Rewarding Learning with Badges

Digital Badges Forum for Pittsburgh Employers 2015 from Sprout on Vimeo.

There’s a great writeup today on the Remake Learning blog about Digital Badges and their potential to unlock opportunities for youth. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m especially drawn to digital badges’ potential to recognize and reward learning with something more nuanced than a letter grade. There’s a wealth of research around connected learning that captures the power of “anytime, anywhere” learning and its positive impact on educational outcomes. There’s great potential for kids who learn differently, and there’s particular promise for at-risk kids who are otherwise marginalized by the traditional educational system.

The key missing piece with digital badging is employers. Some people argue that, in order for these alternative credentials to be really worthwhile, they need to be accepted by employers — that is, this idea of validating out-of-school learning with a badge only matters if there’s a meaningful reward or unlocked opportunity on the other side.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last nineteen months that I’ve lived here, it should be no surprise that Pittsburgh is leading the way in this conversation about education innovation. Last summer, I was a facilitator at the event featured in the video above. Cathy Lewis Long, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Sprout Fund (my new employer), is featured at length in the video, and she eloquently sums up the stakes of this work and its promise for the future. Digital badging is new and it’s unfamiliar to most big employers, but it also might be just what they’re looking for as they try to seek out the best and brightest employees. The world is changing and the workforce is changing, and digital badges might just be the outward sign of learning and achievement that twenty-first century employers are looking for.

Watch the video above. Then read the blog post. Then get yourself to Pittsburgh as fast as you can: This is a crazy-exciting place to work in education.

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