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5 reasons certification is important for ed-tech leaders

How certification can set educators up for a lifetime of learning

“He who learns from one who is learning drinks from a flowing river.” – Native American Proverb

Certification-educationEarlier this month, I spoke at TEDxUCIrvine and issued a challenge to educators to “reclaim the teachers’ lounge” by transforming the space into a positive, collaborative environment that embraces the “Yes, and…” philosophy of lifelong learning.

How does lifelong learning relate to leadership in education, and the role of certification? Quite directly, I believe. There is an increasing movement toward alternative learning opportunities–education beyond advanced degrees. Certification just may be the sweet spot that bridges leadership, lifelong learning, and formal training.

Here are some of the advantages and opportunities for today’s ed tech leader that certification offers:

Level up
In an industry in which a single, regularly renewed credential provides educators an opportunity for a lifetime of work, certification provides a way for educators to develop new skills and opportunities to enhance teaching and learning without leaving the classroom or their current roles in a school or district. Indeed, there is a huge relevancy in being a practicing educator while obtaining these certifications. Current practitioners are more often sought after as speakers, trainers, and consultants for forward-thinking schools and districts seeking to transform themselves and looking for the best talent out there to bring their vision into reality.

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Career mobility
Certification provides a concrete and tangible recognition that an educator has met a proficiency in a specific topic or focus area. A certification holds much more value than simply completing several distinct courses. Typically certifications are part of a larger scope and sequence that involves rigorous skill development related to a specific topic and focus area. A certification can easily be added to one’s resume and become a key characteristic that demonstrates a deeper understanding. As many industry careers rely on certification to better understand an employee’s skills (e.g., Cisco Certified or Microsoft Certified), in education, certifications can also provide prospective employers skills that are present and have been measured in an educator’s career. It is a transparent approach to showcase to a variety of stakeholders and institutions that an individual is competent and took initiative in a continuous learning process.

Community: Develop your PLN
Learning is social. Whether we are learning about how to rebuild a carburetor or learning the best tools to use to have students design three-dimensional objects, we want to connect with experts in the field to hear about the successes and failures from existing practices. If I were rebuilding a carburetor I would certainly want to connect with a certified mechanic, as I know they have an established credibility. And the same is true if I were leading a migration to one-to-one in my district. Educator certifications offer something similar—a community of experts in the field who you can rely on for successful implementations and who have demonstrated proficiency in a certain pedagogical domain.

This group of certified educators become connected to each other and self-sustaining in their encouragement and support. When one doesn’t know the answer to a challenge, they can turn to the community for their collective wisdom. As is often said, “The smartest person in the room is the room.”

Understand the “Why”
Far too often, educators operate within protected silos. Teachers close their classroom doors, site administrators often feel trapped in their offices, and district officials may feel disconnected from students and staff at the school sites. Completing certifications allows a greater awareness of the many connected pieces within the machinery of schooling, and in particular the vital role technology and leadership play. Established certifications and communities assist in knocking down the walls between the various moving pieces.

For instance, I have found that most IT professionals must operate without a full understanding of the curricular objective of various uses of technology. Yet they relish the opportunity to discuss the ultimate learning outcome of the use of particular tools. This context is essential to providing a comprehensive technology solution to the educators within their school or district.

Become a lifelong learner
As certifications become more prevalent in education, educators will innately want to be part of this competency approach to professional learning. For one, it demonstrates a deeper understanding thus focusing on a better grasp of our system and learning processes. Secondly, certification adds competition to potential highly sought positions in schools and districts looking for the best candidates. After all, if an educator’s role is to promote lifelong learning and high caliber success for our students, we must seek the same in ourselves.

Mike Lawrence currently serves as CEO of CUE and is founder of Leading Edge Certification.

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