12706 BB: And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Badges 2.0 – Lessons Learned and Ways Forward Using a Community STEM Digital Badging Ecosystem

06/11/2015 @ 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
El Capitan B

Organizers: Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Natasha Smith Walker, Krystal Meisel
Presenters: Nathalie Rayter, Karen Jeffrey, Simeon Schnapper, Jameela Jafri, David Bild, Rik Panganiban

Join us for a deep dive into the process (complex), results (mixed), lessons learned (lots) and next steps (exciting) of the creation and pilot testing of the Community STEM Badging Ecosystem (introduced in the 2014 Ignite talk, “And you will know us by the trail of badges”). Over the past year, eight organizations in Chicago have been exploring the potential of digital badges to address the dual challenges of equitable access to out-of-school learning opportunities and recognition for that learning in the larger community. Working collaboratively we developed and pilot tested a shared digital badging ecosystem that documents and recognizes skills common across STEM fields (e.g. building scientific knowledge, communicating STEM, building models, collaboration etc.), is relevant across institutions and program types, and (we think) can help bridge the gap between formal and informal learning environments.

This session shares the results of this work from inception through pilot-testing and national expansion from institutional, educator, and youth perspectives. Concrete examples and evaluation data from four case studies will illustrate implementation with different audiences, programmatic structures, and content domains (Project Exploration’s Sisters4Science program, Adler Planetarium’s Operation Airlift, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s Solar Power Up Camp, After School Matters/Chicago Botanic Garden’s Urban Garden Lab).

Institutionally, the conversation will focus on how a shared badge ecosystem can support collaboration and student participation across programs. We will share our development process and illustrate how it fostered other, independent, partnerships across institutions as well as resulting in the shared badge framework, assessment and award criteria. Challenges of collectively documenting, validating, and linking parallel learning experiences, while still respecting individual institutional agendas, and allowing for program, context, and content domain specific badging will also be discussed. Creating a shared set of badging standards can provide validity and consistency, thus increasing recognition of student learning through non-formal STEM programs however, the unique learning experiences provided by each organization have to be preserved.

Not surprisingly, the buy in of educators is critical in successfully using badges to support and document learning, and to creating value for learners. Focus group and observational data from on-the-ground educators illustrating the substantial concerns and challenges, but also enthusiasm for the potential of badges will be shared, as will a few proposed solutions. Likewise, the perspective of youth on the idea, benefit, and usefulness of badges will be shared. Of importance for learners are the ways in which badges are made meaningful, relevant, and usable. For the learner, badges accrue value either because they represent the work a participant has done, or because they have a direct payoff by opening other opportunities or benefits.

The session will conclude with a discussion of next steps for the Community STEM Badge Ecosystem, including how the work carried out to date can and is informing the thought processes and considerations of other organizations (California Academy of Sciences), as they consider if, how, and when to implement badges with their own programs.

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