Building an Environment of Experts Through Badges

a30c7012589b8254554e7afbf5407e78As you look around your school you know that you are surrounded by well-educated individuals who know a thing or two about a thing or two. You have experts in math, reading, social studies, language arts, science, music, and the list could go on and on. The problem is we often do not know about the expertise that the person teaching next door to us actually has. Often times we only think about expertise as it relates to a content area. What would it be like to walk around a school building and know more about its educators than just a content area? As educators, one of our main passions should be to continue to grow and learn along with our students and colleagues. The main barrier we always run into as it pertains to professional development in a school is what the school is currently offering and the time that we have to devote to it. Traditional professional development involves individuals going somewhere to hear someone speak. Teachers are then expected to come back and implement that new change. Other times our learning is limited to simply what we see or hear that relates specifically to what we teach.
A very simple answer to these problems is that schools need to create environments of experts. This can be done in many fashions such as promoting all staff to become Connected Educators. Being a Connected Educator allows learning to happen anytime, anywhere, and from anyone. For those that are not yet comfortable with social learning, another approach that can be used to highlight individualized expertise (this can also be used for students as well) is the idea of Badging. This idea comes from the video game world. You may be thinking, how can video games relate to showing off my expertise? It is very simple. In video games when you accomplish a specific level you earn badges. In today’s video game world these badges are shared with other gamers for everyone to see what each individual has learned.
There are so many ways that this can translate into the school environment. Teachers who are interested in a specific type of technology could complete a learning session focused on this tool. Once complete they would earn a badge that they would display outside of their classroom for all to see. This becomes a great challenge between teachers as the competitive juices start to flow. Teachers may strive to earn the most badges hanging outside their classroom. The idea of badging can do many things for an educational environment. First, it creates a building of experts by challenging staff to learn about new tools and resources that can be used in classrooms. Teachers are then rewarded with the badge that coincides with the learning that they display outside of their class. By displaying the badge outside of their classroom it allows other teachers to see the expertise throughout the building. By displaying your badges you are inviting those you work with to see your expertise and hopefully reach out to you to learn something new. The third thing that badging does is it shows visitors the many tools and resources that a teacher uses in their classroom. These badges should be displayed wherever people might see them. We currently use Canvas as an LMS and I would display my badges on this for all to see. Education has historically been a closed off environment in which students enter doors, we close the doors, instruct them, and then let them walk out of the doors with outsiders not knowing what is really taking place. This helps with the whole transparency piece of learning by displaying badges for all to see. Finally, badging can be transferred into your classes with your students. Why not let them earn badges for units of study or mastering a skill for them to display and share with their friends? This might even create a learning environment in which students reach out to each other or across grade levels to learn based on what others know.
My challenge to you is to look up the idea of badging, ask you students about it, learn something new and display your new badge outside of your learning environment and see the impact it has on others around you and your students.  Check out this great resource created by@ChrisTuckerEdu  for more information- Badge Your Classroom Website

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