With the new digital badges program, kids may now be able to get more credit for what they've learned at such places as Garfield's Assemble.

Pittsburgh has joined the national City of Learning program that offers kids new digital badges – like the certificates adults can learn – to help them show evidence of new expertise to the world.

The program was started a few years ago in Chicago, by Digital Youth Network, and has just now begun to branch out to other cities. “Pittsburgh jumped at the opportunity,” says Ryan Coon, program officer for The Sprout Fund, which is running the program.

“The long-term goal is to be able to provide learners of all ages with additional options when trying to make their case to colleges or employers,” he says. “Badges hopefully can be a concrete piece of information you can share as evidence of your competencies and what makes you a good fit.”

DePaul University in Chicago is already considering badges on applications, he reports, while a Rhode Island school district gives grade-school credit for badges.

“You have a potential for the earners to be able to tell a more comprehensive story about who they are,” says Khalif Ali, Sprout program manager for the badges program. And Sprout will help organizations that sign up for the program by its May 2 deadline with ways to make sure the program’s lessons  connect with specific badge qualifications.

Badges will also give kids a more concrete way to connect with what they have learned. “I’m a social worker by trade,” says Ali, “and I know that even having a partial ownership over that process keeps people engaged.”

Information sessions about the new badges program will be held April 22 at the Hill House, 8:30-9:30 a.m., and on April 28 beginning at 6 p.m. at the WYEP Community Broadcast Center on the South Side.

Marty Levine

Marty Levine's journalism has appeared in Time, Salon.com and throughout Pennsylvania and has won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, The Press...