Apple, Google and Microsoft certificates: a guide

Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer teaching certificates - but which is best and why? This former principal offers advice

Kausor Amin-Ali

Apple, Google and Microsoft teaching certificates - which is best for teachers?

Apple, Google and Microsoft have become mainstays in the education world, as their hardware and software have increasingly found their way into schools. The pandemic will only have accelerated this.

For teachers, this has come with the opportunity to gain formal recognition as a "certified" educator or teacher for their respective tools – Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, iPads, iMovie, Excel, Docs and Pages and many more.

I have been fortunate to have achieved certification from all these firms: I have become a Google Certified Trainer and Educator and a Microsoft Certified Innovative Educator, and, more recently, I gained the Apple Teacher certification.

Having achieved all three, here’s what I think is useful for teachers to know.

Teacher certification with Apple, Google and Microsoft: What are the differences?

Considering each certification in turn:

Apple

  • What's the outcome? Apple Teacher cerfication
  • Any pre-requirements? An iTunes account
  • What's the cost? It's free
  • Validation: It does not expire
  • Training format: Online
  • How long will it take? It depends on your prior knowledge, but three to five hours per device (iPad or Mac)
  • What does it cover? Use of the device, the productivity suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote), iMovie and GarageBand
  • Further information is available here

The Apple course has the fewest "exams" for the certification, but the depth of understanding for its hardware and associated apps, including iMovie and GarageBand, will enable you to have a more specialised knowledge.

There are two routes to becoming an Apple Teacher – using an iPad or using a Macbook.

I actually chose both routes (but you only get one certificate), which was partly due to working in a school whose staff use Macs and where iPads are used frequently by staff and students. We also have Apple TV in all classrooms, too.

Many schools may have iPads in use rather than Macbooks, but the Apple Teacher pathway enables you to have the confidence in using these apps more effectively on your iPad, but also allows you to reflect on how students would use these apps to enhance their learning.

The area where you may need more prior use before studying the units in Apple Teacher are the equivalent productivity suites that exist as an alternative to Microsoft and Google. 

It is fair to assume that unless you have used Apple hardware regularly, you may not have used Pages, Numbers or Keynote at all. 

They used to be paid downloads when the iPad was first launched but are free and exclusive to Apple now.

For Numbers, Apple’s spreadsheet app, more practice would be needed and whilst it may offer similar basic functions as the other tech providers – Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, it is good to know how to format cells, sort data and insert graphs or charts.

Lastly, Keynote is also less known or used compared to Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides, but knowing how to put together a basic presentation with some features, such as effects of the text and slide transition, would also help before studying the actual Apple Teacher units.

Google

  • Outcome: Google Certified Educator (GCE)
  • Pre-requirement: Gmail account
  • Cost: Free for training, $10 (£7.20) for Level 1 exam and $25 for Level 2 exam
  • Validation: Three years (then recertification is needed)
  • Training format: Online but also live in-person/online ‘Bootcamp’ training is available
  • Time: Depends on prior knowledge but approximately 10 to 13 hours
  • What it covers? Use of Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Forms and their integration into Google Classroom
  • Further information is available here

The Certified Educator programme has a focus on integrated use of Gmail, Google Drive and their equivalent to productivity apps with Google Classroom.

Like with Apple, with Google you have online learning modules in the Google Teacher Center, where examples are provided for each of the focuses mentioned above.

However, unlike Apple, you can practise unit questions to diagnose your actual knowledge, which may lead to you skipping some of the content if you are competent in its use already.

Also, with a range of Google Partners, Bootcamp Training is available. Search online for "Google Educator Bootcamp", which is often intense two-day training covering the key aspects for you to take the Level 1 or 2 exam on the second day of training.

The Google exam is, in theory, three hours, but competent users can finish in less than two hours.

There is a nominal fee for the exam – but the training units are free. The certification is valid for three years. Recertification will involve learning about updated products, hence the time limit of validation.

Should you wish to go on to become a Google Trainer, you need to commit to at least 20 training events each year to maintain the Google Certified Trainer status.

Microsoft

  • Outcome: Microsoft Certified Innovative Educator (MIE)
  • Pre-requirement: Outlook account
  • Cost: Free
  • Validation: No expiry
  • Training format: Online
  • Time: It depends on your prior knowledge, but approximately two hours (depending which "badges" you obtain which automatically award you the MIE). Overall around 10 hours to complete the Trainer Academy learning path
  • What does it cover? Depending on which learning pathways you use – each provides a suggested duration in time and a quiz (assessment) at the end of each unit:  I would recommend Teams, OneNote, Sway, all which appear on the Trainer Academy pathway
  • Further information is available here

Microsoft has been providing certifications for teachers for the longest out of "the big three", since the days of Microsoft Office Specialist in the early 2000s. 

As a result, the Education Center has a plethora of courses, ranging from Minecraft to more familiar Windows and Office apps, with a filter by skill, duration, age group and subject. 

It also distinguishes by course and learning path. To avoid being overwhelmed, I would recommend focus on the Microsoft Innovative Educator learning path, which appears as MIE Trainer Academy.

The Innovative Educator programme has a series of modules or units each with a suggested duration. 

What is different from this and Google and Apple is that it also states if the unit is suitable for beginners, intermediate or advanced.

The online assessment for each unit is of longer duration than the Apple assessments, but shorter than Google, yet it could be said the cumulative time for the Microsoft assessments is similar to the single Google online assessment.

The focus in the MIE Trainer Academy includes use of Teams, Sway and OneNote rather than a focus on Office 365.

This provides an updated approach to using other Microsoft tools relevant for hybrid or online learning. 

Like Google, you have the option to follow on to join the Trainer Academy, but you need to commit to training 100 teachers an academic year to maintain the Training status.

Time demands

The major barrier is not necessarily the technical difficulty – although using an app that you seldom use in your own classroom setting can be a challenge – but time, both for training and doing an online exam.

It has to be right for the context in which you work, too. I do not see the immediate benefit of learning any particular platform if it is not used in your daily practice.

My advice is to study a module and apply it in your setting to have a practical insight into it, rather than rushing to take the exam for theoretical coverage only.

Should you consider becoming a certified edtech educator?

With all such professional development, it depends on what is your objective in obtaining the certificate.

The online learning is the most useful element of this whole process. Learning how to find more effective ways to use a particular app or hardware is very useful.

Some schools insist on staff achieving this as part of the school’s requirements to be known as an Apple, Google or Microsoft school.

However, as educators, we always celebrate the formal achievements of our students, and we should also take some pride in having recognition for our new learning or in some cases formal recognition of your applied work practice.

More fundamentally, I also think that for a true motivated lifelong learner, teachers should go on to seek new knowledge and have the agility and resilience to undertake assessments and thus keep abreast of the latest technology developments that will affect the students in their classrooms.

Kausor Amin-Ali is an experienced school leader and former principal in Dubai. He is also a Google Certified Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator and an Apple Teacher

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