Thursday, December 6, 2012

Open and “Free?”: Flat World Knowledge

Both the Cape Town Declaration (2007) and the UNESCO guidelines for open access indicate that open education should be “free.”  However, the development of these open courses, textbooks, and research still needs to be funded.  Colleges and universities have traditionally relied on student tuition, endowments, government funds, and grants, so for whom is open education free?  Who pays?  As third-party distributors of open materials continue to grow, they are creating their own business models, often focusing on “fair” or “low cost” options.  

Flat World Knowledge

Flat World has been providing free textbooks to students for five years, and on January 1st, there business will shift from “free” to “fair.”  Their hashtag is even #free2fair.  They started enticing professors to create open textbooks by offering 20% royalties on supplemental materials, which also gives professors the incentive to create and assign their own texts with the hope of making money off students buying study guides and printed versions.  The PDF was free for students, the rest was not.  

Flat World Users in NYS

Flat World moving to a system of access and payment levels in 2013.  As they indicate on their website:

Study Pass, $19.95 (Online book, plus study and note-taking features)
All Access Pass, $34.95 (Study Pass, plus a variety of digital formats)
VIP Pass, $49.95 (All Access Pass, plus a print textbook)
Print textbook, $39.95 (black & white)
Every option is still significantly lower than the average textbook cost, even if the student opts for the printed text.  The idea of “free” to “fair,” however, marks a shift in the open education environment.  Does “open” have to mean “free?”  Is reducing the textbook costs per student per year from $1,200 enough?

There are plenty of reviews of the pros and cons of print text vs. eText, including the fact that students would still need to buy a device (iPad, Kindle, laptop) to read an eTextbook.  Flat World’s model allows for the traditional student, who wants a low-cost print version they can thumb through, and an eStudent, who wants a version for their iPad they can read on the subway.  Flat World gives students options, and in some ways this makes it very open.

For more information and great videos about Flat World see The Textbook Guru

Friday, November 16, 2012

In Coursera News...

It has been a big month for Coursera as Minnesota bans its courses, but not really.  Some reports, from the Chronicle for example, have implied that students can no longer legally take courses from one of the biggest open education providers due to an old law, which forbids students from taking from organizations that haven’t been registered with the state.  This prompted Coursera to change its Terms of Service to exclude Minnesota’s students.  However, as of this morning, I can’t find the “Notice for Minnesota Users.”  (I did find specific language for “California Users” on their consumer rights.  I wonder if other states will create their own codes for MOOC providers.)

Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education has decided not to enforce the law as it has no way to control internet usage.  Slate has reported that Larry Pogemiller, director of the Office of Higher Education, supports Minnesota students’ use of Coursera.  Similar to California’s specific terms of service, the law is only trying to protect consumers, not limit educational opportunities. 

For more information:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Passport for Your Backpack: Purdue’s New Badging System

Purdue University just launched a beta version of their digital badging ecosystem: Passport.  So far, I’ve explored it as a badge earner, and it’s beautiful.  The interface is clean and easy with linked accounts (Facebook, Google, Purdue), an iPad app, and a direct push to the Mozilla Openbadges Backpack.  I appreciate how many organizations are using linked logins now, which decrease the number of user names and passwords to remember.  It’s also helpful to use the same email address as my Backpack.

There are only two open groups right now: “Getting started with Passport” and a course called “Purdue University’s Passport to Intercultural Learning.” Since the course doesn’t apply, I went through the “Getting started” badge challenges.  Both of the badges in this group take you through Passport, explaining the different functions.  Although these badges are automatic if you complete the quizzes, Passport does include uploading and linking functionality.  How badges would be awarded in this case-peer-to-peer vs. top-down-is unclear, but I’m glad to see various assessment types.

Here is a basic chart of how Purdue arranges their ecosystem:

I wish I could explore the badge creation backend called “Badge builder”, but it’s still being tested.  They are requesting early-adopter instructors from other institutions to beta, specifically for courses of about 30 students.

So far, most of my badges are extremely meta; I only have badges about badging.  Though it does accurately represent how much time I devote to all things “open.”  As Passport claims, it “show[s] what you know.”

