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HYPE about badges

HYPE about badges

At Muhlenberg College, we started HYPE today--a youth media and leadership program for high school teens in Allentown, PA.  This year--the program's 7th  year--we started something new:  a badge system built on the Badgestack platform.  HYPE is a month-long program, and the teens attend daily from 9-2.  The program is voluntary and they currently get no high school or college credit for participating.  We're hyped about badges because we have the opportunity to recognize the learning that takes place during HYPE, as they research, shoot, edit and produce short documentaries and digital stories about community issues that they care about most (here's a 20 minute documentary produced by HYPE teens a few summers back--Roots of Change ).  We've designed a system of badges that offers a kind of symbolic validation of the learning and achievements that happen along the way to producing their digital media artifacts.  This afternoon, the teens logged on to the Badgestack site and started to find their way around with great curiosity.  Together with undergraduate researchers, we'll be conducting an ethnography of the badge implementation.  We hope that our critical ethnography will provide insights for further thinking around the potential of badges to represent and recognize learning that otherwise goes unrecognized.  Central to our badge development process was the idea that the learners need to be integrally involved in defining which achievements and which roles/identities are recognized with badges.  Since we first entered the DML badges for lifelong learning competition, HYPE teens have been part of the process of defining and designing HYPE badges, and so they are particularly invested in exploring the system.  One of the early lessons we have learned is that unless learners are involved in identifying the skills/achievements/roles for badging, we face the risk that the teens will perceive it as simply another evaluation system imposed upon them. 

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