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Digital Badging: An opportunity for libraries and museums

March 19, 2014

By Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

From that scouting badge to a high school diploma to a certificate for continuing education credits, most of us have been collecting physical artifacts that recognize our achievements throughout our lives. As more and more learning is offered online or with an online component, there is a growing movement to recognize skills-based achievements with digital badges.

Many voices are chiming in to explore how digital badging may become part of our lives and help to document our achievements in both formal and informal settings. From federal agencies like the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and IMLS to foundations like the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mozilla, there are new ideas, research, and innovative practices being developed that could help transform how we document what we know.

Here at IMLS we have just announced a grant to create a digital badging system specifically for libraries. The project will be launched this summer in Brooklyn Public Library and in several partner libraries. The project aims to test a digital badging system within a library environment, evaluate the technology, and present a model that can be adopted by other libraries.

At our WebWise conference in February we got an update on another IMLS-funded badging project – this one at a museum. The State Historical Museum of Colorado is working on a project to help children in the fourth, seventh, and eleventh grades achieve learning standards.  The badges will benefit teachers who are being asked to teach new content with new standards through a variety of teacher resources and professional development opportunities across Colorado. This project will address the statewide initiative to expand the teaching of Colorado history across grade levels.

Academic libraries are part of the mix too. Purdue University is using IMLS funds to develop CrowdAsk, to allow librarians, students, and faculty to ask and answer questions about library resources and tools. CrowdAsk will support ranking of questions and answers and use scores and badges for user motivation. The project addresses issues of fragmented library and academic help channels, content reuse and preservation, and lack of user (particularly expert) participation. CrowdAsk will be open source and shared with the public. The project will give users power to support others in getting research help.

Are you interested in learning about digital badging? Here are some resources to explore:

Expanding Educational and Workforce Opportunities through Digital Badges, a publication of Mozilla and the Alliance for Excellence in Education

STEM Badges: Current Terrain and the Road Ahead, a report on an NSF-supported research project by Michelle M. Riconscente, Amy Kamarainen, and Margaret Honey

Digital Media and Learning project at the Mac Arthur Foundation

Mozilla’s open badges project

Let us know your ideas about how libraries and museums can use digital badges to inspire a nation of learners!