Digital badges find their niche

By Stephen Noonoo, Editor, @stephenoonoo
August 13th, 2015

A community effort is making badges practical in one city

digital-badgesThis summer, as schools let out, thousands of Pittsburgh students streamed into digital media programs, drop-in maker spaces, and paid internships across the city. As they shuffle back to school, or even enter into the workforce, many will be adding shiny new digital badges to their online portfolios as a record of their hard work.

The opportunity comes courtesy of Pittsburgh City of Learning, which is working with major community partners to provide more than a hundred different, mostly free, summer programs to about 5,000 learners. And digital badges play a big part.

“I think what’s really exciting is that as we all know there’s kind of this lack of meaningful ways of showcasing what students have learned, particularly in out-of-school time,” said Cathy Lewis Long, the executive director of the Sprout Fund, the nonprofit anchoring Pittsburgh City of Learning. “We see badges as a great tool for recognizing student achievement and in terms of the competencies that a student has, not just how they performed on a test.”

Currently, the organization is working on three major programs: A county-run summer youth employment program, called Learn and Earn; the mixed academic and digital literacy program, Summer Dreamers Academy, led by Pittsburgh Public Schools; and a summer reading program for students in grades 6-12 organized by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Next page: Badges are a community effort