November 23, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Digital Badging and Microcredit | Tech Tidbits

blogimage7june2This week, I was helping a teacher with our learning management system, Schoology. She had just designed a quiz but could not make it public for her kids. I am by no means an expert, so I enlisted the help of one of our guru teachers. Within minutes (seconds, actually), this whiz-bang teacher had not only corrected the issue but had also pointed out two or three other possible uses for the specific tool we were looking at. She deserves a medal! Or perhaps a badge!

It is true that not one of us knows everything, but many of us have special talents that, when shared, can enhance the learning of others. I’ve been looking for a way to honor folks’ knowledge or work in specific areas, and badges or microcredentialing seems to be it.

Badges aren’t really that new. Similar to a scouting badge, digital badges can be symbols to show achievement or status in specific areas. For educators, it can mean the verification of knowledge or skills mastered in a wide variety of useful domains.

Imagine this: your teachers have a school-wide goal to incorporate technology into their lessons.  As they gain mastery of specific tools, they are awarded badges, which they post in their rooms. Teachers who are proficient in Google Docs, Schoology, or Edmodo, for example, would display their badges so that students and other teachers know whom to go to for help. The value of the badge lies in the skills, competencies, and mastery it represents.

My maker space students earn badges as they become competent with various tools or products. We started by calling these Box Projects. For the 3-D printer for example, we ask the kids, “If you were to create a box on the 3-D printer, what would you need to know?” Of course, they need to know a series of steps and safety precautions before they can print their first project. They don’t have to know everything, just enough to be successful and move on to something more complex. For each project they complete, they win a badge, and we put their pictures on the wall of fame for each tool or project, allowing other students to know who the knowledgeable ones are for each skill.

mircrocreditWe have been looking to expand the badges for all our students and staff as avenues of learning. As I researched badges and microcredit for both my students and faculty, I quickly realized that there is quite a movement. One out of every five institutions of higher education is issuing digital badges, according to a recent survey by the University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and Pearson.

In fact, in my home state of Colorado, the Colorado Community College system has a badging system recognized by industry and manufacturing sectors, because they realize it represents skills and/or expertise in potential employees.

Many institutions are offering badges or microcredentials for everything from shortened versions of college courses to skills gained through extracurricular activities. This would be perfect in my school’s leadership program, in which students develop skills that are not reflected in a traditional high school transcript. Badges could showcase skills and accomplishments such as volunteer work, service learning travel, event planning, public speaking, or fund-raising expertise.

In the library world, I’m working with students on their Research and Citation badges. This way, whether students are in social studies, English, or science, when they write a paper, their teachers will know that they have proficiencies and should be able to complete the task.

logo_badgr%201There are several online sources to create and store badges, including CREDLY, Badgr, and Open Badges from Mozilla. Some offer the option of uploading artifacts after they have been evaluated by instructors. Credly also provides users with the opportunity to share this with mentors or future employers if desired.

My teachers are also eager to earn their own badges or microcredit. Some are using BloomBoard, which has tons of programs, from strengthening your wait time skills to increasing your math expertise. PD Learning Network is a new, fee-based site where teachers can learn skills through microcoursework and even get recertification credit for their work through a partnership with the University of the Pacific. In our district, we are also looking into tying several badges together in a body of work for professional development credits.

Teachers are always looking for new ways to incentivize and motivate students to expand their learning.  Badges and microcredentials are a way to track students’ and teachers’ skill development while recognizing learners’ work. This strategy documents learning and encourages sharing of knowledge in a unique and fun way. Learners can use this proof of their skills for both educational and professional advancement. So take a page out of the Boy Scout Handbook and encourage the learners in your world to earn a few badges!

Additional Badging Sources:

Sites for Sharing Badges:

Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

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