#GTAATX, Badges, Google Certified Innovator, Lifelong Learning, Professional Development

Digital Badges and GAFE: Keeping it Simple

Back in 2013, my family and I moved from Los Angeles to Loomis, CA so I could pursue a job as a TOSA in Instructional Technology. I was thrilled to have access to so many teachers, administrators, and students, and I was hungry to design a position that truly met the rapidly changing needs of classroom instructors. To this end, I participated in a massive open online course (MOOC) called “Badges as New Currency for Credentials” sponsored by the WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies (WCET). My hopes were high and my curiosity was peaked. What if we could uncover a whole new way to offer PD that would be more affordable and more responsive to teacher needs? The what-if’s were incredibly enticing, and as the 4-week course wrapped, I realized that this revolutionary approach to professional learning is far more complex and political than I had known before. But, I believe there is potential for any learner to enjoy the formative process if they have voice, choice, and celebration along the way – and I see digital badges as an integral part of that process.

So, my mission was set.

Since stepping into the role of a teacher of teachers, I have dedicated my research of badging platforms with adults as consumers and creators of badges in mind. However, my overarching goal has been to uncover an open badges platform that sets up adult learners to collect, display, and communicate their learning but also has the level of privacy and protection in place for the “under 13s” crowd. This would allow for an adult learner to bring digital badges to their classrooms when they’re ready. In the end, if an adult can earn badges in the same platform they use with their students, their relationship with the platform (and the process) is much more personal and applicable. Additionally, I wanted the workflow to be simple and streamlined, and I wanted an attractive interface with the ability to give a lot of creative ownership of the badges to each badge creator.

Now, there are a number of high-quality badging platforms out there, and I have been moved by the level of responsiveness from many of these companies and individual developers. All of us in educational technology are aware of the heavy push for data privacy in the last few years. Legislation in California makes it incredibly challenging for industry partners to meet all the needs, yet I am grateful for the ready partnership that I’ve come across. That said, I have yet to find this magical open badging platform that has compliance, access, data privacy, attractiveness, and ease-of-use totally nailed down. So, I decided to build my own.

GTAATX stickies
Collaboration with other Google Innovators who are responding to my central moonshot idea

I was fortunate enough to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Austin, TX in December 2014. We were prompted to identify our “moonshot project” that we then commit to working on for the duration of the Academy and beyond. My moonshot project centers around gamified professional development. (See the stickies on the left?!) I connected with other Google Certified Innovators to think about how we might open access for educators to choose their own learning paths and communicate progress and accomplishment in innovative ways. So, it’s no surprise that the solution to my badging saga pointed me towards Google Apps for Education.


Google for Education


The Purpose: to design an attractive, compliant, and low-to-no-cost digital badging solution for K-12 educators and classrooms

The Platform: Google Apps for Education (Google Sites, Drawings, Forms, and Sheets)

The Vessel: digital badges designed in Google Drawings 

The Workflow:

  1. Badger determines and records the purpose, description, and required evidence for the badge on a private Google Sheet
  2. Badger designs the digital badge in Google Drawings (Recommendations: 3″X3″ transparent canvas; Rounded square, circle, and diamond shapes; Easy-to-read font size and color; Central image should be open source (see thenounproject.com for inspiration and icons)); Contrast the background of the badge to the text and banner)
  3. Badger inserts a png of the badge and pastes the badge information onto the appropriate page on the site. 
  4. Earner submits the required evidence on the embedded Google Form on the site pages. 
  5. Once evidence is assessed as high-quality, Badger shares the badge with the earners via Share Settings in Google Drawings. 

The Privacy: GAFE privacy and security settings as outlined here

The Badge Display: Metadata will be displayed as a link to a Sheet on each page of the site; Badges will be up to personal choice — some options include a Google Site ePortfolio, Google Slidedeck, Google Drawing “backpack,” Google Drive Folder


Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.22.26 AM

I’ve taken these components and packaged them into several badge collections that you can see from yourself: EdTech Badges For AllThese are all in draft and I’m excited to see where the initiative may go next.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by many creative thinkers in this effort, and I know that our important work has only just begun. Inspired by the ingenuity of our #BadgeChatK12 professional learning network (Twitter Chats every Monday from 3:30-4pm PST) and lucky to have my #GTAATX cohort and fellow Google Certified Innovators, I have no doubt that this model will be iterated again and again.

If you have suggestions or want to talk through the design of your own personal, GAFE-based digital badging program, don’t hesitate to reach out! We are always #bettertogether!


For background on digital badges and micro-credentials for professional learning, feel free to view my National CUE 2016 Tip Presentation: What Can Digital Badges Do For You? 

2 thoughts on “Digital Badges and GAFE: Keeping it Simple

  1. I love your story! This is almost exactly where I’m at right now. A Digital Learning TOSA, with a passion and excitement for badging! We are also working on Sage, which one component (my baby) is the badging. Another component is community. We have a Facebook at Work site set up. One of the groups is all about badging. I would love to invite you to be part of it. If you feel comfortable, you can send your email and I’ll send you an invite. If not, please check us out at http://www.sageinitiative.us/sign-up.html . If you think you’d like to join us, you can do so through there. We’d love to have you part of the group and gain your insight. Badging is awesome, but so HUGE! I’d love to get as many brains together as I can, lol!

    1. I was just recommended to your work with the SAGE project by Jared Ward this week! I love how networks collide! Yes… let’s collaborate!

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