2017 Badge Summit Preview: Interview with Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is Senior Director of Learning Design at Mouse.org. Since 2008, he’s been a part of the leading edge of Design and STEM enrichments in schools. In 2012, was named a National School Boards Association “20-to-Watch” among national leaders in education and technology. I first spoke to Marc in early 2016, when he spared an hour of his time to allow me to pick his brain about Mouse’s lessons learned in implementing micro-credentials.

Marc will be presenting at the 2017 Badge Summit about an exciting partnership that is creating college admissions opportunities to Badge earning students. He has also been a part of the awesome curator team that has collaborated to shape this year’s conference. I caught up with Marc this week to get his takes and preview for the 2017 Badge Summit.

A lot of the focus in K-12 Badge initiatives is centered on schools and districts. What roles can partner organizations like Mouse play in this space that should be on peoples’ radar?

For decades, organizations like Mouse have been a part of young people’s experiences, shaping skills and a wide array of competencies that universities and employers care deeply about. As universities and employers pull away from the current paradigm of “success metrics” the way we’ve come to know them in the last fifty years or so (which they are) they will increasingly rely on richer demonstrations of what learners are capable of.

Non profit and community organizations are key partners to schools, universities, and employers as they push ahead to a future where assessment, admissions, and employment criteria consider the “whole student.” Alternative credentialing will help all of the institutions in a learner’s landscape to offer them richer data to tell the story of how capable they are. We hope also that they open new channels of communication among all stakeholders about how we better partner to help all students find pathways to happiness in work and life.

The announcement about Mouse’s partnership with Parsons School of Design to recognize students’ Badges during the admissions process felt to me like some of the most exciting Badge news of the year. Both with Mouse’s work and others who will be able to implement similar efforts in their communities, where do you see momentum taking us with Badges and college applications?

We see badges as new doorways to data that helps admissions professionals face the overwhelming challenges they encounter in their jobs: establishing new classes with limited space and a growing number of applicants, that succeed academically and socially, and don’t fail their charter towards equity and diversity.

As organizations like the Coalition forAccess and Affordability make headway to level the playing field for all applicants, “plus factors” and portfolio items will play a more crucial role in demonstrating potential. Many ask, “but how do we keep them from becoming another hoop to jump that benefits those who already ‘have’?” And that’s a vital question as we architect what comes next. I can say only from my experience that what comforts me are the rooms filled with higher education administrators, faculty, researchers, community organizations, and K12 leaders who are committed to new ways of thinking that don’t duplicate the mistakes that have set us back so far.

What work are you excited to learn more about at this year’s Badge Summit?

Just when I thought I’ve heard all of the ways that alt credentials hold potential for positive change for people and communities and institutions, a convening brings us together to learn about a pocket of innovation that we hadn’t yet considered. This summit will bring together leaders from so many facets of our work in this field… It’s hard to imagine all that we’ll learn from each other. I’m so excited to be part of it.


The 2017 Badge Summit will be on June 24th in San Antonio. Visit the official site to get registered and to learn about the other exciting speakers and sessions. Reach out to me if you have questions about the conference, need info about team discounts or would like to discuss ways to be involved as more than an attendee.

Shoutout to Julie Woodard for this awesome sketchnote! Follow her on the twitter: https://twitter.com/woodard_julie