Global Kids and Hive NYC Badge Design Reflection

This is a cross-post from Hive NYC's blog.


Global Kids has experimented with digital badging in various contexts for the past few years. From badging an afterschool program four years ago at the New York Public Library, to badging the Urban Biodiversity Network program at the American Museum of Natural History, Global Kids has used digital assessment to support youth to recognize, talk about, and demonstrate essential digital literacy skills. Currently, we are consulting with three schools as they develop badging systems for their students, developing our own badging system for all Global Kids youth programs, and supporting Hive NYC and Hive Chicago to build their digital badging systems and infrastructures.


For the past year and a half, Global Kids has been navigating the badge universe. Global Kids has followed the growing interest in badges in both formal and informal learning contexts, and been well aware of the questions, confusion, and opposition towards badging as assessment. One thing Global Kids knows for sure is that badging is an iterative, hands-on process—the only way to learn about badges is through their design and implementation. As an organization, we have learned so much through the introduction of badges to youth. We have learned from the schools we work with, our experience this past summer, and by hearing from others who have implemented badging systems. For example, we are in our second year of a badging system we helped implement at the Epstein School in Atlanta for sixth and seventh graders. And this past summer, we badged Global Kids' geocaching and virtual video program, Race to the White House.

rwh badges

At Global Kids, we have envisioned badge development as an approach to: provide alternative assessment, gamify education, scaffold learning, develop lifelong learning skills, drive digital media and learning, and democratize the learning and credit acquisition process. Read more about each of these six framing guidelines here. Our need to incorporate badges into our learning design, arose out of our observations that youth participants were gaining new skills around leadership, global literacy, digital literacy, and other 21st century learning skills through Global Kids, but when it came time to write resumes, apply for jobs, or draft college essays, they struggled to articulate and identify these new-found skills and instead defaulted to listing their more traditional academic experiences, such as standardized test scores, and report cards. They discounted interest-driven learning, out-of-school experiences and the connected learning that we know to be so important to their academic, civic and professional development.

activist digital advocacy game guru 

Funding from The MacArthur Foundation has enabled Global Kids to spend the past year offering in-person professional development workshops to develop digital badging systems for Hive Learning Network members in New York City and Chicago. Trainings consisted of the what and why of badges, incorporating Global Kids' six framing guidelines in the design process, recommendations for badge integration and workflows, member updates, and use of badge-based learning programs such as BadgeStack. We built a community site and listerv where Hive members doing badging work can post updates and share their work, and where Global Kids can also share resources for everyone to benefit from including reports, case studies, etc.

                badge training_chi

In addition to training Hive members, Global Kids has also been supported to develop network-level badges for Hive NYC. These badges will serve as a meta-assessment and incentivization system to help the network share learnings and experiences across organizations, programs, and events. While Hive Chicago began with robust discussions about network-wide badges, Hive NYC has been more focused on organizational and programmatic badges. Global Kids and Hive NYC staff began meeting in October 2012 to design a badge that would serve all participating organizations in Hive Learning Networks.


As Global Kids and Hive HQ began the badge system development process, one of our first design decisions was that cross-network badges for Hive NYC should emphasize the learning pathways that connect youth to the experience and dispositions of a meaningful and fulfilling networked learned experience. We were interested in taking the often abstract rhizomatic learning of the network and translating and visualizing it for Hive NYC's youth participants.


The goals identified were:

  • Track/model the connected learning experience
  • Motivate cross-network participation
  • Increase participation in Hive network events
  • Acknowledge digital media skills/expertise
  • Demonstrate the Network’s key values and behaviors
  • Identify potential learning pathways and opportunities available through the network


When Global Kids began training Hive members, our strategy included sharing what we knew from our experiences, building the badging community within the network, and incorporating member feedback to develop a relevant system that would work for them. Since badging at the network level was new for everyone, we anticipated that there would be a lot that we wouldn’t know, but that we’d discover through the process. We didn’t know what kinds of social practices and needs would arise when members started using the system and designing badges for their programs. For example, one need that arose from the membership was a desire to badge for the one-time events and incubator projects organized by partnering Hive organizations.

badge training

Hive NYC’s particular focus on pop-ups, learning events and short-term collaborations indicated a need to issue a network-wide, plug and play system that organizations could use to leverage larger thinking and learning pathways within the network. After identifying goals, we turned our focus to our end users—the NYC youth that participate in Hive NYC programs. We developed user stories to encompass a diversity of young people who we'd met through our programs and events.