Also, I can finally post on Twitter through the Backpack!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An OER Model for College-Level Courses: Coursera

Coursera combines the time-length constraints of a traditional course with the expertise of experts, professors, and peers in the open education community.  Through Coursera, sixteen colleges and universities offer non-credit certificate courses in sixteen different categories.  The categories offer some similarities to Saylor’s areas of study (ie. they both are similar to majors a four-year degree would have), but Coursera doesn’t offer course sequence map or degree program suggestions. 

I particularly like the Honor Code that students need to accept before entering every course for the first time.  It’s a nice confirmation that even though it is a free online course, academic integrity still applies. 

Reading deeper into the terms of usage, I found that the course materials aren’t covered under a CC-BY.  Their policy states, “You may not otherwise copy, reproduce, retransmit, distribute, publish, commercially exploit or otherwise transfer any material, nor may you modify or create derivatives works of the material” (Terms of Use).  Every open education organization is defining what it means to be “open” a little differently.  Coursera’s offers free, massive open (enrollment) online courses (MOOCs) for non-credit certificates. 

Although there is an instructor, the peer community is just as important.  If you live in a major city (New York, London, Moscow, San Francisco) you can sign up for a face-to-face Meetups with fellow “Courserians.”  There isn’t anything close enough to me, yet, but the one in NYC has an event in two weeks with 42 people attending.  Those are better numbers than some traditional face-to-face courses.

I’m enrolled for “Gamification” taught by Kevin Werbach from the University of Pennsylvania.  I think I will just be auditing the course for now as I’m already taking a for-credit course at the University at Albany for my PhD, but I may try to finish a few of the quizzes.  It’s also making me wonder if I would want to do an independent study in Gamification and Education for my degree.  The course content is fantastic.

I think that I would complete even more if there wasn’t a time limit.  This is why it’s great that there are so many models; every student has slightly different needs.  I can see where having a time limit would keep me from procrastinating.  For example, when I sign in there is a great timeline that shows how far along I am in the course to remind me I need to get to work.  So I will!

Friday, August 10, 2012

An OER Model for College-Level Courses: Saylor

With many types of online course models (P2P, Coursera, etc.) flooding the internet, it’s interesting to see one that focuses not only on the courses, but the student learning portfolio.  Saylor’s ePortfolio stands out as a way to bridge the gap between open education and traditional education.

There are a lot of great things about Saylor’s system already.  The “Areas of Study” feature allows students to pick a traditional degree major.  In The English Literature Major, students can take a variety of courses that any face-to-face college student would (ie. English Composition, Shakespeare, and Introduction to Literary Theory) and a few electives they might not (ie. Dante, James Joyce, and The Gothic Novel).  Right now there are thirteen different majors (including a General Education major), but students can take whichever courses they wish in whichever order.  Enrolling in a major, however, assigns a sample degree plan for the area of study.  You don’t have to follow it (and I won’t), but it gives a good representation of which courses a traditional institution would require.  I wish I could choose to take something other than French I & II for the humanities requirement.

Students do not earn college credit, but their learning is displayed on a transcript that students can download, print, or/and email.  

The best part about the ePortfolio is the ability to view the student directory-a list of other students on Saylor that can be sorted by major/area of study.  You can click on a student and see a list of the courses they have taken, their activity, resume, work samples, and anything else they’ve included in their profile.  

The range of students is incredible.  A home-schooled teenager, an economics professor in India, a returning Marine in transition, and on and on.  So far, there aren’t very many students using all the features of the ePortfolio, but it has a lot of potential.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Online Learning, OER, and Constructivism

One theory of learning that applies particularly well to online and P2P learning is the constructivist approach. Audrey Gray defines constructivist teaching as “the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction rather than passively receiving information. Learners are the makers of meaning and knowledge.” Rather than a traditional model of the teacher lecturing the content, constructivist classrooms ask students to find which questions they need to ask, which they need answers to, and how to find the knowledge. Instructors then support students’ attempts to find content and develop answers with other students in the class. This is a truly student-centered model as “the teacher facilitates a process of learning in which students are encouraged to be responsible and autonomous” (“Constructivist Teaching Learning”). Students are engaged and involved in the learning process. Similar to the activities in this course, students may be guided by their instructor to a set of queries but are ultimately responsible for the development of content and knowledge through self-discovery and peer-interaction. This is a great chart highlighting the differences between traditional and constructivist classrooms.

