Am I late to Badging? Well, yes. I’m late to writing it up for the Center’s collection of trends. But it’s not like I’ve been oblivious to badging’s presence in our world. This summer, in an attempt to kick start a habit of meditating, I downloaded the Stop Breathe & Think app and was quickly offered a sticker for completing my first few exercises. And as my travel has increased over the past several years I’ve watched my contributor level and badge collection increase on TripAdvisor. And even though I haven’t synched my FitBit since April, I remember those lifetime distance badges that I was racking up on my runs.
We’ve all probably had some experience with badging whether with activity trackers like FitBit or as incentives for apps like FourSquare or Trip Advisor or as part of an educational opportunity like a conference or a MOOC. Badging is increasingly leveraged as a tool to motivate users, advance engagement, and promote participation. More systems are finding ways to make badges both predictable and surprising, helping users understand when they are on track to receive a badge (five meditations in a row) or capitalizing on opportunities to delight users with the unexpected (who knew I had walked the length of New Zealand).
Badging offers opportunities to recognize an individual’s accomplishments, skills, qualities or interests and helps set goals, motivate behavior, represent achievements, and communicate success in school, professional, or extracurricular learning.
As with other trends, the most interesting thing about badging is how it connects with other big trends, including Collective Impact, Connected Learning, and Gamification, to drive innovation. Case in point, Cities of Learning.
I’ve been watching Cities of Learning since it developed out of Chicago’s Summer of Learning in 2013. Cities of Learning, now in Chicago, Washington DC, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, is a national effort to transform cities and communities into campuses for young people to learn anytime and anywhere.
City of Learning projects leverage a Collective Impact model – bringing together city agencies, cultural institutions, and educational providers to offer young people a variety of learning opportunities that contribute to their educational, professional, and personal success. It’s tackling a big issue that institutions might normally approach separately. Bringing the initiatives together under a collaborative program makes life easier for participants and increases the opportunity to have an impact.
City of Learning programs integrate Connected Learning principles. Young people get to pursue their interests. They work with peers and mentors to advance their pursuits. They engage in production-oriented activities in real-world settings. Their activities reinforce in-school learning and prepare young people for future careers or civic engagement.
By integrating digital badges, City of Learning projects infuse elements of Gamification into their city campuses. Participants earn digital badges to recognize their participation and achievements. The badges reinforce mastery of skills and help connect young people to related interests (and the institutions or providers that support those interests). City of Learning’s badges use metadata to connect the digital object to additional information like curriculum, sample work, and even assessments. Badges help add gamified elements to the learning activities, but also make learning achievements shareable with teachers, friends, and family via online portfolios that collect the badges.
Badging and Libraries
The Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Badges for Learning program was developed under a grant from HASTAC, Mozilla, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and are linked to YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. The program is designed for librarians and library workers interested in gaining new skills and helps them demonstrate their expertise to employers.
The Brooklyn Public Library has integrated badging into their summer learning program, awarding badges for reading and writing, STEM activities, program attendance, volunteering, and even visiting branches.
The Metaliteracy Learning Collaborative – composed of librarians, faculty members, and instructional designers from State University of New York (SUNY) institutions, including the University at Albany, SUNY Empire State College, Fulton Montgomery Community College, and Monroe Community College – has developed a metaliteracy badging experience. Individuals can pursue the badges independently or as part of a class assignment or project and librarians can work with faculty to integrate the metaliteracy badging experience into their courses.