The way we find, access, and share information has exploded in the last 20 years, and the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge is no longer reserved for the elite few. Now, anyone with an Internet connection can gain entry to the greatest public library system ever constructed.
Within our own profession, teachers are engaging in continued learning through personal learning networks, websites like Edutopia and MOOCs. Anyone has the ability to self-construct curriculum and gain the skills once exclusive to those able to pay for a traditional education.
Despite the vast shift in how we pursue knowledge, little has changed with how we credential those who acquire knowledge. We still primarily credential learners based on seat time and credit hours, and often only recognize learning pursued through traditional pathways.
I’ve seen many teachers expand their knowledge of teaching strategies via Twitter chats or at Edcamps. Yet, when it came time to report continuing education credits, teachers still only reported professional development “hours” that involved seat time and structured in-service days. If we want to support personalized learning for our students, we should model those practices with our teachers. One way to achieve this is with a credentialing system that more accurately represents a teacher’s specific skills and knowledge.
Digital badges are one way to update the credentialing system. For years, the open badges movement has been pushing to update the way we recognize learning pursued through non-traditional pathways. For teachers, badges could be a way to demonstrate skills to potential employers, build identity and reputation within learning communities, and create pathways for continued learning and leadership roles.