Badge-empowered Digital Literacy Game Prepares NYC Students for the Real World
BadgeOS ™ System & Services; Instructional Program Design
New York City Department of Education
Badge-empowered learning experience cultivates life skills for post-secondary readiness. Learners have fun, step up their digital literacy, and collect badges they can proudly show the world.
Twenty-first century living demands skills and tools to navigate the digital world. All kinds of everyday tasks can be facilitated or made more accessible by using a computer and having Internet access at home. Many families still lack access to broadband and computers in their home environments. These families are less likely to be using online resources in their day-to-day lives, and are less likely to know how to use the resources safely and to help better their lives.
Challenge and Opportunity
New York City’s Department of Information Technology & Communications (DoITT) and Department of Education (DOE) were awarded a grant from the US Department of Commerce to create NYC Connected Foundations, a program to increase broadband access for students enrolled in participating transfer high schools. The key challenge and opportunity was to find a way to engage learners in the pursuit of real-world skills that will prepare them for school and work beyond high school.
The approach would need to support broadband adoption among vulnerable families by engaging over-age, under-credited students at approximately 50 high schools, including digital instruction to help students and families live, learn, earn, work and play online and in their neighborhoods.
LearningTimes, in partnership with the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, was tasked to develop a digital course that introduced students in transfer schools (second-chance high schools) to digital literacy skills while they develop their plans for college, careers, and life after high school, providing a relevant context in which to learn how the Internet can be used to enrich their lives.
The LearningTimes team led the design and development of DIG/IT – a social, gamified adventure in digital life, on the new BadgeOS platform. BadgeOS™ — an open standards-based system designed specifically for badge-empowered, social learning — uses challenge-based “quests” and badges to recognize competencies and reward good behavior. The DIG/IT course provides a context that empowers and encourages learners to develop new real-world skills and knowledge that advance life goals, while engaging with others in a social give-and-take that builds community credibility and connections. Fun, motivating badges demonstrate to the world what the learners know and can do, and how others value their contributions.
In DIG/IT, students complete challenge-based quests in four levels: Live (digital citizenship), Learn (college and career explorations), Earn (financial literacy), and Play (arts, culture, and games). They also engage socially with others to develop important positive behaviors and 21st century soft skills. At the end of the course, students design a learning experience for a family member or another important person in their lives. Teachers are supported to blend instruction to maximize their classroom and online time.
As students work on each DIG/IT quest, their work and reflections are shared in an online portfolio to share with other participating learners for feedback and encouragement. Teachers are able to quickly provide input and feedback to student assignments, allowing for a more natural and iterative learning experience for learners. Upon completing a series of related quests, students earn badges acknowledging tangible new skills they have acquired. They also earn Reward Badges for contributions to the online and classroom community. As they gather enough rewards, they “level up” and continue to earn rewards for participating in the community and for helping others.
“We are really pleased with our students’ and teachers’ response to this approach,” reports Michael Preston, Ph.D. NYC Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Readiness. “We’re shifting the digital course model from information delivery to student creativity and exploration, which gives students a much richer context for developing skills they can use after high school. As an added benefit, we are seeing many teachers embrace the opportunity to blend face-to-face instruction with online work, and adopt a more facilitative role in the classroom. A few plan to start using BadgeOS in other courses.”
DIG/IT is currently in use in 36 NYC transfer schools, which are small, second-chance high schools that serve students who are most at risk of not graduating. The initial pilot has had promising results, including positive teacher and student feedback, and reportedly higher levels of student engagement in school. Student attendance in the DIG/IT based course has been reported to be higher than courses not using the badge-based approach; this is a trend a formal evaluation of the program will examine. The DIG/IT program will be rolled out to approximately 50 transfer schools over the next two years, to reach more than 5000 students.
Find Out More
If you are considering developing parts of your educational content into engaging badge-based learning, give us a call. We would love to help you determine what is right for your goals and budget. Find out how LearningTimes can help today!