One of the challenges of providing high-quality STEM experiences outside of the classroom is ensuring that students' learning experiences are recognized by college admission offices and employers. Skills learned and projects completed in out-of-school time may not be documented on a traditional resume, and there are few spaces on social networking sites or other forms of self-representation for highlighting non-academic or non-professional learning experiences. The result of this lack of space is that students who excel in non-traditional learning environments--or students who complete significant accomplishments outside of the classroom or professional arena--may not be recognized for their learning achievements.
The new Open Badges project launched by Mozilla and the Humanities, Arts, Science, & Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), with support from the MacArthur Foundation, aims to recognize the non-traditional learning paths that are characteristic of 21st-century learning. Students--and adults--will be able to collect badges to share on their social networking sites, personal websites, and digital resumes that demonstrate accomplishments or skill-building experiences. The open-platform nature of the project means that everyone will be able to create badges for causes or experiences that they find important. You can see an announcement of the project and learn more about it here.
There is a lot of potential for badges to tie into afterschool programs. Large organizations--like 4H, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and Girl Scouts--could use badges to show tangible results of experiences from their youth participants. Smaller programs could use badges to showcase unique and individual projects, and help their students create portfolios of their afterschool work. Afterschool professionals could use badges to show completion of professional development workshops, mentorship, or curriculum development or activity enhancement ideas.
Badges have a way to go before they become recognized as parallel to academic and professional credentials--the process for creating and earning digital badges may be ever-evolving. How could you see badges integrated into your afterschool program? What challenges would you anticipate?