Education Week is gearing up for our live coverage of the country's largest ed-tech gathering, hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education and beginning this weekend in Atlanta.
The Digital Education and Marketplace K-12 blogs will be on the ground there, pursuing stories on the evolution of the "maker movement," how schools are responding to ed-tech entrepreneurs' pleas and pitches, the growing scrutiny of the experiences of women and girls in ed-tech and related fields, and the growing popularity of digital curricula and blended learning approaches.
(We'll also be trying our best to not get overcome by vendors' bright lights, high-tech displays, and high-pressure pitches—if anyone stumbles across me or my colleague Sean Cavanagh on the floor of the exhibitors' hall, looking like Erlich Bachman of the popular new tech-inspired HBO show Silicon Valley, please call our editor ASAP.)
With that introduction out of the way, I hereby kick off our ISTE coverage with news of a new technology certification for the people who train the nation's educators.
"Our hope is to reach that broad big audience of professional developers that are training on topics outside of ed-tech. That's where the real need is," said Mike Lawrence, the founder of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Leading Edge Certification, which to date has certified more than 1,500 educators in their digital educator, administrator, and online and blended teacher programs.
Technology is "largely absent" in most K-12 professional development, said Lawrence, who is also the executive director of the nonprofit group Computer-Using Educators, or CUE, an affiliate of ISTE. But potential benefits, he said, include the ability to offer teachers and administrators the flexibility to improve their craft at their own pace, on their own time, as part of a larger community that is connected via technology.
The cost of the 8-week training course, in which educators will be expected to put in about six to 10 hours per week, has yet to be determined. The group's established certification programs cost between $450 and $750, Lawrence said, and he doesn't expect anything "wildly different" than that.
Leading Edge Certification is an alliance of nonprofit organizations, universities, and educational agencies such as county offices of education. Rather than create dozens of separate certifications, Lawrence said, the group pools its resources to offer a single option to which all alliance members sign on. The group's first certification program was rolled out in 2012.
Development of the curriculum for the new Professional Learning Leader Certification was overseen by Eileen Waters, who also works as the instructional technology specialist for California's Contra County Office of Education. Waters said the new program aims to help teacher-trainers understand the pros and cons of face-to-face, blended, and all-online professional development approaches, become comfortable with the technologies and tools that are most effective in each approach, and learn strategies for building and cultivating online communities that can help trainees after the formal training has ended.
The curriculum is currently in its pilot phase. The formal training and certification program is expected to open up later this summer. Leading Edge Certification's professional learning leader curriculum is also expected to be made available for free via a Creative Commons license sometime in August.
Should be a fun weekend in Atlanta—say 'hello' if you catch me in a session or wandering around the convention center, especially if you have a story idea (or a great name for an up-and-coming ed-tech startup company.)