In constructivism there is also a big focus on students reaching their own conclusions through critical thinking and discussion. teAchnology, an online journal and resource website, writes, “Instead of having the students relying on someone else's information and accepting it as truth, the students should be exposed to data, primary sources, and the ability to interact with other students so that they can learn from the incorporation of their experiences.” In this type of classroom (online or face-to-face), students search for meaning that is applicable to them, while receiving input from other peers’ perspectives. Instructors push students to confront their assumptions and to use critical thinking skills.

While I support several of the constructivist concepts that research supports: teaching others and immediate use of learning has the highest average of retained information (vs. reading 10%, lecture 5%), I also see the criticism of constructivism and wonder how to find balance. Although there is a positive correlation between constructivist teaching methods and student achievement, it also produces quite a variance. This suggests that some students achieve more than others. If this is true, how will students who want a more traditional education model-not an open source, P2P model-succeed? How will they be able to complete the course if they aren’t willing or do not have the prior knowledge to work effectively with peers? Is being willing to develop knowledge actively and having experience with learning in a constructivist environment an almost unstated, defacto requirement of an OER course?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Can eReaders Help Students with Disabilities?

One way to adapt and accommodate 21st century students with IEPs or 504 could be through the use of supportive technology that links to the online learning environment.  While the research is still largely inconclusive on whether using supportive technology has greater benefits than traditional models (these technologies are fairly new), it is still a possible path to allow for equal outcomes in online environments. 

The article “Schools Test E-Reader Devices with Dyslexic Students” states, “Students can change the size of the text on the screen and the speed of the voice that reads the text aloud.” This may allow students to individualize their content for greater accessibility and understanding. In a study in Taiwan, “Participants regarded [the eReader] as a user-friendly, supportive, and interesting reading environment compared to traditional textbooks.”  They continue that “it was observed that the [eReader] seemed to motivate them better.”

Several e-readers have read aloud features for visually impaired students, but they do lack the voice-navigation for menu options, which creates new challenges.  “The Kindle isn’t the only one inaccessible to blind students […] the Barnes & Noble NOOK reader and the Sony Reader also were ill-equipped to help,” Evan Minsker reports in the article “Colleges Face Obstacles with e-Reader Technology for Disabled Students.”  The iPad is fully assessable, and other eBook readers are searching for ways to become voice-over compliant as federal law requires college and universities to only support fully-adaptive technology and devices (“Inaccessible e-Readers May Run Afoul of the Law, Feds Warn Colleges”).

To assist with federal law compliance, here is a link to the accessibility research of the most popular eReaders, which includes a chart based on various disabilities.

One application that may be of interest is the NOOK Study.  It is a free, downloadable computer program for Mac or Windows from Barnes & Noble.  It is also has fully assessable text-to-speech and keyboard navigation for students who need help.  They even have a chart that describes exactly what features are supported.  Students can also upload whatever materials (as long as they can be converted to PDFs) they want into the NOOK Study, including PowerPoints, notes, and teacher-created content.  This may help instructors if they have specific versions of the content for specific students. The text can then be enlarged, defined, tagged, highlighted, annotated, and printed.  These mark-ups can also be exported, so students could submit them directly to their instructor (NOOKStudy Features).  This could also maintain anonymity, since all notes would go only to faculty. It also integrates into whichever LMS the campus is using, including BlackBoard and Moodle, allowing instructors to link to specific chapters or sections of the readings.

While there are many e-tech solutions and each has its advantages and disadvantages, more exploration is needed to meet individual students' needs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Creative Commons & Copyright

The web often isn’t protected as well against copyright infringement due to the specific limitations of the USA’s copyright laws; it doesn’t protect program code, for example. Also, the traditional copyright is often all or nothing, which prevents copryright owners from allowing certain activities. It can sometimes place restrictions on the creator if they aren’t the owner of the copyright. If you write a textbook using Apple’s Author, you retain the copyright, but if you publish it in the Author native format (iBooks) you can’t distribute it anywhere but the iBookstore per Apple’s restrictions.

