Badge Learning

Digital Badges

A digital badge is a graphic icon validating achievement.  Similar to badges earned in youth scouting programs, digital badges indicate an accomplishment where the learner may take a variety of paths to demonstrate their achievements. Digital badges may reward academic achievement or soft skill behaviors, like participation and posting comments in an online learning space.  Throughout the learning experience, reward badges may confer community privileges or “power ups,” such as being promoted to peer reviewer status or receiving “superpowers,” like the freedom to design your own badge.

Digital badges are “coded” against copying or pirating, which protects their integrity. When a user clicks on a badge, detailed information is revealed about the achievement, such as the issuing institution, rubrics, learning pathways and possibly artifacts of the learner.

Badges are “…portals that lead to large amounts of information about what their bearers know and can do” (“Show Me Your Badge,” The New York Times, November 2, 2012).


Based on current research…

Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist, on connected learning, children and digital media (7:06)

Digital badge learning helps kids demonstrate achievements through “messing around” and  “geeking out:”
A comprehensive study of youth by the MacArthur Foundation, called “Living With New Media” (2008) discovered that youth spend their time online “hanging out,” “messing around,” and “geeking out.” Hanging out refers to extending social interactions and friendships through networks; messing around refers to tinkering and diving deeper into interests beyond school; and geeking out refers to collaborating with experts to advance knowledge around an interest. Adults are welcomed into the youth online world for instances of “geeking out,” where adults are mentors and resources in advancing youth knowledge.

Read the latest study on the design of connected learning environments and how they can benefit youth in a networked society (DML Central, January 15, 2013). The study summary explains that “connected learning seeks to integrate three spheres of learning that are often disconnected and at war with each other in young people’s lives: peer culture, interests, and academic content.”


The Mozilla Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation are creating a badge learning ecosystem that democratizes education and learning:
The Mozilla Foundation (in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation) explains in a white paper, “The time has come to connect self-directed and interest-driven learning to a broader ecosystem of accreditation and recognition to enable each learner to capitalize on the learning experiences that they are already having, or to inspire and help them to seek out new ones, as well as to communicate their achievements and skills to necessary stakeholders.  To do so, we must not only recognize that people learn across many contexts in many different ways, but also find a way to capture that learning, collect it across the contexts and communicate it out.”


Digital badge learning meets youth where they are:
95% of American teens, ages 12-17, are online; 80% of teens participate in some sort of social network; and over 64% of teens post some kind of content online (Pew Internet & American Life Project).


Read More About Badge Learning

HASTAC’s collection of blogs and resources related to digital badge learning

Annotated Bibliography of Research: Digital Badges curated by HASTAC

Digital Badges Would Represent Students’ Skill Acquisition” from Education Week

Digital Badges for Learning in the Classroom and Beyond” from MacArthur Foundation

Digital Badges for Learning” remarks by Secretary Duncan at DML Competition

Intended Purposes Versus Actual Functions of Digital Badges” by Daniel Hickey, Center for Research on Learning and Technology, Indiana University

Some Things About Assessment That Badge Developers Might Find Helpful” by Daniel Hickey, Center for Research on Learning and Technology, Indiana University

Mozilla Open Badges: another take on the shape of the ecosystem” by Carla Casilli, Mozilla Open Badges

Six Ways to Look at Badging Systems Designed for Learning” by Barry Joseph, Global Kids

Unpacking Badges for Lifelong Learning” by Sheryl Grant

Why Badges? Why Not?” by Cathy Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC

Why a Badge is Better Than an A+” by Alison Anderson

How to Earn Your Skeptic Badge” by Henry Jenkins

Rhode Island Students ‘Badges,’ Credits Outside of School” from Education Week