Saturday, September 24, 2011

Badges for Students and Teachers

What a wild month this has been for the Bandwagon of Education!  Big players in what I call "covert curriculum development" are Flipping, Bullying, Assessing Formatively, and now Badging.

As I read the criteria for the Mozilla Open Badges project, some things occur to me.
  1. This is not a competition that the small-time, trench-living teacher can participate in. It is going to be another top-down project leading to an "improvement" in education.  
  2. By embedding technology in classrooms, many teachers are already "badging" students by publishing digital products.
  3. Models already exist - Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come to mind, as do all of those Resume and college essay models that ask students to "make a case for doing and excellence."  My little Beatrice gets badges on a chart when she uses the potty.  Grades are badges. This is an old idea.
  4. There is an ulterior motive for making "badge activities" mostly digital.  How many students will this leave out?
  5. Who is asking Why do we need this?
No one is likely to request my input, which is too bad. Here is my opinion: If the DOE of Maine entered this competition, a "win" would ramp up the MLTI program and support Governor LePage's educational platform.  A "lose" would mean that some needed Essential Questions had at least been asked.

If anyone were to ask me, I would suggest the following:
  • Attach badges to the Common Core standards too - what a great incentive to progress through them!  If that statement jars you, there is a problem here.
  • If badges are going to useful to students and adults in the practical world, everyone must know what they mean and how to get them.  1 certification method,  1 form, 1 image set, 1 descriptor set - KISS and keep it concrete.
  • Criteria for a badge must fit on an iPad screen without scrolling.
  • Few badges, but  limitless stars that indicate additional time and achievement within the badge category.
  • Focus on Creativity, Problem-solving, and Accreditation - In other words, not on pursuing learning or opportunities only, but on demonstration of original, completed outcomes.
  • Mini-badges should be available so that elementary and middle school students can practice and develop skills necessary to achieve the permanent badges - these should also be standardized, but the criteria and products would not be nearly as rigorous - this is something for kids and teachers to be directly involved in (local assessments)
  • Communication standards for students seeking badges should be high.
  • Only a few earned badges each year?  OK!  Make it tough.
  • Someone has to budget for the judges.
  • Students should be involved in the judging.
Here are some ideas for student or teacher Badges.  They cover just about everything important that happens outside of school:
  • Original publication - creative work (print, film, other media)
  • Original publication - informational work (print, film, other media)
  • Original media product in category:  game, media-text, app, computer program solution, industrial design, product line
  • Action Project addressing social concern or problem - demonstration of student's role as change agent
  • Job-skill Accreditation - like apprenticeship - this is a badge that Maine should develop with the support and input (key) of small industry: beauty, health, building, outdoor/environmental, trades, design/home art, farming, mechanical (cars, engines, bikes...), cooking, retail...
  • Volunteerism - deep involvement over 4 or more years, evidence of "making a difference"
We don't need Badges to celebrate what students and teachers are doing outside of the curriculum.  We don't need to purchase another structure and pay another person to create/train/support.  We don't need more "I can post it myself!" opportunities for students. 

Schools and states do need to change the paradigm of the 8-3 classroom.  This is about when and how learning happens, not about competition and stamps.  Why is it taking Mozilla to open the door to this thinking?  What are we thinking?

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