Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Digital Badges - Taking Learning Seriously

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The use and awarding of digital badges in afterschool and summer youth programs is a burgeoning trend that is rapidly moving across the country. This is important to the afterschool and summer program movement for the following reasons:
  • The development of digital badges requires that program leaders think through and explicitly state what learning will go on related to specific badges. This includes the required attendance, the skills and knowledge that will be acquired, and how this will be demonstrated in order to earn a badge. This specificity raises the bar for learning accountability. Also, with digital badges, this information of the learning that took place or  “meta information” is easily communicated to others. 
  • The awarding of digital badges defines the learning that goes on in programs, which is vital if afterschool and summer programs are to be recognized as important places of learning. These badges are important, visible evidence that afterschool and summer programs take learning seriously. 
  • The adult program staff members often acquire important knowledge and skills through professional development and years of experience. Youth acquire valuable skills and knowledge through their participation in specific afterschool and summer activities. Both deserve an artifact that documents their learning and—importantly—can be shared with peers, future employers, and those allowing admittance to higher education. 
To advance the use of digital badges, the LIAS project formed a partnership with Public Profit. We enlisted the participation of provider organizations in piloting digital badge systems. Organizations included CalSAC, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, Fresno County Office of Education, the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, and the Youth Institute (Long Beach and replication sites). Badges will be awarded acknowledging exemplar programs, program staff that have completed certain trainings, and afterschool program youth who have completed “courses” and acquired new knowledge and skills.

We believe that digital badges, when used properly, offer great benefits to program providers and adult/youth recipients. We just finished a digital badge project to recognize older youth programs that demonstrate the LIAS principles. We will announce the digital badge earners in an upcoming blog post. 

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