Other copyright restrictions include the Classroom Use Exemptions, which teachers often break (one teacher copied 11 pages). There are workshops for teachers to learn about fair usage, and Temple University demonstrated that they were effective. The University of Rhode Island launched an entire website to inform teachers. It also gets tricky because the exemption is for face-to-face teaching, which excludes online classrooms; “even simultaneous distance learning interactions,” according to the University of Minnesota. This article, “Copyright for Higher Education,” states that copyrighted resources are “to be used in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction in the course of face-to-face teaching activities” and that “it is a regular part of the instructional activities and it is directly related to the teaching content.” This means that you cannot use online photos for your PowerPoint unless they are specific to instruction. You cannot use videos (on the last day of class) or music (while students work on their painting) unless they are specific to instruction.

In order to combat these problems, several countries have adopted Creative Commons’ Licenses. They allow for the protection of online work, and the owner can pick the level at which they would like to share their materials. Here is a great video that explains the purpose of the CC. Besides protecting the work, the options of a CC license can “give people the right to share, use, and even build upon the work that you’ve created” (Creative Commons). Educause has a great explanation of CCLs. They conclude that the “considerable effort spent examining copyrights and pursuing permissions can be redirected toward teaching. In addition, eliminating restrictions on the use of intellectual property encourages new thinking among faculty about how to incorporate a wide range of resources in their teaching.” Hobbs and Donnelly’s article “Toward a Pedagogy of Fair Use for Multimedia Composition,” discusses similar themes using research methods.

The CC BY is the most open of the licenses and allow for the most permission, including letting others “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation” (Creative Commons). To see all of the licenses click here. I like the CC BY the best because it allows for the greatest dissemination. The CC BY-NC is good if you are afraid that your work will be sold, but there are many definitions of “Non-Commercial” according to the research. I want others to be able to use materials I create, to build on the wealth of knowledge, and hopefully have a few people edit them to make them better or to suit their individual students’ needs. I also hope using a CC BY license will encourage others to do the same, so that teachers will have an easier time finding and using educational materials for their offline or online classrooms.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Khan Academy’s Badges

Khan Academy just released a badge API for Facebook, allowing users to push their badges to a Facebook display on their timeline. You can also share by email and Tweet. Khan still doesn’t interface with the Mozilla Open Backpack, but, hopefully, it will soon. 

Since I joined Khan, six months ago, it has undergone a few major and minor revisions in its badge earning system. The practice constellation or “knowledge map” has changed icons a few times, and I am no longer sure which mods I’ve completed. 

Instead of the “streak bar” they have moved to leaves and problem cards. 

No matter how the system looks or works, I’m still addicted to earning badges, even if they are for simple things like exponents (all of the practice badges are for math problems/skills). I have earned the Picking Up Steam badge 36 times. I’d like to someday earn a Sun badge, or even a mysterious Black Hole badge. These are very challenging, which is something that speaks to the difficulty of earning some of the badges at Khan. 

I like the patient way the videos explain topics such as Chromosomes, Chromatids, Chromatin, etc. (coming in at just over 18 minutes) and the helpful question and answer sections at the bottom, which sometimes lead to videos like Ape Clarification- that they have no tails. I usually stick to the biology videos and have earned a few such badges, but wish for little quizzes at the end of each video to test if my knowledge is badge worthy. 

I don’t know if I will push my badges to Facebook, but I like the idea that I could. In the meantime, I might share a few on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Open Disruption

By now the word is out about Harvard and MIT’s partnership, edX, which will offer $60 million in free online courses.  Open courses aren’t new; MIT piloted their OpenCourseWare almost ten years ago in 2002.  Other institutions have been offering open courses all along, too.  The Chronicle recently published a comparison chart.  The chart isn’t inclusive of all of the open efforts going on at colleges and universities (particularly those in the UK), but it gives a snapshot of a few different US models.  David Brooks is calling the mass of online and open offerings “The Campus Tsunami.”

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been creating quite the disruption to the traditional classroom, too.  What about the MOOC professor?  Will MOOCs lead to this?

