We’ve reached a tipping point. It’s time to flip from evangelism to strategy.
Some thoughts around introducing my kids to the Web.
A big hello to those arriving here from the Badges MOOC! You may be interested in my other blog posts about Open Badges as well as my presentations. 🙂
“Hi, I’m Doug Belshaw, Badges and Skills Lead for the Mozilla Foundation”
“Oh, so you’re the guy heading up all of the badges work? I really like what I’ve seen so far.”
“Well actually my colleague Sunny Lee is Product Manager for Open Badges, and Carla Casilli is in charge of Webmaker Badges. I evangelise both badge systems in Europe and work on Mozilla’s Web Literacies framework.”
“Cool. I’ve been looking at badges for a while and was wondering how to implement them in my context.”
“I’m really glad you asked because I’m just about to write a blog post on that exact subject.”
I’ve had the above conversation with many people over the last few months. They tend to go beyond this, obviously, but I do need a post to point people towards.
So this is it. 🙂
The first thing to say is that there is no objectively-awesome way to issue badges. What works for one group of people in one context won’t necessarily work in another context. Having said that, there are some general principles which should stand you in good stead.
Second, you’ll find that it’s fairly natural for people to project their worldview into what is, after all, an open and emergent ecosystem. I’ve had people tell me that badges “will inevitably lead to X,” that “you can’t do Y with badges,” and that “Mozilla need to make sure that Z”. The great thing about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) is that it’s a platform for third parties – including you – to innovate and think differently about their organisation is set up to do.
Third, there’s some criteria that are required for Open Badges and some that are optional.
The REQUIRED metadata fields are:
- Badge Title
- Image URL
- Issue Date
The OPTIONAL metadata fields are:
- Evidence URL
- Expiration Date
What follows isn’t the only way to approach badge design – my colleague Carla, for example, sometimes starts with the graphical element – but it’s an approach which has worked well for me over a series of conversations and workshops.
Here it is in the abstract, followed by a worked example:
- Decide on some behaviours, skills or attitudes you want to promote.
- Think of some criteria for a badge which would begin to promote those behaviours, skills or attitudes.
- Consider if the criteria for the badge you’ve come up with can be broken down in more granular ways.
- If (as is likely) you end up with multiple badges, think about multiple (potentially interest-based) pathways through your badge ecosystem. Ask yourself, which badges depend upon other badges? What are the relationships between these badges? (this may help structure that)
- Get someone to design you an awesome-looking graphical badge and use a badge issuing platform such as badg.us, ForAllBadges, WPBadger or BadgeStack to issue badges
This, of course, looks fairly easy but will take a decent amount of time from start to finish if done in a considered and collaborative way. Just to illustrate the point, my colleague Laura Hilliger and I are running a two-part, 5.5-hour workshop in Porto this week where we probably won’t manage to get the participants through all five steps in the time we have available.
Now, an example.
I’m always slightly wary about using examples as they tend to be held up as THE way to do things rather than A way to do it. With that in mind, let’s take as our example Alina who wants to start a new online community for teaching Webmaking skills. How could she use badges to promote the behaviours, skills and attitudes that she wants the community to embody?
- Alina wants to encourage community members to level up in their web skills. She’s seen that Mozilla have started to provide Webmaker badges for that, so she decides to use those for the skills element. She decides to focus her efforts on badges to encourage mentorship and community etiquette.
- New to the concept of badges, Alina thinks that one mentorship badge will be enough. The criteria she comes up with is that once a member has got enough ‘thank you’ upvotes using the forum software then they will automatically be awarded a ‘Mentorship’ badge.
- A couple of days later, Alina talks through her idea for a single Mentorship badge with a member of the community whom she meets at a conference. They raise concerns that such a system would promote people ‘begging’ for upvotes and/or lead to reciprocal backslapping. Alina goes back to the drawing board and begins to come up with a system of badges.
- Reflecting on her own experience as a member of various online communities, Alina realises that there are different forms of mentorship and ways of recognising it. She proposes several different granular badges which aggregate to a larger mentorship badge in different areas of Webmaking. Alina then invites some community members who already show the behaviours, skills and attitudes she is looking for to an virtual workshop. As a result, she tweaks the number of badges and the criteria for each badge. Some badges they decide should be emergent, all should be peer-assessed, and some should expire. They decide that the inclusion of an evidence URL showing how the member earned the badge would be useful.
- Alina announces the badge system to the wider community via a blog post and asks for feedback. She mentions that they haven’t yet come up with the visuals for the badges. A community member with an interest in graphical design volunteers to design the badges. Before long, the first iteration of the badge system is up-and-running using WPBadger, WordPress and BuddyPress.
