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So You've Earned a Badge, Now What? Supporting Students' Digital Badge Literacy

Fri, April 17, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Virtual Room


Researchers and practitioners extoll digital badges for their ability to help students take ownership of their learning pathways, connect their disparate learning contexts, and channel their accomplishments into future learning and career opportunities. At the same time, research has surfaced several barriers that prevent students from using badges in this way. Although many of these barriers exist at the institutional and infrastructural level, some of them relate to students’ direct interactions with badges. In the current work, we explore the concept of a “digital badge literacy” — the knowledge and skills that students need in order to use digital badges effectively.

Perspective/ Related Work
To date, our work has generated new insight into the process of designing a badge system with program staff and students (Author, 2016, 2017); challenges associated with the initial uptake and long-term implementation of a badge system in a well-established out-of-school science program (Author, 2018, 2019); and stakeholders’ perceptions of the opportunities and challenges associated with using digital badges to recognize out-of-school learning, particularly in the context of college admissions (Author, 2018, 2019).

This work has underscored the importance of creating cross-institutional partnerships, as well as establishing and maintaining core infrastructural requirements for successful badge implementation. In this presentation, we focus on the researcher-practitioner partnership and how it can be used to build students’ digital badge literacy.

Modes of Inquiry & Data Sources
This presentation is grounded in an ongoing research-based partnership with an out-of-school science program serving a diverse group of high school students at a science center in the Northwest United States. Since 2015, our research team has been engaged in a close partnership with the staff and students of this program to design, develop, and implement a digital badge system that recognizes and rewards the skills and achievements that students gain through their participation in the science-based program.

In this presentation, we draw on four years of participatory observations at the science center, pre- and post-badge implementation surveys and interviews with students, and in-depth case studies with six individual students. Data sources include video recordings of our participant observations, researcher field notes, survey data, and interview transcripts.

Based on our analysis of the data, we identify a set of core competencies associated with digital badge literacy, such as understanding the connection between individual badges and their science center experiences; the process for earning badges; and how to present badges effectively to external audiences.

We also present a set of concrete strategies for helping students acquire digital badge literacy, including regular training sessions to onboard new students to the badge system; a ‘train-the-trainer’ model where experienced students are trained to lead onboarding sessions for new students; regular time built into students’ schedules for them to interact with the badge system; and ongoing check-ins with students and staff to address emerging questions and challenges.

This work contributes new insight into the competencies that students need in order to make the most of their digital badges, ultimately channeling them into future learning and career opportunities.