Motivating Students with a Certification Wall of Fame

We recently noticed a photo teacher Kenny Assmus posted to Twitter, revealing a very impressive Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Wall of Fame at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi, Utah.  Students there have earned more than 500 MOS certifications this year alone.

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We interviewed Mr. Assmus to get his tips on how to implement MOS certification and motivate students to succeed.

Certiport: Tell us a little about how your school got started offering MOS certification.

Mr. Assmus: A few years ago, Utah received funding to give MOS certification exams. It was something that was pushed and recommended to high schools. I wanted to give the same opportunities to my students in 9th grade at my middle school. I applied to receive vouchers to begin testing, and was one of the first middle school teachers in our state to get awarded the opportunity. My first year, we had 60 students earn a MOS certification, and we had similar results the second year. With this being our third year, I decided to make certification more of my curriculum and was able to certify 530 students in MOS, and , six students achieved MOS Master certifications.

Certiport: Do you find the MOS Wall of Fame helps to motivate students?

Mr. Assmus: The Wall of Fame is a great component of our success. I kept the 120-ish certificates up on my wall from the previous years, so students could see their peers’ accomplishments.  Many students would say, “Oh he did that, I can do that!” Or, “She got two certifications, I’m going to get three!”

When passing assignments in, I reference the wall. Instead of saying, “Pass your assignment to the left,” I will say, “Please pass your papers to the Wall of Fame wall.” Our Wall of Fame wall has now grown to cover two walls, and is overtaking my classroom. Students are now asking me what I am going to do for next year, and that is a problem I like to have to solve.

Certiport: What recommendations would you give to a school just getting started offering certification?

Mr. Assmus: If a school is starting out, my recommendations are: 1. Don’t get frustrated with the software if it isn’t working perfectly at the beginning. This was a learning curve for me. It took me a while to get used to it, but it gets better the more you use it. 2. Your students can do hard things. There is a desirable difficulty about the exams that will cause them to prove to themselves and others that they can do it. 3. Celebrate their successes. Passing an exam and receiving certification is a big deal. 4. Show off your personal certifications for the examsthat you have passed. My students can see my certifications and know that I have done it. This inspires them to do it as well. 5. Success breeds success and success becomes the standard. We have built a new standard in my classroom, and it is remarkable to see my students rise to the challenge.

Certiport: How does MOS certification benefit your students?

Mr. Assmus: MOS certification benefits my students because they learn that they can do hard things. Their preparation pays off, and they have some skills that they can take with them wherever they go. College credit is a big push for many of my students as well. Depending on the institution they go to, they can receive college credit which saves them money and allows them to get ahead in their studies. It also is a sense of pride, and sets the bar high for me and my future students. Students see their peers’ names in lights and it pushes them to follow in their footsteps.

This has been a great program for my students. I hope that I will be able to continue to administer these tests and allow them to be successful and gain real skills they can use in high school and their future careers.

2 Responses to Motivating Students with a Certification Wall of Fame

  1. MaryAnne Green May 19, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    What book do you teach out of, or do you purchase the Moss testing program for each desktop? You said you hand out their assignments, where do you get them? I teach adult education and I have had 100% success with Word 2013, I want to expand it to Excel.
    Thank you! Great job and awesome wall!

    • Kenny Assmus May 19, 2016 at 10:52 am #

      MaryAnne,

      Congratulations on your success!!! That is awesome. An Excel certification is wonderful and something to be proud of. Motivate your students to do it.

      I have a variety of assignments and software that I use in my classroom. For training and getting my students ready to take the MOS Tests I use software called GMetrix. They have built in practice tests and training’s that students can take to build skills. There is also an option to build your own training’s to focus on skills you want your students to know and understand.

      I usually create 4-7 training’s to give a foundation, and then allow my students to take a practice test before taking the certification tests. I build in some of my own projects as well and my students get a pretty solid understanding of the program.

      I teach more than the Office suite in my curriculum. We cover internet, email, hardware and software topics, etc. so there are a few things that I have them work on in the paper form. Those are the ones that I have them pass in, but the majority of the their assignments I do on GMetrix or collect digitally with dropitto.me a plug in with Dropbox that works wonderfully.

      I would be happy to share any material that you would like. I can be contacted at kassmus@alpinedistrict.org

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