Digital Badges and K-12 School Leaders: Conversations

I’m currently in the process of recruiting participants for the Digital Badge study (, a challenge for any educational researcher (especially at the doctoral level 🙂 ). However, in the process of inviting middle and high school leaders to consider this opportunity for their teams, I’ve been having some amazing conversations.

It is interesting that although the concept of digital badges seems fairly straight forward, it tends to take some time to convey. Typically, the conversation progresses from explaining how digital badges work,  to clarifying their potential use in instruction, then  explaining how the badges I design could bring together learning both in formal (standards-aligned) and informal (interest-driven) spaces for middle and high school learners.

During this process, school leaders tend to ask quite a few questions about how this might work, the work load upon teachers, as well as other questions which any good administrator would ask, which basically mean “and why should I bring this to my already overloaded team?”

Perfect. The value proposition — which is my favorite part of the discussion. The conversation shifts to the vast potential of carefully designed and implemented digital badges to provide a means to create and capture learning trajectories, how badge earners must demonstrate learning through evidence which can be attached to the digital badges. We talk about the learning which is not being acknowledged — in the classroom as well as outside — and how digital badges could be a powerful tool for their teachers to make learning visible. How teachers are under so much pressure to evidence learning through standardized testing… how that leaves so much unacknowledged — so many important skills which teachers may be sharing with their students. We talk about students’ own learning outside the classroom and what teacher wouldn’t want to reach learners through their own interests and learning preferences?

Every learning community has aspects of its mission which inspire and motivate its members. School leaders know that much of the learning in these conceptual, “vision” spaces is not currently acknowledged. When we talk about these aspects — and my plan to conduct a workshop onsite for participating educators to create their own digital badges — with their own criteria (such as that flight program, that Arabic class, that service learning program, those soft skills, these critical thinking tasks, personalize professional development..) — something amazing happens. The leaders really get it.

First,  I see comprehension, then engaged, deep interest as they consider the  possibilities and begin to articulate ideas for their own buildings. “Exciting,” “great,” “aligned with our assessment initiatives,” “could be used for x, y and z.”  I love this part of the conversation  — when we talk about how digital badges could be a way to empower teachers and learners.

Exactly what every great leader wants.

Then next part of the conversation is at this point so much easier — my invitation to collaborate on an exceptional opportunity to be pioneers, to gather baseline data with a study which will add to the conversation and  inform the use of this innovation in the K-12 space. It’s been an exciting journey to hear more questions and especially: “this is something I can bring to my teachers [to decide]. Here’s how we can proceed — “

It’s a start —  and exceptional leaders recognize the opportunity.

For K-12 school contexts, the study is planned for early Fall (grades 6-10). Interested? 🙂

Posted in BadgeTalk

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