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6 things you need to know about digital badges

A quick look at what digital badges are and how they work

Today’s classrooms use a variety of learning approaches, some formal like lectures and some informal like watching videos. As a teacher, your learning is no different and your continuing professional development (PD) should provide you with credit for both informal and formal learning. You should get credit for online chats, reading articles, and watching videos because each of these experiences provides you with the knowledge to build your teaching practice.

So, what if I told you that you could show this informal learning to your administration, colleagues, and parents? Well, you can with a digital badge. Think of them like badges earned in scouting, demonstrating a unique skill or accomplishment. You can share digital badges on your LinkedIn profile, your website, and in your email signatures so that your learning is visible for others to see and acknowledge. The people who view your badge can also see the organization who awarded the badge and what you did to earn it.

Like all good students, I’ll bet you have questions. Let’s see if I can answer a few of them here.

1. How does a digital badge work?
Inside each digital badge is metadata, data that provides information about your data. For example, the metadata in a digital photo tells where the photo was taken and when. With a digital badge the types of information stored includes:

  • Badge name
  • Badge image
  • Badge description
  • Badge criteria
  • Earner’s name
  • Course title
  • Issue date
  • Issuer name
  • Issuer description

2. What about the paper certificates I usually get for PD?
Digital badges that are awarded for PD and learning are the equivalent of a paper certificate, but can easily be shared. The metadata within the badge can tell the viewer all about your accomplishment, making it that much better than a paper certificate. And, it’s easier for you to display your accomplishments and take them with you if you decide to pursue another opportunity in a different school, district, or state.

3. Are digital badges only awarded for big accomplishments?
Digital badges are available for a variety of learning and PD. Just like in scouting, you can earn badges that are part of a larger accomplishment. Some learning providers have what are called micro-credentials, and those micro-credentials can stack up to a larger credential or achievement.

4. Will my students get digital badges?
While your students probably aren’t earning digital badges yet, you can bet they will at some point in their lives. Hundreds of organizations are issuing badges already, including universities like Harvard, SUNY, Northwestern and Michigan State. And it’s not just universities. Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Intel award digital badges as well.

5. Are digital badges only recognized in the United States?
There is a worldwide standard for digital badges. Universities and companies around the world are issuing them, ensuring that your accomplishment has meaning around the globe.

6. Why should I get a digital badge?
One of the most important reasons to start earning digital badges, besides sharing your achievements, is to set an example for your students. According to U.S. News and World Report, digital badges on a student’s resume boost their employability and can help show skills that aren’t typically on a school transcript.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on the Participate blog.]


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