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Mainstream Educational Technology Certifications For Teachers of the Visually Impaired

Google, Apple, and Microsoft have partnered with educators and technology trainers to develop educational technology certification programs for educators, including K-12 teachers, college professors, IT specialists, and more. One of the most underrepresented groups of people that can benefit from these certification programs are “techie TVIs”, or Teachers of the Visually Impaired who are interested in learning about how to use mainstream technology applications for their students. Having TVIs that are familiar with the technology that their students use in the classroom and will eventually use in the workplace is important for helping students to be successful, and this post provides an overview of the mainstream educational technology certification programs I have completed myself as an assistive technology educator with a special interest in low vision.

Technology certification programs for educators

The following programs are geared towards current and future educators that are 18 years of age or older, and cover a broad range of applications.

Google Educator Program

The Google Certified Educator program is a professional development program offered through Google for Education that allows people within the education space to learn more about Google products and how they can be integrated into classrooms. Google provides a free comprehensive study guide for the exam that includes readings, practice exercises, and lesson checks/quizzes to ensure understanding of material. Once users complete the study guide, they can register to take the Google Certified Educator exam on Kryterion, which charges $10 for a Level 1 exam and $25 for a Level 2 exam. After passing the exam, users will receive a certificate and badge they can add to social media or resumes, and the exam is valid for three years.

There are two different levels for the Google Certified Educator program, though users will need to have their Level 1 certification before they can start their Level 2 certification. The Level 1 exam focuses more on introducing educators to different products and how to incorporate technology in the classroom, while the Level 2 exam goes more in-depth into using Google products in education. Studying for these exams and working through the various exercises can help educators to become more proficient with using these tools, even if they weren’t familiar with them beforehand.

Apple Teacher

The Apple Teacher Certification program is a free web-based and self-paced professional learning program designed to introduce educators to Apple products and applications that can be used in the classroom, including iPads and Macs. There are six modules in each program that cover device overviews, productivity applications such as Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, as well as the popular iMovie and GarageBand applications. After completing the modules for either iPad or Mac (or both) and passing the quizzes, educators can earn a free certificate and badge to add to their resume or other social media profiles. This credential does not expire.

Microsoft Certified Educator

The Microsoft Certified Educator program assesses educators on their ability to implement technology across six different content domains, instead of focusing on the ability to use specific applications/tools. Educators are tested on topics related to student collaboration, skilled communication, self-regulation, problem solving, student use of information and communication tools, and using information and communication tools as an educator. Microsoft provides a comprehensive study guide through the Microsoft Learn platform, and the test itself is administered by Certiport. The exam costs $127 and the credential does not expire.

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Technology certification programs for educators and students

The following programs can be completed by educators as well as students who are 13 years of age or older. These are a great option for students looking to boost their resume- my Microsoft Office Specialist certification was one of the most asked about items during my college interviews.

Google Workspace (formerly Google GSuite)

The Google Workspace certification, formerly known as the GSuite certification, is an official certification from Google that allows users to demonstrate proficiency in Google’s productivity applications and how they can be used in the classroom or in the workplace. Once users complete the study guide or practice with the applications on their own, they can register to take the Google Workspace certification exam in their home with ProctorU and pay $75 to take the exam, with a 50% discount available for students and teachers through Google’s academic pricing program. After passing the exam, users will receive a certificate and badge they can add to social media or resumes, and the exam is valid for two years.

Applications covered in the Workspace certification include:

  • Drive
  • Gmail
  • Google Meet
  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Forms
  • Slides

Microsoft Office Specialist

Microsoft Office Specialist certifications are official certifications from Microsoft that allow users to demonstrate proficiency in individual Microsoft productivity applications and how they are used in the classroom or in the workplace. Once users complete the study guide for their desired application or practice with the application on their own, they can register to take the Microsoft Office Specialist exam, with each exam costing about $100, though there are testing vouchers available as well for students. After passing the exam, users will receive a certificate that they can list on resumes, and the certifications do not expire.

I earned the following Microsoft Office Specialist certifications while in high school:

  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Excel
  • Word Expert
  • Excel Expert

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Accessing training modules with assistive technology

Large print

All of the educational technology certification programs listed above use web browser-based applications to host their training modules, with no additional downloads needed. Users can enlarge text with the pinch-to-zoom gesture, control-+ keyboard shortcut, or other preferred methods of enlarging text. I do not recommend using an offline simplified reading display like Pocket for these training modules, as they often contain multimedia content.

Screen magnification

When I am navigating training modules with screen magnification, I prefer to use the Lens view, which gives me a smaller focus window that I can reposition as needed- I find the full screen view to be disorienting at times. To enlarge images, I prefer to open images in a new tab by either right-clicking or long-pressing an image so that I can zoom in on it more easily.

Screen readers/text-to-speech

While each of the educational technology certification programs can be navigated with VoiceOver, JAWS, or NVDA, there aren’t any specific resources for using these applications with nonvisual access methods, so users will need to learn about these strategies from a different source outside of the exam training modules. However, there are several tips for using keyboard shortcuts and keyboard access, and text within the modules can be read out loud with text-to-speech for users who prefer to listen to information. Even though I do not exclusively use a screen reader to navigate technology, learning keyboard shortcuts and how to structure documents through these exams has helped me tremendously with using a screen reader and other tools as my vision fluctuates over time.

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Taking exams with assistive technology

With the exception of the Apple Teacher certification exam, all of these exams require candidates to take a proctored exam through a remote testing service or at an in-person testing center. Candidates can request disability accommodations such as extended time, use of a screen reader/screen magnifier, and private testing environments. One accommodation I forgot to consider when I first took a remote exam was the ability to wear tinted glasses, as I didn’t realize that wearing my prescription glasses would prevent the proctoring software from seeing my eyes. Disability accommodations are typically approved within 24 hours and I did not have to submit any special documentation. This is coordinated through Kryterion, ProctorU, or Certiport when registering for the exam.

I had to sign an NDA for each exam, so I can’t provide specific details on exam content. Each exam consisted of a mix of multiple-choice questions and simulation exercises that allow users to complete different productivity tasks. All accessibility features are enabled for the testing environment simulations, so users have full access to keyboard shortcuts, screen readers, and similar assistive technology, though custom shortcuts will not be available. Each exam lasted about 120 minutes without extended time accommodations.

Candidates will find out if they have passed an exam within 24 hours, and will be issued the certificate and badges via email.

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Cool things I’ve learned from educational technology certification programs

  • Different keyboard shortcuts and settings for Mac computers
  • Collaboration tools in Google and Apple applications
  • Finally figuring out how to use the multi-tasking view on iPad
  • Keyboard shortcuts for my favorite productivity applications, including Google and Microsoft
  • How to run more effective web searches when doing research, and how to take full advantage of features within Google Scholar (for example, I learned that I could use Google Scholar to find citations!)
  • Tips on effective instructional design and implementing differentiated learning strategies

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More tips for mainstream educational technology certifications for teachers of the visually impaired

  • For the Google certification exams, users will need to download the Google Chrome browser, and take the exams in incognito mode to avoid using built-in browser extensions
  • High contrast mode can be used in testing environments and typically does not require an approved accommodation- double-check with the proctor first
  • These exams are different than the technology trainer programs offered by Apple, Google, and Microsoft, but are a prerequisite for applying into those programs at a later date.

Mainstream Educational Technology Certifications for TVIs. Be a "techie TVI" and check out these programs for learning more about educational technology that students will use for years to come