Open badges and Google competency

Well over a year ago now we inserted this innocuous sounding target into our academic development plan at Oswestry School:
100% of all staff have ‘Oswestry Google Proficiency’ (by September 2018; 50% by December 2016)
Inspired by the work of Doug Belshaw and his evangelism of open badges I saw this as an obvious candidate for certification using an open badge. Although I didn't know this at the time, he was working on something very similar in his capacity as a consultant at Victoria College, Jersey.

In late August 2016 I devised this document to guide staff through a range of tasks that I thought it would be useful for them to have completed. As I explained to them in the introduction, this was something I wanted them to chip away at, working on their own and learning as they did so. Knowing how busy teachers are, I was also keen to stress that I wanted them:
...to complete the tasks, so far as possible, in the course of your normal job, not as an academic exercise.
The original deadline for all of this was just before Christmas, at the end of the Michaelmas term. I introduced all the tasks to the staff at our staff training in September.

As the term wore on, it became increasingly apparent that staff were not engaging with the tasks as I had hoped they might. Despite (or perhaps because of?) the generous provision of time for the tasks staff were finding it hard to find to set aside time to complete them. It was also clear that some staff lacked the skills associated with being able to research problems on the internet quickly and efficiently.

Towards the end of the Michaelmas term, whilst staff were in the midst of report writing, a decision was made to extend the deadline until the end of the Lent term. The relief was palpable. In addition, it was agreed that a weekly drop-in session would be laid on so that struggling staff could get the support they needed. Feeling a little frustrated by the slow progress staff were making, I penned this slightly flippant e-mail and sent it to all in early January. I hoped it might goad people into action:


I have just finished marking the first tranche of Google competency tasks and am delighted to have been able to award a good number of open badges. I was also able to award some of these special badges for those staff who completed all the tasks, leaving no gaps, before the (revised) deadline. These individuals have entered into the spirit of the exercise and I am immensely grateful to them. They have proved the truth of the following:


I think if I were to do this again, I would:
  1. Build in time for the tasks using training time to undermine the claims of the 'I've got no time..' brigade.
  2. Make some help videos and cover some of the basic stuff more thoroughly at the outset (a surprising number of people didn't know the snipping tool existed, for example).
  3. Have staggered deadlines - (some) adults, like (some) children cannot cope with long-range deadlines.
  4. Make it clear from the outset that completion of these tasks would be formal requirement of professional development. I don't believe in attaching these things to pay, and I acknowledge that targets can backfire, but there are staff who simply won't do something unless they are contractually obliged to.

Now off to chase some recidivists...!


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