iLEAD and Maker Learning Network Launch Badging System to Recognize Professional Learning

All professions emphasize ongoing learning, training and growth. For years, many occupations have had certifications, credentials or licenses to formally signify levels of mastery, competency or professional skill. In the era of continued digital disruption, a new symbol has arrived on the scene: Digital badges are booming and being used for a variety of specializations, skills and experiences.

Digital badging is coming to iLEAD and Maker Learning Network and initially focuses on professional learning for all staff. According to Angie Nastovska, Director of Humanities and Innovation, the initial iLEAD and Maker Learning Network badges will be issued to all staff members and to those who have completed professional learning opportunities such as Camp Make and the Student Support Symposium. 

In addition to these first few badges, Nastovska said every activity that requires extra hours will have a badge available. 

“Think new employee onboarding, sexual harassment prevention training, and equity training to name a few,” Nastovska said. “This is an excellent opportunity to continually remember the mission and vision and to work collaboratively to nurture personal and professional growth.”

Nastovska added that iLEAD and Maker Learning Network is deploying Credly as the application for digital badging. The program is fully customizable and flexible, and the badging system for iLEAD and Maker Learning Network is specific to their culture and practices.

In addition to the professional recognition, the cultural intent is to foster environments where staff members feel connected. 

“Even though we collaborate in teams, it’s easy to feel isolated,” Nastovska said. “But the badging system creates a symbiotic relationship in which we know we can come together to conquer the challenges. This is a way to document it, to know it.”

This idea of being public and sharing the work through a digital badge is key, according to Kristan Van Houten, a regional outreach coordinator for Maker Learning Network.

“I hope that it’s a visual representation of the work people are already doing that now becomes socially shared,” Van Houten said. “This can be used to share, show and even draw others to become part of our educational movement.”

However, Van Houten emphasizes that the badging will not be adding something to someone’s plate. “This is a way to recognize people for the work they are already doing,” Van Houten said. “You’re just sharing out how excited you are about an organization that values learning.”

In many school districts that offer similar programs, badges are often used only for certificated personnel. However, iLEAD will implement the program for all staff to acknowledge them for completing learning and programs, according to Nastovska. 

“This is a way to create equity and acknowledge all staff,” Nastovska said. “This is a way to recognize personal and professional growth.”

Although this initial badging implementation is focused on staff, there are plans to expand to all stakeholders. For learners, badges could be presented for acquisition of certain skills or completion of certain projects, such as portfolio defense, leadership notebooks or even passion projects. For parents and families, badges could be awarded for successful completion of Parent University. 

Once a staff member has an account, it will stay with them, according to Van Houten. Additionally, she said that all of these badges will sync with staff’s own professional social media accounts, such as LinkedIn.

“You can log in and download badges like a résumé. You can imbed it in your email signature,” Van Houten said. “It’s very easy to use.”

Both Van Houten and Nastovska reiterated that this all comes back to keeping learning at the forefront. 

“We want to make everyone feel comfortable and excited about the process of learning,” Van Houten said. “With project-based learning, which we implement both in our classrooms and as staff members, we are about the learning and the experience over the product.  We are emphasizing the process, which is more valuable.”

Keeping adult learners excited about learning is the ultimate mission, according to Nastovska. 

“I want our staff to always find ways to ignite their spark and fall in love over and over again with their passion,” Nastovska said. “Education is a challenging endeavor, and we need to find ways to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate learning.”

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