How Online Games and Digital Badges Are Grooming Homeschoolers

digital badges in education

Remember when you were a kid and you would get a sticker on a test, or a sticker from the dentist, or someone would give you a sticker for some random accomplishment? I mean, who doesn’t love a good sticker, right? The sticker made you feel good about what you did. They made you happy. They made you feel important.

Fast forward to today and online “badges” are the new stickers. Meet your running goal? You get the One Mile Badge! Meet your weight loss goal? You get the 5 Pound Badge! Join a new group? You get the Newbie Badge! And, it’s not much different for your homeschooling kids when they’re playing virtual games, completing online classes, or practicing math on that free website. Our kids have been conditioned for that “YAY YOU!” with online badges.

This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but the thing about stickers that we received as children was that they were temporary. They stayed on a drawing of a rainbow that was filed away in a memory book and forgotten. A sticker placed on our shirt stayed until it became covered with sweater fuzz and fell off in the wash. Our feel good stickers of yesteryear couldn’t be tracked.

Today’s online badges from your kids’ classes and games? Those “stickers” are permanent and that information is being stored in some database at some site. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? (I mean, it’s just a feel-good badge.) However, some states like Michigan are hoping to implement the use of these digital badges into the educational system that will provide records of a child’s accomplishments and proficiencies all the way through their professional life. The badges can even be used to indicate whether the person can work in a specific industry or how they will be paid.

Michigan.gov stated, “The use of badges as a way to validate learning or reward achievement is increasing across multiple industries, including education … [and] can be awarded by institutions, organizations, or groups, to signify accomplishments such as completion of a project, mastery of a skill, or even life experience.”

They went on to say:

“Digital badges in education represent a virtual way to house a student’s accomplishments. These badges, when compiled, can represent an individual’s story of knowledge, skills, and achievements. Badges and their digital storage system could essentially become portals of information into what students know and can do.”

HASTAC.org writes on their website, “Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards. Digital badges are a powerful new tool for identifying and validating the rich array of people’s skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and competencies. ”

Sound too much like the latest SiFi movie? Like no one can compile information on our children that stays with them through their entire lives and may hinder their professional careers? No, this isn’t a science fiction move. This is what we are moving toward because Michigan.gov also released a paper that stated:

“One important aspect that needs to be mentioned is that the not all badges are equal. For instance, if an employer is looking for a professional to perform tasks that require competency in multiple common computer applications, then a badge representing the Microsoft Office Suite (MOS) 2013 Master certification badge would be more valuable than the MOS Exam 420: Excel 2013 certification badge. “

If it gets to the point where a badge-based electronic “backpack” system that follows a child throughout life is widely adopted, where will that leave homeschoolers who may not test for proficiency or participate in state-wide assessments?

If a person has no “digital badge backpack” information in a digital badge society, then what?


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