There’s a growing buzz at the moment around digital badges, and I’m going to try and put down my thoughts, specifically on the following:
- Why I was initially so negative, and why I now think I was wrong
- One possible vision for the delivery of ICT embedding student choice and badges.
I first came across the idea of digital badges (specifically the Mozilla Open Badges project) from Doug Belshaw. Initially I was so dismissive of the idea I didn’t even bother following the links. I think my initial scepticism came from the following:
- All the previous attempts I’ve seen at providing some kind of accreditation for ‘extra curricular’ activities have been deeply flawed and had little student buy-in
- I’m not a ‘gamer’. Never have been. Don’t have the skills required, or the patience / curiosity needed to aquire them. This is also true of jigsaw puzzles. It just seems to me there’s a more productive use of my time. While I accept that there is much to be learned from the ideas around ‘gamifiying’ the curriculum I’m probably going to need more persuading than most
- A growing concern that any ‘badges’ or rewards system (such as my school’s merit system) is at most ineffective and at worst damaging, through the value it places on extrinsic rewards (read Carol Dweck and others for a demolition of this)
- I haven’t yet found the opening for badges in either my use of Edmodo, or in something like Classdojo (Caveat – this says more about me than either of the tools, I know many teachers making great use of both)
Doug’s initial blog post of one possible idea didn’t help dispell any of these concerns, however a few weeks ago I decided to follow some links from this post and ended up completing the Badges 101 quiz. Anyone watching may well have seen the lightbulb going on over my head. This had the potential to be powerful stuff indeed.
If you haven’t registered and completed badges 101 yet, I really would urge you to stop at this point and go and do it. It’ll take you no more than 5 minutes and the rest of this post might make more sense. Then come back.
Right, let’s go on.
This idea, combined with the more student centred approach I’ve been trying to develop in my ICT teaching over the last few years (my current moto: Get out of the way) has lead me to imagine a new way of delivering ICT at KS3. I’m sure there any many problems with this, but this is intended as an initial sketch.
Before we get on to this, much of the talk on twitter at the moment is around the idea of replacing ‘ICT’ with ‘Digital Studies’ in England and the great work going on in re imaging what this might look like. This suggestion is not (yet) part of those ideas for two reasons:
1. In Wales we still have the ICT NC which needs to be followed
2. The posts I’ve read on digital studies are still quite teacher centred – the teacher decides what topic is to be followed when and how. I’m looking at the possibilities offered by the technology to do something a little more student centred.
That said, I would urge you to have a look at the digital studies wiki and some of the great blog posts coming out from those involved in developing the idea. You can follow the #digitalstudies hashtag on Twitter to look out for these.
To me, there are two main problems with the current ICT curriculum.
The first is that students are coming in to us with a huge range of existing skills and experience and this is getting wider year on year. This is making traditional ‘teacher led’ lessons virtually impossible. We’ve moved towards a more open, problem solving approach recently, but I still feel there is work to be done providing support for weaker students and letting those at top really fly.
Secondly, in some cases, the work students are doing outside the class that is far more advanced that the work we’re doing in class. I’d like some way for that to be noted and accredited.
So, what would the new system look like?
KS3 would have access to a series of self contained ‘challenges’ based around software, tools, websites etc. Each would be hosted (probably on Moodle) with all the materials needed (either in the form of videos, text instructions or links) along with a forum to provide community support.
Some of these would be compulsory, others would be optional. Some would be quite prescriptive, others would be more open. Some would be traditional ‘ICT’ tasks, others would be more ‘computing’ based, others could open up some of the issues around digital literacies and digital society. Challenges would be of a range of difficulties, and students would be free to start at which ever point they felt appropriate. They could move straight to the assessment task at the end, or complete a series of warm up activities if they needed.
The successful completion of a challenge would earn a badge. Until the Open Badges framework was ready these could be awarded either in Edmodo or using a Moodle plugin
Much of the content would come from existing ICT resources, it would just need to be repackaged. Others could be developed over time, some even by other students as tasks for advanced badges. All content should be able to be packaged up and shared with other schools.
What’s missing / what could go wrong
This is just an early sketch. The number and nature of the tasks would need to be developed with the ICT dept
One of the really nice ideas in some of the digital studies development work is the idea of a bportfolio – a student blog that would allow them to record their thoughts on longer, more pbl style projects. While this isn’t here, one idea could be that a number of the final projects would be published online as part of the task. Students could use a Google Site for this.
With students working on different tasks, the role of teacher would need to redefined. There is the potential for a heavy marking load – although some badges could be created to be automarked.
We’d need to consider how homework would work and be monitored.
We can’t (currently) add modules to our school moodle (which is managed by the LEA). This would potentially mean students working across three platforms – Moodle to access materials, Edmodo to submit and get their badges and Google Sites to publish some of their work.
Badges are explicitly NOT linked to NC levels. This is part because we now longer use them to mark work for students. However, tasks can be matched back to help teachers track progress.
Whatever happens, I would like to see the following kept
- The principle of student choice
- Projects at a variety of depth and length, the completion of which earn badges
- Students at all years in KS3 get access to the same ‘menu’ of choices.
- Students supporting each other through a community behind each task
Those students who fly through this could move on to advanced badges. This could include creation of other tasks or perhaps these could become digital leaders.
So, what do you think? What have I missed? What other opportunities are there to make this even better? What else could go wrong I haven’t thought about? I’d appreciate your comments below!