Digital badges are a powerful way to document and share professional learning and collaboration experiences. Connected Educator Month this year provides educators with the opportunity to earn badges. This document answers frequently asked questions about why and how you can take advantage of that opportunity. (For a general introduction to digital badges, we recommend starting with the Mozilla Open Badges project’s Badges 101 Quiz.)
- Why should I bother earning badges?
- What kinds of badges can I earn?
- How do I earn a badge?
- How do I share the badges I’ve earned with others?
- Why should I encourage educators in my state or district to earn badges?
Why should I bother earning badges?
Educators are busy, and not everyone gets excited about earning badges for their own sake. Here are a couple of reasons you might want to earn badges during Connected Educator Month:
- Your badges can provide a digital “transcript” of your participation in Connected Educator Month. They can show:
- How much time you’ve invested in participating in professional learning and collaboration activities throughout the month,
- The actions you’ve taken to sharpen your connected learning skills, and
- The impact you’ve had on your peers’ practice.
- Depending on your school and district policies, you may be able to receive some official professional development credit on the basis of this evidence.
- Your choice of badges to earn can model for others what skills and behaviors you see as important to being a connected educator. You can share your Connected Educator Month badge collection with them as an illustration of what they need to know and do to become connected in a way that improves their professional practice.
- Through composing the brief reflections required to earn many of the badges or annotating your badge collection after that fact, you can critically reflect on being a connected educator, how it has impacted your practice, and what you’ll do next.
- By displaying you badges on a network that supports open badges, you can use it to connect to other educators and learning opportunities. Your school, district or state may host such a system, or you can use a third-party network.
- Earning badges can be fun in and of itself. Once you try it, you may get hooked!
What kinds of badges can I earn?
There are four types of digital badges you can earn through Connected Educator Month 2014:
- Peer-to-Peer badges—You can nominate another educator to receive these badges (and invite your peers to nominate you too). These badges recognize strong collaborators and those who have contributed to the learning of their peers, key indicators of leadership and professionalism. For more on why peer-to-peer badges are important, see this post.
- Starter Kit badges—The Connected Educator Month Starter Kit includes an activity you can do each day during the event to become more connected. You can earn badges for a number of these activities.
- Connected Educator badges—These badges invite you to take up calls to action to become more connected or to contribute to advancing digital learning and the teaching profession.
How Do I Earn A Badge?
These videos walk you through the process of applying for a badge using the Connected Educators badging system.
- How to nominate someone for a peer-to-peer badge
- How to apply for a Starter Kit or Connected Educators badge
- How to create and share a collection of badges
How Do I Share the Badges I’ve Earned with Others?
A primary tool for sharing your digital badges is your Mozilla Badge Backpack. This video explains how to gather your badges into a collection, which you can annotate to reflect on your learning and explain how you plan to apply it. You can post a link to your collection on your blog or a social network, and you can also share it via email. This video explains how.
There are additional ways to share your badges worth exploring as well:
- Join a social network that has built in support for displaying badges and using them to connect with other educators and professional learning opportunities they have found valuable. Sanderling is one such tool, which is currently available as an Android app and will soon be released for iOS as well.
- Find out if your school, district or state has systems that can display badges on user profiles. If not, ask your IT leaders to add that capability. Mozilla’s Open Badges project keeps a list of tools for displaying badges they can consult.
- If you have some technical chops, add a widget to your own blog or webpage. Badge Widget Hack is one simple means to this end.
Why Should I Encourage Educators in my State or District to Earn Badges?
For a state or district, promoting badges offers the following potential advantages:
- Gives less connected educators simple steps they can take to get more connected
- Gives less connected educators a sense of accomplishment for achieving those objectives
- More generally, helps educators understand what actions are valued, and helps move action in these directions
- Helps you understand your educators’ competencies better (if you ask them to show the badges they’ve earned)
- Helps you to know which of your educators are most actively engaged in informal professional development or, more generally, going above and beyond the call outside the classroom
You can enhance any and all of these effects by recognizing or rewarding your educators in some way for gaining a critical mass or specific set of badges, and we would strongly encourage you to do so, so as to be more certain to realize the full benefits of this engagement. But even if you’re not ready to take that step yet, simply making your teachers aware that they exist and encouraging them to earn them will, we think, be very helpful to all our causes.