Workshop LPA: It’s Not (just) About the Badges – Creating Pathways for Learning Ecosystems Using Digital Badges

Organizers: Daniel Hickey, Rebecca Itow

Presenters: Daniel Hickey, Rebecca Itow, Katerina Schenke, Cathy Tran, Nate Otto, Christine Chow

Digital badges are web-enabled tokens of accomplishment. They contain specific claims and detailed evidence about learning. Because they contain this information and can be readily accumulated and shared, they can work quite differently than traditional grades, certificates, and transcripts. Digital badges are becoming widely used to recognize learning in a variety of formal and informal educational settings. When the Badges for Lifelong Learning competition was launched in 2012, the Design Principles Documentation (DPD) Project was established to follow the 30 badge project awardees, and document the evolution of their practices as the projects progressed from proposal to implementation. As the projects progressed, common practices – later labeled appropriate practices that are context dependent – emerged and were categorized into sets of principles that fall within four categories of badging practices: recognizing learning, assessing learning, motivating learning, and studying learning. As the principles were formed and refined, it became clear that the focus of successful projects was not on the badges, but on the learning ecosystem in which the badges exist, and the learning pathways created around badges.

This workshop will be an interactive session in which participants work in broad affinity groups to consider how desired elements of a learning ecosystem and learning outcomes might shape the way they design a digital badge system. Participants will then select which principles – which will be tangibly available in a card deck – in each category of practice might elicit the kind of learning and engagement they outlined in their learning ecosystem. Participants will then design one specific learning pathway that encompasses appropriate practices contained in the chosen principles, and discuss why a badge should be earned at the end of that pathway. These small groups will then share their experiences and their findings with all of the participants, and the DPD team will facilitate a discussion around selecting appropriate practices for designing learning pathways that lead to a digital badge, and how those pathways interact within the broader learning ecosystem.

A major lesson the DPD team has learned in the last year-and-a-half is that it really is not just about the badges; it is about learning ecosystems. And the more badging projects consider the elements that make up their learning ecosystem and the learning pathways within it, the more they can leverage digital badges to highlight nuanced learning and understanding that traditional grading systems do not. As the 30 awardees move into their final phase of implementation and their funding from the competition ends, the DPD project will track which badge systems sustain. It is not the charge of the DPD team to evaluate the projects or advise them; rather, the team aims to capture the knowledge that emerges as projects shift and adjust their practices as their project moves forward, and document that knowledge in a coherent and organized way such that other badge and learning ecosystem developers can learn from the projects’ experiences.

 
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