Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why I Will Keep Applying to Become an ADE

So after a month of waiting, today was a roller coaster ride of more intense waiting to find out if I had been accepted into the Apple Distinguished Educator program’s USA Class of 2011. Once people started getting their e-mails about it, and we all started discussing it via Twitter, the intensity ramped up exponentially.

My friends Jim Sill, Jon Corippo, Nicole Dalesio, and Mark Hammons – all from California – got accepted. I did not. And I was among thousands who did not, I am sure; and judging by the names of fellow #ADE2011rejects (that was our new Twitter hashtag), I was in excellent company among a host of really amazing folks who also didn’t make it.

A few friends told me I was robbed. I don’t agree. I am sure I didn’t deserve it nearly as much as dozens of others whom I saw rejoicing on Twitter. My video WAS really good. I’m not gonna lie to you. But I just may not be to the point yet of my comrades who made it in. And I really am okay with that. Had I gotten accepted, I would have been dumbstruck with surprise.

A number of today’s winners got in after two previous rejections. I hope that’s what happens to me (though second time applying would be nicer, if you’re asking). Yes, I will keep applying.

To this announcement on Twitter, David Jakes asked me why.

So this is kind of my open letter to David, but also to anyone else wondering what’s all the fuss with this alphabet soup of qualifications people carry around in the world of EdTech.

It all started back in 2006. I was just taking on the position I still hold (teaching technology to grades one through eight), and my school sent me and my then-colleague (our school’s technology specialist) to ISTE’s NECC in San Diego. Back then, they had the money to fly us both to San Diego (from San Jose), put us in a hotel, get us a rental car, and pay for the conference registrations and our ISTE memberships.

The conference was great, and it coincided with my first summer working as the Blogging Peer Coach for IISME. In fact, at the conference I mainly focused on blogging in education to help me be a better peer coach to these educators I would oversee in a blogging experience for the following six to eight weeks.

Then, a couple of months later, I found out about the first ever Google Teacher Academy. Imagine my surprise when I was accepted. This was the start of something truly monumental in my life as an educator.

Now, let me jump in here to say that there are critics of organizations, especially those run by for-profit companies, who seem to be guaranteeing their future business by staking a claim in the education sector on the backs of teachers. I don’t agree with such critics that this is a problem.

Here’s why:

  1. I teach. Teachers don’t make very much money. I teach in a private Christian school. I make A LOT less money than most teachers. I supplement my income by conducting trainings in the field of educational technology. Being a Google Certified Teacher has opened up opportunities I never would have had otherwise.
  2. I’ve always wanted to get my Masters degree, and I suppose I had a back burner “plan” to always do it . . . someday. Getting involved with a community of like-minded, supportive educators really propelled me to take action and finally do it. I started in the Fall 2008 semester, and I earned my degree in August 2010.
  3. Being the geekiest, most tech-savvy teacher at your school can be very isolating. This is especially true in a school as small as mine is. Becoming a GCT gave me a network of people like me, and then inspired me to bring my colleagues along with me for the ride. As I’ve added tools for our staff and students, I’ve helped everyone on our school’s staff strive to meet their own hidden potential. And I have to say, they had awakenings like mine. It feels good to make positive changes for the benefit of students.
  4. Companies make money. Schools don’t. When schools want to implement change, they often seek sponsorship from companies. Sometimes parent donations are matched by the companies which employ those parents. Everyone wants schools to improve, but no one seems to like the idea of making our students’ future employers invest in education. Companies that care about schools have their motives questioned. If Google wants to make their Apps free for all of K-12 education, I am 100% behind that.

Over the past four and a half years, I have spun a huge web of contacts in my personal learning network (PLN) of educational technology folks. Twitter has helped with that, and it wasn’t around yet when we had the first Google Teacher Academy. I’ve begun working some Google Workshops for Educators, and I qualified as a Google Apps Certified Trainer, which enables me to get even more work helping other schools and districts implement Google Apps. It’s a product I use, and I firmly believe in the value of the tools it offers.

Being a Google Certified Teacher has made me a better teacher and a better person. I really do believe that. It’s not what Google has done. It’s what the power of the PLN has done. And that PLN does include some folks, like David Jakes, who may not agree with me about “badges” and organizations I belong to or seek to join. That’s okay. It’s part of what makes it a great PLN.

So why will I keep trying to get into the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program?

  1. They didn’t really reject me. They couldn’t take all of us, they spread the wealth around the country, and my state (California) is pretty geek-heavy and hard to compete in. I heard they took 76 new ADEs, when they normally only take around 50. And I also heard that there were thousands of applicants. My not getting in was not personal.
  2. I know several folks who needed to apply three times before they got in. Given that this program comes around about every two years in the US, I’m impressed with their dedication.
  3. What does it say about me if I want something, and then give up the first time I try and don’t get it? I am a teacher and a parent. I am NOT a quitter.
  4. I know many ADEs and many who are in the new Class of 2011. These folks are spectacular, and I have a lot I can learn from them. It’s another great network to be a part of.
  5. Staying active as an ADE requires some commitments that will help me to continue to grow as an educator. Never stagnate.
  6. Other than airfare to the summer event, Apple pays for everything else involved with attending the week-long ADE Orientation and Institute. Will I allow a company I’ve already bought lots of stuff from to put me up for a week? You bet! (See my earlier sharing about being a poor teacher.)
  7. There have been a number of training opportunities I have had to pass up because I am NOT (yet) an ADE. These have mostly been iPad in Education workshops I could have been paid to teach. (Again, I need the dosh!)

As it stands right now, my employer does not pay my expenses when I attend trainings. Given the state of the economy and private school enrollment, this is never going to change. I generally work for pay, or I present to cover the cost of the conference itself, and then I pay for all my travel and lodging myself. I become better at what I do on the job, my students and colleagues benefit, and I continue to grow my network. It’s a win-win situation that just happens to cost me money. I’m all for increasing my qualifications and decreasing what I shell out to do so.

So, David, thank you for asking why I will keep applying until I get accepted. I don’t crave acceptance. I don’t need another set of letters after my name. I want to be a part of something I believe in, and I know it will be good for my career. I have a self-employed husband and an adorable kid depending on me to always strive for more and better. And that kid’s tuition isn’t going to pay itself.


James O'Hagan said...

I like your take on the subject. The program, and like for-profit certifications do have their place. And my argument was that these programs does not replace a masters degree in your field (if done in the right program). If I had been aware of the open window, I would have applied and might be in the same boat with you today. But with both of us having our masters degrees, that is something that opens others doors a less geeky administrator understands compared to for profit certs.

Mister Sill said...

Great post, Diane! Wish I had it in 2009, when I was an #ADEregect.

Stacey Johnson said...

Diane - it certainly seems that this is one of those bumps that you'll be looking back on in the not-too-distant future when being an ADE is another feather in the hat of your many accomplishments - I'd send something like "best of luck" your way, but I don't think you need it. Just keep applying. My dad used to always say, "Keep shakin' the bushes, kid... Just keep shakin' the bushes."