Earning badges for achievements is nothing new. Organisations like Scouts and Guides have been doing it for years.
Digital badging is newer.
With the rise of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), there has been a rise in the use of digital badges as a recognition of the holder ‘s achievement and a proof that the holder has done what he/she claims to have done, although the use of badges is not confined to MOOCs.
Grant and Shawgo have annotated a bibliography of sources which offer information and opinions on different aspects of the badge system.
A major issue associated with the badge system is the notion of trust, i.e. whether an employer or person authorised to grant accreditation for prior learning can trust the validity of a badge and the rigour of the learning behind it.
So far there is little evidence of the badge system in use in Australian schools although schools of distance education are diversifying their offerings beyond the traditional provision for remote students. In time a badge will perhaps replace a certificate upon completion of the course.
Proponents envision a robust, valuable and open system of accreditation. Leslie (2013) writes, “the value of the system overall increases as more nodes join and a large, robust network emerges over time”.
I have been experimenting with badges in the classroom this year – they’re not digital and they’re linked to behaviour outcomes rather than academic outcomes. The primary school system in Australia is not quite ready for that yet!
Our classroom system works this way:
- Students earn a card for displaying a particular behaviour that I want to encourage (e.g. good listening, following instructions, being kind to someone)
- When a student has five cards the same, they “cash them in” to earn a badge which they display on their desk. They also earn a sticker for their chart which is the school wide reward system.
- Another five cards earns a badge of a different colour, which is higher in value. Bronze is followed by silver, then gold, platinum, pearl, emerald…
Trust is involved when:
- I tell a student that he/she has earned a card and they collect it from the box on my desk at a convenient time. I am probably not near the box when they collect the cards.
- A student cashes in their cards and writes on a post-it note which badge they have earned. Again, I am probably not near the box so I don’t see how many cards they have deposited or what type they are.
The system is ripe for abuse but very little is happening. I have assumed that I can trust the children in my care and I believe they have acted in a trustworthy way because the non-tangible rewards for being trusted are better that the tangible rewards for betraying trust.
“US Navy 081004-N-5345W-021 Cub Scouts prepare to parade the colors” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher S. Wilson – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 081004-N-5345W-021 Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg
“Openbadges” by Anyashy – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Openbadges.png#mediaviewer/File:Openbadges.png