Educators Should Build an EdTech Portfolio
I suppose what I’m suggesting here is applicable to all educators regardless of where they work, but us international educators are a bit different. Our average tenure in a school or country is less four years. We work in schools that have little to no affiliation with one another. And we work with different curricula, school cultures, and resourcing every new place we go. Not to mention the languages and diversity of our colleagues, parents, and students.
With this turnover and inconsistency, how do educators document their skills and abilities as they look for new jobs? Having worked in school leadership involved with teacher recruitment, I can say this is an issue. When looking at candidates, we have to trust resumes and references reinforced with Skype interviews and gut feelings to make our hiring decision. Unlike local school systems, we have few avenues to verify skills, trainings, or abilities beyond what is provided by the candidate. In short, candidates have difficulty proving their skills and employers find it difficult to validating their claims.
There is one area where educators can document their skills and distinguish themselves from others: Educational Technology.
But why focus on EdTech skills? Unlike other pedagogic knowledge or curricular competencies that are non-standardized, EdTech is global. The use of technology to enhance learning works in every school regardless of the operating system they use or the communications system them employ. A school may run the A-Levels when an educator has only worked with the DP. However, the skills used to collaborate with students using Google Drive are the same as those for Office 365.
Further, schools are implementing EdTech more and more each year. In a large portion of international schools, technology usage for learning and communications is a core competency for educators. Schools are seeing the need for developing computational thinking in students, a greater focus on personalized learning, and the balance between student created materials with consumed information. School boards are using EdTech as a measure of their competitiveness and as a recruitment tool. Also, the EdTech market is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is no longer a case of “can educators use technology,” but “how they use it.”
So, how do educators differentiate themselves in their use of EdTech? By creating a portfolio of EdTech skills that include certifications, recognitions, online presence, and a collection of learning activities.
Several EdTech companies have certification programs for their products. They vary in depth and quality, but all of them demonstrate functional knowledge of tools and services found in schools. The better ones start with tools knowledge then show how to use them in learning and assessment. Most certifications are free or low cost and come with completion certificates that can be included in a portfolio. Examples of these might be the Microsoft Certified Educator or the Apple Teacher. Educators who hold these certificates show their technical knowledge as well as their commitment to professional development and growth.
Beyond certifications, recognitions are available from EdTech companies and educational organizations. These recognitions evaluate an educator’s skills with technology and offer training, but they also recognize achievement in using EdTech for learning. Many include membership in worldwide professional learning networks at no cost. Examples would include the Seesaw Ambassador Program, Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certified Educator, and CUE Rockstar. These recognitions demonstrate educators have access to resources and learning networks that can aid colleagues and improve the reputation of the school.
However, certificates and recognitions are tied to products or organizations. A strong EdTech portfolio should include contributions to the overall EdTech community. Educators should show they stay current being active in professional learning networks, reading publications, and engaging in social media. Yet, to truly demonstrate competencies, educators need to contribute and have online presence. They should maintain a Twitter account highlighting their work and the work of others. They should write articles or blog posts describing their successes. And most importantly they should be easily searchable. The most organized educators will keep a blog or website with links to all their materials and networks.
Finally, an excellent EdTech portfolio should demonstrate actual learning activities and the products of learning. Educators should outline what technology they used, how it was used, what lessons were taught, and what learners created through their experience. Notice, I didn’t say “students.” A well-rounded portfolio will show student learning and professional development activities the educator led or helped plan. When showcasing work, educators should include materials and activities rather than planning documents or assessment data. Educators can upload presentations, pictures, videos, or completed work to the same website used to develop online presence. With these examples, a school will get a real sense of the educator’s capacity to use technology for learning and by extension their approach to the classroom.
And one last point: An EdTech portfolio is a fluid entity that should be kept up to date just as an educator would with their personnel records or a CV. Otherwise, it becomes stale and causes more harm than good.
This article was originally published in International Teacher Magazine in November 2017.
I work as an Educational Technology consultant at International EdTech committed to helping schools use technology successfully. I frequently present at conferences on Educational Leadership, Learning Technology, IT, and Data Systems. I am also a a published author focusing on Educational Technology, International Education, and Leadership.