By Kay Oddone.
I was cleaning out my closet last weekend when I found my school port from Year 2. It was a hard blue port, the type that kids in the early 80’s all had, with clips at the front and the tendency to rattle loudly when it was filled with just a lunchbox. Covering the port were stickers. Stickers I had earned from my teacher, and had proudly displayed on my port (yes, I was a nerdy little kid!!).
Digital badges are like super-powered stickers, displaying an achievement of skill; but their super-powers make them much more than glorified reward stickers.
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as:
an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.
This short video gives a great introduction to what badges are, and their role in contemporary learning.
In a world where information is everywhere, and learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the way we demonstrate proficiency must change. As social media and ubiquitous internet access puts us into contact with expert teachers and mentors from all over the world, and MOOCs and Connected Learning environments enable us to develop skills and understandings in new and unexpected ways, we need a method of displaying what we know and can do. Traditional, formalised learning opportunities are not the only sources of education, and paper-based certificates just don’t cut it in a digital world.
As professional development becomes more learner centred, badges offer a more flexible and personalised method of recognising achievements. Badges allow for modular, learning-centred designs, where multiple learning pathways are accommodated, acknowledging the varying levels of expertise held by participants, and reflecting achievement in short courses, work-based experience, assignments and projects, as well as soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, problem solve or engage in positive conflict resolution.
Digital badges enable potential employers to check against specific skill and knowledge needs. The ability to capture skills, knowledge and abilities developed from experiences across personal and professional spheres makes sense in a digital and fast changing environment such as education, where many skills need continual updating as recognised by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
Systems such as the open badges infrastructure developed by the Mozilla foundation address the issues of identity, verification, validation and the ongoing management of badges. Badges created and issued using infrastructure such as this include metadata which is hard-coded (‘baked’) into the badge image file itself. This links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. Badges are also not necessarily permanent, and can be de-activated after a particular period of time if skills need to be refreshed (such as in the case of the yearly update required to maintain certain first aid qualifications).
The Horizon Report (2015) places digital badging as a technology which is likely to enter mainstream use in K-12 education within the next 4-5 years. The report is a well-respected research document which is widely used internationally to shape strategic plans in education in both K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Currently, large corporations such as Samsung, and schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Kahn Academy and Yale have all begun developing and using badges.
If the introduction of digital badging is introduced in a cost-effective way, organisations could see benefits through better management of professional learning, more data on the levels of professional learning of staff and more effective placement of staff through the recruitment and selection process.
Disclosure: This post was written not just to share this information, but also to earn myself a badge! In researching this topic, I discovered #OB101 which is an online course about open badges. The first task was to write 250+ words on the following:
- What Open Badges are
- How Open Badges are different from digital badges
- Some ways Open Badges can be used
Did I meet the criteria? You will have to check my Badge Backpack to find out!