I hope that helps. Badge ecosystem design is an iterative, emergent process. My main advice would be to make it an open, inclusive process involving the participants formerly known as stakeholders. 🙂
Image CC BY-NC AlbinoFlea
Teaching may be as much of an art as a science, but there’s stuff that we know works in education. Whilst context definitely matters there are things – like timely, formative feedback – that can be done well no matter where you are and what situation you’re in.
To my mind, we should have something like the NHS Evidence website for things relating to pedagogy. It could provide answers to questions like:
- Where’s the evidence for using tablet computers in education?
- Where can I find out more about different forms of assessment?
- Is there a sound research basis for giving homework?
The NHS Evidence website is provided by NICE – the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. We have nothing similar for education. Although health is as much of a political football as education, at least they’ve got a research basis.
If there’s no political will to separate politics and education, perhaps it’s time for a non-profit to do this kind of stuff? Or perhaps they are and they need more publicity?
At the start of July I’ll be submitting my Ed.D. thesis. It’s an outgrowth of work I did towards an M.Ed. before transferring to my doctoral studies. That, in turn, was a continuation of the PGCE in Secondary History I completed at Durham University.
Such transition points leads one to reflect upon changes and continuities. Recently I’ve been prompted into thinking about underperforming teachers as a result of a findings in a widely reported survey. Instead of debating the ins-and-outs of whether employment law relating to teachers should be changed, I want to consider the things that cause complacency and rot to set in. I don’t think anyone sets out to be a poorly-performing teacher.
No, instead, it’s a slow process of decline. The ten points below are those I’ve witnessed colleagues struggle with, and a couple (especially number 6) is something I’ve found difficult to remember to do myself. If you’re not on top of your game it’s easy to do things to ‘just get by’. And that’s a difficult and dangerous situation in which to find yourself.
I’d be interested in your reflections on the following as 10 things educators tend to forget to do after their teacher training and NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year:
- Read academic journals.
- Greet students at the door.
- Write about their lessons – what went well/badly.
- Mess about with technology for the sake of it.
- Rearrange their classroom regularly.
- Phone parents/guardians for positive reasons.
- Active learning – role-play, etc.
- Observe good practice elsewhere.
- Maintain a professional development folder.
- Ask for help and mentoring
What have I missed? With which of these do you agree/disagree?
Image CC BY-NC-SA snacktime2007
New, free and shiny technologies are like catnip to educators. An almost-tangible frisson of excitement cascades through Twitter, Facebook and subsequently staff rooms and TeachMeets in the hours, days and months following announcements of such products and services.
(click image for explanatory presentation)
- Is there a business model behind the technology? (OSS counts!)
- Can it be used in a transformative way?
Style is not substance.
I’ve certainly been guilty of using things in the classroom mainly because they look good. And that’s fine, so long as you realise at which end of the hierarchy you’re working. Sometimes you need a bit of the shiny.
Johannes Ahrenfelt in Teaching: The Unthinking Profession nails it:
Teachers want ‘stuff’ they can take away and use tomorrow. While I always show how the theory works in practice, it never seems to have the same impact as CPD with titles like ’10 engaging starters’ or ’7 great discussion tools’… The ‘quick fix’ is just that and somewhere down the line a proper solution needs to be found.
If I had to go back and re-teach 2003-10 again, I’d do so taking into account the sage advice of “more haste, less speed”. It’s the considered and sustainable use of technologies that make a difference.
This post isn’t a dig at teachers; it’s a broadside at senior leaders. They, after all, create the parameters within which teachers operate. If you’re pressured into using technology at the level of substitution it’s effectively akin to using a pen instead of a pencil. Something to merely mention in passing, not something to write home about.
Considered use and reflection upon the use of educational technology can be found. Start at edjournal.co.uk and start asking of each new edtech tool you come across: so what?
When it arrived last Monday, my wife – in that way that only I would notice – looked at me semi-accusingly. “Another book, eh?” she seemed to say, “I thought got your books via your Kindle now?” I swear that the reason old people don’t tend to say much is because they know what the other person’s thinking.
The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams winged its way from Canada to the UK courtesy of my responding to a tweet from Gary calling for reviewers. As I’m currently writing a JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review, it seemed rather serendipitous.
In ancient times, people cut to the chase. Take St. Paul’s letters, for example. He states who he is first and only then greets the elders at the church to which he is writing. It’s always puzzled me that people only indicate who the letter is from at the very end; at least with emails you know who it’s from straight away by virtue of their email address.
So, my conclusion? The Mobile Learning Edge (hereafter MLE) is worth reading by those interested in mobile learning in a formal educational context. Whilst it (presumably due to encouragement by McGraw-Hill, the publisher) tries to be all things to all men, it nevertheless has value to those working in and with educational institutions. Woodill expertly collates and synthesizes information, presenting it in an engaging and convincing way.