Hive NYC User Stories


Zakia is a 16-yr old student at Hudson High School. She is an active member of MOUSE and has successfully completed several workshops. Zakia has worked with physical computing, design, and is familiar with HTML and Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles tool. This summer she was an intern at Hive NYC and increased her HTML and CSS proficiency. She also participated in skill shares with Hive NYC youth from Brooklyn Public Library, Rubin Museum of Art and Summer Code Parties. She has attended Emoti-Con, Maker Faire and a Makerbot workshop at Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.


Walid is 15 years old. He attended a Summer Code Party event in 2012 with a friend who found out about Hive NYC through Facebook. Walid is into video and loves messing around with YouTube, and had a great time learning about Mozilla’s video remix tools. He’d probably attend more events or would definitely take a workshop—if he knew more about Hive NYC's focus on youth, making and learning.


After developing about five user stories, we were able to identify several big design questions:

  • How does youth participation in Hive NYC member programs connect and inform the larger network badge system?
  • How can we incentivize participation and connected learning while and keep badges meaningful (ie avoid over badging)?
  • What is the user experience, the look and feel of the Hive NYC badge?
  • What are the trajectories for badge awards? And how do we make these awards relevant to youth in the network?
  • What network behaviors should be encouraged?


As we tackled these big questions, the work of Ruth Schmidt, a Senior Designer at Doblin who helped Hive Chicago develop their thinking about the badge process, became very useful for us in NYC. Schmidt's framework for thinking about badge construction, became a core element and inspiration for our work.

We went through each of the identified steps for badge construction—analyzing each one and determining its relevance for our design process. All of this helped inform our next and most challenging (and time-consuming step): brainstorming, developing, and detailing the youth activities and “challenges” to assess and badge. Since we know we want the Hive NYC badge system to help youth experience the city and various Hive NYC programs, we decided to use location-based activities to structure the learning pathways of the badges. In its current design, a user must complete an activity or set of challenges either online or during a face-to-face event and submit evidence (a link, blog post, video or document) in order to earn a badge. As a learning laboratory with an emphasis on open, reflective, hands-on making, we felt that tying the badges to specific activities and products was crucial to our approach. So far, each badge and challenge has a youth-facing description. Although the titles have not been user-tested with youth the basic challenges are developed. For example:




Hive-ologist Badge Can you represent Hive NYC and explain its who, what, when, why, and how?


Hive-ologist Challenges:

  • Present at a public event and speak about Hive NYC
  • Send in the website links of least 5 Hive NYC organizations
  • Name at least 10 organizations in Hive NYC


Recruiter Badge You've discovered the innate beauty of Hive NYC. You've met Hivers and attended Hive NYC events all over the city. Now your job is to convince a friend to take a ride on the Hive NYC crazy train. Caution: learning and making ahead!


Recruiter Challenges:

  • Post a picture or photo of you and your friend at a Hive NYC event
  • Collect a comment of what your friend thought of the event
  • Submit documentation of something your friend made at the event


Currently, we have developed 14 Hive NYC badges and associated challenges, but our work is far from over.


Our next steps include:


  • Choosing the right platform for Hive NYC badges
  • Finalizing the badge icons
  • Testing Hive NYC badges at an upcoming event (see below)
  • Gathering feedback from youth and educators

explore create badgeshare

In the spirit of learning by doing, we are testing out Hive NYC badges using the Credly platform at the Level Up Teen Game Jam that concluded yesterday. Hosted by the Museum of Moving Image, the event is held in conjunction with IndieCade East, the National STEM Video Game Challenge, Mozilla's Game_On competition and Institute of Play's Gamekit launch. Typical of Hive's cross-network and interdisciplinary approach, teens will meet professional game designers, play indie and vintage video games, then build their own analog and digital game prototypes, earning digital badges and stickers to mark the achievement of new skills. We'll be using the event's focus on prototyping and sharing to assess three skills that are critical to the Hive NYC DNA—exploring, creating and sharing. We’ll be reporting back with more details of how our beta-test and pilot experiences go.