Blog Post

Swimming in a Sea of Badges

My scholars intro blog is long overdue, but in my defense I have been swimming in a sea of badges...

I am in my second year at Indiana University's Learning Sciences program, this is also my second year as a HASTAC scholar!

Last year I said this about my research: " I hope to pursue research in the area of support center assessment (i.e. how do we know if a support center is helping it's students and in what ways is it helping?)  My current research is in the area of the common core standards for math education as well as online learning for graduate students with a little bit of badge work mixed in."

In one year's time I went from poking around at badges to being all up in badges. I am part of the DML funded project that is documenting badge practices (See Dan's blog post with more info on what we are doing) as they unfold across the DML Comp 4 winner's projects. As we analyze the projects' proposals and chat with those on the project I am becoming more and more excited about the potential for digital badges. I do want to say I haven't completely jumped on the badges bandwagon that I remain "badge curious." I mean badges are certainly interesting and can transform the ways we recognize and value learning, but slapping a badge on existing curriculum isn't innovative (or exciting). 

What is innovative is using badges to help learners communicate their skills and achievements that would otherwise go unnoticed. Take for example the fact that most Developmental Education programs at post-secondary institutions do not/cannot offer credit for their courses, yet many students are required to take them before entering mainstream courses. This is an area where badges could be helpful. No, not because a shiny badge would motivate unmotivated learners to actually try to learn in these courses (I am very doubtful it ever would, and I think situative theories of learning back me up here), but a badge could serve to recognize learning that would otherwise not be documented anywhere. Well sure if they are successful in the developmental education courses then they can move on to credit bearing courses but with low levels of retention in these programs, many developmental education students will never get that far. Does that mean they should have nothing to show for their effort?

As we continue to research the DML projects I hope to better theorize these ideas for developmental education, after all, I have at least another year and a half in this sea of DML badges...

In summary: It seems to me digital badges are (or should be) about helping learners communicate their accomplishments with the rest of the world. 


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