Every book has its weaknesses. There is, for example, at times an uneasy glossing and assumed-similarity between the needs of those in formal learning situations and those within businesses. In addition the way in which the book is written seems to purposely align the author with initiatives in which he played no part.
But to overly-criticize MLE would be churlish. It is a readable, reasonably-comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the current state of play in the mobile learning arena. If it were available for the Kindle for £10 (as it should be) I’d recommend it without reservation. As it is, it comes recommended.
I have to admit to chuckling a little when I read the opening pages of MLE. Only the day before I had commented about the paucity of metaphors that I come across in educational contexts. It was only after reading the whole of the introduction to MLE that I realised Woodill was setting up – quite cleverly, I thought – the rest of the book to call for a return to authentic learning. He indicates, and purports to show, that mobile learning is our natural way of learning: sitting in classrooms is something alien to us.
Figure 5.5 on page 184 of MLE features an engraving from eighteenth century Europe showing one of the most crowded, although admittedly neatest, classrooms you will ever see. Context is one of the strengths of the book: Woodill is a master at putting things in their historical place, charting the development of technologies and pointing out significances. Granted, in some cases such generalizations could be contested and rely on the tried-and-tested metaphors of hunter-gatherer communities and the industrial revolution, but they are, on the whole, sound.
Of the ten chapters that make up MLE, around seven will be of immediate interest and utility to educators not directly involved with the overall strategy of their organization. Those who do occupy such senior positions will find enlightening the chapter contributed by David Fell, interim CEO of a broadband corporation. In it, Fell discusses of the importance of ‘co-opetition’, a term that will become increasingly familiar to those in charge of schools, colleges and universities.
Easily the best part of Fell’s chapter, however, is his inclusion of and discussion around the following diagram from Ambient Insight:
Whilst usually skeptical of diagrams that look designed-for-Powerpoint this one nicely summarizes why now, in the current context, is a great time for institutions to be pursuing mobile learning initiatives.
The second contributed chapter comes from Sheryl Herle, a corporate learning consultant. This, unsurprisingly, deals with Return On Investment (ROI) and business-focused strategy. The chapter does, however, contain some gems that I’ve saved for future use, including the advice that you should be focusing on what you don’t want people to do rather than narrowly defining what you do want them to do; that IT Services/Support’s job is to deal with security threats and network stability – which is why they often oppose ‘innovation’; and that whilst it’s possible to come up with ROI figures for mobile learning initiatives they’re unlikely to be comprehensive or realistic.
Returning to the main author, Gary Woodill’s contribution to MLE, it is clear – and indeed he tells us – that he used to be a teacher. Not only that, but his doctorate (like mine) is an Ed.D. For all the discussion of ‘corporate learning’ and ’employees’, Woodill’s pedagogical background pervades MLE. Take, for example, the structure of the chapter ‘Learning by Communicating, Interacting, and Networking’:
- High-level overview setting the scene
- Problem (disruption of mobile)
- Some truths (we are social beings)
- Case study
- Theory supporting examples
The above, fleshed out, could form a lesson plan. This structure and method of presentation makes MLE a satisfying read.
This, as the author would admit, is a book of its time. It’s relevance in a few years’ time will be less powerful but, for now, the appendices, featuring links to relevant blogs and academic articles are a goldmine. Woodill indicates on his companion site to the book, mobilelearningedge.com that there will be a second edition of MLE and that he will use the related site to keep the content fresh.
I hope this is the case. 🙂
One of the great things of studying in the Education Library at Durham University (instead of at home, in my study) is the books I randomly stumble across. For example, I pulled Models of Learning – Tools for Teaching off the shelf today and it fell open at Chapter 7, entitled ‘Learning through cooperative disciplined inquiry.’
This is perfect for me. One of my Performance Management targets for this year – the one focused on my own classroom practices – is about piloting enquiry-based learning with one of my Year 7 History classes. In addition, I’ll (hopefully) be presenting with Nick Dennis at the SHP Conference in July 2010 on this very topic – including the way technology can help! :-p
It’s always good to have some scholarly research to back up one’s actions, so if you’re planning to do something similar here’s some quotations to help you!
The most stunning thing about teaching people to help kids learn cooperatively is that people don’t know how to do it as a consequence of their own schools and life in this society. And, if anything is genetically driven, it’s a social instinct. If it weren’t for each other, we wouldn’t even know who we are. (Herbert Thelen to Bruce Joyce, circa 1964) p.95
The chapter is based on case studies across the age range, but also contains this nugget on p.98-9:
The assumptions that underlie the development of cooperative learning communities are straightforward:
- The synergy generated in cooperative settings generates more motivation than do individualistic, competitive environments. Integrative social groups are, in effect, more than the sume of their parts. The feelings of connectedness produce positive energy.
- The members of cooperative groups learn from one another. Each learner has more helping hands than in a structure that generates isolation.
