In my recent post for DMLcentral, “My Beef With Badges,” I called on the emerging badging community to stop conflating our aspirations with our achievements, and to start sharing a more accurate picture of the challenges we all face. I also tried to make clear that I have been a part of the very problem I now aim to address. As I’ve been asked in recent weeks to present and engage our community around these ideas, I’ve often expressed my intent to “walk the talk” and share what we’ve been observing where I work, at the American Museum of Natural History, warts and all.
Well, I finally got approval.
But before we begin, a few caveats. These are just observations. This is not a research project. It is based on a small sample, so no one should read too deep into the results (including us). So, why share it? Why not wait until the research is performed? Quite simply, we can’t afford to wait. Yes, there is great research going on, such as the work being done by Dan Hickey and his team. But, during this early stage in the application of digital badges, we need to learn what we can from our current practices to help shape research questions and to give us something to chew on while we wait the solid results.
Since early 2013, the Museum has been revisiting and exploring the benefits of incorporating a digital badging system into select youth-serving after-school programs. In summer 2013, 131 badges were conferred (out of 155 reviewed requests) to 72 youth amongst a pool of 38 different badges across seven programs.
Throughout the prototype, we were particularly interested in learning more about the effect on the staff and on youths’ learning, and on the ability for badge earners to use them outside the Museum to demonstrate their new knowledge, skills and achievements.
We created a new website prototyping a new digital badging platform, BadgeOS, developed and recently launched as an open sourced tool by Learning Times, a company whose tools had been used by the Museum earlier in the year. Each of the seven programs had their own unique section of the site where youth could manage their profiles, submit evidence (text or images) to earn badges, “friend” one another and leave each other comments.
The final report offers further details on how the badges were designed and administered, and the key observations we took from the educator and youth surveys. (download report here)
After you read it, we’d love to hear your reflections in the comment section below.