Digital Badges: credentialing the things that make us fully human

Two weeks ago, I attended the Digital Badge Summit in Denver, CO.

I’ve been somewhat hesitant to jump into digital badges world (despite knowing the digital badge ninja, @senorg) because I feared that digital badges were just one more way to categorize and label kids, another carrot to dangle in the classroom. I must admit, that some of this hesitation comes from experience with digital badges within EPIC Kids books, an app we love at Anastasis.

Our students (and teachers) have long been fans of EPIC! because it brings us so many books and expands our classroom libraries and feeds our students desire to read. Toward the end of the school year, EPIC added digital badges. Each time a student reads a book, they earn a badge within EPIC. Pretty quickly our students stopped actually reading the books they had so loved just weeks before. They discovered that if they stayed on each page for a few seconds before flipping, they could get through books really quickly (without actually reading them) and still earn a badge. As educators, we watched our student’s love for reading dissipate in favor of a digital badge. We watched kids go from discussing the books they read, to competing to see who had the most badges. You can read about the full break down on @michellek107‘s blog here.

You can see why it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the Digital Badge Summit, but knowing @senorg as I do, I knew there would be more to digital badging. The Summit was led by Aurora Public Schools who has been on the front end of the digital badge movement. I’m so impressed with the way they have thought about, and are rolling out badging. It is not a replacement for assessment. The badges are not content specific, or task specific. Instead, the APS badges are being used to credential preschool-12th grade students in 21st Century Skills. APS has also partnered with more than 20 Endorsers who are facilitating a currency wherein students who earn endorsed badges, can use them in order to unlock opportunities with employers. Students can earn badges in any order and through a variety of disciplines, making them very customizable to each student’s individual needs, strengths, and experience.

Digital Badges: an autobiography of learning

APS issues badges using Credly. Credly is an end-to-end credential and badge management system. It seamlessly integrates into social media and Open Badge compliance and has an Open Credit API. Badges are fully customizable, it is easy to issue badges to recipients, includes identity verification (to ensure credibility and authenticity), and allows students to share achievements on a variety of sites.

Perhaps my favorite moment of Digital Badge Summit was the bold declaration that digital badges could be a great equalizer in education. @npinkard talked about learning deserts and how digital badging can help us better leverage a youth ecosystem to meet students where they are at (school, community, home, after school, etc.) Students move across multiple learning spaces constantly. These are spaces defined by where learning happens, not a school address. People put their time into learning things that have social capital. Digital badges can be a tool for social and economic justice. They can be a door opener to a successful future.

An APS student spoke toward this reality as he described his own education. As a student with learning needs, he often received a report card that revealed all of the places that he was failing within his education. It revealed every struggle and none of his brilliance. When APS began issuing badges, this student, for the first time, was able to capture and share his brilliance. While he may not be good at the school game, it did not mean that he didn’t have strengths, places where he truly shined. The badges gave this student a way to capture and celebrate what he was good at and share that with others. Now, he is able to take his accomplishments and share with future universities or employers all of the things that make him a standout candidate even if his grades don’t necessarily reflect that. Digital badging can give students a language to promote their skills and experience to future employees or schooling. Digital badges can also be used to facilitate meaningful relationships between students and mentors, they can be used to help guide and motivate students.

A distinction was made between standards (expecting a high-quality) and standardization (repetition, everyone being a cog in the system). As @dajbelshaw said, “I don’t go to two separate Michelin Star restaurants expecting the same dish, but I do expect the same high quality.” This is an important distinction, and one I don’t think we make enough in education. It is also the difference between prescriptive pathways and descriptive pathways. Badges shouldn’t be prescriptive, they should be descriptive of what a student has done. A learning autobiography of what has been accomplished rather than the charted path. “Keep badges weird. Don’t replicate the system we have now with ever more high stake credentials.”-@dajbelshaw

We also heard about how badges can make an e-portfolio more interactive, when badges can be linked directly to learning evidence, students have a powerful map of their learning that is searchable and shareable. Anastasis uses e-portfolios together with our assessment system to help students remember and reflect on their learning journey. The badges can act as a bread-crumb-trail of sorts so that students can go back through and reflect on where they started and all the steps along the way that led to accomplishments. Like growing older, learning often happens as such a pace, that you don’t always know it happened until you look back at pictures. It is only through reflection that you realized that you’ve changed at all. Students need a way to celebrate their small and big wins alike. Badges can help students see the richness of skills that have been learned that isn’t easily captured otherwise.

Several Colorado organizations shared about the ways that they are using digital badging to help students capture learning including the Denver Public Library, Colorado History Museum, and Colorado volunteers. The programs are impressive to be sure, but one of the things that became apparent is that there needs to be a common language in the Digital Badge space. Currently those who are issuing badges are often doing so within their own ecosystem. There isn’t a common ‘currency’ where badges are created and shared. In order for them to reach their full potential, badges need to be more universally shared and accepted so that they exist in a common space. The struggle here is in, “who defines knowledge and gives it a value?”- Paulo Frier This is an important consideration! Badges shouldn’t be controlled by one organization, but rather open, transferable, stackable, and evidence based. Every learner should be able to control their identity and therefore their badges.

