July 2015

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July 2015


Why Badges? (Part 1)

Autum Casey Education Commission

Illustrations/Courtesy Education Commission

Theatre educators are constantly looking for ways to verify and track the skills and accomplishments of students. Within the structure of a course, students demonstrate mastery -- or not -- of a skill and a grade is awarded.

However, there are problems tracking that data for students throughout their educational career and certainly their professional work. A student could fail a flat-building project because they did not learn to measure properly, but their work with the power tools in the shop was exceptional. They have demonstrated achievement using the chop saw and table saw, but are not yet accomplished in measuring and scale. Most educational theatre institutions have yet to find a way to track mastery that can follow a student throughout courses, productions, and shops.

Digital achievement badges have become popular lately thanks to organizations like the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) and funding from the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Badges (digital or otherwise) are a way of recognizing achievement or mastery. This idea is not new; the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America have been using badges for decades. While earning a badge provides the student with a sense of accomplishment, it allows shops, crew heads, and educators to get a better picture of the student’s skills and progress.

Using badges in the classroom or shop could have a broader impact on education and the industry. Badges can be as simple as a sticker, but the real potential is in tracking the information. For educational institutions, badges may be tracked via Blackboard or other educational management software. The platform HASTAC and its partners have created, openbadges.org, is a free software tool that allows any organization to implement digital badges.

Keep reading Sightlines for Part II on badges.