Wednesday, January 30, 2013


What do you think of when you hear the word badge?  Do you think about a peace officer’s shield?  Do you think about the Boy or Girl Scout who has a number of badges that he/she can earn through diligence and hard work?  Or maybe you think about the fireman whose badge lets you know that he/she is a firefighter. 
That’s what I used to think of, but now I know that there is another type of badge—those that you can “earn” on the internet.  Badges became popular in 2011.  They started out as gaming elements and now seem to be everywhere.  This past summer youth were able to “earn” badges through geocaching in New York and playing the game, Race to the White House.  Players followed coordinates to an “official geocache” where they found a log (not buried and in a public place) where they could find items and weigh in on electoral issues that they felt like were being ignored by the two major parties.  The issues selected for the game were college tuition, gun control, net neutrality, and medical marijuana.  This project, run by Global Kids, Inc. and the Brooklyn Public Library began with placing 48 bugs across the City in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.  The youth would “find a bug”, consider the issue carried by the bug, and if they believed the issue should be part of the election dialog, they moved the “bug” closer to Washington D.C.  If they disagreed and felt the issue was not appropriate for the dialog, their task was to move the “bug” further away from Washington.  While most of the bugs moved multiple times along the East Coast, one actually made it to France. 

So you may be wondering where the badges come in.  Youth weighed in on the issues and shared what they had learned and the insight they had as a result of the research they did and information they gathered.  If they could demonstrate that they had successfully practiced the hard skills (research, public speaking, augments with data layers, write a workshop, practice writing online, and interact through geo-tagging), soft skills (critical thinking, respectful participation, and collaboration), knowledge (understanding how to use global positioning and issues expertise), and/or participation (geocacher, no unexcused absences, park explorer, alum), they could earn the virtual badges they were seeking. 

This is just one way to use a badging system.  How might you use badging to support student learning?  Check in and let us know.

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