Developing an EdTech portfolio
Educational technology has long been acknowledged as a valuable learning and teaching tool. Many teachers are highly skilled in this field but failure to document these skills often means their achievements go unrecognised. Matt Harris, Ed.D suggests a way forward.
International educators are different
I suppose what I’m suggesting here is applicable to all educators regardless of where they work, but international educators are a bit different. Their average tenure in a school or country is less than four years, and they need to be prepared for changes.
They often work in schools that have little or no affiliation with one another, and work with different curricula, school cultures – not to mention the languages and diversity of colleagues, parents and students.
Documenting skills and experience
With this turnover and inconsistency, how should educators document their skills and abilities as they look for new jobs in a way that will do themselves justice? Having worked in school leadership and been 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. We need more!
Unlike local school systems, we have few avenues to verify skills, training or abilities beyond what is provided by the candidate. In short, candidates have difficulty proving their skills and employers find it difficult to validate their claims.
EdTech’s increasing importance
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 they employ; the skills used to collaborate with students using Google Drive are the same as those for Office 365.
Furthermore, schools are implementing EdTech more and more each year. In many international schools, technology usage for learning and communications is a core competency for educators. Schools have for a long time seen the need to develop computational thinking in students, a greater focus on personalized learning and the balance between student created materials and 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 do they use it?”
So, how do educators differentiate themselves in their use of EdTech? By creating a portfolio of EdTech skills and accomplishments. Here are the four key elements of a strong EdTech portfolio:
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.
Certificates and recognitions are tied to products or organizations, however, and a strong EdTech portfolio should include contributions to the overall EdTech community. Educators should show they stay current by being active in professional learning networks, reading publications and engaging in social media. 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.
Collection of Learning Activities
An excellent EdTech portfolio should demonstrate actual learning activities and the outcomes 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 that 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 learning in the classroom.
An EdTech portfolio is a fluid entity that should be kept up to date. Educators should add new posts, new learning activities, fresh tweets, and up-to-date certifications and recognitions on a regular basis. Another simple way to freshen up a portfolio is to choose a new Weebly or WordPress template that will change the colors and backgrounds with no loss of content and minimal work. If an educator fails to update his/her portfolio, it becomes stale and causes more harm than good.
An up-to-date, vibrant EdTech portfolio is an invaluable and very individual asset to make you stand out.
Matt Harris, Ed.D is Deputy Head of School responsible for Learning Technology at the British School of Jakarta, and an international Ed. Tech consultant. Click his picture to see his portfolio and the logo to find out more about his work.
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