Navigating the World of Big Tech’s Teacher Education Certification Programmes: A Comparison of Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s Offerings

Chris Hastings, Aichi Prefectural University

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted worldwide information and communication technology (ICT) learning. Studies (e.g., Tejero, 2022) have shown that emergency online classes revealed a gap between teacher and student ICT literacy; however, the acquired ICT knowledge is currently used in face-to-face or hybrid learning environments. Additionally, other studies (Cendana & Winardi, 2021; Hassani, 2021) have revealed that due to the pandemic, language teachers have had to adapt to new methods of home-based online professional development and that language teacher education programmes need to consider more deeply the need for technology inclusion, development, and promotion in their curricula.

Considering these two points, it is an opportune time to revisit the various technology companies’ teacher education offerings and accreditation programmes (Milliner, 2016). This article will compare the teacher education programmes offered by Apple, Google, and Microsoft, introduce the experience of a teacher who completed an advanced innovator programme, and finally give recommendations about choosing programmes and promoting one’s qualifications to potential employers.


The Big Three

Apple, Google, and Microsoft all provide teacher education certification programmes that aim to provide educators with the knowledge and skills to effectively integrate the respective companies’ technologies (both hardware and software) into their teaching practices in pedagogically appropriate ways.  Each programme offers online, self-paced courses teachers can take to earn certifications and badges.


Apple Teacher

The Apple programme emphasises the ability to creatively use Apple products, such as iPads and Macs. To gain Apple’s primary certification of Apple Teacher, visit the Apple Education Community ( and register using an active Apple ID. After doing this, you will be able to access the learning resources. First, choose a track (you can complete both if you wish), iPad or Mac (see Figure 1), and then complete eight badges: iPad or Mac, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, GarageBand, Productivity, and Creativity. Apple estimates it will take about two hours per badge. You must score at least 80% to gain certification.


Google Certified Educator

You can access these learning materials through the Google for Education website (, but you will need a Google account to track your progress and ultimately get a certificate. The primary certification has two levels (see Figure 2), and, of the three companies’ programmes, it is the most rigorous. Level 1 takes roughly twelve hours, and level 2 about ten hours. After completing the training, there is a three-hour online assessment for each level where you must turn on your webcam. There is also a $10 fee for the level 1 exam and a $25 fee for the level 2 exam. For the training and assessment, rather than multiple-choice questions, you will be required to practically demonstrate your knowledge of Google products, such as Gmail, Google Classroom, and YouTube, by responding to scenarios likely to arise in a classroom. Each certification also requires you to requalify every three years. The strength of the Google programme is that it will help teachers train learners to work collaboratively using various Google products.


Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft has three primary programmes (see Figure 3), which you can access from the Microsoft Educator programme page ( You will need a personal or organisational Microsoft account to log in and access the learning materials. The initial Microsoft Educator badge comprises six modules and will take approximately five and a half hours to complete. The modules include the best strategies to use in hybrid, remote, inclusive, and blended learning environments, and for increasing accessibility, using Teams, doing flipped instruction with PowerPoint Recorder, and using OneNote. Each module comprises videos and text, with a final multiple-choice quiz at the end. One of the advantages of choosing Microsoft is that their programmes have existed in some form since the early 2000s, and they adequately prepare teachers to deliver hybrid and online learning.


Choosing a Programme

When choosing a potential programme, there are several factors to consider: your institution’s infrastructure, your workflow preferences, your pedagogical views, and how much time and money you are willing to invest.

With the advent of the GIGA School Program, more investment is now being made into school and university infrastructures (MEXT, 2020). Currently, Microsoft has the largest share of the market in Japan (Ishizaki, 2021). Few schools or universities have branded themselves as official Microsoft, Google, or Apple schools, but it should be evident if your employer has. It is more likely that your school simply has access to a company’s suite of tools. To maximise your investment, you should research which company’s tools your institution (or an institution you seek employment at) uses and choose accordingly.


Advanced Programmes

In addition to the entry-level programmes, each company also provides trainer and innovator courses. The innovator courses typically require you to develop and showcase a teaching project using one of the three companies’ products. If you are someone who relishes a challenge and wishes to be seen as a change agent, you may wish to consider applying for one of these programmes. Here is a quote from a teacher (Anonymous, May 4, 2023) who completed the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) programme:

I applied for the ADE programme because it sounded perfectly tailored to me and my interests at the time (around 2012): I was fairly fluent in Apple technology and I was an educator. I was also excited about the hardware and software that was being released at the time: iPads and iBooks Author. The best part of the programme was meeting the talented educators from around the world who are using the technology, and not only Apple’s, in interesting ways. I would recommend it to people who currently work in an Apple environment and are looking for new ideas and expanding their professional network.

As you can see, the opportunities for networking and collaborating with accomplished educators from around the world make taking one of the various innovator courses (see Figure 4) an attractive proposition. Additionally, here is another quote from a teacher (Anonymous, May 4, 2023) who completed the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert programme:

I initially enrolled in the MIE Expert programme having done a lot of the Microsoft Learn courses when we were teaching online during the pandemic. I found the courses really helpful and engaging, and my digital skills have improved immensely. The MIE Expert programme had the extra motivation of being part of a community, although I have not involved myself in this much yet due to other time commitments. As a language acquisition teacher, I have found tools such as Immersive Reader, Read Aloud and Dictate particularly helpful, as well as integrating Flip into my teaching. Having followed the courses, these tools are now part of my everyday practice and the feedback from students is very positive.

This comment illustrates well the earlier point about Microsoft’s strength in providing training for hybrid teaching and also the teacher found value in the motivation it gave them and the positive feedback from their students.


Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, by completing these certification programmes, teachers can better apply technology to their teaching and share this knowledge with their learners and colleagues. Furthermore, these certifications on a resume can help to distinguish candidates and demonstrate their commitment to professional development. The Japanese government has recently started to seriously invest in ICT development in schools for teachers and learners (MEXT, 2020), so it is a great time to explore the various companies’ offerings and how they might benefit you professionally. Finally, be aware that prospective hiring committees may not be aware of the precise nature of these certifications. When listing certifications on your resume, I recommend briefly explaining what you are trained to do. Also, when interviewing, rather than simply mentioning your certification, show awareness of the institution’s ICT infrastructure (e.g., their iPad programme or student Microsoft 365 accounts) and say precisely how your certificate will allow you to contribute to online, hybrid, and in-class learning using technology.



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Ishizaki, A. (2021, May 28). GIGA school program is finally accelerating Japan’s digitalization in education systems. eduJUMP!

MEXT. (2020, July 16). The image of the transformation of learning brought by “1 device for 1 student with a high-speed network. MEXT.

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Tejero, O. M. C. (2022). Residual post-pandemic ICT literacy in higher education: The case of foreign language teachers and students in Japan. Human Review: International Humanities Review, 13(1), 1–10.