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By Daria
For the past few months, we’ve been meeting with a small group of Global Kids staff members called the Badges Fast Action Team or B-FAT. The group consists of five staff members who convene every other week to discuss big picture questions as we build out badges for our organization. So far, we’ve discussed what the overall badging schemata for Global Kids should look like, including what features there should be and what skills, abilities, accomplishments, etc. we want to badge. You can read about that in more detail here and a template of what it looks like here.

Most recently, we discussed two key questions:
1. Are their GK badges that we are offering to youth not in GK and GK badges that we want to certify other organizations to offer?
2. What is our process for rolling out the badges system and what challenges can we foresee?

For the first question, there was unanimous consensus that we do want to certify other organizations and educators offer GK badges. The easiest places to start doing that would be to look a the partnerships that we currently have and which educators are already using GK curriculum or workshops. It could also be a way for us strengthen our partnerships with communities we work with outside of New York, such as Washington, D.C. We would start testing this out in the fall with a small number of organizations.

Questions remain about whether or not we would be certifying what youth learn or what they learn through being in Global Kids, and whether or not the badge is about youth learning or GK teaching? Another question is that if we badge youth for content they learn in another program, is that us taking credit for work done by others? For the second question, we know that our priority is to develop a centralized plan for our staff. To begin, there will be training for our summer staff who are beta-testing the badges on how to use the system, and I will write a workshop that staff can use to explain to youth what the badges are about. In June, I will lead a badge development day for staff to develop badges by program, and there will be additional training on how to use the system in early September.

The main challenges we foresee have to do with the human resources needed to sustain the badging system over the course of the school year. For example, who will be the staff person(s) for each program that are the key badge experts? What groups or staff are needed during the year to keep all the work moving forward? Additional challenges we foresee are technical. For example, how will we get all our youth into the system when many of our school sites have limited internet access? What will be each program’s plan for getting their youth online?

We also came across a new rule of thumb we could use moving forward for a recurring issue: how do we know if we are designing a new badge or rebuilding the wheel? If the rubrics are different, we decided, then the badges are different. If the rubrics are the same, then the badges are the same. This means that sometimes badges that are very specific, with unique rubrics, can be combined into one badge with a more general rubric. For example, a “blog writing” badge and a “fan fiction” badge can be combined into an “online writing” badge; this simplifies the system by cutting down on the number of badges but maintains what was unique about the two original badges by moving what made them special from the “badge” category into the “mission” category. In other words, potential missions for achieving an Online Writing Badge might be “Post a link to a blog you have written” and “Post a link to a piece of original fan fiction you have written.” We COULD have kept them as seperate badges, but combining achievements at this level makes sense for how we plan to use badges. 

Finally, we discussed the idea that badges are an enhancement to an enhancement, and that it’s important to remember that it’s okay if some of our youth do not pursue badges and that we should be careful about not creating a power dynamic between those who are more involved with badges and those who are not. This affects what we choose as our power-ups and whether or not power-ups are required to access other GK activities or whether or not they should only relate to external rewards and opportunities within the badging system.

Lastly, as we build out our summer beta badges, we have found that the templates we created are incredibly useful. For staff running our summer geocaching program, they went straight to the badges template to look for outcomes. They found that the Hard Skills and Knowledge categories were most useful in determining the educational outcomes they want youth to get out of the program, while the other categories were not as useful.

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