I’ve been wanting to explain this to parents…but I don’t always have the right words.

As the lab approaches its twelfth year this week, I’ve been trying to decide how to make an enormous shift this coming Summer. You see, we have never been “achievement-based.” In fact, you could almost say our programs were built to be “anti-achievement.” I wanted outside-of-school programs that had little pressure, measurement, or competition built into them. I wanted kids learning but only “for fun” inside our lab.

I’m shifting that model now, though. At the same time, whereas we’ve always mixed campers aged four to fourteen, we have now split into “big kids” and “little kids” for the bulk of the camp day. I did this now that we are truly operating as a Fab Lab. My experience over the last two Summers is that children under eight years old are simply too young for a Fab Lab setting. Not wanting to lose the opportunity to gain little kid interest early (and spend time with the littles), we created a “Primer Lab” in the front of our space for them.

This is the first Summer since 2010 where we will be issuing achievements, too, in the form of digital badges to the “big kid” learners. I want to outline my reasons in some bullet points that give reasons digital badges are beneficial, and in fact: imperative right now. I hope you all reading this either see the benefits of what we’re doing, and if not, I hope you feel okay to challenge me with a quickness. For the record: I do not plan to make this coercive. If a child doesn’t wish to take a test or produce the evidence/artifact necessary to earn a badge, we will be happy to let them continue hands-on learning in our space without those requirements.

If you have questions or comments, you can reach me at mess@workchops.org

Why Issue Badges to Children:

  • Badges are the future of credentialing
  • Badges acknowledge skills and knowledge gained, as they are gained
  • The badges are “sprints” and not “marathons” in learning
  • Micro skills and learning can be “stacked” for a more macro education
  • Open Badges are digital and “portable” and belong to the learner, not the issuer
  • A child earning badges early will learn to leverage them early for educational/job opportunities
  • Badges foster a sense of “lifelong learning”