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#HamstraHighlights

I’m Google Certified. Does That Make Me a Good Teacher? Part I

Blogger’s Note: I’m responding to Bill Ferriter‘s post: “I’m Not Google Certified. Does That Make Me a Bad Teacher?” This is Part I in a mini-series of responses.

Bill Ferriter is one of the most passionate, thought-provoking educators I’ve ever known. A 2015 Bammy Award recipient, “Bill pushes the comfort zones of many while simultaneously inspiring those who he encounters.” Throughout face-to-face conversations, presentations, professional development, books, blogs, and twitter, Bill’s professional priorities are clear:

1–Kids, 2–Learning, 3–Everything Else.

What’s really cool–and beneficial to fellow educators and our profession–is how Bill’s constantly evaluating and filtering education’s latest according to those priorities. Especially in a time when there seems to be so much out there that affects kids and their learning, Bill inspires others to wrestle, reason, research, and think through things, together. Fittingly, I find myself still thinking through–and reflecting upon–a blog Bill posted months ago.

One of the prominent educators who inspired me to begin my own reflecting through blogging, and to build my own professional portfolio, I remember Bill saying how comments on others’ posts can turn into stand-alone blogs themselves. And that’s exactly what’s happening here.

In his post, Bill asks: “I’m Not Google Certified. Does That Make Me a Bad Teacher?

Here was my initial thinking. I commented:

Bill,

Conversations with you always make me think!

I definitely agree with you that celebrating kids and their learning should always be our highest priority as educators. I also agree that sound pedagogy trumps any instrument used to amplify the journey. The authentic, learning-first approach is fastly fleeting our spaces on the coattails of financially-bonused test scores, misleading letter grades labeling entire schools, out-dated policies that don’t keep up with changing times, and–perhaps–entrepreneurial conflicts of interest luring aspiring educators who just want to feel validated in their extra efforts, recognized as important, compensated–even if indirectly thru swag and notoriety and not money–specialized in at least one area, and special in the eyes of peers, communities, and professional learning networks. Maybe educators are only experiencing these unique relationships or words of affirmation thru vendors who may or may not exploit their feelings for financial gain?

Or, maybe the products and services–and the vendors behind them–are just plain cool! Maybe educators are thrilled to have more avenues to support their learners.

And that last sentence there–That’s what I want to believe. I want to believe that a profession as noble and sacred as education would only reverberate with passion of the purest form, of the utmost sincerity for making learning experiences more dynamic for all kids, and by (nearly) any means necessary.

To me, Bill, it all comes down to motive. Motive is everything. It’s simply a matter of the heart. Why do we do anything we do in our learning spaces? Is it for kids and their learning, or is it to promote ourselves? I believe it usually takes only about ten minutes of conversation, scrolling, or research to discern one’s motives. Therefore, for those of us (like me, I suppose) who are thrilled to be an ambassador for many vendors, as well as certified in many others, and consequently or intermittently mix these into our latest social media bios and profiles to let others know that we are passionate about these tools, may be an expert in these areas, and that our expertise can be further consulted to improve learning experiences of others, I’m not totally sure they always accurately represent one’s motives. Or, at least, I’m starting to think about how educators are being perceived in all of this, regardless of one’s well-intended meaning.

You’ve got me wrestling and wondering again, Bill:

Can posting “resume boosters” be perceived negatively, or does this only happen with educators, because education is supposed to be a sacred and noble profession of excessively-humble, near-martyrdom, public service to others?

Why can’t an educator be both passionate about kids, learning, AND represent in the profession as ambassadors, certified in cool tools with swag to literally wear on our sleeves, and all in that order? Why is it always one or the other? Why not both? Is both possible?

Possibly, it’s too easy to earn ambassador titles these days. Maybe education districts should encourage educators to GO FOR IT with any appropriate vendor, with the strings attached that that educator also has to publicly post how the ambassador title is improving learning in the classroom. Example: “This app enhanced learning for kids today by…. ” The app gets free advertising for sure, but the kids (are supposed to) get more dynamic learning experiences. In other words, to earn the ambassador title, should one have to prove how the tool is being applied in learning spaces first–and possibly reflect this in a portfolio over a few months–before jumping into the thirty-five new apps that will flood the market next week?

Maybe there are no “Relationship Ambassadors” or “Distinguished Assessors” because no one has created those… yet? Maybe we are the ones who need to be proactive and emphasize what matters most and what’s important to us? Otherwise, is there a real possibility that our motives, passions, and profession could be defined by others–and not by us–the ones actually in the profession?

