Digital and Open Badges – So much more than a sticker chart!

By Kay Oddone.

I was cleaning out my closet last weekend when I found my school port from Year 2. It was a hard blue port, the type that kids in the early 80’s all had, with clips at the front and the tendency to rattle loudly when it was filled with just a lunchbox. Covering the port were stickers. Stickers I had earned from my teacher, and had proudly displayed on my port (yes, I was a nerdy little kid!!).

Digital badges are like super-powered stickers, displaying an achievement of skill; but their super-powers make them much more than glorified reward stickers.
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as:

an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.

This short video gives a great introduction to what badges are, and their role in contemporary learning.

In a world where information is everywhere, and learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the way we demonstrate proficiency must change. As social media and ubiquitous internet access puts us into contact with expert teachers and mentors from all over the world, and MOOCs and Connected Learning environments enable us to develop skills and understandings in new and unexpected ways, we need a method of displaying what we know and can do. Traditional, formalised learning opportunities are not the only sources of education, and paper-based certificates just don’t cut it in a digital world.

education-changing

Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence

As professional development becomes more learner centred, badges offer a more flexible and personalised method of recognising achievements. Badges allow for modular, learning-centred designs, where multiple learning pathways are accommodated, acknowledging the varying levels of expertise held by participants, and reflecting achievement in short courses, work-based experience, assignments and projects, as well as soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, problem solve or engage in positive conflict resolution.

Created by @BryanMMathers, Licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Digital badges enable potential employers to check against specific skill and knowledge needs. The ability to capture skills, knowledge and abilities developed from experiences across personal and professional spheres makes sense in a digital and fast changing environment such as education, where many skills need continual updating as recognised by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Systems such as the open badges infrastructure developed by the Mozilla foundation address the issues of identity, verification, validation and the ongoing management of badges. Badges created and issued using infrastructure such as this include metadata which is hard-coded (‘baked’) into the badge image file itself. This links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. Badges are also not necessarily permanent, and can be de-activated after a particular period of time if skills need to be refreshed (such as in the case of the yearly update required to maintain certain first aid qualifications).

Badge Anatomy This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

Badge Anatomy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

The Horizon Report (2015) places digital badging as a technology which is likely to enter mainstream use in K-12 education within the next 4-5 years. The report is a well-respected research document which is widely used internationally to shape strategic plans in education in both K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Currently, large corporations such as Samsung, and schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Kahn Academy and Yale have all begun developing and using badges.

If the introduction of digital badging is introduced in a cost-effective way, organisations could see benefits through better management of professional learning, more data on the levels of professional learning of staff and more effective placement of staff through the recruitment and selection process.

Disclosure: This post was written not just to share this information, but also to earn myself a badge! In researching this topic, I discovered #OB101 which is an online course about open badges. The first task was to write 250+ words on the following:

  • What Open Badges are
  • How Open Badges are different from digital badges
  • Some ways Open Badges can be used

Did I meet the criteria? You will have to check my Badge Backpack to find out!

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Your Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network – Your PLN!

Struggling to stay afloat in a sea of information?

flickr photo shared by kleuske under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

If there is one thing that is true of education today, it is that change is the only constant. Staying abreast of educational change can seem like a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems fair enough to think that it is just not possible to stay afloat amid the overwhelming amount of information that is presented to us every day.

You are not alone! We are living in an age of information abundance, and it is no longer reasonable to expect that any one person can hold the entirety of knowledge on any particular topic within their brain, nor keep up with the rate of change in knowledge and information. In fact, people like David Weinberger, author of books such as (the extremely long titled) Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts are not the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room and Everything is Miscellaneous go so far as to say that technology is reshaping the way we understand and experience knowledge, and that we must begin to teach network literacy, as it will be the connections that we have, and the ability to access information when we need it that will be a determinant of success in the future, rather than the ability to store knowledge in our own brains, which has previously been how we have assessed expertise.

As educators, we know more than anyone that in a rapidly changing world, a student who has learned how to learn, who is flexible and is able to transfer skills across contexts, and who knows how, when and of whom to ask the right questions are likely to be the most successful – in life, if not in standardised tests.

flickr photo shared by purplechalk under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

So in an  environment of infowhelm, who can we turn to to seek support, ask questions, share learnings and sometimes just have a laugh (or cry!)? Teachers have always been able to turn to each other for this support, however in a networked world, we are fortunate in that we can reach beyond the boundaries of our own school, and connect with others all over the country and the world.

These well-known diagrams by Alec Couros sum up the potential of making connections for the 21st century educator:

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

A networked teacher, connecting to the many sources which Alec Couros has described above, has a very healthy PLN – a Personal, Professional, Passionate Learning Network  – a community of like-minded individuals who might never meet in person, but which challenge, push, share, teach and support each other.


flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

All of this talk about having a support network sounds nice…but educators are busy people, and you may feel you need more convincing that connecting and developing a PLN is worth the effort. Don’t just take my word for it! Here are some of the wonderful members of my PLN, sharing why they love having a network of teachers and thought-leaders at their fingertips…

why pln

So if you are convinced…or even if you want to give it a go…there are many tools that you can use.
One of the most popular is Twitter, and I have written before on the value of using this tool as a way of making connections with other educators (just click on the link above or on the image below to read the blog post about how to get connected using Twitter).

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Of course, Twitter is just one tool; you can build your PLN using Facebook, through subscribing to blogs, by contributing to communities on Google Plus or Diigo, or by connecting with and following curators on Scoopit, Pinterest or Pearltrees. You can choose one or all – the beautiful thing about PLNs is that they are PERSONAL! No one can tell you how best to grow your connections, or which tools will suit you best! You can spend as little or as much time as you like developing your networks, and the flexibility of online PLNs is that they are always accessible – either during working hours, or after hours, whether you are a night person or a morning person, a visual person or a verbal one – you learn the way that suits you best, where it best suits and when.

Hopefully this post has whetted your appetite for exploring the potential of developing your own PLN.

If so, these resources may get you on your way:

2015-05-25_2053

You can also check out my presentation, which I shared at the Edutech Conference in Brisbane in June 2015, (see below) or become part of my PLN – you can follow me on Twitter as KayC28.

PLN using social media