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How to create a digital badging program in your classroom

Emily HammSeptember 27, 2018

Studying boy with pen writes on paper

Educators often hear of new classroom strategies but have trouble adopting them. If you’re wondering how to begin implementing badging in the classroom, this guide is intended to save you some headaches and research time. Consider this the bridge that helps you span the distance between “I’ve heard of badging” and “I’m going to create a badging program in my classroom.”

Implement digital badges for your students in 5 steps

handwriting a bucket list on a notebook

1. Know the terminology

Reading articles and websites that give information is helpful, but some the of specific terminology can be confusing.

  • Public badges are digitally viewable by anyone and awarded for an achievement in a skill area that has been assessed.
  • Private artifacts are not publicly viewable and are used against a fair measure (typically a rubric) as evidence of the effort put into earning a badge.
  • Badge authoring refers to the visual creation of the badge. This can be done via an app or digital platform.
  • Badge issuance is done by a vetted and reputable distributor. Sometimes, a school staff member or third-party issuer. To preserve their value.
  • Badge portfolios are like the storage facility for collected badges. These collections of public verifications (such as artifacts, samples, projects, etc.) and official certifications connect a person’s skills and accomplishments in one location.
  • Badge pathways are collections of knowledge/experiences necessary for passing a certain academic course or gaining general skills. (Check out Minnesota’s Badge Pathway program to get a better idea of how they work.)

2. Familiarize yourself with badging best practices

Learning from others will help you implement badging properly. These best practices will (hopefully) save you some valuable time:

  • Understand the criteria for earning a badge. Your badges must be relevant, rigorous, and verifiable (by a third party). Do not nullify the weight of your badging program by merely replacing stickers with badges. They are not the same thing. Focus on making the hard work visible to others.
  • Carefully choose relevant artifacts for the evaluation of a public badge. People can see a badge, but won’t know how it was achieved. If badges are tossed like candy at a parade, they’ll lose their meaning. Rigorous, applicable, and fair criteria are essential to justify the issuance of a badge. In other words, be sure a student has noteworthy samples of work before assigning a badge.
  • Carefully plan the end goal. How will you know that students have achieved the goal behind the badge? It is key to consider both quantifiable and intangible skills when evaluating a student’s performance. Consider what makes the learner competent at the designated task. What skills, knowledge, and attributes are required?
  • Know the real purpose of badges. Badges are not grades. Students already have a centralized gradebook for evaluating their performance. Badging shouldn’t rebrand grades. Rather, badges communicate the story behind how the grade was achieved.
  • Go beyond the classroom. A badge certainly doesn’t have to remain as only a classroom measure of achievement. Consider collaborative partnerships with local corporations, business, technicians, extra-curricular groups, etc. Companies that need employees who have a certain set of skills could have great ideas on rigorous and relevant artifacts. During your planning stages, reach out to some of these organizations to get additional ideas for your badging process. You could even invite them to be issuers and badging partners for your classroom.
  • Make sure students understand how badging works. Teaching and modeling badging best practices is essential for a relevant buy-in from students. Show them examples to help them understand how badging can (and maybe will) be used in their future as a tangible measure of their achievements. Articulate how badges will go beyond the classroom and what the benefits are for the students.

3. Familiarize yourself with badging platforms

Before you can implement your badging program, you need some practice with what the platforms look like and how they work. Here are some possibilities to check out depending on your budget, experience, and goals:

4. Consider your classroom and context

Look around

Clearly, you know the age range of your students and the content you teach. You know the technologies available to your students and the joys and struggles of your local learning culture. You’re also hopefully aware of possible partnerships you could create with businesses, industries, or others in this process. Reflect on your classroom and context first. Get a clear picture of your reality.

Look ahead

Now that you know your current situation, look to the future. Imagine what skills your students will have by the time they complete your course. Know where you are now and pick an end goal. What do you want your students to accomplish by the time they have acquired a badge? Success is more likely if you define the purpose and goal from the start.

You may find the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) model useful. These steps are imperative to any planning process.

5. Use an implementation checklist

Now that you’re empowered with more badging knowledge, it’s time to get to it. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re considering some of the big-picture items to keep your badging program on track:

  • I have analyzed my classroom and context.
  • I have determined the big-picture goal for badging.
  • I have a timeline in mind for specific planning requirements for myself.
  • I have considered what artifacts/projects/samples will be used for badge measurement.
  • I have collaborated with possible local connections for badge development/issuance.
  • I have chosen a digital badge platform or portfolio site that suits my needs. I know if it will automatically issue or require individual issuing.
  • I know who will be evaluating the artifacts my students create.
  • I have a rigorous, fair, and rubric-based assessment system for badge assignment.
  • I have no plans to include badging as a replacement for a letter grade.
  • I have designed the visuals for my badges and have uploaded them to an issuance tool.
  • I have a plan to evaluate the success of my badging program.

I’m ready! I think …

Now that you’ve got a good idea of how classroom badging works and are in the process of rolling it out, you can officially shift from badging awareness to implementation. Oh, and don’t forget to check the last item on the list (because if you’ve come this far, it’s certainly true):

  • I am an education all-star.

Photo credit: Santi Vedrí; Glenn Carstens-Peters /

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