Why Digital Badges?
Digital Badges are gaining traction in the professional development arena and have become the standard for measuring individualized PD and rewarding teachers and staff members for going above and beyond commonly held standards for personal and professional learning and advancement. The TRIADvances badge system rewards teachers for getting out of their comfort zones and will hopefully inspire them to challenge their students to do the same.
According to Dr. Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Digital Badges provide 5 specific features that differ from traditional professional development systems:
“Badging requires demonstrating understanding and implementation of a target content or skill.”
At Triad, as is the case with most schools, our teachers have varying needs and desires for implementing new strategies and integrating technology in their classrooms. The TRIADvances Badging system is driven by the Danielson Evaluation Framework and the SAMR Model of technology integration. To earn a badge, teachers must show proficiency in a particular skill while improving student engagement through the use of a new piece of technology, or through repurposing technology with which they are already comfortable.
“Badging provides recognition and motivation.”
Gamification of professional development is gaining interest in the ed tech community and for good reason. Current professional advancement is often only recognized through college courses or district-sponsored opportunities. But badging allows and encourages teachers to find useful tools or skills that fit their needs, and it provides a platform on which they can be recognized for their accomplishments.
“Badging allows for knowledge circulation among teachers.”
Once teachers are recognized for the work that they have done, the TRIADvances PD system then provides a place for them to share what they’ve done with other teachers in their district and beyond. At the district level, teachers join professional learning communities where they share their successes and struggles and get help or inspiration for their next steps on the journey. They also are encouraged to join professional communities worldwide through the use of social media like Twitter and Instagram to connect with other like-minded educators looking for creative ideas and exciting new tools.
“Badging can be tracked and assessed.”
By using a badging system like ours allows administration and instructional coaches to easily keep track of the work the teachers are pouring into their development and reward them accordingly. The TRIADvances program couples the recognition of the badges with state-required PD hours and stipends that reflect the level of advancement. It’s a win-win for everybody!
“Badging is a scalable enterprise.”
The five TRIADvances badges are earned from level 1 to level 3 following the SAMR model for technology integration. This allows teachers who are new to technology to start at a level with which they are comfortable, and it allows tech-savvy teachers to really test the limits of their abilities and challenge their students to a higher level of critical thinking and creativity.
To read Dr. Grier’s article on the Digital Badging system implemented at HISD, click HERE.
The TRIADvances Badge System involves 5 primary badges, four of which are directly aligned to a domain in the Danielson Framework. The fifth is an individually driven badge that allows teachers to earn app- or tool-specific credentials. Teachers can earn all three levels of each badge throughout a two-year time span, but in order to move from one level to the next within each badge, they must prove that they are moving up the SAMR Model, from augmentation to modification and finally to redefinition. The levels are explained in more detail here.
The Tactician Badge
The Tactician Badge is based on Domain 1 of the Danielson Framework focusing on planning and preparation. To earn a Tactician Badge, teachers must prove that they have used technology to augment, modify, or redefine one of the six components within Danielson Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
The Reflector Badge
The Reflector Badge is based on Domain 4 of the Danielson Framework focusing on professional responsibilities. To earn a Reflector Badge, teachers must prove that they have used technology to augment, modify, or redefine one of the six components within Danielson Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities.
The Instructor Badge
The Instructor Badge is based on Domain 3 of the Danielson Framework focusing on classroom instruction. To earn an Instructor Badge, teachers must prove that they have used technology to augment, modify, or redefine one of the five components within Danielson Domain 3: Classroom Instruction.
The Architect Badge
The Architect Badge is based on Domain 2 of the Danielson Framework focusing on the classroom environment To earn an Architect Badge, teachers must prove that they have used technology to augment, modify, or redefine one of the five components within Danielson Domain 2: Classroom Environment.
The Developer Badge
The Developer Badge is where the true individualization comes into play. To earn this badge, teachers choose a tool or skill that fits their needs but may not necessarily fit one of the other four badge areas of focus. They then prove that they have mastered the use of this specific technology and have implemented it in their classroom environment.
An Explanation of the Levels
Each badge has three levels that teachers can earn, though they must be earned in order. Each level coincides with the top three levels of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model of Technology Integration. Starting at the bottom is the Substitution level where teachers simply substitute technology with no fundamental change in the lesson or skills learned. We have to assume that this level is being achieved on a daily basis, so we’ve ignored this aspect of the model and are dealing only with the top three. Here are all three levels with a little explanation.
Level 1: Augmentation
According to Dr. Puentedura, augmentation happens when technology is substituted within a lesson, and there is some improvement in the lesson. For example, students may have used a map to study the geography of an area in the past. To show augmentation, a geography teacher could use Google Maps to have students study images and street views of significant locations. The use of technology has dramatically improved the lesson and would satisfy the Level 1 requirements for a particular badge. Augmentation is what we consider the first step in purposefully integrating technology in the classroom.
Level 2: Modification
The second level for each badge is focused on modification. This occurs when the technology used in the class is not a substitute for a tool used in the past. Instead, the technology has allowed the lesson or task to be dramatically redesigned. In the same lesson mentioned above, students might now use Google Maps and a screencast extension like Nimbus to video their own tour through a specific place incorporating their own research through the presentation which they then share with their classmates. The key to modification is that the lesson and the task could not be completed without the use of the technology and should involve online collaboration/sharing/feedback. Clearly, earning Level 2 in a badge will require more work and creativity, but the end result will be a dramatically improved lesson with a wide variety of skills learned and exercised.
Level 3: Redefinition
The third and final level for each badge requires the redefinition of the lesson. In this final step, teachers use technology take the task to places it never could have gone before. Now the lesson is a completely new experience that could never have happened without the technology. To continue our example above, to earn Level 3 for a particular badge, students can share their video tours through YouTube or SchoolTube and communicate with a class of students who live in the area of study through Skype or Google Hangouts in order to get feedback on the quality of their presentation and the information they included. Becoming a Level 3 badge earner comes with recognition and honors because it requires a great deal of hard work and creativity on the teacher’s part, and its results can redefine the way students approach that topic. With redefinition, the world becomes much closer for students, and when their audience is not just the teacher, their intrinsic desire to get things right and answer their own questions increases dramatically.