Friday, October 18, 2013

Badges as currency for teacher professional development

This year at school we have introduced personalized PD for our teachers based on them identifying their strengths and areas of growth.  Every teacher at school is currently working towards a goal based on the NETS-T Standard 2 (developing digital age learning experiences and assessments).  My role is to coach teachers so that they can achieve their goal - which led me to ask myself the following question:  how can I help teachers find recognition for the skills they are developing when using technology in their teaching?  I've started to look at Open Badges as a possible way for teachers to have their learning endorsed.

Traditionally teacher PD has involved going to a conference, or maybe having a consultant come into school to offer PD for an entire staff.  Today I ran across an excellent blog post by Chris Betcher who writes about the only real benefit of attending a conference (the networking and the connections), when compared to the newer form of "attending" a conference virtually or doing PD via social networks.  He writes:
... be aware that the chance to grow professionally is not something that happens annually or biannually.  PD in this day and age is a matter of being immersed in the right networks of people, and it’s an all the time thing that never stops.  Whether it’s something like Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+, or Scootle Community or listening to podcasts or reading blogs or watching YouTube or some other means… the point is that it is constant ...PD is no longer something that is occasionally done TO you by an external third party. It is something you do FOR yourself, by yourself, constantly.  That’s just a professional responsibility.  
In a nutshell, what Chris is pointing out is that there are many types of learning, and that there are communities available to help support you in pursuing your interests and developing your skills. However the problem remains that some institutions still insist on a "certificate of attendance" to prove that you have completed your PD.  And this is something that is very hard to get, so hard to make your knowledge and skills visible when you do your PD through the "informal" channels.

The idea behind Open Badges is that it is a new way to capture and display skills and competencies - they can become a part of your online identity as you link them onto your ePortfolio or social networking profiles.  They are a way of connecting both your formal and informal learning and they may offer a way to design your own learning at your own pace, based on your own interests. Badges differ from the previously issued "certificates of attendance" as they provide a way of tracking the organization that issued the badge, the criteria needed for the badge to be issued, and the evidence that you have met the criteria - possibly a hyperlink to a video, lesson plan or testimonial of achievement.

For me one important aspect of badges is that they are redefining the concept of a learning environment so that it is no longer a single institution or online space, but many environments that span time and space.  I also like the way that badges can represent many different skills and competencies that have been achieved along the way.  My questions now are all ones about endorsement.  For example, if I start to earn a badge at one educational institution, will this work be recognized by another one if I move to a different school?  If I move, can I still continue to work towards completing my badges at the first school, even while I'm employed somewhere else (ie will the evidence I create at the new school be recognized by the old one?)  It's early days, but I think that because international teachers are so mobile it is very necessary for international schools to start having these conversations.

One of the best analogies that I heard last weekend was to compare badges with money.  Money is after all simply a piece of paper, but because around the world we recognize it as having a value, we can exchange the pieces of paper for other ones as we move from country to country.  Perhaps, eventually, it will be like that with badges for international teachers too.  Perhaps the badges from one school will have more "currency" because they are seen as being of a higher value due to the more rigorous metadata that they contain.  Perhaps some schools' badges will come to be like the US dollar - able to be used in schools far distant from their origin.  I think we are at an exciting time - and that we now need to start to define how we want badges to work and which organizations we might like to endorse them.

Photo Credit: laihiu via Compfight cc

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this video! I absolutely love it. I was looking for badges related to professional development and your site came up. I will continue to check out your blog.