School & District Management

Ed-Tech Credential Push Starting with Online Teachers

By Ian Quillen — January 24, 2012 4 min read
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An initiative that aims to establish national education technology certifications for administrators, classroom instructors, librarians, and professional-development specialists will begin by offering a credential to online teachers.

The Leading Edge Certification program for online teaching, launched last week by founding chairman Mike Lawrence, the executive director of Computer-Using Educators, a statewide advocacy group for educational technology in California, based in Walnut Creek, will be offered by nearly two dozen partners. They include the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL.

Leading Edge appears to be the first such national effort, though a few states have waded into certifying online teachers, and the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking is developing an accreditation program for chief technology officers.

The six- to eight-week Leading Edge Certification program, modeled after iNACOL’s online-teaching standards with additional advice from initiative partners, is intended to evolve into the kind of national certification that boosters of online education have long pushed for. And it may be an especially good time for its unveiling, with teacher layoffs appearing to widen the pool of applicants—qualified or not—for jobs in online teaching.

Setting the Standard

Leading Edge Certification, a group with roots in the education technology community of California, recently launched a certification program for online teachers that it hopes will become a national standard. Some specifics follow.

Key Partners: Computer-Using Educators, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Lesley University, New York State Association for Computing and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE)

Format: Six- to eight-week online or blended course

Distribution: Initiative partner organizations will offer the course for $450 to $500 per student

Available Mid-2012: Ed-tech certification for school administrators

Available TBD: Ed-tech certification for librarians, teachers in brick-and-mortar schools, professional-development coaches

SOURCE: Leading Edge Certification

“There’s a huge influx of applications to online schools to teach online, but they’re coming in with no [online teaching] background,” said Allison Powell, the vice president of state and district services for iNACOL, which has its headquarters in Vienna, Va. “We’ve worked with a lot of other programs that are trying to do a similar type of thing on more of a local level.”

The Leading Edge course will be offered in online and blended formats for between $450 and $500 per teacher, depending on which partner is used as a provider.

‘Common Understanding’

Ms. Powell hinted that achieving a national identity for the program may take some time, even though iNACOL and its constituents “want [online teachers] to be able to teach across the different borders, and have a kind of common understanding that ‘this is what teachers need to know.’ ”

Other than iNACOL and ISTE, all but two partners are from within California borders. The exceptions: Lesley University, an 8,700-student institution in Cambridge, Mass., that serves mostly graduate students, and the New York State Association for Computing and Technologies in Education, or NYSCATE, New York’s rough equivalent of Computer-Using Educators.

Further, the credential won’t equate to a certification that can be added to a state-issued teaching license, in California or elsewhere. Georgia and Idaho have been pioneers in creating online-teaching endorsements that will eventually be required for all of a state’s online teachers, but only a handful of other states have followed to offer such an award even as an optional endorsement.

And while the Leading Edge course may address the essential issues facing online instructors, those issues are rapidly changing.

Another Approach

That’s why the Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN, has taken a different tack in its new certification program for chief technology officers, which the Washington-based group announced 10 months ago in New Orleans at its annual convention.

In contrast to the Leading Edge Certification model, which includes coursework and assessment, CoSN’s Certified Education Technology Leader, or CETL, program revolves around only a final examination that includes 115 multiple-choice questions and an essay portion.

Recipients of the CETL certification—designed to mirror the credentials bestowed on certified public accountants and project-management professionals—must have a bachelor’s degree and have minimum of four years’ experience working in education technology, but aspirants are not given a specific course of study preceding the examination. That makes it more likely those who pass the exam possess a broader range of knowledge than they would if they were instructed with the exam in mind, said Gayle Dahlman, CoSN’s director of certification and education.

“The people of CoSN, with the exception of myself and one other person, have not seen the exam,” said Ms. Dahlman, who has worked with an assessment specialist company, Prometric, based in Baltimore, to develop the test. “CoSN creates a lot of preparation materials, and you can use these preparation materials to study for the exam. But there is nothing out there that teaches to the test purposefully.”

Those who pass the CETL exam will have to retake an updated version every three years to keep their certification, Ms. Dahlman said.

The creator of the Leading Edge Certification program, Mr. Lawrence, said what should speak for the quality of his certification program for online teachers is not necessarily its format, but the nature of the partners that have signed on. While ISTE and iNACOL carry significant heft in that regard, he added that it’s equally important to note that all partner organizations come without commercial motives.

“There’s been no involvement by for-profit companies in this project at all,” he said. “It’s not something that is bent toward a particular platform or tool or device.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2012 edition of Education Week as Ed-Tech Credential Effort to Start With Online Teachers

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