Monday, December 26, 2011

Badges for teachers: scenarios (#change11)

In my previous post I outlined an idea I have to make badges work. Here are a few scenarios that might better illustrate what it is I am proposing.

A programmer has been asked by their employer to learn about machine learning. Employee does the course via Stanford's open learning. There is no need for there to be any certification from Stanford because the employer will be able to see if the necessary learning was done. If it was, then the employer gives the employee a badge and Stanford gets a badge as well for that course. By linking the two badges, the credential is transferable.

A employer notices that their new emplyee, fresh out of high school, is very proficient with basic maths and english, as well as being able to learn quickly and think for herself. The employer finds all these traits admirable and decides to award a badge to the student's "overall education" attribute. This badge is automatically linked to all of the employee's past schools and teachers. The employee, realising that there were four teachers that have had a huge impact on her employability, so she awards a badge to each of these teachers.

A parent is looking for a school for her child. She looks at the data for a number of schools, looking at the range of source that the badges have come from. She is able to drill down into the data to see the type employers (industry) have given badges, as well as the number of parents who have given badges, and the number of ex-students who have given badges.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Badges for teachers (#change11)

It seems to me that there is something vitally important missing from this whole badges concept - the reputation of the teacher. The reputation of the software or human teacher which awards the badge is paramount in determining the value of the badge as a means of showing skills acquired. And the best assessors of the quality of the teacher is the employer, parent and student. There needs to be a badges system for teachers if a badges system is to work at all.

Below is a concept diagram of the inter-relationship between teacher, student and employer in the current credentializing system.

The student is happy with how they have been able to apply their learning to their employment and employment prospects
The employer is happy with skills and knowledge of student
The student is assessed to have aquired skills and knowledge from a teacher
A credential has been given and the teacher's reputation has been enhanced.

I am proposing here a system like the one below:

A "badges for teachers" system would track a person's teachers and then having employers assess the skill set of the employee and then award a badge to that set of teachers and, over time, the teachers of higher quality would acquire more badges and hence a greater reputation amongst employers. Employers would be able to give subject specific badges (eg: math) to indicate that the employee has a good overall knowledge of maths. All of the employee's teachers would receive the collective badge. If an employer sends an employee off to learn something specific then they can award a badge for that skill directly to that teacher. By awarding the badge to the teachers the employer is also reinforcing the credential of the employee.

For school teachers these badges could be awarded by parents up to a certain age, say 16, and then awarded by the students themselves. Parents and students would be able to award badges to individual teachers or to a school of teachers in a given year. For tertiary teachers these badges would be awarded by students only.

The value of the badges awarded by the teacher is related to the number of badges the teacher has received. Earning badges from good teachers becomes more valuable over time as the teacher receives more badges. This would allow for parents to 'invest' in their child's education by selecting teachers they feel would be better for their child in the long run.

Running parallel to this system could be one for teachers awarding badges to teachers to indicate collegiality and professionalism to further enhance the reputation of the teacher.

I'm not sure whether this is a new idea but I am sure there is more work to be done on this idea, so I would appreciate any feedback at all, constructive or otherwise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where do the facts belong - In the head or in the clouds? (#change11)

This debate between content and learning seems, to me, to be a little superfluous. Does anyone really think one can happen without the other?

The content of our education systems have come about via the learning of others before us. And even the highest of higher order thinking requires the collection, ordering and synthesis of basic empirical facts.

Having said that, the reality is the human brain as a repository of facts is losing its value. The ability to remember and recall facts is not as valuable in our society any more. It is far cheaper, in both money and time, to Google it than it is to sit through a lecture.

An analogy ..... If two people want to have an argument about appeasement prior to the second world war, while they are sitting at a bar, then a ready made store of facts in the brain will be of great use. Now give those two people smartphones and internet connection, suddenly they are able to use facts beyond their own memory to argue their respective positions. Their repertoire of facts has exploded but has their ability to synthesise the knowledge improved? Probably not. What would improve the intellectual outcome of the debate? Further lessons on the facts of appeasement? Probably the least likely. Lessons on how best to find facts on the internet? Lessons on higher order thinking? Rhetoric?

From the analogy above I hope it shows that the value of the facts themselves is not as great as the value of collection, ordering and synthesis of those said facts. And I also hope it shows that it is not a question of the necessity of facts, its a question of where they need to be - in the head or in the clouds.