Badges are certainly not new. Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America have been using badges for decades to inspire young citizens to earn and display their skills and accomplishments proudly - to track their journeys and to show to others. Badges also carry a great amount of authority when they're placed on the uniform of a police officer or a pilot. The badge signifies that we should trust that these earners are masters of their trade. Yet another form of badges that exists in the digital world are the credentials and endorsements we see on a LinkedIn page. All of these examples of badging do the same thing: they signify a level of achievement in a specific skill or area. There is an external organization that is endorsing the skill level of the badge earner, and the earner is the one in charge of steering his or her learning journey. There’s a distinct level of pride that is associated with the patches mom or dad ironed on to the Scout uniform, and the more endorsements from colleagues or peers on anyone’s LinkedIn profile the deeper the respect.
With such success in analogous arenas, educators currently are looking to badges as a way to solve the assessment crisis that has reared its head ever since the world has become more flat, open, connected and complex. Badges continue to gain traction because of their versatility, visibility and universality. Because learning happens everywhere, not just inside a classroom, badges offer a unique approach to capturing the learning and progress toward a goal in a way that is more flexible than ever before. With badges, learners are able to showcase their unique interests, and they are able to move up the skill levels at a pace that is appropriate and challenging. There is an added sense of play that a badge invites that is reminiscent of our years as Scouts. And because the badge designs are pleasing to the eye with specific criteria and archived evidence, there is much more that can be communicated than with a simple number or a grade. What's more, these badges are open and portable. When displayed in a larger portfolio coupled with artifacts of work, documentation of skill acquisition and learning, they can be powerful tools to make visible the richness of a learner's journey that becomes much sharper in focus.
Through iterative work over the past couple years, we've developed a taxonomy of badges that expresses how we think about how a well-thought-out design communicates category, as well as a badge earner's skill level in the category. The taxonomy is inspired by the guild language, which lends itself well to how we envision this ecosystem evolving from knowledge and skill being disseminated by a sole teacher to an integrated community of learners who share and build knowledge together.
In our research other taxonomies level upward as the skill level of sophistication increases. Calling upon historic guild practices, our taxonomy levels upward as the earner teaches others the acquisition of a skill. Novice and Apprentice earners demonstrate skill acquisition through evidence. Journeyman badges are leaders credentialed by their repeated leadership evidenced by teaching, equipping, and empowering others to acquire a specific skill. Lastly, Masters demonstrate repeated leadership by developing other leaders who advance the knowledge and skill acquisition of other learners and have innovated in the domain for a specific skill for a purpose.
The way we organize badges was something we debated for a long time. We strived to find an organizational system that felt easy to understand, but also had multiple layers and ways of organization and reorganization. Through our ideation and experimentation with different taxonomies, we landed on the periodic table as a way to organize our badges. The beauty of this taxonomy is multifaceted. First, it is a familiar structure in that people recognize it and realize it is meant to organize multiple pieces into a bigger, more integrated system. Second, just like the periodic table, our badging system is set up so that people can understand and derive relationships among certain elements. Our badges are also meant to be combined into larger compounds that signify certifications in various areas.
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We've created badges that are specific to events we host, and we also build and design badges for both professional learning and for issuing to students. Our Middle School team has been pioneering the professional learning badge system with their faculty for the past two years while they purposefully and deliberately commit themselves to action research as they construct, iterate and experiment. They are in the midst of developing a series of badges, and their action research is helping all of us hone the timing, messaging and scope for our larger ecosystem of badges. In addition, we have been issuing badges to the Innovation Diploma learners for the past two years, and we continue to try to align both the deliverables and the skills we hope to nurture through the program with the badges in our system.
We are excited to enter the conversation in greater community and partnership with other schools, leaders, non-profits and life-long learners. Check out our current offerings.
Digital Leadership - Apprentice
Digital leaders must consider the global reach of their online presence. Badge earner has evidenced an application of a skill earned at the novice level, thus earning them the apprentice level badge..
Digital Leadership - Journeyman
Digital leaders must consider the global reach of their online presence. Badge earner has repeatedly led others towards the acquisition of Digital Leadership as a skill. The earner can teach, equip, and empower others to acquire the skill of Digital Leadership at the novice level.
Digital Leadership - Master
Digital leaders must consider the global reach of their online presence. Badge earner has demonstrated repeated leadership by developing other leaders who advance the knowledge and skill acquisition of other learners.. Mastery is demonstrated by innovating the very field of digital leadership.
Product Innovation - Novice
Product innovations demand attention to form, function, and user. Badge earner has demonstrated a basic level of skill acquisition for Product Design and Innovation.
Product Innovation - Apprentice
Product innovations demand attention to form, function, and user. Badge earner has evidenced an application of a skill earned at the novice level, thus earning them the apprentice level badge.
Design Thinking 101
Who Influenced Our Journey?
While we take pride in pioneering research and design in transformational education, we also draw from a small collection of badge issuers and developers that have inspired our own journey. Through research, Google Hangouts and social media outlets, we've established a short list of inspirations that helped us get to where we are and are continuing to help us as we refine the badging ecosystem for our own institution.
We have great respect for the work coming out of DIY.org. We love their mission: DIY is a safe online community for kids to discover new skills, meet friends who are geeks just like them, and be awesome. Over the past few years, we've periodically used DIY as a way to test the idea of learners choosing their pathways towards mastering a skill or concept that is not universal for the entire class, but specific to learner interest.
MVIFI uses Credly to issue badges. Credly empowers the recognition of lifelong achievement by offering the leading platforms for verifying, sharing and managing digital badges and credentials.
Thousands of organizations, including the New York City Department of Education, Adobe, SUNY, University of Central Florida, Dallas Museum of Art, MoMA, EDUCAUSE, Instructure, Training Magazine, Yale University, Harvard, the YMCA of Greater New York, Smithsonian, and NMC, use Credly to make achievements visible.
Mozilla Open Badges
Mozilla's Open Badges is recognition for learning that happens anywhere. The badge structure allows one to display real-world achievements and skills which may help with future career and education opportunities. Open Badges is widely recognized by a variety of industries both in and out of the world of formal K-12 education.
Digital Promise works to improve the opportunity to learn for all Americans through technology and research. We've had several calls with the team at Digital Promise over the past two years and we look forward to continuing our work with their team. Their inspiring work around professional learning is widely lauded among educators.