Digital Badging

As an effective learning tool, gamification in the classroom comes with a system of validation.

GUEST COLUMN | by Kanista Zuniga and Michelle Macumber

CREDIT vif learning centerIn an age of gamification, kids are learning from video games — whether on tablets, mobile phones or video consoles. According to Gabe Zichermann from TEDxKids, that’s a good thing. Evidence shows direct links between students using games in the classroom and increased learning levels.

Ananth Pai, an educator in Minnesota with a background in process engineering, replaced his standard elementary class curriculum with a video game-based learning curriculum. Pai used Nintendos and computer games to teach students math and language skills. In just 18 weeks of using this approach, Pai’s entire class went from below third-grade reading and math levels to above fourth-grade levels in both subjects.

In recent years, digital badging has emerged to validate and symbolize achievements attained in both electronic gaming and learning environments.

Gamification is an effective learning tool for children. It’s also a useful tool for adult learners to showcase expertise in specific areas of interest. In recent years, digital badging has emerged to validate and symbolize achievements attained in both electronic gaming and learning environments.

This post provides a brief history of digital badging, information on why digital badges are beneficial for teachers and ways to start earning digital badges today.

A Brief History of Digital Badging

According to the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC), a digital badge is, “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in many learning environments.” Digital badges were initially inspired by the Boy and Girl Scouts badging system in which scouts earn patches in three categories: progressing through the program, attending a special event or accomplishing a specific goal.

In exchange for achievements, scouts are rewarded with special badges, pins or patches to wear on their uniforms for others to see. Patches are often a source of pride to the scouts who earn them and offer visible proof of accomplishments.

In 2008, Foursquare, a social networking app that allows users to “check-in” to locations on their smartphones, began incorporating a badging system as an enticement for users. The more places a user checks into, the more badges he or she receives. The more badges received, the more competition users face to maintain their badges.

Partly influenced by the popularity of Foursquare badges, large educational and creative organizations, including Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, the Smithsonian and Disney-Pixar, started to consider how to use gamification concepts to both change employee behavior and properly recognize employees for skills and expertise that fall outside those found on standard resumes.

In 2011, Mozilla, a free software community responsible for the creation of Firefox, released the Mozilla Open Badges project which allows any company to create and issue digital badges to individuals based on real-world achievements and skills. Educational institutions such as Peer 2 Peer University and HASTAC quickly jumped on board to develop their own badges using Mozilla’s Open Badges project and have been awarding badges to motivated learners for the past year.

Why Digital Badges are Beneficial for Teachers

Digital badging offers a holistic approach to making evident the training and professional development teachers undertake. As a teacher, you have probably attended many webinars and conferences, or participated in classes of interest to you for which you could not receive credit. A traditional resume may not clearly represent that type of training or the specific educational interests pursued outside of the classroom, even though they may benefit your students.

Mark Otter, chief product officer at VIF International Education, brings up a good point, “Professional development certificates sit in a drawer and don’t see the light of day. How do I know if Ruth is a great educator? She can tell me how great she is, and that she loves learning about this and that, but at the end of the day where is the proof? Digital badging is the perfect way to publicly showcase your achievements to your school and extended professional community as proof that you are a motivated educator.”

Digital badges demonstrate your achievements outside of standard credited course hours. Attend a webinar? There’s a badge for that. Volunteer with an organization? There’s a badge for that. Take a unaccredited class? There’s a badge for that.

Digital badge portfolios are collections of achievements that can be displayed online or on resumes for everyone to see, including potential employers. Digital badging provides evidence of teachers’ unique endeavors and tailored knowledge.

Benefits of Digital Badges:

  • Display your learning achievements easily.
  • Get acknowledged for your non-credit learning experiences.
  • Showcase what makes you unique.

How To Start Earning Digital Badges Today

Global Gateway recently launched a digital badging system for educators in the VIF learning center. Our professional development resources and the digital badges earned for completion of individual PD modules are specifically designed for teachers interested in increasing their students’ their own global competence and who want to incorporate global concepts and project-based inquiry approaches into their classrooms.

Not currently teaching global content? Check out these statistics to learn the benefits of using a global learning approach in your classroom.

Join our community of global educators to start earning digital badges today.

Kanista Zuniga is a former ESL/EFL teacher in the U.S. and Japan, traveler, tennis player, culture and language enthusiast and global education advocate. Kanista is the Learning Center Manager at VIF International Education and works alongside Michelle to support all global educators in the VIF professional development community. To learn more about global education and professional development follow VIF on Twitter @viflearn.

Michelle Macumber is a global educator, travel lover, volunteer addict, true Canadian (proudly living in the Southern U.S.) who loves family, friends and keeping (really) busy! Michelle is the Learning Center Community Leader at VIF International Education where she works alongside Kanista to engage and support all members in their development as global educators.

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