Report: The Introduction of Badges in a K-5 Jewish Day School

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The follow is a short report by Global Kids to the Covenant Foundation on the Introduction of Badges in a K-5 Jewish Day School. It was originally written November, 2010 then updated, with an addendum, in July, 2011. With the new level of attention to learning badges, ignited in large part from the focus of the fourth Digital Media and Learning Competition on "Badges for Lifelong Learning," we thought it would be useful to share one case study of creating a badging system from scratch within one learning institution. Currently, we are hard at work with a school in Atlanta iterating the process described within the report (and on a much broader scale) and looking at an addition site in Brooklyn as well. (more on all that here)

In short, in January, 2010, the Covenant Foundation introduced Global Kids to Bob Berk, a principal of a K-5 Jewish Day School in the South. Supported by a new grant from the Foundation, together we explored how this K-5 school could use up to 70 hours of Global Kids’ time to enhance and expand its use of digital media for learning. After some initial meetings, the school decided to move forward with an emerging model of alternative assessment, commonly found in today’s widely used video games: badges. This report is a description of the overall project.

In the beginning, the school did not yet know what model of badges they wanted to incorporate within the school, nor which badges (and the associated literacies) they might offer. Working with Global Kids over seven months, the school identified a badge model appropriate for the school and launched it. The school recognized that learning in our new digital age looks different for today’s students. Youth are empowered by tools like digital media to follow their own passions, supporting them to engage in interest-driven learning, on and off-line. The core questions on the table currently being explored directly address this new reality: how can a badge system be incorporated into a day school to similarly empower youth to take more ownership over their learning, become more engaged with educational activities they might otherwise have avoided, and develop a deeper understanding of the skills and dispositions they are learning, as they are learned?

In reflection, looking back at the entire year, the principal reported the following challenges and successes:

  • The badging system worked to support the staff to identify and focus on the overall learning objectives, throughout the year.
  • The system allowed the youth to have a language to talk about these objectives, and definitions for them.
  • Some of the students, but not all, were able to advocate for themselves to earn a badge, and articulate why their work demonstrated that they deserved one.
  • The students, by the end of the year, were able to integrate technology into their learning process in a more natural way, and were excited to do so.
  • The biggest disappointment was that the potential for personal reflections on what students’ learned was not realized.

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