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Technology badges

IPTEdTec is a free service operated by Rick West, an assistant professor in the Instructional Psychology & Technology Department at Brigham Young University. It offers educators everywhere the chance to earn “badges,” certifying their basic understanding of key educational technology applications, like Google Sites, iMovie, and Blogger, and concepts, like internet safety and open content licensing.

West says he started the resource to build on what he didn’t always have time to cover in the classroom. “For our pre-service secondary education majors, we only have one credit on using technology in their teaching,” he said. “We knew at one credit, we couldn’t teach them everything they needed to know.” His resource is using the Open Badges Platform created by Mozilla as a digital representation of specific knowledge that can be displayed and taken from place to place. Mozilla badges come with links to information about who is issuing the badge, and sometimes links to evidence of the accomplishments that the badge is advertising.

Badges are drawing a lot of interest in the open education world. You may be familiar with the concept from the Scouts. Unlike degrees or courses, digital badges are smaller, tied to a very specific rubric, set of skills or accomplishments. They are meant to be updated, portable and displayable, for example on someone’s LinkedIn profile. Badges are a way of recognizing lifelong learning in a world that increasingly demands it.

“The dumb thing about classes is, say someone gets a B+. What does that mean?” asks West. “Does that mean they learned a little of all the technologies, or were good at one and bombed at the rest? And which one was it? Because we change the class and update it every year. So the thing we loved about the badges is, it gets down to the nitty gritty: here’s what I can do.”

West is using the badges platform as a way to “flip” his classroom. Students can choose to complete the rubrics for the badges independently, or come to one of the class’s six weekly sections to get extra help and troubleshoot. They can use the badges to personalize their learning, choosing exactly which technologies they want to cover. And badges also seem to provide a little extra incentive to students to do a good job–what some people call “gamification.” “What we’re seeing anecdotally as teachers are better projects,” says West. “And we have people say, Oh, I want to get the badge! We want to do some research on the motivational aspects.”

West is in initial talks with Idaho’s Department of Education to make his resource part of the state’s professional development program. The plan is to add a second and third “level” to the badges. Beyond just demonstrating basic knowledge of the workings of a technology, teachers will have to create strategies for strongly integrating a technology such as iMovie into lesson plans, and finally, show evidence of actual use in the classroom.

What technologies do you find to be essential to use in the classroom? Do badges strike you as a good way to keep educators building their knowledge of new technologies?

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