my experience generated some encouraging replies from both communities as well. I made sure to tag the main accounts, and I was rewarded with a few favorites and some retweets.

To date, I have earned 5 of the 102 badges available in the community with a grand total of 2528 points earned. This includes my Minecraft Certified Educator badge and two official certifications. I also bookmarked several other certification courses to complete this summer, and I am considering putting in an application for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert certification. The great part about the rewards system built into these courses is that I am excited to earn more achievements for my learning.

And then there is more… I registered for the live streaming of a Microsoft presentation at this year’s ISTE conference. I believe I will receive some credit for this, including points towards a Skype-related badge. The website is really pushing the use of Skype, especially as a tool for bringing professionals into classrooms remotely as well as taking virtual field trips. However, I have found nothing on the website for the Microsoft Classroom app. I know that my students have this app in their Office 365 suite, and I want to learn more about it before I student teach next year.

Google Certified Educator Level 1

I finished up my Thursday with a head start on the Google certification. Google’s certification platform is drastically different from the Microsoft and Minecraft environments. I just needed a Google account to complete the training and track my progress. As I entered the first lesson, I immediately could tell that this comparatively sparse and independent certification process was going to more rigorous and involved than the other two certifications.  I spent the entire work day of Friday…

…as well as several hours on Saturday completing the Fundamentals Course. Each of the thirteen units took about an hour to complete, though I was able to skip to the unit review for a few of them due to my experience with the topics. While the training content is freely available, the unit reviews require a Google account to test your knowledge.

I did notice that each lesson claims that the user will earn credit for completing the summative assessment questions. I am still unaware of any kind of points or credit. There are no user profiles created and no badges available via the website. The work is purely independent unless the educator goes to the separate help forums for assistance.

The lessons themselves present a rigorous (though small-fonted) learning experience. I was asked to reflect on my experiences, apply knowledge to scenarios, and even complete activities that correspond with the lesson. Unlike the Microsoft courses, there were hardly any recall-based questions in the formative assessments. I learned about every G-suite app available. including Google Keep and even YouTube.

Now, I did notice that some of the content was a bit outdated, including the inconsistency between the actual certification title. The website seems to be a few years old, though the lessons seem to cover the most recent versions of the G-suite apps. I would like to see some content on how to convince network administrators/school administration to unblock YouTube as it is typically not allowed in the school districts I have visited.

Now, the exam is protected by a non-disclosure agreement, so I am not free to share any of the content of the exam. I can share the exam fact page and the FAQ, which covers the essentials. Like these pages say, the educator is given 3 hours for the level 1 exam, which is proctored via webcam. The exam also costs $10, which I believe covers the cost of the proctoring service. The certification covers three years because of the ever-changing nature of the software. While I prefer to get things for free, I thought the cost was worth the accountability. In fact, I think all of the measures that Google put in place for accountability make this certification program worth far more than the Microsoft certification.

I took the exam on Sunday, and within a few minutes of completion, I was able to write up this tweet:

I received feedback from Google’s account as well as other users. All of my independent work was now validated by the community. I also received an email with my certificate. While I am not provided with a badge, I believe I can create one following specific guidelines to share on my website and social networking sites.

I spent a total of around 14 hours completing the training and figuring out the website between two days. I spent a little over two hours taking the exam. I also have the opportunity of completing more training to receive the Level 2 certification. The price tag is $25 for the test and the training and exam are of a similar length. This certification goes more in-depth and showcases an advanced mastery of the G Suite for Education.

Reflection

The last 5 days have been rather exciting, and I think I will take a break from the certification circuit this week. All of the certification websites have taught me a lot, though I would like to see some updates and improvements to each of them. The learning I’ve accumulated will be beneficial in designing 21st century lessons and increasing efficiency and student engagement using technology.

While most educators have no need to be dual certified in both the Microsoft and Google platforms, my certifications will be a powerful addition to my resume alongside of my Educational Technology minor. After researching the technology provided at the school, I can tailor my resume to the school, even displaying my badges on the resume to showcase my mastery of either the Microsoft or Google suites.

Minecraft is my interest-based certification that adds a layer of meaning to my field and personality to my brand. As a future teacher looking ahead to job interviews, I know that I need to stand out, which makes certifications and specialties vital to my success in an interview. Pre-service educators know that a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to get a job, so we consistently add minors, certifications, and even additional majors before even talking to a school district. We know that the weight of college debt needs a steady full-time job immediately after graduation, so college can be more of a race than a learning experience sometimes. Minecraft is one of the ways I intend to stand out, and I am invested in the idea of using this game because I love the game. I would encourage other pre-service teachers to throw their energy into the things they love because the pressure to excel is not as bad when the journey is enjoyable.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am setting goals for myself each week. This week I will be updating my blog (check!), doing some work on my website, and working through the YouTube playlist and bookmarks I’ve saved to fill out my English Educraft annotated bibliography. I will also tweet out my progress, and I intend on writing up another blog post next Monday to reflect on my learning!

Web 2.0 Tool #6 PowToon

Website: www.powtoon.com

My Link: Beowulf PowToon

Description: PowToon is a newer online presentation creator tool. A free account allows for five minutes of video time and supports several libraries of images and GIFs. PowToon allows users to create their own presentations or simply modify an existing presentation. PowToons are meant to be short presentations of a topic enhanced by cartoonish animations. The free version of PowToon allows for publication to YouTube and several other media sites. Classroom uses include short introductions to concepts at the beginning of class. Students may also create accounts and create presentations that demonstrate their knowledge and skills on class content.

Web 2.0 Tool #5 Remind.com

Website: Remind.com

My Link: remind.com/join/mrrozelle

Description: Remind.com is a widely used web tool that allows for communication between students, parents, and teachers. Remind.comThe organization has a website and has also developed an app that can be used on most mobile devices. The tool gives teachers the opportunity to send out announcements to an entire class and their parents. These announcements can be translated and support multimedia (within a certain size). These announcements can be scheduled for future dates as well. text.remind.comAside from announcements, the platform has a chat feature. Teachers can communicate directly with parents and students and vice versa. All chat logs are saved to support accountability, and the teacher can block participants in the case of harassment or misconduct. Students phone numbers and other personal contact information are kept completely confidential through this platform. Students can ask questions about homework, teachers can give reminders to students about upcoming events, and parents can communicate questions and concerns to teachers.

Web 2.0 Tool #4 Wordle

Website: www.wordle.net

Description: WConverted_file_865d9044ordle is a visual description of a concept based on word frequency. The user inserts a list of words into the website. The more times a word is used, the larger the word in the resulting graphic. Wordle allows users to randomize the graphic to change the direction, layout, and colors of the visual. The user can save any of these as a .PNG file or send them to a printer. The visual is useful in PowerPoints, posters, and for worksheets in the classroom. Wordle can also be used by students to represent concepts for their own work.

Web 2.0 Tool #3 Screencast-O-Matic

Website: http://screencast-o-matic.com

Description: Screencast-O-Matic is one of the most useful free tools for educators looking to implement a flipped classroom, an online class, or for variety within a traditional classroom. The tool downloads a program to the user’s computer and opens a recording option. The tool allows the user to select the area of the screen to be recorded. The recorder supports webcam and audio enhancements so that the user can add a side-by-side video or audio narration.

 

In the above example, I used the feature that inserts captions to narrate the tutorial without audio. Though the free version does not support computer audio recording and only allows for 15-minute recordings, the pro-version adds these and several other useful features. The result is a clean video capture that can be saved to the computer, uploaded to the Screencast-O-Matic website, or uploaded to YouTube.