Making STEM and 21-Century Skills Count (After School Style)

Learning can take place anytime, anywhere, at any pace in a rapidly evolving, networked world. At Mozilla, learning to read, write and participate on the web is the 4th basic fundamental skill next to the three Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The practice of the learner at the center is also fundamental to Mozilla where the mission is to ensure a healthy, open and accessible internet for all. One way to do this is provide people with open access to the skills and know-how needed to use the web to improve their lives, careers, and organizations.

In traditional U.S. education settings, competency-based learning has emerged as a way to make the learning experiences in afterschool settings “count” toward graduation and career-readiness. How to measure skills and show how students meet specific competencies has remained a challenge. Digital badges/credentials have emerged as one possible solution.

Mozilla partnered with three statewide afterschool networks in Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan to pilot 21C skills, STEM, and other badges in afterschool programs to better understand how to make informal learning count towards graduation and career readiness.

We want to take a moment to spotlight the accomplishments of these statewide afterschool networks thus far.

  • Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) developed and piloted badges in afterschool programs for workforce development.
  • Michigan After School Partnership (MASP) introduced digital badges in three afterschool settings in close collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education to create alignment with statewide education standards and credentials.
  • OregonASK deepened their work with digital badges by working with a diverse set of statewide partners and piloting in one school district.

Here are a few of the lessons they’ve learned.

  • Start by building badges around programs that have already been developed or skills that already have value in your system. Badges cannot take the place of strong programming and curriculum anymore than they can make up for weak programming and curriculum.
  • Bring in partners early and often. All three pilots found buy-in from all parties to be a critical component for success. Particularly when establishing systems to link out-of-school badges to in-school proficiency standards, it was key to have support from out in-school and out-of-school partners.
  • Get feedback from youth in the programs, and in turn iterate on the badges and system as you go.

Hopefully these share-outs will support and inspire other emerging efforts. We look forward to continuing to learn from their work and the work of other badging efforts.