Thursday, March 19, 2015

Afterschool Learning and Digital Badges

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
If the growing afterschool movement is to prosper, these programs must be recognized as important places of learning. The use and awarding of digital badges to recognize the learning that takes place within these programs represents an excellent strategy to accomplish this. 

Digital badges can be used to recognize exemplar programs, staff trainers, program staff who have completed professional development sessions, or youth who have acquired new knowledge and skills through participation in afterschool activities.  

We believe there are many benefits to the awarding of digital badges for learning. Some of these are articulated below: 

  • Because program leaders must think through and explicitly state what learning will go on in specific program activities or clubs that is being recognized by a digital badge, this specificity raises the bar for learning accountability. 
  • The awarding of digital badges defines the learning that goes on in programs for outsiders, which is vital if afterschool programs are to be recognized as important places of learning. These badges are important, visible evidence that afterschool programs take learning seriously. 
  • The adult program staff members often acquire important knowledge and skills through professional development and years of experience. Youth acquire valuable skills and knowledge through their participation in specific afterschool activities. Both deserve an artifact that documents their learning and—importantly—can be shared with peers, future employers, and those allowing admittance to higher education. 

To promote the use of digital badges, Temescal Associates and the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) Project has launched the Center for Digital Badges (CDB). You can visit our website to access several informational articles and videos, see a gallery of badges we have designed for several afterschool partners, and review case studies. These case studies document how afterschool programs, training organizations, and regional work groups have used digital badges to recognize the learning of afterschool staff and youth participants, as well as exemplar afterschool programs. 

We believe that the digital badge revolution will serve the afterschool movement well. To ensure a growing understanding and valuing of digital badges, we have formed a statewide committee of afterschool organizations to develop an educational campaign.