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Chicago Offers Digital Badges for Students' Summer Experiences

Students in Chicago are not only beating "brain drain" this summer, but are also earning virtual badges for their experiences, according to an article in Catalyst Chicago.

Chicago is the first to launch a citywide system for earning digital badges (for both public and private school students), which, as you may remember are virtual accolades that commemorate skills or learning acquired, much like a Girl Scout or Boy Scout patch. Throughout this summer, students in Chicago will be engaging in summer learning experiences at 140 organizations throughout the city.(The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur and Mozilla Foundations will support the badging component of the project.)

Digital badges have gained attention nationally recently as a way to recognize learning that takes place anywhere—especially outside the classroom. In some locations, like Providence, R.I., schools are starting to recognize digital badges as part of or a supplement to in-school learning.

The Catalyst piece profiles a few examples of efforts this summer already underway, such as students who are earning badges by participating on a health council at the Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit focused on engaging young people in politics that I wrote about here.

In other summer news, the Walmart Foundation has donated $2.5 million to provide summer jobs for 1,200 teenagers in Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Conn., Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego.

The grant was awarded to the Brandeis Center for Youth and Communities, a research organization based at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., that will administer mini-grants to government and nonprofit agencies to hire young people for summer jobs requiring more than 120 hours of work.

The Brandeis Center will work with both hirees and employers to define job goals and expectations, with the intention to foster youth skill development and competency-based learning, according to a press release. Researchers from Brandeis are expected to perform evaluation and assessment of the project's impact.

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