Is it dangerous for educators to let vendors define them, and, if so, do educators continue chasing the latest and greatest just to realize and assume their own self worth? Who’s doing the chasing? Of what are we in pursuit?

If an educator pays money to a fellow educator on teachers-pay-teachers, or if they indirectly pay vendors with free marketing research, advertising, and promotion by using their product or service in classrooms, yet–in the end–kids’ learning is enhanced as a result–Does it really matter from where, how, and why resources are acquired, distributed, and implemented? I’m still thinking on this… And I’m wondering to what extent motive matters after all.

Another provocative post that defines our times, Bill.

Thanks for making me think–Again. Can’t wait to continue this conversation in person.

Sincerely,
Kyle

Part II coming soon…

 

2 Replies to “I’m Google Certified. Does That Make Me a Good Teacher? Part I”

  • Kyle wrote:

    Is it dangerous for educators to let vendors define them, and, if so, do educators continue chasing the latest and greatest just to realize and assume their own self worth? Who’s doing the chasing? Of what are we in pursuit?

    ————–

    Hey Pal,

    There’s lots in this post that I’d like to respond to, but I’m getting ready for Saturday School — so time is short.

    I picked this quote because I’ve got a simple response to your question: Yes. It is dangerous.

    Done.

    ; )

    But here’s the thing you missed in the quote: Vendors aren’t defining EDUCATORS. They are defining EDUCATION.

    In my experience, the people who are the MOST tool (and badge) obsessed often get to the point where they don’t question the tool in any meaningful way. The assumption is just, “This tool is great” instead of “How can this tool get better?” or even “ARE we getting measurable results out of this tool?”

    That means education becomes limited by what the tool can currently do because the most influential users — who are also the most influential peddlers — aren’t pushing back against the designers behind the tool to get it to become even more pedagogically useful.

    Let me use an example: The fact that SeeSaw doesn’t allow students to take their content with them over time is, to me, a complete disqualifier. Until that simple (but essential) option becomes the norm, I would NEVER use SeeSaw — especially given that there are plenty of free alternatives to SeeSaw.

    But if you ever question SeeSaw publicly, you will get BURIED under criticism from their army of ambassadors who are passionate beyond belief about that service.

    THOSE are the people who bug me. How can they be so blind to the fact that the tool they support passionately is missing an essential pedagogical feature? And if they are willing to overlook that pedagogical necessity, what other things are they willing to overlook?

    Let me use another example: When the Discovery Ed Science Techbook came out, I got in real trouble for questioning it because a well-known DEN Star Teacher in our district heard me say that I thought it was crap. I was called on the carpet by some pretty powerful people who were not pleased that I’d question a product that was supposedly unquestionable.

    But the fact of the matter is that the Techbook WAS crap at the time.

    The vast majority of the videos in the techbook were over 20 years old — and the oldest that I found was released in 1988. My favorite example: There was a video in the sixth grade techbook that talked about “future plans for an International Space Station.”

    Given that we’ve spent the last 10 years talking about plans for mothballing the ISS, that’s INSANE. It should instantly cause us to question the value of the Techbook — but there were SO many champions in our district that questioning Discovery Ed was out of the question.

    Now, the Techbook got A LOT better over time.

    In fact, I was sad to see it go this year.

    But my point is a simple one: The DEN Stars in our district were so “DEN Crazy” that they took my criticism as an attack on a tool that they believed in and they defended it blindly and without question.

    To me, EVERY tool should be questioned and criticized and examined and pushed pedagogically — and when we stop doing that because we are enamored with the tech — and the badges, recognition and swag that come with them — we stop acting like responsible educators and we start acting like shills for the companies that “recognize” us.

    You asked if it is possible to be both: A badge hunting tech fan and a pedagogically sound teacher.

    Of course the answer is yes.

    But I’d argue that the deeper people get into badge hunting, the further they get from pedagogically sound teaching.

    And that’s worth questioning, too.
    Bill

  • Both of you leave me with much to think about: My 2 years as a Google Certified Educator expires the first part of January and I’m not renewing (yet, anyway). Congrats on earning certication Kyle! It is an accomplishment! Did the badge make me a better educator? No, but learning about the tools alongside Couros’s The Innovator Mindset helped me try new learning approaches with my students 😊

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