Create a Vibrant Digital Badge Ecosystem

Education and the workplace is changing. So how do we recognize and value the way we learn today? Digital badges are evolving into a key credentialing and assessment tool for our times.  They have evolved from what were originally static images, to a tool used for capturing and communicating knowledge. 

My digital badge based professional learning platform has provided teachers with a place where they can learn, experiment, grow, and be challenged. Their skill mastery is acknowledged with a digital badging system.  Teachers are recognized for skills they acquire during the school year by completing tasks outlined on the platform. Registered users can learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. It is my hope that this sustained professional learning initiative will prepare educators to fully leverage the potential for mastering digital age skills embodied in the ISTE Standards for Teachers as well as the seamless integration of technology addressed in the Common Core.

Since its launch, last October, many districts, organizations, institutions, have reached out to me for advice and guidance for creating their own digital badge based platforms.  It thrills me to see that people are recognizing there is a need for a more modern credentialing system- one that tells the complete story of a learner.  But having your own digital badge based system is only one piece of the puzzle.

For any badging initiative to flourish, you must have all of ALL of the components of a digital badge ecosystem.  

These components include badge issuers, badge earners and badge consumers.  

    •    Badge issuers, which are individuals, schools, employers, institutions, communities, or groups that create credentials to demonstrate mastery of skills and achievements;
    •    Badge earners, who are individuals who want to demonstrate their achievements to various audiences; and
    •    Badge consumers, which are education providers, individuals, employers, communities, or other groups that are looking for people who    possess the skills or achievements symbolized by a badge.  

The badge consumer piece is often the one I see is overlooked and that cause badge issuers to feel frustrated in getting their digital badging initiatives off the ground. While badge consumers can be colleges, universities and companies, it also can be much more granular at a district or organizational level. In some cases, an issuer may also be the consumer and this might mean your own school, organization or district. For example, although our digital badge platform is designed to encourage, support and acknowledge the informal learning of teachers and while many of them have embraced this in principle alone, for others the hook has been using these informal badges in formal ways.  Many of our teachers have chosen to use their earned badges as artifacts in our teacher evaluation system or as evidence in their Professional Growth Plan. Badge earners need to feel motivated to earn badges.