Through my work at the Afterschool Alliance, I’ve become incredibly familiar with the overwhelming number of benefits kids gain when participating in quality afterschool programs. I’ve read evaluation after evaluation that reports the positive academic, social and emotional outcomes for students attending afterschool programs—from gains in reading and math scores, to school-day teachers reporting a decrease in problem behavior in the classroom, to parents reporting that their child has a better attitude about school. On top of these positive outcomes, students attending afterschool programs are engaging in unique and fun, but challenging, learning experiences. They are developing skills, gaining knowledge and cultivating their interests. Yet, how do they show their school-day teacher, college admissions officer, potential employer, parents and friends the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired?
First things first: what is a digital badge? This video explains it all:
A new issue brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Mozilla Foundation, “Expanding Education and Workforce Opportunities Through Digital Badges,” explores the potential of digital badges—a digital credential one can earn by completing projects, programs and courses, representing a specific set of skills, interests and achievements—and offers a few examples of how digital badges are currently being used.
To help understand the potential of digital badges, the issue brief outlines the digital badge ecosystem:
Badge issuer – the badge issuer creates the competencies or curriculum and assessments that will determine if an individual has developed the skills and knowledge necessary to earn the badge. Examples of badge issuers could include afterschool programs, schools, communities, businesses and institutions.
Badge earner – badge earners are people who want to be able to show the competencies they’ve developed to various audiences. An example is a young person who wants to apply to colleges to major in computer science, and earns a badge in app development to add to their college application.
Badge consumer – badge consumers are both formal and informal entities that want or are interested in individuals who have the skills and knowledge represented by a digital badge. Examples of badge consumers are colleges, employers, schools and afterschool programs.
Portable/stackable – One purpose of digital badges is that they are “open.” The ability of a badge earner to take their digital badge from one issuer to another, and from one consumer to another, allows earners to show multiple achievements, manage their badges and show them in a way that fits their needs. To this end, the Mozilla Foundation has created the “Open Badges” standard that helps create a baseline validation of the badge, allows ease of access to badges for both earners and consumers, and allows for badge interoperability throughout the digital badge ecosystem.
Digital badges hold enormous opportunity. They can be used in the school system, in higher education and in the workforce. If you’re interested in learning more about the various ways badges can work in the education and workforce sectors and read examples of current badge programs, be sure to read the issue brief. Also, check out the list on page 10 of the issue brief that links to information regarding work around quality digital badge implementation.