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This project was submitted by an applicant to the Digital Media and Learning Competition.

4-H Digital Badging Support

4-H Digital Badging Support

Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES)

A. Introduction, Background, and Content Alignment

This proposal is aligned with the Stage One 4-H National Headquarters/USDA Digital Badge Collaborator Proposal for the purpose of describing how the Auburn University based group will address the badging system and technology design for 4-H badges. As described in the Stage One Proposal, 4-H has provided positive youth development experiences for millions of young people.  As the flagship youth development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and our nation’s Cooperative Extension System, 4-H annually engages approximately 6 million youth and 500K volunteers in a variety of non-formal education experiences. The infrastructure of 109 land grant universities (LGUs) in every state and territory and staffing in almost all of the 3,150 counties across America, provides a unique system of engaging the public youth audience in learning. Over 80 countries conduct youth programs based on the 4-H model. Such an infrastructure allows 4-H to directly engage youth in community based settings and on-line environments.

The Auburn University (AU) based group is committed to advancing high quality learning experiences in the broad areas of science, health and citizenship through the use of experiential learning models and, especially, online learning. Accordingly, the AU based group began to develop a means of supporting online learning that provides interfaces with a knowledge bank of land grant university based content (eXtension), high interest area online learning community sites, and a secure online social learning network – the For Youth, For Life Learning Network (FYFLnet). As a part of this learning network, designed primarily for 4-H, the AU team also recognized a need for a digital portfolio for learners to record their experiences and accomplishments. A digital credential is a technology that would work as an integral part of the learning network.  See Appendix A.

B. Badges

Content: The 4-H collaborative effort will focus on robotics as its central domain with a basic design to be used in a series or various levels and areas of related content. As stated in the Stage One 4-H proposal, the base of the 4-H program will be associated with multiple curricula on robotics designed for use by 4-H and consist of considerable offline learning.

Skills – Discrete vs. dynamic: Skills that will be validated include important workplace and life skills like teamwork, problem solving and leadership. Other skills include computer programming, building robots, recording and analyzing data, using a GPS device, and creating GIS maps. Competencies include the engineering design process, systems engineering, robot sensors, and robot mobility, technology integration and computer programming. Youth may also earn digital badges for presentations, competitions, and career exploration accomplishments.

Badges used in 4-H may be a one-time occurrence for an individual or may be included in a series of badges earned over time. 4-H badges may be discrete in nature and be explicit in what is required to earn the one badge but will also be relevant to a continuation in the topic at hand leading to additional badges. 4-H badges will likely be collected in an e-portfolio but also be compatible with the Mozilla Open Badges system.

Scarcity & Granularity, Qualifications: Criteria, specificity, various components and categories, and other pertinent design considerations will be related to the 4-H curriculum on robotics. The overall 4-H Robotics team will determine a number of details in this area and anticipates multiple badges and sets of criteria with various levels of accomplishment.

Role & Identity, Levels: With multiple robotics badges in the 4-H system, some will likely indicate skill sets that would be conducive to taking on specific roles related to robotics. Such roles may include design, engineering, programming, presentation, or other areas.

Opportunities & Privileges: There is flexibility in the design and development of badging for robotics in 4-H which allows for attaching opportunities and privileges as they are earned. There is also interest in associating 4-H badges with university academic credit. Badges will be a part of a member’s record of achievements (e-portfolio).

Performance/Assessment: Criteria for 4-H robotics badges will be determined by the total team and will relevant to the associated curriculum for robotics in 4-H. Mechanisms for assessment will be determined by the overall team as well.

Permanence: Badges will have permanent value in the 4-H community especially at lower criteria levels. Badges related to academic pursuit or certification in certain skill sets may require an opportunity for updating.

Portability: 4-H badges will be recognized beyond 4-H in that they will serve as a record of accomplishment in personal e-portfolios. Validation will be related to the requirements for earning badges which will be captured in the meta data. 4-H may also collaborate with partner organizations to jointly offer badges that would be appropriate in multiple settings.

Design: 4-H badges developed for national use will include an official 4-H clover image but may also include indicators of its source, sources, or initiators.  Sources would include the USDA as the home of National 4-H Headquarters but may also include major sponsors or institutions related to its development. Graphically, it will include an image representative of the content involved. Also, while a small image cannot be representative of all entities related to the badge such representation can be captured in meta data. A draft image is provided in Appendix B as a placeholder prior to a final design for universal use.

Transparency/Meaning: Badging in the 4-H community will require some orientation but it is not so different from traditional means of recognition of accomplishments in 4-H. 4-H has traditionally utilized ribbons, medals, certificates, record book entries, etc. so there is a general understanding of acknowledgements of accomplishment inherent to 4-H already. Use of a digital badge may prove to be very popular especially if the badge is linked to a personal record that shows what was done to obtain it. As a LGU program, 4-H is a widely recognizable and credible brand. As such, 4-H badges will carry considerable value with educational institutions and employers.

Protection: 4-H is a program that is associated with universities and a badging system will be designed to assure that institutional credibility is clear to maintain value and integrity. Issuance of a 4-H badge will be dependent upon verified completion of learning criteria.

Endorsement: An endorsement, approval, or acceptance by a government agency such as USDA, NASA (and partners), and others would provide greater credibility to badges. Further, criteria for earning badges would likely be developed by a partner institution such as a land grant university which would then be approved by partner agencies. The 4-H Robotics curriculum was a collaborative effort of multiple universities and drew from interactions with NASA robotics programs as well. Criteria for 4-H robotics badging will be drawn from the work and experience associated with the development of the 21st Century (GEAR-TECH-21) and National 4-H Robotics curriculum led by faculty at the University of Nebraska.

C. Technology

Issuing: The mechanics of issuance of badges in 4-H will be determined as the project evolves with an ultimate goal of pushing the authority for issuance to a local level. Initially, the project team will closely monitor and manage the process in order to help determine an optimum manner for issuance to occur. The process will reside in a secure online environment accessible by 4-H faculty and learners. It has not been determined that badges will be managed locally by a learner but there will be an e-portfolio system with a badging component compatible with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure.

Interoperability: It is anticipated that a 4-H badge in robotics would be available to learners outside of traditional 4-H which will be confirmed as the overall team develops the badging system. 4-H badges will be compatible with the Open Badge Infrastructure.

Software and widgets: The FYFLnet project utilizes WordPress for creating learning community sites and will be considering various widgets and plugins for a variety of uses. Incorporating a sharable widget for badging is something that can be included in the 4-H badging system.

D. Team (see Appendix A)

The AU based FYFLnet team will direct its expertise in developing a private cloud system for use by young people to include a badging component compatible with the Mozilla Open Badge infrastructure. Team members include faculty Drs. Tony Cook, Extension/Outreach Specialist and Assistant Professor, College of Education and Cheryl Seals, Associate Professor, Computer Science & Software Engineering (CSSE), College of Engineering; doctoral & masters level graduate students in CSSE and the College of Education. CSSE team members all work in the area of human computer interaction (HCI) which will help in design of the system. An Information Technology Specialist in CSSE, graphic artists, and other staff will be called on as appropriate. The team utilizes a multi-server system in support of its private cloud environment and will dedicate server space for the badging system. The AU Stage Two team will also work with the Stage One team in development of 4-H badges especially on criteria for earning and issuance of badges in robotics.



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