Kids under the age of thirteen (13) are not allowed to create accounts on social media. Therefore, I had to look for something over and above platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. So I looked at different physical alternatives – I looked at using lanyards to show off skills, I tried wristbands, and finally I tried using one-inch buttons. Besides, a button machine does not really cost a fortune, so why not?
These buttons can be placed on backpacks. Kids hang their backpacks on the hooks and their friends and teachers can easily see the badges. So, if I am a teacher and if I am looking for a skill, I will notice the backpacks and think, “Oh, I am looking for video creation skills. This kid has earned a video badge. Why don’t I ask him to make a video about Tom Sawyer?”
So, for a successful badges program, you need something tangible. You also need a place for the badges to be displayed on. But are badges a really good idea? Well, it may not be a good idea if you are heading in the wrong direction. How? Let me give you an example. When I was a kid, my teacher used to place a chart with names of all the kids in the classroom. It had little gold stars on it for different activities done in the classroom. Contrary to my friends, I was really bad at reading out loud. They had all those stars shining next to their names while I had none. The Bottom line – I do not appreciate a concept, which I hated as a child. It is a bad idea to start a badges program to evaluate the content. I will discuss this further in the next chapter.
So what exactly is a digital badge?
A digital badge is an online image that tells people about a new skill that a kid has learned. Digital badges are cool since they have metadata, i.e. information built into a digital object. Digital badges have a lot of such information packed inside. If someone clicks on a badge, they will see:
We will talk about these points later in the book. In the next chapter, I will emphasize further on linking badges with skills rather than the content.
Why do I love badges?
Besides my affinity to the scouts and badges, I love the badges program because the kids want it so bad that they do most of their work for badges at home. Let that sink in for a second, my students work on their badges at home without being assigned. In my most recent informal survey of my students, I found that over 70% of the work on badges was being done at home.
My students realize that they need each other – they need to interact! Badges require teamwork as they cannot make a movie alone, animate alone, etc. No one is doing the same thing at the same time. They are all doing different things.
In my experience, badges ensure 100% engagement; there is absolutely no messing around! And if they are stuck, they can always find a classmate who has that particular badge.
It is interesting that I see girls being engaged in traditional ‘non-girl’ situations like engineering. Badges, for me, bust through all gender limitations and walls created by our society.
- Brad Flickinger