Knewton, which offers personalized math readiness programs for higher education, released this infographic on “The Flipped Classroom.”  The infographic, a trend in learning itself, touches on a few areas of open: mainly the ideas of multiple entry and exit points, collaboration, and digital media.  Although the program isn’t free, it provides an interesting disruption (and business) model for open that goes beyond Khan Academy’s videos.  They also have one on blended learning.

In case you missed it:

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Blend of OERs, Peer Reviews, and Badges, funded in part by the Hewlett Foundation, is taking peer reviewed open textbooks to the next level by offering a Textbook Reviewer badge.  

The extensive badging process (including reviewer training, previous peer-accepted reviews, and an application) will hopefully give credibility and authority to the growing collection of open educational resources and textbooks on the internet.  All reviewers must have “a minimum of one year of recent teaching experience” and an accepted CV/resume. Based on a variety of criteria, submitted textbook reviews are thoroughly checked and edited before they are posted.

Akadémos, a virtual bookstore for colleges and universities, has just launched a beta version of their textbook adoption tool.  Although tied to a for-profit company, Akadémos review and comparison tools include open textbooks.  In this model, both teachers and students can post text and video reviews.  The comparison wheel shows where the textbooks for an area of study have been adopted, the list prices, affordability ratings, and plenty of publisher details.  

To see a complete list of an OER compared to commercial textbooks for Intro Statistics: Click Here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Few Resources for the Discussion of Open Access Journals

Last week Harvard’s faculty advisory council released a memorandum on journal pricing, stating that “Harvard’s annual cost for journals from [publishers] now approaches $3.75M.”  Major publications-The Atlantic, Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Guardian-have covered the announcement and several blog posts have continued the discussion including Cathy Davidson’s thought-provoking piece and Jonathan Rochkind’s librarian viewpoint.

The conversation about open research has been brewing for a while, sparking the Federal Research Public Access Act (H. R. 5037), which requires federally sponsored research to be publicly and freely available.  There are a number of related links listed after the proposed bill.

Several institutions have been mounting a defense against one journal provider in particular-ElsevierThe Chronicle has been covering the Elsevier boycott since it first gained momentum in January.  Even the New York Times and The Guardian have reported the continued impact.

For a little more on related topics:

Digital Rights Management from Joseph Espositio

Distributed Research from George Siemens

Friday, April 20, 2012

Can't Wait to Earn More!

I wish there was an API that let me post the badges I've earned, but alas, it's still in beta.  So, here is a JPEG:

And a link: My Badges

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Motivating the Twenty-First Century Teacher in a Digital Badge Ecosystem

In collaboration with Donna Mahar, Ph.D.


SUNY Empire State College’s Virtual Teacher Incubator in the School for Graduate Studies hopes to implement a series of digital badges during the next year to increase the recognition of quality teacher practices, projects, skills, and experiences.  Traditional assessments of teacher development, .i.e. the Danielson model  (The Danielson Group, 2011), may miss specific teacher successes as it focuses on a closed-rubric of unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished categorical distinctions (Danielson, 2011).  As a non-traditional assessment that focuses on individualized achievements, badges in the Virtual Teacher Incubator create another level of accredited validation of teaching abilities that have been demonstrated inside or outside of the classroom environment.  The digital badging ecosystem not only provides authentic recognition of accomplishments for performance evaluations and professional development, but also creates a motivating learning community of shared and evaluated teaching practices across New York State.

"A commitment to professional learning is important, not because teaching is of poor quality and must be "fixed," but rather because teaching is so hard that we can always improved it.  No matter how good a lesson is, we can always make it better.  Just as in other professions, every teacher has the responsibility to be involved in a career-long quest to improve practice." (Danielson, 2011)

What is Badging in the Virtual Teacher Incubator?

