Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NETS and badges

This is my final post about the things I have been involved in during 2013, about what I have learned and how I have grown as an educator over the past year.  As Tech Coordinator one of my jobs is to meet regularly with every grade level and all the specialist departments to discuss technology and learning.  Sometimes these meetings are concerned with some of the "housekeeping" tasks (distributing equipment, setting up accounts etc), sometimes they are concerned with training (how to use various peripherals, different Web 2.0 tools, ePortfolios etc) and sometimes they are about technology standards for both students and teachers.  At the start of the year I talked to teachers about the ISTE standards and we looked at the NETS-T rubrics to self assess where we were as individual teachers and as a grade, and where we needed to move forward.

At my first meeting with each group I explained to teachers that the standards that we are looking at now are in fact the second version of the NETS-Ts.  The first ones that were published in 2000 dealt with technology operations and concepts, the curriculum, productivity, integration and so on.  The new NETS-Ts published in 2008 differ considerably as there is more focus on 21st century skills.  In his book Digital Community, Digital Citizen Jason Ohler notes that there are 6 words that appear in the 2008 standards that are absent in the earlier version:  creativity, innovation, digital, citizenship, culture and global.  The implication of these 6 words are huge.  As Ohler points out, "we must move beyond technology integration toward idea generation ... beyond mere curriculum integration or as a means to simply update the status quo with new tools.  Instead we need to use them to generate, explore and use new ideas that challenge and redefine the status quo." This is something that I think many schools still don't "get".  They are still talking about tech integration and tools.

Towards the latter part of the 2012-13 school year, from around March 2013 onwards,  I also started  to discuss the NETS-Ss, and how they can support students acquiring these 21st century skills.  The NETS-S and NETS-T standards align really well.  For example the one of the students' standards is creativity and innovation.  For students to be able to demonstrate these, one of the standards for teachers is that they should facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.  We want students to understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology and to practice legal and ethical behaviour (digital citizenship), therefore a standard that teachers need to consider is that they should also be promoting and modeling digital citizenship and responsibility.

The original NETS-Ss were created in 1998 and, in a similar way to the first NETS-Ts, the focus was on mastering technological tools.  The focus of the new NETS-Ss is on "technological proficiency that comes as a result of e-learning and m-learning" or in other words, on digital fluency.  The aim of the NETS-S is for "authentic, inventive and emergent uses of digital technology and on how they apply outside the school setting".  The emphasis has therefore changed from knowledge and mastering technological tools to a focus on the skills that students will need to be successful in work and in life.

For the first half of 2013, therefore, we discussed both the NETS-S and the NETS-T standards and reflected on how we were doing as teachers.  We made a Google Site with a page for each teacher where we set up a table with the NETS-S standards and together we looked at artifacts of work students had done throughout the year and how these met the standards.  After this tech audit was completed it was my job to pull the data from all these pages together into a report.  Using a Google Spreadsheet I was able to look at each standard and where students were given the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the standard.  We were also able to look at each student artifact and consider where it fell on Bloom's Taxonomy.  This was a huge job, but a necessary one to get authentic data to help us move forward.  After analyzing the data we could see that some standards were done extremely well, whereas others were rather sketchy.  We could also see whether the students were mostly using lower or higher order thinking skills as they created their media products.

After analyzing the data, both for the school as a whole and also for individual teachers, it was clear to us that the best way forward would be to introduce personalized PD for our teachers for the 2013-14 school year.  Teachers themselves are able to identify their areas of strength and areas where they want to grow.  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 considered the NETS-C standards and reflected on how I am doing as a coach and in addition I've started to look at Open Badges as a possible way for teachers to have their learning endorsed, linked to evidence of them becoming proficient in the NETS-Ts.

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 (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.  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.

I hope you have enjoyed my 4 part post about the things I've been thinking and wondering about during 2013.  If you would like to read my blog posts about the NETS standards and open badges in full, please click on the links below.

Badges as currency for teacher PD
Computer Science -v- NETS
Reflecting on the NETS-Cs part 1
Reflecting on the NETS-Cs part 2
Reflecting on the NETS-Cs part 3
Reflecting on the NETS-Cs part 4

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

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