In his New York Times article, Show Me Your Badge , Kevin Carey says
They [digital badges] are also being used to improve education itself, by borrowing techniques from video games that keep users playing, until they advance to the next level.
Anyone who has ever seen a teenager glued to a screen for hours playing World of Warcraft can attest to the powerful lure of digital rewards.
Here he makes what is becoming a classic mistake: confusing the points with the game. People don’t play video games in order to get badges—they play because they find it fun. “Gamification” of education has got to be making learning fun, not slapping a point-and-badge system onto a series of boring video lectures.
Education has already been deeply damaged by the confusion of markers of learning, that is, points, grades, and test scores, with actual learning (see Just scoring points, or any of the dozens of major cheating scandals in the news over the last few years). Pretending that digital badges are going to revolutionize education in a positive way is just silly.
Kevin Carey believes that industry is eagerly awaiting a certification system that provides digital badges for individual skills, like “one for teaching robots to move and another for manipulating robot motion sensors—ultimately leading to a final badge certifying their overall robot programming skills”. Quite frankly, I’m dubious that anyone is waiting for that. A company trying to hire a robotics engineer is going to want to know what the person can do, but not at that fine-grain a level. They’ll want to know more about what major projects they’ve worked on, and what role they played on the development team, not what score they got on a one-day homework exercise.
There will undoubtedly be certifications other than college degrees—there have been for years—and some of these new certifications will undoubtedly take the form of digital badges, but I don’t see the digital badge movement as becoming any sort of replacement for college education.