teachertechtroubleshooting.FlickrRachelWente-Chaney

Digital badges are growing up. Long known as a symbol of accomplishment for gamers on Playstation, XBOX, and Foursquare mayors, these virtual merit awards now pop up on resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Coderbits, a professional portfolio site for software designers and developers, uses digital badges to showcase candidate’s accomplishments. Carnegie Mellon University awards digital badges to students taking certain online robotics and computer science courses. The university uses badges to recognize specific skills, such as making the robot move, as well as an overarching badge for robot programming.

Soon, Digital Promise will offer micro-credentials, which teachers can display as digital badges to demonstrate expertise to potential employers, build identity and reputation within learning communities, and create pathways for continued learning and leadership roles.

Digital badges have the potential to change how we look at credentials, Kevin Carney, director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation, wrote in a 2012 New York Times article.

“Degrees and certificates often do a poor job of communicating detailed information about graduates,” Carey wrote. “A badge, on the other hand, is supposed to indicate specific knowledge and skills.”

In order for digital badges to make the leap from recreational to professional, they must have rigor. Employers and others who might recognize the digital badge need to know the credential is a legitimate representation of skills.

Digital Promise is developing a framework to ensure micro-credentials for educators are rigorous and will ultimately have market worth within schools, districts, and beyond. Reputable sponsors and thorough assessments can lend rigor to the process.

Currently, we see this framework as including four main components:

  1. Focus on a key skill of effective teaching: There is no one-size-fits-all formula for good teaching. There are, however, specific skills educators can acquire and refine to grow in their practice and teaching context.Each micro-credential will focus on one such skill and the key components needed to demonstrate this skill. For example, the skill might be teaching productive teamwork and the key component used to teach this might be student-created team agreements.
  2. Research-backed rationale: There are an endless number of teaching practices. Micro-credentials will focus on those validated as most effective through published research and case studies.
  3. Evidence to demonstrate skills: To earn a micro-credential, teachers will demonstrate their competence by providing multiple examples of their work, as well as their students’ work. These examples could include classroom videos, unit plans, samples of student work, assessment rubrics, and reflections on the activity by the student or teacher.
  4. Assessment and review: Each micro-credential will be reviewed and evaluated by an advisory panel to ensure it is a reliable articulation of a specific skill. Using a single rubric for a given micro-credential will ensure a common approach for reviewers and provide transparency for teachers striving to earn a micro-credential.

The digital badging landscape is rapidly evolving, and this framework will evolve along with it. What will not waver is our commitment to develop a rigorous, replicable framework to develop, evaluate, and issue micro-credentials.


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