Badges in the Virtual Teacher Incubator (VTI) are a type of open assessment that strive to capture life-long learning, educational experiences, and skill development.  Badges are designed to keep the philosophies of open education and assessment in mind: educational practices, assets, and resources that are accessible, student-centered, shared, remixable, and innovative (Butcher, 2011, pp. 6-7).   Thus, badges in the Virtual Teacher Incubator are focused on the individual needs of novice, mentee teachers and experienced, veteran teachers.   Teachers may apply or be recommended for badges across skill levels (basic to mastery) and learning modalities (informal to formal learning environments).  A teacher may create a website that uses expert-level, error-free JavaScript for her art class assignments and group critiques and earn a badge for 21st Century Skills as recommended by peers who understand both the complexity of building a website and the quality of teaching involved (for example see Javascript Expert Badge Challenge, 2011).  This teacher may have learned these JavaScript skills informally through online tutorials, an open eTextbook, or a massive-open-online course or formally through a community or technical college, but can still receive recognition for life-long learning.  Her district may also not have the staff accessible to properly assess her website design and teaching practices, which the badge system in the VTI creates through a community of teachers and crowd-sourcing.  Teachers interested in creating their own websites or developing their 21st Century Skills will also be able to benefit from the digital badge ecosystem, since badges are shared and linked directly to the assessed project(s) as evidence.  If a novice teacher hopes to create a website using JavaScript for their World War I unit, they will be able to clearly see the skills, experiences, and knowledge needed to create a website and remix the materials for their own purposes by viewing an experienced teacher’s badge (Halavais, 2010).
The community of novice and veteran teachers, professionals in the field, graduate faculty, and badging experts encourages multiple entry points for badge assessment.  Instead of the static top-down model often employed by universities, teachers in the VTI can receive badge recommendation from a variety of authentic sources, which will increase motivation and encourage participation (Huling & Resta, 2001).  Antin and Churchill (2011) argue that badges are a way of motivating participants through “goal setting, instruction, reputation, status/affirmation, and group identification” (p. 1); factors which coincide with the methods of the VTI.  Besides recognizing skills, experiences, and knowledge that already exists, badges in the VTI promote life-long learning through a social community of teaching professionals.
Those participants assessing other teachers will also benefit from the process; “[a]s mentor teachers assist their protégées in improving their teaching, they also improve their own professional competency” (Huling & Resta, 2001, p. 2).   Novice teachers can assess the skills of their mentors, allowing immediate feedback on response time, student support skills, and clarity and knowledge of content area (Danielson, 2011).  Not only will this serve to motivate and refine the practices of veteran teachers, but also give novice teachers a voice in their professional development and decrease the one of the most common reasons new teachers leave-a lack of support and voice- as published by the National Education Association after surveying 7,000 teachers (Kopkowski, 2008).  Badges provide individualized assessments that go beyond the skills, experiences, and knowledge gained in traditional, static, brick-and-mortar teaching, to include life-long, informal education for and across a whole community of learners (Davidson, Unpacking Badges for Lifelong Learning, 2011).

How is Badging Different from Prior Learning Assessment?

Although prior learning assessment (PLA)-awarding college-credit to demonstrated college-level learning-does overlap with some of the ideals of badging, there are some stark differences particularly in what can be assessed or evaluated and who can do it.   PLA, mostly done at the undergraduate level, often requires students to capture their knowledge of a particular subject in a series of narrative essays and interview with an expert in the field.  Badges do not require a particular level of mastery, demonstrated learning, nor any association with college credit.  VTI participants can be recommended for badges by mentees, mentors, faculty, or badge moderators; it is not just a top-down model or a student-initiated model.   Badging does not attempt to replace graded courses, prior learning assessment, or traditional classrooms.  Each of these systems has a well-established place in education, and each performs an important role in evaluating and promoting learning.  Badging does, however, attempt to capture and motivate the intellectual/skill development, community collaboration, and experiences that are not currently being assessed inside or outside college walls (Davidson, Why Badges Work Better than Grades, 2011).  Davidson, a founding member of HASTAC, explains, “Why do badges work better than grades? Obviously they don't in all situations. […] Badges are simply another way, a more flexible way, of certifying a range of skills that our machine-age multiple choice mode of testing doesn't fully comprehend but that are crucial to the ways we live, work, and learn” (Davidson, Why Badges Work Better than Grades, 2011). Similarly, badges can certify that a novice English teacher has created a dynamic unit plan on the Romantics, shared it as an open source, edited it according to feedback from other English teachers across the state, and introduced it to her students using a Wiki; grades and PLA cannot fully evaluate all of those discreet practices in the same way, especially for teachers who are not enrolled in or have completed college or graduate school.

How are Badges Issued and Displayed?

