Earlier this year, our Director of Modern Learning pondered the idea of challenging our middle school teachers with becoming Apple Teacher certified since all students in grades 5 – 8 have iPad Pros. When we began this journey we started out by walking through the certification process as a tech and administration team to see if the journey and time put into becoming certified would be worth it for our teachers. After earning our certification it became apparent that yes, it was definitely worth the effort to become certified and that we saw great value in becoming Apple Teacher certified. In order to become certified, one must earn eight badges throughout the process. The badges are: iPad overview, Pages, Keynote, iMovie, Garageband, Numbers, Productivity and Creativity. The best part? In order to earn your badge, you must answer four of the five questions correctly per badge, BUT if you fail, you can retake each quiz as many times as necessary. Apple provides starter guide iBooks for each topic that include great graphics, tutorials, step-by-step directions, and my favorite part – suggestions on how to use the app/topic within a classroom. When we launched the idea to the teachers, our idea was that the teachers would read the starter guide that correlates with each badge, then earn their badge by taking the five question quiz, and repeat until all eight badges were earned resulting in becoming Apple Teacher certified.
What did we consider before we launched the process?
- A reward
We knew that this was a reachable goal for our teachers, but we also knew that this process would be tedious and we wanted a way to “reward” or “thank” them for their hard-work. We also quickly realized that this is an incredibly beneficial professional development opportunity that is completely free. Because the certification is completely free, but our teachers will be spending a good amount of their own time walking through the process, we came up with two ways to reward them. We concluded that if we were to send them to a day of training it would cost us around $250 or so for the workshop itself and then the cost of a substitute teacher. Therefore, we came up with what we thought was a great reward. Once a teacher becomes officially Apple Teacher certified, he/she will earn an extra personal day off work along with $100 gift card as long as the certification was earned before the end of April. When we launched the program to the teachers, they were pumped to find out the reward for earning their certification. Our hope was that at least half of the teachers would take us up on this offer and I am ecstatic to say that every single middle school teacher has joined the journey. Thus far, and it’s only January, 16 out of 26 teachers are officially certified and the others are well on their way.
We quickly realized that we needed to offer support for the teachers as they walk through the training process which is where I came in. Every other week I offer Tech Talks that pertain to one of the eight badges that are earned throughout the certification process. During that 20-30 minute Tech Talk, we focus on one of the badges and quickly skim through the starter guide associated with each badge. We practice skills, answer questions, and discuss how we could see this particular app/skill being utilized within their classroom or someone else’s classroom. I offer a before school time and a during lunch time in order to hopefully be able to meet with as many teachers as possible. Of course if that time doesn’t work, I will meet with them individually during their planning periods.
We also created a board in the teacher’s workroom. Here is a picture of the board at the beginning of the process:
When you earn a badge, Apple gives you a gold star so we decided that we would mimic that on our board and each time a teacher would earn a badge, they would earn their star on the board. The purpose of the board is not only to act as a scoreboard (a little healthy competition never killed anyone, right?), but more importantly to serve as a resource. Our mindset was that if you were about to use Pages in your classroom with your students, but you hadn’t yet earned your badge nor did you feel comfortable with the app, the board would lead you to somehow who has earned their badge and you could seek them out for advice. Or, if you were struggling to learn/earn a certain badge, you could turn to the board to find someone who has mastered that skill.
Hearing teachers say, “Man! I wish I would have known that this app functioned that way last semester! It would have been perfect for a project I was working on!” Or getting an email that says, “Would you mind looking over this project I came up with? I am planning to use the knowledge that I gathered after earning two different badges.” Or, watching teachers feel the frustration of learning something new. That sounds mean, doesn’t it? I don’t mean that I enjoy watching them struggle, or that I enjoy struggling myself, but that very struggle puts us in the seat of being a student and reminds us the challenges, frustrations and fears our students face on a daily basis. A great way to connect with that kid who is struggling with doing something new down the road.
I am so proud of the fact that all of our teachers have agreed to take this risk and join our journey, and I can’t wait to see how the knowledge they acquire through this process shows through within their classrooms.