Annotation: Badges for Higher-Ed Assessment

Buell, C. (2013, August 30). Using Badges to Quantify Learning Outcomes at UC Davis. Edcetera. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from

This article examines the use of badges to measure learning outcomes in higher education, especially as developed by UC Davis and Joanna Normoyle, who won an award for the innovation at the Digital Media and Learning Competition. The idea is to quantify and standardize higher-level thinking skills gained throughout the course of a university degree and award a digital badge for the achievement, potentially making them useful to future employers trying to determine the skill-set of a candidate or even simplifying the process of credit transfer between universities looking for equivalent coursework. Badges in such a system also can be useful for helping learners to track their progress and customize an academic program. UC Davis is officially launching their program with students this fall. By extension, I could see this as an easy, practical way for academic libraries to jump in, partner with departments and get involved in assessing and communicating the information literacy of students.

Information literate enough?

Am I information literate? I am going to dare to say yes. I am not an expert by any means, but I am almost always conscious of it and I am almost always working to get better at it (because it is a moving target). According to this Web Literacy Quiz, I fell in the Moderately Savvy range, but a bunch of my answers were really close or almost complete that I could give myself half-credit for. There were none that I hadn’t encountered before, even if I couldn’t rattle it off the top of my head–I would have been equipped to search and find a refresher to the answer pretty quickly.

It is important that you are skillful in these areas, but I have never met a teacher that didn’t pick up new skills/information along the way, even from students. Students are very rarely tabula rasas, but most of us have something to offer even experienced students.

A silly example, but eye-opening for me. When I got my iPad, I went to the Apple Store for a training workshop after a couple of weeks, thinking I was a beginner. As it turns out, between my prior knowledge of my iPhone and the stuff that my students showed me, I realized I was far from a beginner compared to some of my peers at the workshop–I could have taught the class, given their level of cluelessness. That said, learning how to use a MacBook has had a steeper learning curve for me, but I am proud to say that I self-taught myself a trick with movie-editing that my Apple-trainer was floored by.

What I’m saying here is, while it can be uncomfortable/daunting to be told that you are teaching something as big as “Information Literacy,” and quite natural to doubt your abilities, BUT when you get some perspective that even your weaknesses might be considered advanced for some. The danger is staying still and thinking that what you have is good enough and doesn’t need improvement.

What do you need to know to teach Information Literacy? The AASL standards for 21st Century Skills are a good start. In these cases, most of use are probably well on our way. If you compare to the November Learning Web Literacy Quiz, it might be a little more questionable for some of us if our skills are up to par (I thank my LIS 451 course for teaching me a lot of those things.)

A bit of a related side-note for you: This week, I read a viral blog post about teenage girls’ social media posting habits. At first, I took her side and agreed with the point she was trying to make, just because I see so many teenagers not realize what online persona they are creating and the privacy issues that they are so cavalier with and the damage it can do–and I don’t just mean “tempting teenage boys” (don’t even get me started with my 18-year-old sister’s web habits… the things that girl posts, I hope she can get a job someday!) Maybe this is a librarian’s information literacy reaction. Maybe. Of course, I did some further reading on gender issues, double standards, etc. to the blog post and it hadn’t even occured to me the gender issues, double standards, etc. that also come into play.

Here’s a case where I joined in the participatory culture–I actually did share the link, though without much comment–and ended up feeling a little sheepish, because I didn’t do my research before I discovered my final stance. This isn’t so different from what we want kids to learn. Call it “doing your homework” or “look before you leap”… being conscious of your missteps is important too!