No Badges for Me!

What is up with badges and professional development? I have to do this set of criteria that you want me to do to get a badge? A picture? How is this supposed to motivate me? I don’t even post my Master’s Degrees anywhere. Why would I care about a badge? My whole philosophy is predicated on the idea that we are all speaking on a level playing field, or as Eric Sheniger told me, “We are all playing in the same sandbox.”  Why are we separating ourselves? It seems exclusionary on multiple levels. Hey, look at me! Check this badge I have! You don’t have the same number of flair as me? If the word flair doesn’t immediately have a negative connotation than you need to watch Office Space immediately!  

I have to be honest I have earned multiple badges or am ambassadors to multiple companies that give you badges. I don’t flaunt nor care about the badge. The only reason I am lending my name to a company is because I love their product. These products include PaddleZlam, Seesaw, and Osmo. I present on these items and show how I use them at home and in Physical Education or Health. When people talk to me about a digital portfolio, a backyard game or a fun activity to use with the ipads for little ones I will speak up with no hesitation. I don’t need a badge to tell the world I love these companies.

It’s not just the companies that want to give you a badge. Conferences have now been all about badging as well. I understand the purpose is to show what you are doing or have done but it comes across as egotistical to me. Here check this graphic out that shows how great I am!

The biggest reason I hate badging is that I have to do something extra only because you want me to do it. Here is this badge now go do these things you weren’t going to do unless I showed you this shiny object. If I wanted to write a blog or promote your conference I will because I find value in it not because I want you to find value in me.

There is one aspect of badging that I do like though. This is the idea of micro badging. Rich Dixon was the first person who told me about this. The idea behind micro badging is that you will be able to see what that person did to earn that badge. That is a much cooler idea to me. The idea that something I have done will be archived together is really cool. I would not be completing the tasks for the badge but for the fact that my work may have real and lasting meaning.

When I step back I know that some people are motivated by the badges and it doesn’t truly harm anyone. I just don’t see the value in it for me. I hate doing paperwork for the state because it is buried there never to be seen again. The extra work needed to earn a badge seems much the same.


2 thoughts on “No Badges for Me!

  1. Rich Dixon (@RichEdTech)

    Justin – I completely agree with you. I’m not a huge fan of badging everything and am very wary of when we create systems of achievement that don’t allow individual learners to thrive.
    My perspective on digital badges is that they can solve a very unique problem – specifically, open badges ( provide a way for learners to effectively communicate discrete skills that make them unique by including a link out to the evidence that was submitted to earn the badge when new knowledge/experience/skills have been acquired. Badges can be most valuable when showcasing transferable skills or high quality projects that help open doors for learners. In other words, badges can allow that the earner to truly own not just their learning experience but also gives them an easy way to advocate for themselves via the results of their learning. In particular, open digital badges build additional trust/respect/create new opportunities with others who weren’t in the classroom when the learning took place.
    Each student has a unique learning profile that often doesn’t get represented in the usual reporting mechanisms. We have standardized tests, report card formats and other ways to assess student progress… which have their place. But, what if digital badges/micro-credentials allowed learners to showcase the application and contextualization of their work? What if it allowed them to have new opportunities opened to them because they owned discrete representations of applied skills that demonstrated what they can do? What if those representations could be organized and displayed dynamically so that learners could select which skill(s) they want to represent in any online representation of themselves such as an email signature, social profile, or other means? What if learners could collect digital badges from a variety of issuers? What if those representations were freely available and not locked behind a service that required an ongoing payment structure to access them? All of these questions (and more) are answered within the open digital badge movement. This movement is global and is just starting to get adoption beyond a few us early adopters.
    How might digital badges be even more helpful for learners? Join this conversation each week as via a PLN on Twitter using #badgechatk12 each Monday 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt. We also have a Voxer group that uses that same hashtag.
    Justin, a huge thanks for your insightful thoughts – great and much needed, as always:)
    Your fan,


  2. stacy8nc

    Thank you for writing this. You’ve encapsulated a lot of my thoughts on badges exactly and managed to do it without the classic “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” I’ve always thought of badges as bragging, extra work and not really worth it. But, I am not replying just to give a big thumbs up. I want to say that a Periscope from Derek Larson a few days ago has changed my mind. Here’s a link to a talk at Badge Summit that I listened to from my kitchen because I couldn’t be there. The key take aways that I got were that badges are meaningful if they are portable, if they are part of your identity that exists independent of the employer and if they have meaning to a wider audience. The Seesaw badges have that, but internal district PD badges generally do not. If I understand the open badges idea correctly, and I am NOT an expert beyond what I’ve heard in my kitchen, organizations can create badges that have the qualities of portability and wider acceptance of the credential. For me this solves some of the problems that I have with typical badging. It’s not bragging to have this type of badge any more than it is bragging to have a resume and it’s worth it because it is associating my credentials with my self, not just for my employer or state license requirements. I need to learn more, but if districts would approach badges like this they might not stink.



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