The key factors that are most likely to improve learning outcomes.
- Learners taking ownership and having a choice in what they learn and how.
- Differentiated and individualized learning
- Formative, constructive, personalized, and focused assessment
- Small-group learning experiences
- Opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning and to develop other noncognitive skills that help them learn how to learn.
- Flexible, collaborative tools to help teachers and learners incorporate these key factors and improve learning outcomes.
Technology has always been a powerful tool in learning.
The earliest learning technology, writing, transformed learning from just the memorization of stories told by a few near by elders, to the study of many different ideas from many different people and from many different times. Schools become places where written documents could be gathered, stored, cataloged, and taught. Particularly because many of the oldest documents had to be handled with great care, access was strictly controlled. So, learners had to travel to one of these schools in order to study these texts.
The next development in learning technology was the printing press and mass publishing. Together they transformed learning from the controlled study of just a few ideas and just a few people, to the study of current events and ideas from a vast range of thinkers. Ideas could now be reproduced and distributed to vast audiences. Learners could access orders of magnitude more information. Schools were no longer the only place books could be stored. Individuals could create their own libraries and learning started to become much more personalized.
The domestication of the electron and the subsequent development of the Computer and the Internet has led us to today. Today information is available in virtually unlimited quantities and (because of the huge bandwidth available) from many different media. No longer are there just a few publishers publishing static texts. Today everyone is a publisher. And we are updating those text at the speed of light.
The ability to seek new learning and acquire new skills brings personal growth to populations that have never had such capability. In addition to just plain text, which was the learning source for the last number of centuries, we now have video, audio, and interactive media.
Today’s learning technology has birthed a learning environment where access to personalize learning tools can help all learning reach incredible new levels.
Finally, the more the community buys-in to this type of learning environment, the more the community will realize the benefits of improved learning experiences.
Here are five suggestions on how technology should be use to ensure learners have access to high-quality educational experiences.
- Technology should be used to personalize learning and give learners more choice over what and how they learn and at what pace, preparing them to organize and direct their own learning for the rest of their lives.
- Use the things we learned about our understanding of how people learn so we can apply the personal and contextual factors most impact their success.
- Apply understanding of what people need to know and the skills and competencies they need to acquire for success in life and productive work in the 21st century.
- Take advantage of availability of high quality interactive devices and applications to allow teachers to adapt assessments to the needs and abilities of individual learners and provide near real-time results.
- Technology has allowed us to rethink the design of physical learning spaces to accommodate new and expanded relationships among learners, teachers, peers, and mentors.
Prior to the domestication of the electron, we had to go to “bricks and mortar” buildings and campuses to learn.
But, today, you don’t have to leave your desk to have virtually unlimited learning options available to you.
Unfortunately, our existing industrialized education monoliths continues to brainwash the business and professional communities that a traditional approach to credentialing is the only way. Under this, Henry Ford Assembly line model, all similar learners ride an educational conveyer belt in which they all take the same series of classes and when a number of courses or units are accumulated, they get a stamp of endorsement called a certificate or diploma. The amount of actually useful learning acquired on this 20 year assembly line varies greatly between learners.
There is no question a certificate or diploma is still relevant to today’s workforce. Employers and customers want to know you have the skills to do the job.
However, the problem is that the certificates or diplomas are not personally detailed enough for any outside observer to optimally value that certificate or diploma.
Fortunately we have 21st Century tools to fix this very real problem It is called “Micro-credentialing.” Micro-credentialing means that a learner gets a series of “personalized” micro-credentials acknowledging an individual’s completion of work, whether it is a noncredit course, a seminar, or other professional learning and skill building.
UC San Diego workforce research analyst Dr. Josh Shapiro notes, “Degrees and certificates often do a poor job of communicating detailed information about graduates. Micro-credentials and badges, however, indicate specific knowledge and skills—impacting skill sets that industry is seeking in new hires.”
The tools available to us today can usher in a welcomed new learning era, in which the competency verification industry needs, can be more optimally met. The tools available to us today, can easily and cheaply provide information to the community beyond what a transcript or diploma is able to convey.
We are living in a time when people need to possess a list of competencies that can be added to over time with a verifiable rubric to measure skill mastery, recognized and endorsed by industry and connected to our emerging online social media outlets like LinkedIn.
“Badges without taxonomies, without some shared understanding, without rubrics, are meaningless,” notes Matthew Pittinsky, an assistant research professor in the school of social and family dynamics at Arizona State University and founder of Parchment, a credentials-management company.
The notion of a student obtaining one large qualification rather than offer an array of micro-credentials (badges) is a relic of the past. From an employer’s point of view, the value of hiring a person with numerous mini-qualifications and a diploma provides a higher confidence in their investment as opposed to the risk involved in hiring a “blue chip” student from a brand name university.
UCSD Extension K-16 Programs have begun to implement a micro-credentialing program targeting students enrolled in our pre-collegiate programs. Their strategy seeks to refine the operational process involved in offering badges but also elevate these credentials from an informal acknowledgement to a professionally recognized measure of skills.
Of Course many people, particularly those entranced in the existing educational industrial monoliths, will dump all over this approach. I understand that. Confirmation bias, selective perception, and motivated reasoning combine with these educational agents of the past to resist any other model. But, that resistance will eventually wain as more and more 21st Century tools are deployed.
So, what are Micro-credentials:
- One skill at a time: Each micro-credential will focus on one competency and skill tied to a single rubric.
- Evidence to demonstrate skills: Students must demonstrate their competence by demonstrating and providing multiple examples of their work and to multiple assessors.
- Assessment and review: Each micro-credential will be reviewed, evaluated and endorsed by an advisory panel to ensure it is a reliable articulation of a specific skill.
- Connected to needed Community skills: Each micro-credential must be linked to needed community skills.