Monday, October 7, 2013

Integration of Digital Badges to Acknowledge Professional Learning

The following is cross-posted at Laura Fleming's blog titled Worlds of Learning.  Laura is the new media specialist at NMHS and  has been challenged to develop innovative ways to create structures to recognize informal learning of both teachers and students.

As a 21st Century Library Media Specialist, part of what I strive to do is to serve as an instructional technology resource for both educators and learners.  In my new position here at New Milford High School, I face the exciting challenge of reaching as many staff members as I could at one time.  I threw around many models in my head until I finally found one that seems right for us.   

I am proud to announce Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School, a digital badge professional learning platform. The idea behind this platform is to provide professional learning with a pinch of gamification.  For some time now, we have been hearing about digital badges and how they can be used to guide, motivate, document and validate formal and informal learning.  In recent years, Digital Badges have evolved from what were originally static images, to a tool used for capturing and communicating knowledge. Badges can now contain critical metadata that reflects who is issuing the badge, who has earned the badge, the date upon which it was earned, and any relevant criteria for earning the badge.  Digital badges are flexible enough to be able to recognize granular skills that one acquires as well as an individual’s entire learning.   I designed the platform in WordPress using a plugin called BadgeOS  - through this plugin, I am able to easily define the achievements and organize the badge requirements. 



Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School provides a framework to allow our teachers to earn digital badges through learning about a range of technology tools and applications.  The platform has been designed so that its resources will help to prepare our educators to fully leverage the potential for mastering digital age skills embodied in the ISTE NETs Standards for Teachers, as well as the seamless integration of technology addressed in the Common Core Standards.  After registering, teachers can earn badges by learning about a tool and then demonstrating how they have successfully integrated it into their instruction. Teachers must register to access all features of the site.   Once completing tasks and earning their badges, they can then showcase their knowledge by displaying their digital learning badges in a number of possible ways:

  • By putting them onto Credly, the free web service for issuing, earning and sharing badges - Credly is a universal way for people to earn and showcase their achievements and badges. 
  • By putting them on Mozilla OpenBadge.   
  • By embedding them into their own sites or blogs and pushed out to their social networks. 
  • The badges will also of course be showcased on the Worlds of Learning @ NMHS site.

As technology convergence and integration continues to increase generally in our society, it is paramount that teachers possess the skills and behaviors of digital age professionals. Educators should be comfortable teaching, working and learning in an increasingly connected global digital society.   The real aim of educational technology is to modernize pedagogy and to shape the education of the future. NMHS teachers will be able to take the tools presented in this platform and seamlessly integrate them into meaningful learning that addresses the standards in their respective content areas.

By flipping our professional learning, teachers will receive job-embedded coaching and will be supported by face to face, personalized support.    I will be available to collaborate with teachers on implementing these tools into their instruction as well as offering both face-to-face and virtual support and encouragement. This platform was not designed to be used as a formal evaluation tool.  Instead the purpose of this platform is to track, share, celebrate and be given credit for informal learning.

Teachers at New Milford High School document their learning journey throughout the school year so that it can be incorporated into Professional Growth Period (PGP) portfolios (that teachers present at their end-of-year evaluation conferences.  The PGP, created by our principal Eric Sheninger, was launched in New Milford High School in September of 2011.   As a result, every New Milford High School teacher has two to three, forty eight minute periods a week, to engage in growth opportunities of personal interest.  Each staff member has to create and present a learning portfolio at his/ her end of year evaluation conference.   This learning portfolio articulates how they integrated what was learned during this time into professional practice.  The badges teachers that earn will be a part of their year-long action plan goal. 

I hope that New Milford High School teachers will be able to benefit greatly from this sustained initiative because of the professional learning flexibility an online platform provides as well as it being a means to document and showcase the skills they have gained and  putting their learnings into practice in the classroom. With only a handful of badges available to be earned on the site at the moment, I will be adding to the list considerably all throughout the school year. 

Needless to say I am extremely excited about how Laura has risen to the occasion and created a model for a program that will acknowledge informal learning of teachers that is aligned to professional standards. Once we have this up and running the next challenge will be to set up something similar for students.  In the meantime please share your thoughts on Worlds of Learning @ NMHS.

11 comments:

  1. This is exactly what I have been wanting to do in my district. It seems like such a monumentous task, but you made it seem completely do-able. How are teachers receiving it? Why did you choose Wordpress? Would somthing like Blogger work? I would realy like to pick your brain on this.
    Thank you for creating Worlds of Learning and for sharing.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words, Rae! I have to say, once I became familiar with the back end of things, it wasn't too difficult. I chose Wordpress because I used a plugin designed specifically for Wordpress called BadgeOS. I had some basic knowledge already because my blog, www.worlds-of-learning.com, is done in Wordpress. Teachers will receive email notifications when I have new badge opportunities up for them and will also receive both face-to-face and virtual support from me. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.

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  3. What a great idea and hopefully one that will encourage staff to engage more in their own professional development and see it as something of real value. Everyone loves earning a badge and I am convinced having a "reward" such as this will promote discussion and share outcomes (of training) with staff at many different levels. Of course no badge, however fancy, will have value if you don't have an effective CPD programme and judging from your post you have spent a lot of time thinking about how to tailor your training to get the most from your team. Your Learning portfolios and action research methods appear to be two real strengths of the programme.

    The next goal, I guess, is for staff to see the value of these badges beyond the walls of the school. Wouldn't it be amazing if your work was further recognised and the ideas put in place in other institutions so that staff looking for promoted posts could evidence their skills via their professional learning site.

    I feel so very jealous. All the very best...

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    1. Thanks, Gideon! I believe this digital badge system will offer teachers opportunities to pave their own learning pathways. As a teacher myself, I can appreciate that concept very much! Yes, I agree- it would be amazing if the work was further recognized. That is something I hope will come from this effort.

      All the best and thank you for the kind words!

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  4. This is a great idea Laura! I am definitely going to explore this more and see how it might fit into the professional development services that I offer both onsite and via online modules. I am, at the very least, going to share this with schools I go to! All the best to you getting this to take off. Being a former teacher myself, and "tech support teacher" in my building, it can be an uphill climb sometimes, but it sounds like you have all your ducks in a row. How exciting!

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  5. Thanks for the feedback, Lisa! I believe my 16 years as a teacher gave me insight into designing this platform so that it would work for our staff here. We're off to a great start! :)

    All the best...

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  6. What a great page. Good to see you here blogging. There is so many deserted blogs these days. Thanks for letting me visit.
    Susan
    http://joininandgogreen.blogspot.com

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  7. I love this idea of badges to validate personal interest learning - I like the idea of built in PD time even more as a tech trainer who can only meet with staff voluntarily during their prep time!

    Are there any conflicts with state DOEs in regards to badges vs paid collegiate courses or conferences? Is the traditional fee-for-credit model weakening any??

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  8. Cory - We haven't really crossed that bridge yet, but since PLC hours count towards out PD hour requirement I don;t see why there would be an issue with this. Traditional fee-for-credit models are definitely weakening IMO.

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  9. Now that some time has passed, how is your badge system going?

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  10. It is working out great! Not only have our teachers embraced it, but Laura is awarding badges to educators all over the world.

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