Digital Badges Challenge! Show what you know!

InfoMaker: Level 1

Do you like to experiment, learn and grow?

Would you like to try something a bit different and maybe earn digital badges to show what you’ve learned to parents, teachers, college admission officers or even possible employers? Would you like some of the learning you do outside of school to “count?” We have a series of digital badge challenges for you — earn digital badges and show what you know!

Digital badges can recognize and communicate your learning to any or all of these audiences in a really great way – the badges “live” online. Attached to the badges are your project files or links to the products you create to earn the badge. You can choose which badges to earn and display, and if you are 13 or older, you can collect and display your badges in a “digital backpack.”

We are educators – teachers and researchers – who are interested in learning more about how pre-teens and teens learn DataBadge1(or not) using digital badges.  We’ve organized a study where youth in grades 6-12 can earn digital badges by “making” and learning by experimenting with different “designs” and also in some cool math skills (using data). Use of technology is not required, but welcomed! You can “make” something for a school project or something on your own – a game, a great recipe, mod software, prepare and test a social media project to change the world – almost anything!

We are looking for youth who may be interested in participating in the study (your parents must agree as well).  Basically how the study works is that you will be matched with a teacher/mentor who will guide you to earn badges and to take surveys for the research.   Here are samples of the badges you can earn: InfoMaker (“making” things and creating information): (ages 11-18), Data Whiz (data and information):, Data Hacker (more advanced data and information): You can try to earn all 5 levels of each badge, or as many as you want, over the course of about 4 weeks.

Data hacker 1If you think you may be interested in this challenge, please fill out this very short survey to sign up for more information: (you can still change your mind if you want, even if you sign up for more info). For additional details, contact Angela Elkordy,  or ask a parent or teacher to call:  (734) 494-0640. Show what you know!

Deadline is December 16, 2013.


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InfoMaker Badge Series: Levels 1-5

Greetings, educators!

do you want to acknowledge and scaffold learning in design thinking for kids? science? ELA skills in science or technical subjects? creating (or “making”) a product and refinement cycle?

InfoMaker: Level 1

In the InfoMaker Digital Badge series, kids learn how to obtain, evaluate and create information through solving an authentic problem, whether that be designing a possible solution to a watershed concern, or to investigate the effect of different chocolate chips in a recipe, designing the lightest, functioning bridge model which will hold a certain weight, or the difference in users’ experiences when changing font color and/or size on a web site.

You’ve got it! Kids make things based upon their research into a design or scientific problem, suggest a possible solution and test their ideas. Fun and really important thinking skills. Learn about the InfoMaker Badge Series:

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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? 🙂

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What are digital badges?

Data hacker 1

Digital badge are mini-credentials, awarded after a process of assessment which may be used to guide, measure, recognize and communicate learning. In school settings, digital badges might be called “alternative assessments.”  Badge are awarded upon successful completion of tasks or challenges which are really performance criteria. The tasks can be designed, through authentic learning experiences, to evidence understanding of the performance objectives which could include specific knowledge and/or skills. After the learning products or evidence have been reviewed by a teacher or mentor, badges may be issued or given to learners who successfully meet the learning objectives.

Unpacking a digital badge

Digital badges are essentially images with metadata attached; they can be displayed on web pages, digital documents such as resumes or CVs. The metadata, or data about the badge, may include important information about the badge such as data of issue, who issued the badge, links to “evidence” or digital learning assets. The great thing about digital badge assessments is that the information you would like to know — the learning objectives, the performance criteria and the actual evidence of learning — can be “baked” right into the badge. Interested or targeted audiences (usually with permission) can click on the badge to view this information, that is, the metadata, or data about the badge.  This just can’t be accomplished with traditional “grades.”  

Digital badges are already used in a variety of environments to communicate individuals’ achievement and/or learning. Arne Duncan, U. S. Secretary of Education recently described the use of badges as a “game changing strategy. “

 “Badges can help engage students in learning, and broaden the avenues for learners of all ages to acquire and demonstrate—as well as document and display—their skills” (Remarks at the 4th Annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition, 2011). 

What can I do with a digital badge?


Learners can accumulate digital badges into a “digital backpack;” badges awarded through systems which are compliant with Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) standard can be displayed together, through Mozilla’s site, once the user has signed up for a “backpack” (display space). Badges can also be displayed on digital products such as web sites, blogs, resumes or eportfolios; they can also be printed on a kind of transcript. To sign up or take a closer look:

Digital badges and assessment –

 great tools for teaching and learning in K-20 environments

Teachers and administrators have repeatedly expressed concern over K-12 content standards as well as the standardized testing methodology used to “measure” or evidence learning to “meet” these standards. There’s an understanding by educators, that students need much more than the primarily declarative knowledge and lower order thinking skills tested by large scale, criterion- referenced testing such as the Michigan’s MEAP or IOWA test battery. Digital badges can help; by complementing existing systems of grading in higher education and K-12 schools, the use of robust badge assessments, carefully applied, can provide an in-depth understanding of individuals’ capacities and accomplishments.
walkthrough2Since badge criteria are so flexible, they can be designed to support  learning and assessment. Also, they may be used to communicate skills and knowledge which may not currently be measured, but that are crucial for students’ success such as soft skills or complex performance tasks requiring higher order thinking skills. The idea of a system to recognize, communicate and articulate skill development addresses some of the knotty issues in learning and assessment of competencies which are essential for the knowledge-based workplace, skills which are not adequately measured through standardized testing. As web-based, “open” credentials for which criteria are available to be reviewed upon demand with an Internet connection, digital badges, for perhaps the first time, may provide unique assessments which could be:

  • transparent (because the specific criteria are published);
  • evidence-based (for some badges, products which evidence learning will be “attached” to the users’ badges, similar to a digital portfolio);
  • acknowledge and hence make visible skills and competencies needed for the workplace but which are neither “taught” nor assessed in formal environments;
  • flexible (even transcultural, embodying criteria important to communities of practice globally)
  • granular (very specific skills and knowledge sets can be targeted) and in some sense, may be
  • “common assessments” in that authorizers may openly solicit feedback on badge criteria and design aspects from pertinent communities of practice. In this manner, badge criteria could be “crowd sourced” by relevant experts.
Why would I want a digital badge?

Unlike grades or summative assessments, digital badges can provide detailed information about the skills or knowledge the learner demonstrated.  Performance criteria can be very simple or complex; criteria are established by the badge issuer and hence vary from badge to badge.  The badge performance objectives and purpose may be viewed by clicking on the digital badge. This kind of information will be useful to a wide variety of audiences including school administrators, teachers, college admissions officers, potential employers and professional colleagues.

Educators, earn your own badge!

The Walkthrough for Learning Digital badge (above) is awarded for demonstrating knowledge in a specific walk-through technique (Downey, Three-Minute Walk-through). As an administrator or teacher leaders, you may be interested trying to earn this for yourself! Please use the form below to be added to the list. When a cohort of educators have signed up, a start date will be determined. Looking forward to your participation!

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