Over the course of my career, I’ve looked for new opportunities to reflect on my practice and learn from other like-minded individuals. I’ve led study groups, conducted action research and obtained (and renewed) National Board Certification. I’ve sought professional development with the same rigor as those experiences. The ISTE Certification program was the answer I was looking for.
ISTE Certification is an internationally recognized credential in which those in education show mastery of the ISTE Standards for Educators. The devices and tools you use aren’t the center of this professional development; pedagogy is. The rigorous program will deepen reflection on your practice and have you analyzing how (or if) technology fits in.
Now that I am officially an ISTE Certified Educator, here are seven tips that helped me maximize my learning while enrolled in the program.
1. Check your schedule.
The first phase of the ISTE Certification process involves synchronous meetings and coursework. Be sure you have time for meetings and coursework at this phase of your career. Some people like to block the same day and time on their calendar each week so they know they will have dedicated time to commit to the program.
2. Organization is key, both early and often.
In my Google Drive, I created an “ISTE Certification” folder, which contained subfolders for cohort documents, artifacts, notes and more. On my desktop, I created an ISTE Certification folder. In it, I created subfolders for each criterion (there are 25 you will demonstrate mastery of). As I thought of evidence I might have, I took screenshots, renamed them, and placed them in the corresponding folders so that when it was time to enter the portfolio phase, much of the heavy lifting was already done and I could focus on the pedagogy of my work, not on collection.
3. Buy a folder.
One of the certification documents you will receive is a “Criteria Guidelines” document, which explains each criterion in detail. This was my go-to document. I printed a hard copy so when I thought I might have artifacts to show evidence of mastery, I wrote them down next to the specific criterion. I printed a few of the other documents the program provided so I could highlight requirements, deadlines, etc. Having a folder helped me stay organized and made the materials easily accessible.
4. Take notes.
During synchronous meetings, I would take handwritten notes about topics discussed and tips shared. Then, prior to the next session, I would rewrite my notes in a Rocketbook (a notebook that allows content to be saved digitally). Seeing the notes days after each meeting and reorganizing them allowed me to process the content and get in the right mindset for the next session.
5. Create a spreadsheet.
Another way I organized my learning was to create a spreadsheet that became the master document that housed my ideas for artifacts, criteria descriptions and best practices I learned about during office hours. Each criterion had its own row where I placed feedback from assignments, a checklist for office hours, potential artifacts and “must haves,” so when it came time to create my final portfolio of evidence, everything I needed to know was in one location.
6. Attend office hours.
Twice each month, virtual office hours are held in which you can sign up to have an artifact reviewed to understand if you are on the right track. For me, I found it more beneficial to my schedule to watch recordings of these sessions. I made sure to find recordings with a review of every criterion and took notes about what each should contain. I kept track of which criteria I viewed in my master spreadsheet and added my notes there.
7. Lean on others, and ask questions.
During the synchronous meetings, you’ll be placed in an “accountability group” with other participants. We emailed each other often. Knowing I was going to have a check-in helped keep me stay motivated and submit my best work. There are hundreds of educators improving their practice by going through the ISTE Certification process. Use social media to connect and find those who can offer support. You can find me on X, the platform formally known as Twitter, at @NMZumpano.
Nicole Zumpano is the director of instructional technology coaching for the Learning Technology Center of Illinois, an ISTE affiliate. A National Board Certified Teacher and ISTE Certified Educator, Nicole teaches graduate-level instructional technology courses for three universities. Prior to her current position, Nicole spent over 25 years in public education as a teacher and instructional technology coach.