As part of our Open Badges for College and Career Readiness work funded by the Mott and Irvine Foundations, we are working closely with expert advisory groups to create a set of open badges to capture digital-age competencies— competencies that include web literacy skills and other 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and working in the open—and prototyping digital badges to make learning and achievement outcomes clearer for all involved.
As a first step, we have compiled a meta-analysis of 21st Century Skills and Competencies of the most frequently cited as the skills necessary to pursue entry-level careers and/or college today. This body of research begins to define the skills and knowledge needed to demonstrate achievement for each competency in real-world settings.
Developing Badge Framework
Over the past couple of months, we have met with the advisory groups and developed a plan for focusing on several 21st Century skills and competencies— problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity/innovation badges. We used the design process to develop frameworks that could guide afterschool programs in creating badges based on their programs and needs. For instance, the problem-solving badge framework should be open enough that an environmental science afterschool program and media arts after school program could both adapt for their respective programs. While the framework is the same, each program would identify the criteria, activities, and evidence needed to demonstrate competency in that area.
Along with developing these frameworks, we identified a set of questions to continue to explore as we refine these frameworks. These include:
- What size/granularity of a badge is most meaningful and motivating to learners?
- Do we want macro-badges (for instance, collaboration) or do we scaffold badges that lead up to a macro-badge? How do you distinguish different levels of badges so there is common language?
- How do we create badges that distinguish the learner’s experience/focus, which should be project-based, while the badge creators tease out the skills that are learned in that group activity? In other words, the learner is creating a project/solving a problem using a collaborative approach and not doing artificial activities to earn a “collaboration badge.”
- How do we assess the validity of the evidence submitted and who will do the assessments that will be valued?
In addition, we have had thoughtful discussions about the design process – how to create kid- and mentor-friendly language, particular for those who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy. Chad Sansing, an advisory group member recently posted a blog that starts to unpack a more inclusive design process.
As these and other questions arise, we will continue to refine our approach to identifying, unpacking, and prototyping badges.
Piloting and Prototyping
Afterschool Alliance in collaboration with us recently released a Request for Proposals for up to three statewide afterschool networks piloting digital-age badges including web literacy and related 21st century skills badges in afterschool programs in their states. The pilots will be designed to lead to a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges, the policies, and other conditions that are needed to make sure learning in non-traditional settings counts in traditional settings, namely the K12 school system, higher education, and/or the workplace. Awards will be announced mid-June, and pilots will begin in late summer.