Since badges do not have to be associated with a college or university, and therefore, can represent achievements outside of the classroom, badge earners in the VTI can earn and display their badges in a variety of ways beyond a degree or transcript.  The VTI badging ecosystem is designed to allow for multiple entry points-any participant can recommend any other for a badge.  This system lets a mentee teacher both identify the support and communication skills of a mentor teacher and distinguish a first-year teacher in the Rochester who has successfully completed several classroom management strategies.  A mentor teacher and badge moderator can recommend another mentor for a Moderator badge for an expert Second Life webinar on the advantages of badging, while recommending a mentee teacher for an introductory Virtual Learning Environment badge for attending.  In this system, participants in the VTI also learn about the badging process, which they can incorporate in their classrooms.  Badge moderators will award badges based on these recommendations and the badge criteria.
After a participant is recommended for and awarded a badge by the VTI badge moderators, they will have the option of pushing the badge to a personal or school website, digital resume, social networking site, or organization, using Mozilla’s digital badge backpack (Mozilla, 2012).  A middle school teacher may want to display an adolescent literacy badge on her school’s website during Banned Book Week or on a digital resume to show that she has attended an American Library Association conference specifically addressing how to teach The Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men.  This also allows earners to group badges together into a meaningful collection before they are displayed or only display a particular badge or group of badges to specific individuals.  Teachers can group all of their badges applicable to the Living Environment curriculum together or badges related to classroom management and group work during lab assignments.  The VTI will not release badges to the public without the earners permission in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and instead, let badge earners decide how and where their badges will be displayed.   The possibilities for earning, recommending, and displaying badges are limitless as participants in the VTI can create and use digital badges that fit their individual needs while still exemplifying the high standards at SUNY Empire State College.

What Do Badges Look Like?

                Participants in the VTI will be able to earn a variety of different badges including major badges, minor badges, and self-created badges.  For example, the major Teacher Toolbox badge could consist of three or more minor component badges that demonstrate specific skills needed in the classroom such as Theory & Research, Content Knowledge, and Classroom Management.  While some major badges will have specific, pre-designed standards, badge earners can approach them in a myriad of ways or create self-designed badges that focus on their individual abilities and experiences.  To earn the Moderator major badge, which allows VTI participants to award badges to others and self-perpetuates the badging ecosystem, participants must have first earned the Mentor badge, but may demonstrate their capacity to assess, communicate, and support mentees and mentors differently.  A veteran teacher who wants to earn the Mentor badge may create an online, support network of teachers in urban areas, earning him a self-designed Urban Issues badge.  Another teacher may earn the Mentor badge by peer recommendation after advising a mentee through a complicated series of ePortfolio rubrics.  These experiences may also be indicative of 21st century skills, another possible major badge and a factor in the core curriculum standards in New York State schools.  These experiences with badging and the skills demonstrated in these component badges may lead to the Moderator badge, but there are multiple entry points to complete it.  Badging in the VTI hopes to capture the diverse ways that teacher learn, demonstrate, and experience achievement.

Conclusion & Future Uses

The potential of badging in the VTI may translate to other educational practices and projects within SUNY Empire State College.  Although badges in the VTI can represent more than prior knowledge, they may lead to the development of a prior learning assessment request.  Using the skills and digital work acquired during the badging process, students at SUNY Empire State College may further develop their knowledge of a particular topic into robust learning narratives and dynamic evaluator interviews.  The development of the digital badge ecosystem in the VTI may also lead to an authentic way to assess quality writing, editing, and remixing skills in an open educational resource (OER) repository.  Following the badge model in the VTI, OER contributors would be able to recommend each other for badges based on a variety of skills and content quality.  Adding to the badge ecosystem will promote the badges awareness and further motivate participation in the VTI.  As teachers continue to require ongoing professional growth and development through demonstrable skills, knowledge, and practices, the digital badging ecosystem in the VTI allows for assessment and accreditation of their work by peers, veteran teachers, graduate faculty, and badge experts from across New York State.  Through badging teachers can meet the individualized needs of their school districts, grade-level, or education by designing, earning, and displaying badges in a variety of ways.


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Motivating the Twenty-First Century Teacher in a Digital Badge Ecosystem by Amy McQuigge is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.