“Badging can help credential all things that make us fully human.” @dajbelshaw

Reports and certificates show a very narrow view of what it means to be human. Digital badges open up a wider ability to help us describe who we are and what makes each of us unique. That badges can help us speak toward what makes us more fully human is the reason I left the Digital Badge Summit hopeful. Hopeful that rather than diluting learning with another “carrot” dangled, that digital badges can be a way for students to share their uniqueness, what makes their identity different from anyone else. Used properly, badges can be used to reveal and celebrate our individual humanity. Thanks @senorg and APS for putting on a truly spectacular summit!

Gooru: Fantastic new education search engine

What it is:  Gooru is a education search engine for learning that helps teachers find standards aligned content and study guides.  5th-12th grade math and science topics are covered and include resources like digital textbooks, animations and instructor videos.  Gooru provides a place to connect with your worldwide personal learning network to share and ask questions.  Gooru is not just for teachers, students can use the study guides and self assessments to guide learning.  Based on the topics studied and the performance on self-assessments, Gooru begins to suggest resources and study guides to help gain mastery.

Gooru takes advantage of OER (Open Educational Resources) so that all content delivered can be accessed free of charge.

You can explore Gooru through resources, collections, quizzes, a standards library or a search engine.

How to integrate Gooru into the classroom: Gooru is a great step toward helping you personalize the learning experience for your students.  Use Gooru to find resources for your classroom and for individual students.  Invite students to create their own logins so that they can setup Gooru to be tailored to their specific needs.  As they study and take quizzes, Gooru gets “smarter” and begins to recommend content for them.

Gooru is ideal in a 1 to 1 classroom set up.  If you don’t have 1 to 1 access, much of the content can be shared using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Because of the nature of Gooru, it could be a great addition to the flipped classroom model.

Tips:  Gooru is currently in beta, sign up to help them test it out and make it better today!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gooru  in  your classroom!

Min.us: Instant document sharing


What it is: Do you ever find yourself wanting to share a file quickly and easily without relying on email to deliver it?  You do? I thought so.  Min.us is a great way to share files quickly and easily, it even provides file sharing options between devices!  Students and teachers of all ages can use Min.us to share files.  Just drag the file onto the screen and click “Start Sharing”.  It could not be easier.  Choose to share publicly or privately.  Share using the unique URL that is generated.  Easy peasy.  No need for students to sign in.  A built-in timeline shows all of the files that have been shared.  Min.us has a desktop application that can be downloaded and placed in the task bar for sharing without opening a browser.  Min.us has apps for sharing on mobile devices including the iPhone, Android, and Windows 7 with more mobile options coming.

How to integrate Min.us into the classroom: Min.us is an easy way to share documents with your students, colleagues and parents of children in your classroom.  Drag and drop a document and share the link for fast, easy sharing.  Include permission slips, class documents and make-up work as Min.us links in a weekly newsletter for easy access to EXACTLY the document that each family needs.  No more sending emails full of attachments that get filtered or bounced back!  Quickly share documents between teacher and student computers.  Students can use Min.us to turn in work, teachers can use it to share documents quickly with classroom computers or share documents immediately with a computer lab full of computers.

Tips: Login to follow your documents (how many downloads, a feed of documents you have subscribed to and a full history of all of your documents).

Please leave a comment and share how you are using  Min.us in your classroom!

HippoCampus

logo

What it is: HippoCampus is a website with incredible vision.  The goal is to provide high-quality multimedia content on general subjects to high school and college students free of charge.  Subjects on HippoCampus include algebra, American government, biology, calculus, environmental science, physics, psychology, religions, statistics, and US history.  Each of the subject has a large library of multimedia content from students to learn from.  HippoCampus was designed as part of the Open Education Resources, a worldwide effort to make education available equitably to everyone.  Each lesson includes multimedia lessons, the text of the lesson, and related resources.  I believe the HippoCampus model will be the textbook of the future.  Students are able to learn at their own pace, pausing, reviewing, and receiving instruction on demand.

How to integrate Hippo Campus into the classroom: HippoCampus has an incredible library of content for teaching and learning.  Use the multimedia lessons in place of traditional textbooks or as a supplement to your current curriculum. Teachers can build their own HippoCampus homepage where students can access specific lessons targeted for them.  You can even create custom announcements to be displayed to students.   Although HippoCampus was designed with high school and college students in mind, many of the multimedia presentations could be used to teach middle school students as well.

Tips: HippoCampus uses Adobe Flash and QuickTime.  Make sure that you have each on your computers before using HippoCampus.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using HippoCampus in your classroom.

School Tool

What it is: School Tool is a collection of free administrative software for schools.  This is a student information system that includes demographics, gradebook, attendance, calendaring and reporting for primary and secondary schools.  It also provides a framework for building customized applications and configurations to meet the needs of your school.

How to integrate School Tool into the classroom:  School Tool is an excellent alternative to expensive information systems.  This open source solution is a great way to save some educational technology dollars to spend on additional hardware or infrastructure.  If your school is looking at implementing a new comprehensive information system, definitely take a look at School Tool.  

