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BLOG:Universal Mind Key in “Recognizing Assets and Opening Doors” for  Aurora Public Schools Students

Universal Mind Key in “Recognizing Assets and Opening Doors” for Aurora Public Schools Students

Being involved in a “community” can mean different things. Sure, folks can be involved in the “community” that pertains specifically to roles and functions within their organization. For example, Universal Mind is affiliated with amazing “community” groups that serve our UX or CX brethren in the area, such as Creative Mornings or the CXPA.

However, Universal Mind also serves the general and broader “communities” in which we operate. Here in Colorado, one incredible example of this is our sponsoring of the Aurora Public Schools Digital Badge program.

What’s a Digital Badge?

aps digital badgeIn wanting to prepare students for success after high school, APS instituted a “Digital Badge” system that helps students track learning opportunities in both formal and information environments.

These accomplishments, symbolized by the issuing of Digital Badges through an online credentialing mechanism that vets and certifies learning opportunities, can be accessed by employers and colleges, many of whom, especially in tech-related fields, understand that education isn’t necessarily limited to the classroom.

APS is one of only a few handful of school districts in the country currently exploring the digital badge system. And, in wanting to connect with thought-leaders in 21st-century fields, UM has offered our expertise and sponsorship of a badge.

How Digital Badges Further Learning

According to Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, badges are “making anytime, anywhere learning a reality for learners of all ages who want to pursue their interests with tangible results in real time,” and are able to “bridge the divide between formal and informal education, and they have the power to transform competency-based learning and hiring practices.”

APS students don’t have to worry about missing out on tracking these informal learning opportunities. In fact, APS students are able to earn Digital Badges in each of these areas:

  • Critical Thinking: Plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate tools and resources.
  • Invention: Show creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes - this is the badge UM sponsors!
  • Self-Direction: Understand human, cultural, and societal issues; practice legal and ethical behavior; and model professionalism.
  • Collaboration: Communicate and work collaboratively to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • Information Literacy: Apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information and demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.

How UM Contributes to “Recognizing Assets and Opening Doors”

Aptly so, UM sponsors the “Invention” badge wherein students must exhibit creating thinking, understand constructs and be able to develop innovative products and processes - all of which are part and parcel of working in the tech field and at Universal Mind.

Sponsoring the “Invention” badge means that students pursuing it are able to connect directly with industry-leading experts like RJ Owen, UX Director at Universal Mind.

“Aside from meeting one-on-one with every student who receives the Invention Badge to talk about their career aspirations, our industry and what it’s like to work at UM,” says Owen, “all those who earn the “Invention” badge are invited to attend a UM-hosted, hands-on design thinking workshop, where they learn how to design and prototype a new product.”

Where it Began and What’s Next

In the fall of 2015, UM began partnering with APS to determine how best to support the initiative and connect with badge recipients. Soon after, RJ was meeting with students who were interested in gaming and programming. By the end of this year, a design thinking workshop will be held for all APS Invention badge recipients.

Working at an organization that realizes the value in such endeavors is refreshing. It shows our love of invention and creativity. Whether that’s through sitting down with inspired and enthusiastic students and encouraging them to pursue their bliss or partnering with fundamental community organizations such as schools, our partnership with APS shows how deeply committed we are to improving the HX, or Human Experience, across the board.