- Interacting with one another produces cognitive as well as social complexity, creating more intellectual activity that increases learning when contrasted with solitary study.
- Cooperation increases positive feelings towards one another, reduces alienation and loneliness, builds relationships, and provides affirmative views of other people.
- Cooperation increases self-esteem not only through increased learning but through the feeling of being respected and cared for by others in the environment.
- Students can respond to experience in tasks requiring cooperation by increasing their capacity to work together productively. In other words, the more children are given the opportunity to work together, the better they get at it, with benefit to their general social skills.
- Students, including primary school children, can learn from training to increase their ability to work together.
The authors go on to summarise the evidence about improved learning through collaboration on p.99:
Classrooms where students work in pairs and larger groups… are characterized by greater mastery of material than the common individual-study/recitation pattern. Also, the shared responsibility and interaction produce more positive feelings toward tasks… In other words, the results generally affirm the assumptions that underlie the use of cooperative learning methods.
It’s not hard to get started with cooperative learning (p.100):
[A]n endearing feature is that it is so very easy to organize students into pairs and triads. And it gets effects immediately. The combination of social support and the increase in cognitive complexity caused by the social interaction have mild but rapid effects on the learning of content and skills.
The authors dismiss claims from some teachers that ‘gifted students prefer to work alone’ as the evidence does not back this up (Joyce 1991; Slavin 1991). They believe it may rest on a misunderstanding of the relationship between individual and cooperative study; partnership still requires individual effort. There’s no need to be concerned about students’ ability to work together (p.101):
In fact, partnership s over simple tasks are not very demanding of social skills. Most students are quite capable of cooperating when they are clear about what has been asked of them.
I’ll not go into them here, but the authors mention a number of ways in which teachers can foster ‘positive interdependence’. They also suggest the ‘division of labour’ into specializations. Instead of learning only a part of what every is supposed to be learning, they have found, ‘jigsaw’ activities and the like lead to more learning across the spectrum. Many of the activities they suggest are, in fact, featured alongside others in one of my favourite education-related books, The Teacher’s Toolkit.
The teacher’s role in cooperative learning moves from that of instructor to ‘counsellor, consultant and friendly critic.’ (p.107) The authors note that this ‘is a very difficult and sensitive’ role ‘because the essence of inquiry is student activity’. Teachers need to:
- facilitate the group process
- intervene in the group to channel its energy into potentially educative activities, and
- supervise these educative activities so that personal meaning comes from the experience
The upshot of this is that ‘intervention by the teacher should be minimal unless the group bogs down seriously’ (p.107).
The authors suggest a 6-phase process for cooperative learning:
Phase 1 – Students encounter puzzling situation (planned or unplanned).
Phase 2 – Students explore reactions to the situation.
Phase 3 – Students formulate study task and organize for study (problem definition, role, assignments, etc.)
Phase 4 – Independent and group study.
Phase 5 – Students analyse progress and process.
Phase 6 – Recycle activity.
In conclusion, the authors note how universally cooperative group investigation can be used (p.111-2):
Group investigation is a highly versatile and comprehensive model of learning and teaching: it blends the goals of academic inquiry, social integration and social process learning. It can be used in all subject areas, and with all age levels, when the teacher desires to emphasize the formulation and problem-solving aspects of knowledge rather than the intake of preorganized, predetermined information.
This video was originally created by Wendy Drexler and uploaded to YouTube. I’ve transferred this to Edublogs.tv as YouTube is blocked on most school networks in the UK. I came across it after reading Clint Lalonde’s post about it, and I discovered Clint’s blog after an incoming link from his blog to this one!
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A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled The kind of school in which I want to work… In that post I outlined a different role for teachers using the analogy of the teacher as lifeguard:
I don’t think I’d come across the theory of Connectivism at this point which explains really well my pedagogical stance. We can’t consider each learner in isolation. Their ‘network’, both physical and digital is extremely important in the learning process. As a teacher, I’m effectively aiming for redundancy: I want students to leave me at the end of the time at school with the ability to learn independently and play an active role in learning communities. If I can contribute towards that, then I’ve done my job effectively.
The trouble is, I can’t do this alone – it’s a whole-school issue. Wendy’s video will hopefully help explain myself a little better in future. 😀
I came across this video recently (thanks Ollie!) from Professor Daniel Willingham, Cognitive Scientist and Neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. He makes great use of YouTube to get across his points about the theory of ‘learning styles‘:
- They don’t exist.
- Good teaching is good teaching
If you’re a teacher, you need to spend 7 minutes of your life watching this:
I’ve no problem with people using learning styles as a way to get teachers to mix things up differently in the classroom. Where I have got issues is when teachers try to misuse data to define and pigeon-hole students into one dominant learning style. That’s got to be wrong…