Professional development is critical to ensuring that teachers are successful with instructional strategies, using technology in the classroom, and are up to date with the latest K-12 initiatives. Most districts and schools have yearly PD requirements that teachers must complete to make sure they are learning and improving as professionals. In order to have teachers complete these credits, Tech Coaches at the district and school level create professional development sessions and resources for teachers to know where, when, and how to get credit.

Although professional development is important, teachers are busy and it can be difficult to find time for scheduled professional development sessions. Eric Guise, a Tech Coach at Hopewell Valley Central High School, overcame this challenge by creating a digital badge system in order to provide flexible professional development for his teachers.

Professional Development before digital badges

When Hopewell Valley Central High School began their 1:1 device program, Eric and his Tech Coach team decided to create a professional development program so that teachers were learning how to best use technology in the classroom. Prior to their digital badge system, Eric explained that this professional development program was a lot of blended work for teachers in structured and scheduled training programs. One of the challenges with this was that teachers wanted to complete professional development on their own time with the flexibility to get credit for things they were learning on their own time. With this came a request for a wider variety of professional development topics and opportunities.

What is a digital badge system?

Digital badges are a great way for professionals to easily attain proof of completion for various training and certifications. Eric Guise and his team recognized the power of digital badges and the opportunity to use them to encourage flexible professional development for teachers. They created a professional development resource center with a stack of different technology, tools, and training that teachers can receive digital badge professional development credit for.

These digital badges are distributed both physically and digitally so that teachers can include their badges in email signatures as well as put them in their classrooms or on their classroom doors.

How to structure a digital badge system for flexible professional development

In order to create a digital badge system, Eric and his team had to first create a stack of options for professional development for teachers to get credit. This stack consists of slide decks that introduce and walks teachers through new technology tools and initiatives that they can use in their classrooms. Once teachers complete the slide deck they have to show proof of learning and testing the tool to receive their digital badge and professional development credit.

1. Curate training resources for tools and strategies to fulfill flexible professional development

The team at Hopewell Valley Central High School curated a stack of resources for teachers to use to fulfill flexible professional development credits on their own time. This is the first step in the digital badge system and is especially helpful now that remote learning is in place. Each resource contains a slide deck that introduces teachers to the new tool or strategy, walks them through how to get the tool, and how to best use it.

2. Teachers consume resources and brainstorm ideas for using those tools and strategies in practice

After teachers have completed the slide deck to learn about a new tool or strategy, they are then asked to brainstorm ways that they might use these tools or strategies in their classrooms. The best way to do this is by thinking about things they already have in place and how a new tool or strategy could help them improve or enhance their current activities. Once they have some ideas, they can take these notes and complete the final step in their digital badge system. 

3. Provide artifact for how teachers have incorporated (or intend to incorporate) learnings

Eric explained that the last step in their digital badge system for flexible professional development is for teachers to provide an artifact for how they have incorporated (or plan to incorporate) this tool or strategy in their curriculum or classroom. How they show this can differ but in order to receive professional development credit and a digital badge, the technology team needs to see some evidence that they have consumed, brainstormed, and applied these learnings to their classroom.

Incentivizing teachers to complete flexible professional development

Once teachers have completed these three steps, they will receive that digital badge (as well as a hard copy) that they can add to their email signature, put in their classroom or on their door. 

Eric Guise shared that in order to keep teachers motivated, they’ve created a reward system for those who participate in the digital badge system. If teachers complete 4 digital badges by May, they receive a half-day the Friday before Memorial Day – a day that is typically used for 1/2 teaching and 1/2 professional development training.

Listen to our full conversation with Eric Guise

On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath talks with Eric Guise, the Media Specialist and Technology Coach at Hopewell Valley Central High School in New Jersey, about adapting to this new period of remote learning. In addition to supporting the district and teachers with technology, Eric hosts a tech-centric podcast for busy teachers, GotTechEd.

Learn how to create effective PD strategies at our first Professional Development Summit on May 29th!

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