 

Tips:  School Tool has documentation to help with installation and setup, an administrators handbook, a developers handbook, and a glossary of usage.  These documents should have you up and running in no time!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using School Tool in your classroom.

Linux Comics

 

What it is:   The Linux open source operating system is gaining popularity in schools because of the enormous savings that open source can offer.  Ubuntu is the most popular Linux operating system in schools, learn more about it here.   Hackett and Bankwell Worldwide have created two comic books that are designed to teach readers about Linux.  There are two free e-book downloads that take the reader on a journey with the iconic Linux penguin.  The first e-book focuses specifically on Ubuntu.

How to integrate Linux Comics into the classroom:   These comics are an outstanding resource to learn about Linux and the Linux operating system Ubuntu.  I learned a lot myself reading through these!  Use these comics to teach students, or read though them yourself to get a better understanding of Linux.  Whether you use Linux at your school or not, it is important to expose students to the different operating systems available.  

 

Tips:  If you want a print copy of the Linux Comics, they can be purchased from the Hackett and Bankwell website as well.

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Linux Comics  in your classroom.

Free Reading

 

What it is:    Not all technology resources require students on a computer, some technology resources are specifically for you, the teacher, to enhance curriculum or for professional development.  Free Reading is one such site.  This incredible open source instructional program helps you teach early literacy.   Free Reading provides a 40 week scope and sequence of phonemic awareness and phonics activities.  The goals of Free Reading are to help you teach kids to read, to make quality research-based instruction for reading free, and to provide a community of educators with a common goal of reading intervention.  Free Reading is really, truly free… downloads, prints, teaching materials are all completely free!

 

How to integrate Free Reading into the classroom:    Free Reading is ideal for the reading intervention classroom, or for small guided reading groups.  The program is an excellent reading program for kindergarten through third grade and for pullout programs for struggling readers.  Even if you have a reading program in place, check out Free Reading.  You will find excellent tools and materials that can be integrated into the current curriculum.

 

Tips:   Free Reading has some great live sessions, be sure to check one out! (It is, of course, free!)

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Free Reading in your classroom.

Zotero

 

What it is:   Gosh, some days I really wish for a time machine where I could go back to school armed with the tools that students have access to now.  I totally would have ruled the school!  Zotero is one of the tools I would bring back with me.  Zotero is a Firefox (Internet web browser) extension that helps students collect, cite, and manage their Internet research right from the web browser itself.  No hopping back and forth between websites.  Zotero automatically captures all citing information from the website, stores pdfs, images, and whole webpages, has flexible note taking options, has an easy to search library, saves and records in multiple languages, has integration with Microsoft Word and Open Office, and best of all…free!  Man our students are lucky!

 

How to integrate Zotero into the classroom:  Download the Zotero extension for every computer in your school (at the very least make sure this is on the library and classroom computers.)  Teach your students how to use Zotero as they are researching and teach them how to download Zotero to their home computers.  Don’t bend on your citation requirements…they have no more excuses! 🙂

 

Tips: If you don’t currently use Firefox as a web browser, I highly recommend its download.  I have been more than happy with Firefox, it meets all of my needs and requirements for a good browser and once again…free!

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Zotero in your classroom.

Updated Websites

Over the past week I have been re-vamping my websites.  Tenkely.org is a site that I created for my students to use.  I have pages for first through fifth grade with links to all of the sites that we use in class throughout the year.  I also have a page for parents about how my classroom runs and tips for keeping kids safe online.   The teacher site for tenkely.org  has also been completely re-done.  I added TONS of new goodies for teachers.  Obviously, I created these sites with my students and colleagues in mind but I hope that they are a source of inspiration for you too!  I am already keeping tally of links that aren’t working right so if you run across any, leave a comment so I can get them fixed up.

Disk Inventory X


What it is: Summer is approaching and things are winding down on the school front. I don’t know about you but things are also slowing down on the computer front toward the end of the school year too. I always know when summer is approaching because my machine starts to run slower. I have downloaded hundreds of open source applications to try, pictures, fonts, and videos to my machine and I have created HUGE files of tutorials, videos, and lessons for my students. Normally I spend days sorting through all of the folders trying to find the culprits of my slow down and save them to disk or trash them all together. This week I learned about an awesome tool to help me speed things up from iJustine over at Tasty Blog Snack. Disk Inventory X is a disk usage utility for Mac OS X (sorry PC users, I am sure something similar exists) It shows the sizes of files and folders in “treemaps” (a graphical representation). Disk Inventory X helps solve the mystery of where all of your disk space has gone. Disk Inventory X gives detailed search results and you can delete files directly using the program…it updates live so you can see your disk space free up right before your eyes. The cost of this awesome little goody? Absolutely free!

How to integrate Disk Inventory X into the classroom:
Take a little time to free up your computer before the end of the school year. Clean your computers up for a fresh start in August. If you don’t have tech support that re-images your classroom computers, go ahead and run Disk Inventory X on them too. You are going to feel so speedy!

Tips: As a side note, if you are working to get your girls interested in technology introduce them to iJustine…she will have them amped on technology in no time! 🙂

Leave a comment and share how many Gigs you were able to free up with Disk Inventory X.