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A Badge for your Mad Skills

My kids are life learners, without traditional diplomas or grades. We helped our older teen translate his experiences into a narrative transcript for college applications, but I am delighted to hear about a new credentialing system in the works that will help people show the world their life experience and skills, no matter where or how they learned.

I think  “digital badges” will be a fantastic tool for college applicants, job seekers, non-traditional learners, veterans, parents who have spent time out of the workforce — anyone who wants to codify skills, talents, and experience. It will also help recent college graduates who want to explain how their lives have prepared them for employment far beyond what their official transcripts and brief resumes show. Check out these examples of two teens whose badges represent what they love to do (which is also quite naturally what they are good at).

MacArthur Foundation, the same nonprofit that selects “genius” grant recipients each year, are sponsoring a contest with Mozilla and a number of other partners to get this new badge system off the ground. Much the way scouts earn badges or gamers acquire achievements, anyone can post badges for their talents and experiences on a website. Essentially, you tell your own story, which is brilliant; so many people aren’t sure what they want to do, and working on badges could help clarify priorities and passions.

Do your mad skills need some polishing to be badge-worthy? Corbett Barr’s essay on “becoming an expert”  is some of the best advice I’ve ever read. May it be a guide to you on your life-learning journey.


About Deb Baker

Deb Baker is a writer and insatiable reader, and library director at a community college. She muses about library issues at The Nocturnal Librarian ( and blogs about books, reading, and life at bookconscious ( Her family includes two awesome offspring, a husband, and the cat who adopted them. And a crazy rescue kitten.

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