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Badges: What Impact Will they have on ePortfolios?

Posted By Administration, Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013

February 19th, 2012

The badge movement – badges are digital applications that are essentially social eportfolios for peer-certified evidence of achievement outside of an academic setting (as one way to see badges) – is about to get a huge boost from the MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC ("haystack”), and Mozilla. Awards totaling 2 million US dollars will be distributed to the most promising badge technology developers.

Badges add a whole new technology sector supporting evidence-based learning. Badges take the concept of life-long learning seriously and offer an enabling technology quite different from current eportfolio technologies, and radically different from our current focus on changing institutions. Those involved in badges envision ways to certify learning outside of institutions.

To better understand the badge gestalt, here are Cathy Davidson’s own words:

Badges, we can see, are not about creating a learning space so much as a social-certification of learning space. Badges demonstrate achievement. They are not, as eportfolios are, a way to transform educational institutions, but instead are a way to bypass institutions. At least that is the current framing of the discussion around badges. Could badges serve as a new functionality within eportfolio systems? I see no reason why not (as a first reaction).

Here is the official press release from the MacArthur Foundation:

In this release, you learn what Mozilla’s part in this initiative is:

"To help advance and encourage this new use of technology, Mozilla is creating an Open Badge Infrastructureundefineda decentralized online platform that will house digital badges and can be used across operating platforms and by any organization or user. This approach will help to make digital badges a coherent, portable and meaningful way to demonstrate capabilities. It will also encourage the creation of "digital backpacks" of badges that people will carry to showcase the skills, knowledge and competencies they have gained.”

It is clear that badges have achieved a status, wide recognition, and substantial support sufficient to require the attention of AAEEBL. We are working to create an official position paper that will be released for public consumption. Toward that end, we will hold an informal discussion of badges at next week’s AAEEBL conference in Salt Lake City hosted by Westminster College – see

Since AAEEBL is not only about eportfolios but about evidence-based learning, and since badges are a way to provide evidence of learning, there is no inherent conflict between eportfolios and badges, nor between organizations supporting badges and those supporting eportfolios.

But, collaboration between the two movements will probably be most productive if we initiate a conversation and intentionally find ways to work toward common goals. To this end, I’ve contacted HASTAC and MacArthur to set up a time to talk.

Please send me your own thoughts regarding badges –

This is an important conversation and I expect it will be an ongoing one.

Best to all


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