Recognizing student mastery.  Tracking program competencies?

HCLThe “Hornet Connected Learning” 1:1 iPad initiative in Elementary Ed kicked off this fall, creating just as many challenges as opportunities for the El Ed faculty.  One early concern was that valuable class time would be spent teaching students how to perform basic iPad functions instead of covering the actual course content.  To address this, we designed an online tutorial course with the goal of “basic functionality” in iPad settings (email accounts, iCloud settings), Apple’s counterparts to Microsoft Office, a.k.a., “iWork” (Pages, Keynote, Numbers), the media-creation apps, a.k.a., “iLife” (GarageBand, iPhoto, iMovie), and file sharing with Google Drive.  The basics included how to create content, how to share it, and how to access it from others.  For students who want deeper dives into their iPads’ capabilities, additional resources and tutorials were also posted.

So if an instructor wants a few weeks from now for students to create a “talking worksheet” that guides 5th-graders through a math activity, the El Ed students can be told to  make sure they have mastered GarageBand and Pages in order to create the audio and put it into the document.  But how does that instructor know that students have done the prep work before the assignment is given?  Will learning how to use the iPad turn out to be a crap-shoot the likes of, “Make sure you read the chapter before coming to class”?

The simple, elegant solution, “Let’s make them ace a quiz to prove that they know what they’re doing,” still leaves the problem of conveying student mastery to their instructors.  Unless each of their instructors is listed as a teacher of the tutorial course, they can’t see the grades.  If only there was a way to attach some sort of mastery-indicating stamp of approval to each student profile, which would be viewable by all future instructors and would allow them to verify that each student has met our requirements… (see where I’m going here?)

canvabadgesFunny enough, one of those Canvas add-on apps does just that.  The Canvabadges app, which was actually built by the makers of Canvas, will allow you to create badges that students earn by meeting specific grade or course participation goals.  And the badges awarded in any ESU course will be displayed on students’ Canvas profiles (thanks to a bit of Javascript from Canvabadges that the admins have to add to the system… somewhere… I don’t know, that’s not my department).  This means that instructors can see who has mastered any given set of competencies.  In the iPad tutorial course, scoring 100% on each of the three iLife app mastery quizzes earns this beauty

iLife badgeand signifies that you know how to edit photos, make a background audio track, and create a movie.

For an individual course, badges can be a way to recognize high performance in students, motivating them to go beyond their basic levels of learning.  For an academic program, badges can be a way to check how well students are progressing toward the program outcomes that span multiple courses.  Overall competency achievement of students can be tracked so that  the department can pick out areas of strength and weakness in student success.

If you are looking beyond the institutional level, badges earned through Canvabadges can be exported to a student’s Mozilla Open Badges backpack, which can display awards to a broader audience (future employers).  This Canvas help page has a tutorial for how students perform this export.

These three video tutorials will help you started using Canvabadges in your courses and programs:

Adding the Canvabadge app to your course:

Creating badges and setting up requirements:

Some things to consider:


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