As more and more companies recognize the benefits of microcredentialing and badges, the offerings seem to grow exponentially. As a former credential collector, I see now that I was overly focused on stacking up the edtech certifications. There was something about the achievement of completing the course or quiz that gave me that dopamine hit—and I was hooked. Adding badges and certifications to my email signature and Twitter profile was this driving force in accumulating additional certifications.
Also, as a teacher, sometimes I felt like it was hard to differentiate myself from the crowd—to stand out amid so many great educators. If someone received an email from me and it showed that I held a master’s degree as well as certifications from Apple, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft, surely they would be impressed, right? It made me a better teacher, right? Maybe, but definitely not because of the badges in the signature line.
However, teacher education, much like student education, is not about the grade at the end of a course, the number of credits, or the badge you earn along the way. I don’t mean that the certifications have no value—they certainly do—but that I now earn them for different reasons than when I started. Moreover, I’m more discerning about where, when, how, and, most important, why I pursue another badge.
Here’s how I think about badges now that I’m seasoned in the art of accumulating them.
Expanding Your Toolbox With New Skills, Strategies, and Tools
With so many different credential programs out there, it’s impossible to keep up with all the options. They span the technical, like the Google Professional Collaboration Engineer for Google admins, to the more creative, like the Soundtrap Certified Educator for teachers looking to bring podcasting and music production into their classroom. It’s important to be deliberate about what pedagogical tools you are putting into your instructional toolbox.
As you start to build your cache of credentials, they may not all be appropriate for your email signature, or they might outgrow the Twitter profile character limit. Keep track of all certifications somewhere for official record-keeping and future job searches by updating your LinkedIn profile, tracking them on your résumé, or using credential management software, like Badgr.
Creating Community and a Support System for Educators
My earliest experience in the power of community surrounding credentialing was with the Google Certified Trainer program. Google for Education has created a well-organized community utilizing Google Groups where folks can go to connect, share ideas, and help each other to solve challenges they’re facing. With customizable notifications about the Groups activities, you can be as in the know as you want to be. Also, at major edtech functions like ISTE and FETC, there are often both formal and informal meet-ups for Google Certified Trainers that help make a digital group more concrete. I met some great leaders and educators through that program and was given early access to various events and pilot programs. Community became one of the facets of a program that I looked for before embarking on a certification journey.
Since then, other great programs have popped up that share this community focus, like the recently launched Adobe Creative Educator, which empowers educators who inspire creativity for the next generation. They provide layered supports, including classroom resources, professional development materials, virtual and in-person events, and the opportunity to connect with a global community of educators.
I’ve learned that the best communities that come out of badge programs are thoughtful and intentional about creating a culture of inclusion.
Signaling to Others That You’re Here to Help
With so many options, it’s important to recognize that the same things we preach to our students apply to our own work. Application drives our learning, not recall. It’s not about memorizing the facts and knowledge for the certification exam, but how you apply that to your pedagogy and fold it into your existing successful practices. That’s when you’re able to feel like an expert and are ready to help your peers.
One manifestation of building community could be a group of badge holders at your school that meets to troubleshoot common issues and create a helpful newsletter for the staff. Schools can also post badges on the classroom doors of teachers who have earned their certification to signal that they’re available to help.
If you’ve got a few appropriate badges in your email signature, other staff members may lean on you for questions about that particular product or system. Sometimes this is built into the community itself: Google has created a website dedicated to tracking who is certified in different areas of the country, so if folks are looking for support for their school, they can find someone who is nearby, and the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program also has both formal and informal avenues for identifying folks.
Always be respectful of where your colleagues are coming from, so you’re not contributing to an us-versus-them perception. Be aware of the perceptions of your credential sharing and how oversharing might impact the culture and community we work so hard to cultivate in our buildings and districts.
Keeping You Motivated
When I get involved in a credentialing program that recognizes my learning and growth over time with multiple levels of certifications, I am more inclined to persevere, deepen my knowledge, and improve my practice. For example, seeing the training hours, attendees, and sessions I log with Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer (a step beyond MIE) increase over time is its own form of gratification. It becomes a positive feedback loop: Continued recognition helps me stay motivated and committed to paying it forward.