Using Open Badges at Hamilton

We’re exploring a new way of tracking professional development and learning. The internet has quite profoundly changed the way we learn. Skills and questions are really one Google (or Bing, or Pinterest, or Instructable, or Tweet) search away. Learning happens. Constantly.

But how do you quantify and demonstrate that learning? If you say you know how create a retro loop player on your upright piano using a Raspberry Pi, how might you prove it? And can you incentivize the learning?

These are the questions Open Badges attempt to answer.

What’s an Open Badge?

Open_Badges_-_LogoAn Open Badge is a digital representation of a skill or achievement earned from a creditable organization. Earned badges can be displayed in professional portfolios, Linkedin profiles, and various social networks like Facebook and Google Plus.

Badges contain “meta” data. It’s not just a simple “picture” that you can throw on your website. Instead, it contains certain “proofs” to give the badge actual veracity. Think if it as roughly analogous to “certificates of completion”.

Here’s a basic example. Say Hamilton CSD creates a “Login to Google” badge. If someone has this badge, it means they are capable of logging into Google. The badge would contain the following information:

  1. Issuer (in this case, Hamilton CSD.
  2. Name of the badge
  3. Associated picture of the badge
  4. Description of the badge
  5. Criteria for earning the badge (ie login to Google)
  6. Evidence. Proof that you’ve done this badge. In this case, a system that recorded you demonstrating logging into Google.

Where’s the Value?

For our students, badges often serve as simple extrinsic rewards (Khan Academy uses them to incentivize learning). For adults, badges are a really solid way to demonstrate to employers (future or otherwise) skills they are learning and acquiring. A more real and relevant component to a resume or portfolio.

Using Badges at Hamilton

We’re piloting and exploring correlating badges to CEUs. When a badge is earned in PD, the badge may have an associated CEU. In this regard, it takes the place of a certificate of completion.


Credly and Tracking Badges

We track badges in our system. But we’re also using an external creditor called “Credly”. Credly is completely optional for folks to use. Think of Credly as a “backpack” that collects your badges. You transfer those badges anywhere (your Facebook profile, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), but they’re first stored at Credly.

If you’d like to use Credly, you will need to sign up for an account. It’s free. And again, completely voluntary.

The communication spectrum

From HBR:

To effectively share information that is complex or personal, you often need to observe body language, hear tone and inflection, and be able to see what you’re talking about. For those purposes videoconferencing is the next best thing to talking face-to-face. At the other end of the spectrum, small, non-urgent requests are best suited to e-mail, instant messaging, or all-in-one platforms like Slack. Although this seems commonsensical, many people instinctively default to their preferred method of communication, which can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and lost productivity.

Very true. And worth keeping in mind in a large school organization. FBOW: Email is non urgent.

The article is well worth a read to understand why remote work thrives in some companies vs others.

Trying to be helpful, but…

Truly, I love the staff I work with and I’m often incredibly impressed by their professionalism and skills. We’re a big district with lots of moving parts and lots of variables to juggle (that’s education in a nutshell). So I try not to read too much into these types of pleas for help.

“My computer doesn’t work. Why?”


“There’s a red light instead of a green. Can you make it green?”


“It’s slow. You know. Slow.”


“My phone doesn’t have a dial tone. What do I do?”

That’s it. Single lined emails in my inbox with no context, much less origin (sure, I have a name, but again, we’re a big district and I’m not sure what school the problem is at). Often these are emails stuck in a thread dealing with some other topic completely, thereby making it all the harder for me to piece context together.

Typically I laugh. But I have become a bit more – shall we say – to the point in my seeking clarifications. Please provide context! I’m trying to be helpful, but….

Do what you love

I grew up Dutch Reformed which, besides being its own particular flavor of Christianity, is also a culture. Lots of strong families, strong work ethics, and strong community support. The food runs bland, the faith runs studious, and on Sundays you made sure not to mow the yard for fear that the neighbors might think you weren’t taking a true Sabbath.

My attitudes towards work were imminently shaped by my home culture.  Protestant work ethic certainly was fundamental (work hard). While not formally spelled out (at least at a young age), the idea of “domains” (home, church, and work) was very evident. Each domain deserved your time, energy, and sometimes money.

When it comes to what type of work (or the question of “what am I suppose to do in this life?”), I remember two specific messages from two different pastors.

The first pastor said “God doesn’t care. You going to be a ditch digger, be a ditch digger. Going to be a doctor, be a doctor. What matters is that you’re giving Him glory in whatever you do.”

The second pastor said essentially the same thing. He also put some historical context on the question of profession. “This is modern problem. For most of history, you did what your parents did, which was farming.”

This message contrasted with the message often heard during my college years and, I confess, often given to my students when I was in the classroom (at least to a certain degree).

That message was that in choosing your work profession, make sure to do what you love.

There are problems with the message. And Miya Tokumitsu does an excellent job of explaining those problems in her article “In the Name of Love Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But it devalues work and hurts workers.”

An example of a good takeaway quote:

DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

As I work on a series of posts and a presentation on how technology is radically altering the labor market, I found this article to resonate because many of the jobs left in this current economy are service jobs. Boring, repetitious, non creative, jobs (fast food, dependent care, big box stores).

And sometimes it’s good to remember that work is just work. Not a higher calling or a reflection of who you are as an individual.