Digital Badges Coming to a VR Theater Near You
If I could be transported to the future, let say 10 to 15 years from now, what would I see? What would learning look like? These are definitely open-ended questions for which the answers would encompass many of the topics visited during my COETAIL journey. I could write endlessly about how technology, with the guidance of a teacher as a facilitator, will redefine education by allowing personalized learning in which students collaboratively solve authentic problems that have a real impact in their lives and their communities. I could write about how learning would not be limited to classroom walls but will be virtually connected to learning environments around the world. However, for the sake of a more focused blog, let’s dwell on the impact that digital badges and virtual reality (VR) may have in the future of learning.
At the moment, I am looking for a job in the US. I updated my resume and I created my LinkedIn profile, but how can I prove that I am a qualified educator? It is easy to verify the authenticity of my university diplomas, but what about the skills that I have acquired throughout my career? Personal references are important, but are they enough? Dough Belshaw, in the podcast “Shifting our Schools” (embedded below), affirms that a system of digital badges may be one way to standardize and level the field in the global job market.
Let me give you a more concrete example of how badges could benefit all. The majority of my professional experience as a teacher and, later on as technology instructional facilitator, has been mainly in Ecuador. So, to someone here in Houston who reads my resume, they really don’t have a significant context to understand what I have done abroad. However, as soon as I mention that I am a recent Level 2 Google Certified Educator, their eyes light up as though we are finally speaking the same language. The certification that Google provides is becoming well known within the educational context. People know that in order to receive a certificate (or a digital badge) the candidate needs to complete a series of courses and demonstrate knowledge and proficiency.
What exactly is a digital badge?
“Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.”—MacArthur Foundation
In addition, the use of badges has the potential of replacing the letter-grade system in education. At the moment, an A obtained at the end of fourth grade in Ms. Chiriboga’s math class in Quito isn’t the same A obtained by another student in Ms. Long’s class in Houston. Letter grades don’t mean much because they can’t be transferred easily to different contexts; they are nondescriptive as to what students know or are able to do. Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts invented this system 121 years ago, and it is what we are used to, but it is greatly subjective and lacks inter-rater reliability.
Therefore, I envision a future—as mentioned in the video above— where earning digital badges have gone mainstream and letter grading or GPAs are things of the past. Many institutions, after-school programs, and organizations are already issuing open badges to validate the knowledge and skills of thousands of learners across the globe. In addition, Google Classroom and other Learning Management Systems (LMS) have implemented digital badges so teachers can issue them to students within the platforms. However, in the future, we need a globally standardized way to verify and validate the badges displayed in our digital profiles.
Keeping the future of learning in mind, what about Virtual Reality?
In January, I attended a STEAM Summit in Houston, and I had the privilege of meeting Danielle Olson, a virtual reality researcher and doctoral student at MIT.
— Carolin Escobar (@carolin_escobar) January 12, 2018
She is the founder of the non-profit organization called Gique, whose mission is to expose students to STEAM experiences in after-school programs. During her summit session, “Designing for Virtual Reality” I learned about the online platform CoSpaces Edu. It allows students to create their own virtual reality environments when they use the mobile app and a headset. I was blown away by the numerous applications this platform could have in the learning process, and I decided to give it a try for the sake of this week’s focus. (See my first project below). If you view it on your computer, use the arrow keys to move around, or, if you are using your phone, you must have the app downloaded, and a VR headset to view it. I am excited about using this platform in the classroom because it also incorporates block-programming for beginning coders; every element in the environment could be animated. I used this playlist with tutorials to learn the basics; however, there aren’t many comprehensive tutorials to understand block-based programming. They’ve assumed you already have the basic knowledge to do so.
Moreover, Danielle Olson is currently working on creating fully immersive media experiences that will build more empathy in interpersonal relationships. She is involved in a project called “The Enemy”, which will allow the public to experience with multiple senses both sides of a war conflict and discover that opposing sides are more similar than different.
Danielle also sees the potential of these new technological systems in helping build empathy in schools. Here is what Rachel Gordon in her article, “Danielle Olson: Building empathy through computer science and art says about her research:
“She’s working on developing interactive narrative experiences to help kids practice dealing with social identity issues. For example, one game might involve an elf trying to get past a gatekeeper from a different clan, who may try fitting in by downplaying parts of their identity to get past the gate.”
While we could debate which tools will be the most prominent in future learning, I am certain that badges and VR will definitely play an important role in deepening understanding, validating and sharing our experiences.
Looking forward to your comments,