They might sound small, but colorful new icons from Perkins eLearning could have a big impact on the way teachers of the visually impaired showcase their unique skills.
Educators who complete online professional development courses through Perkins eLearning can now earn micro-credentials, digital badges representing competency in specific areas. Micro-credentials are available for nine different skills including transition planning, digital accessibility and essential assessments.
“Generally when you take a class you get a transcript that says your grade and how many credits you got, but it doesn’t tell what competencies you gained,” said Mary Zatta, director of educational resources for Perkins eLearning. “A micro-credential is really saying you did this professional development and, very specifically, you gained these skills.”
Perkins micro-credentials are meant to be displayed on a LinkedIn profile, online resume or email signature. The icons are visually appealing, with colorful images that match the skill they represent. For example, the micro-credential for transition planning features a clock and a wall calendar.
But micro-credentials are more than just cute decorations. Each icon also contains metadata about the specific competency attained and the issuing organization. That information can be visible to anyone viewing the micro-credential.
“It’s almost like having a written reference,” said Zatta. “If a teacher is looking for a job or a different position within a school, they can say, ‘I have these specific skills.’”
Perkins eLearning began awarding its first micro-credentials last winter, alongside the standard professional credits associated with each course. Micro-credentials can be earned by completing specific online course material and demonstrating mastery through assigned projects and activities. There are already plans to expand the number of micro-credentials on offer, Zatta said.
Micro-credentials are helpful for teachers looking to network or connect with colleagues, said Ting Siu, a veteran educator and Perkins eLearning instructor.
“If I’m online and seeing profiles of other people, and I see they have a micro-credential in this area or that area, they become somebody I could ask a question of if I have a question in that area,” she said. “It’s a really good way to build stronger online networks to support teachers’ professional development.”
These days, the title of TVI (teacher of students with visual impairment) often fails to adequately reflect the complex set of skills many educators have, Zatta said. Many have specialized knowledge – whether it’s working with students with a specific type of blindness, like cortical visual impairment (CVI), or helping teenagers who are blind prepare to live independently.
“There’s such a breadth in terms of who they serve,” Zatta said. “Having a specific way to show your expertise in certain areas is, I think, extremely valuable.”
For Ting, the appeal of micro-credentials isn’t hard to understand.
“It’s a different type of recognition that kind of brings a social media and community into the professional development space – and it makes it a little more fun,” she said.