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Digital-Badge Initiatives for After-School Programs Fueled by Mini-Grants

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Digital badges—online credentials that represent interests, skills, and accomplishments earned through specific activities—are an increasingly popular way for students to share what they've learned outside the classroom with teachers, college admissions officers, and employers.

More after-school and summer programs are issuing badges for specific activities, including the "summer of learning" programs we recently featured on this blog that several cities are offering this year. The programs are patterned after a Chicago initiative that awarded 100,000 badges to students who participated in local summer programs or completed activities around the city on their own in 2013.

This week, the Afterschool Alliance announced it has awarded $10,000 mini-grants to statewide after-school networks in Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island to help them develop and pilot digital badge systems. The mini-grants are supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a major funder of digital media and learning initiatives.

The grantees include:

  • Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) and the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance, which will work together to develop a common framework and best practices for badges in after-school and summer programs.
  • The Michigan After-School Partnership, which will work with other organizations, including the Michigan Department of Education, to pilot STEM-themed badges for students and staff in out-of-school time programs.
  • The Ohio Afterschool Network, which will work with the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association, Starting Point, and Case Western Reserve University to pilot badges for youth development workers in the Cleveland area.
  • OregonASK, which will pilot badges with Oregon programs that are implementing informal science curricula. Badges will be awarded to students and/or staff.

For more on digital badges, check out this primer from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

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