Gold Stars: The Next Generation

Great job!
Fridge Worthy!
Once upon a time, a teacher put a gold star on the top of a student's schoolwork to let that student know that she had done a great job. The student brought her work home to show her mother, and her mother proudly posted the paper on the refrigerator with a magnet so that everyone who came into the kitchen could see the gold star.

Fast forward to the 21st century. No longer do students write on paper - they write on their electronic devices. They turn their work in electronically. The teacher grades their work electronically, too. There is no paper to stick a gold star to (and indeed, the stainless steel refrigerator cannot even support a magnet). How can the teacher communicate to the student that the child's work is exemplary? How does the student relay to the parent that she did really well? How does the parent let the child know that he is proud of her? With badges.

Remember your Boy Scout or Girl Scout badges? (In 4-H, we had pins.) These badges are the same thing. The student earns a badge after completing a series of activities and demonstrating knowledge in a particular area.  Only instead of having to sew them -or iron them- onto a uniform, they are posted on the student's digital portfolio.

Best of all, parents, you can tweet and facebook and instagram your pride to a much larger crowd of people than would fit in your kitchen. Now THAT is pinteresting.

Digital Credentials

"A digital badge is a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in many learning environments."  HASTAC
In my high school chemistry classroom, I have initiated my own series of badges that proclaim that a student has mastered a skill or achieved a science goal.  My badges are a work in progress, and while criteria for issuing them are still evolving, they are my version of the gold star for my high school chemistry students. The lab skills badge on the left, with its criteria listed below, is one example. This badge was created using Credly. I can add the badge to the student's digital science portfolio when he or she has achieved the criteria.

Another type of badge is the Civics Competency badge I put together from Canva; I am obviously not a graphics designer, but you get the idea how this site could be used. I like the idea of having an actual "badge" look, with a ribbon or star, more than a postcard look.

Another is OpenBadges. This product has a badge designer page that is straight-forward, but a bit clumsy and with limited scaling options. My first attempt yielded the Skilled Collaborator beast below. It seemed like the harder I tried, the uglier it got.

One of my goals this year is to create a whole set of badges that align with my curriculum objectives. This includes both the chemistry curriculum, overall science skills such as the lab skills and graphing, plus the stuff like citizenship and tech saavy skills.

Where and How to Make Badges

There are lots of ways you can make your own badges to give your students.  Basically, any tool that can create an infographic can create a badge.  I used CredlyCanva, and OpenBadges to experiment with, but you could use Paint or PhotoShop or any number of tools to design a badge for your students.  It is up to you to define what it is and how it will be used. Do you need ideas? A conference for educators called the Reform Symposium E-Conference had a variety of badges to distribute to conference attendees, and viewing them may give you some ideas. Or you can use pre-existing badges and criteria, such as those at

Why and How to Use Badges

Badges are akin to a certificate of accomplishment, in an electronic, pictorial form, and everyone loves to earn a certificate of accomplishment. I am using badges to show that a student has attained certain goals and has a reasonable understanding of the concepts for a unit. A criteria list is super helpful for answering the "badge or not to badge" question.

My students have a digital portfolio where they store lab reports, digital presentations, and the like. When a student achieves a particular content knowledge or other goal, I will post the badge on their portfolio. The student can then download it and share it on other media.  You can see the lab skills badge and criteria above, as examples. The Tech Savvy badge shown here is another example. As I said, I am still in the badge development stage, so I do not have a lot of my own to share.

More ideas?

  • Community Service
  • Science Team Participation
  • Class Facilitator
  • Aquarist (I have a fish tank in my classroom that requires cleaning and chemistry monitoring)


Ben Roome said...

This post does a nice job of introducing the concept of badges to teachers. I also like that it reviews a couple of softwares for creating badges images. Its important, however, that teachers also consider a "badge issuing platform" that uses the open badges standard. An open badge is not just an image, it is a set of metadata that explains when the credential was issued, who issued it, and what it was issued for. Some badge issuing platforms will allow students and teachers to host learning evidence outside of a separate e-portfolio software. For badge issuing platforms I suggest comparing Open Badge Factory, Credly and Badge List ( - I am biased as I helped build this one.)

Sandra Goodrich said...

I agree that badge standards are crucial, and I hoped that I had made it clear that it a set of criteria for badges is important. It must be considered, however, that there may be a wide range of badges that may be distributed, particularly given the diversity of subjects, ages, and abilities of our young people. For example, I am working on a set of criteria for students to demonstrate an understanding of the history of the Periodic Chart of Elements and trends within the periodic table, including understanding of valence electrons and electron configurations, at the high school level. This is fairly specific to my students, so I plan on establishing my own badge.

Tara L said...

Thank you! This is something that I have been thinking about as we move toward digital. Sometimes I still give me students a postcard or certificate to take home (something tangible goes a long way). But I have just started to get into the digital badges and wasn't aware of the platforms to make them. Thanks!