Why I Have An Issue with the GoogleforEDU Certification “System”

Earlier this year, a neighboring school district sent me an email to spread the word to our teachers that they were hosting a Google Level 1 Certification academy in their school district and that our teachers could attend for the bargain price of $230 each. This email arrived at a time when I was knee-deep in planning our certification roll-out and I’ll admit that for a second, I considered it.

Last year, I created a “Digital Ambassador” program in my school district to provide those teachers who were ready to take the digital leap (from zero) the means to do so. This year, I set a lofty goal that we would open tech PD to include certifications, both paid and free around the plethora of tools that we offer in our school district.

With GSuite being the most in depth roll-out, especially for our students, we started with a goal to certify all of our ambassadors, to the tune of 100 teachers, through level 2 and 15 trainers…paid for through my budget.

In my mind, our teachers would feel more empowered to utilize the tools with their students and even help support teachers in their schools through this completely voluntary path.

In my mind, this would be super simple since the training modules were free online.

Reality Check

As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the personal aspect of learning, I realized as I was scrolling through Google’s EduTraining Center of “information modules”, that it would not be feasible for most of our teachers as their facial expressions were quite honest.

Let me rephrase that…

The learning modules, while created with the best of intentions and miles better than the iteration before, seemed quite overwhelming for those who were new to these tools/ideas. Others ran with it and certified quickly on the basis of the online information alone.

There’s a great deal of information centered on everything from mindset to basic classroom use and learning skills supported by the tools themselves, which are all necessary…and should be learned.

However, when one is looking at pages and pages of reading materials and videos timed at hours of dedicated study…it’s easy to see why this venture was one that lost its luster for many and in many cases looked upon as unattainable.

I stepped back to have more conversations with our teachers as well as other teachers and tech coaches in other districts who either created their own training modules instead or opted to arrange a learning academy/bootcamp in their district with a Google Partner…for the bargain price of a certain percentage of seats free, depending on sales.

These academies are offered by partners all over the world and can range in cost upwards to around $700 per teacher…per day, according to our last roundup of such events.

Over the last few months, I’ve talked to so many teachers who have emptied their own pockets to learn, only after attempting to learn with the online modules…either failing the tests initially or opting out for later. Most of those teachers passed the exams after their paid sessions but still quite a few failed.

One teacher paid an online partner $397 for a virtual prep bootcamp…which she still failed, while others in her cohort found success.

It’s kind of frightening to think that tech certifications, which are barely school recognized, can cause this much stress, even if the learning from seeking them has great classroom impact.

Maybe We Should Reflect?

I need to be clear in saying that I am not anti-certification, especially if it is by teacher choice. I am, however, anti-poor certification system…as this one most certainly is.

Those who can easily focus through the online reading/videos typically have minimal problems with the online materials. I have ADHD and for me, it was difficult. As a matter of fact, I opted to skip the online learning and just rely on what I knew because it was too much and I was tired. Looking at the volume of materials was exhausting.

The more teachers that I talked to, the more the discussion arose around certification academies. The general consensus was that attending a bootcamp or certification academy was necessary in order to pass…mainly because they were more nervous that they would fail, even with free learning online.

In my district, after many discussions, our digital learning team earned at least level 2 certification and in lieu of paying $230 per teacher, we are hosting our own learning and certification camps, at least for level 1. I know that this isn’t the norm everywhere and many of these teachers “paying to learn” are doing so because their school districts may lack the knowledge base to help them.

Even though I have spoken to several partners regarding level 2, we will more than likely self-host these as well, especially with the numbers of teachers who will have earned this on their own.

I’m sorry, I just can’t fathom spending thousands of dollars on a plan that I am already deeply regretting, even after seeing the impact across classrooms. The pressure, even in a voluntary system, is far too much.

Google, You Hold the Key to Fixing This

Recently, Google CS-First released its new Applied Digital Skills course, a course aimed at learners beginning in middle school. It’s a brilliantly done set of learning modules, broken into topics, but activity based and interactive.

There’s no reason on earth that the Google Educator learning can’t be revamped over time to be much more of this, especially when the timed certification exams consist of application based problems.

If you get a chance, please do click the link above and then click “curriculum”. Imagine how many teachers could possibly find attainable mastery with a program such as this and not feel the need to pay to play?

There are a ton of PD events that we’ll gladly pay to attend but perhaps one centered on testing, especially for a $10 certification exam, shouldn’t be one of them? Isn’t that the opposite of what we stand for?

Equity of Teacher Learning

I can wrap the equity portion of this up in a few sentences…

  1. Google Innovator participation is dependent on passing the level 2 certification exam.
  2. Teachers of color are more likely to not have access to funding for this advanced learning that they’ve been led to believe that they need, especially since it’s centered on tech tools…unless they are in districts serving in roles where this is directly related to their jobs. (Raw data from our POCEdtech group where the access is less than 5%)
  3. No teacher, regardless of race, should feel compelled to spend what amounts to a few weeks of groceries, to prepare for an exam when the fix for this could be more engaging/directed online learning.
  4. Again, courses that cost $200, $397, or $700…for a $10 or $25 certification exam…

I think that we need to think about what’s best for teachers in the end and aside from ending all pay based certification programs period…making teacher learning just as equitable, personal and attainable as we want for our students should be our primary goal.

This certification system needs a great deal of work and my hope is that by speaking up, we can have these discussions and fix what isn’t working for the greater good.

Our teachers are much more than sales leads.

As a teacher, I would feel kind of salty at myself if I created online learning for my students and their parents still had to pay for tutors and programs because my course materials were inadequate for the culminating exam.

Worth a reflection, I believe…

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