Jun 12 2018

How Microcredentials Help Educators Develop New Tech Skills

Teachers earn digital badges while learning new strategies.

A lot is demanded of teachers. In addition to their daily task of educating students, teachers must also continue to learn. Traditionally, that requires educators to take courses, whether in the classroom or online. 

In efforts to make time-mandated and compliance-based professional learning efficient, technology offers microcredentialing as a vehicle for educators to pursue personal growth. Also known as digital badges, these tools are increasingly used to improve student focus as well as provide a means to incentivize teachers to complete new disciplines.

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Open New Doors for Teachers in the Classroom

According to Karen Cator, president and CEO of Digital Promise, a nonprofit authorized by Congress and launched in 2011 by former President Barack Obama, teachers can use microcredentialing in at least three ways. 

“Teachers can decide on specific professional goals, such as improving their math instruction or creating a makerspace in their classroom,” Cator says. “Second, the selection of a microcredential could be a school- or districtwide goal expected of all educators. Third, it might be based on the specific needs of a student.”

For example, if a teacher has a student on the autism spectrum in the classroom for the first time, the teacher may be interested in microcredentials that build the skills necessary to support that student, says Cator. “A teacher who never needed to focus on that area of study previously can now have the option of earning microcredentials as they learn and apply the skill.” 

Methods of learning continue to include reading books, taking formal classes and in-service sessions, joining an online community or welcoming a coach into the classroom. 

“The digital option with microcredentials gives educators the flexibility of learning approach,” Cator adds. “As a result, teachers can submit evidence of their competence in that area, have it assessed and hopefully earn microcredentials as recognition.”

Reinforce the Need for Digital Expertise

Platforms such as Digital Promise allow teachers to log in and upload proof of completion. As microcredentialing grows in popularity and gains wider use, the need for secure and reliable cloud access, security and digital workplace solutions will expand. Planning, migrating and integrating programs to maintain and expand digital offerings will evolve over time. 

“As more educators use microcredentials to reinforce their effectiveness in the classroom, methodology will change to adjust to classroom needs. 

“Educating teachers on how to make use of these digital solutions is a major factor for overall success,” Cator continues. “Teachers need to know how to collect evidence of their learning through video or other documentation and upload it into a system.”

Some school systems are also identifying ways to further incentivize teachers to pursue microcredentials. According to Cator, “Many states have translated microcredentials into continuing education units.” She adds, “I know of at least one district that pays teachers based on earned microcredentials. Teachers are always learning something new, and now they can be recognized with compensation incentives.”

In Tennessee, teachers are using microcredentials to renew their teaching licenses. “Teachers continue to learn and are able to share those achievements and findings with other educators,” says Cator.

“Every year, there is a new class of kids and advances in science — it allows professionals to keep up.”

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