Wisconsin — also known as the Badger State — is a network of urban and rural communities in the midwestern United States. Many communities have limited resources; as a result, sustaining meaningful educational partnerships in service of students can be a challenge. Communities across Wisconsin are seeking relevant, high-quality educational opportunities that connect students with job opportunities and postsecondary education programs.
LRNG is a national initiative that grew out of intensive research by the MacArthur Foundation. WeThinkBig brought the initiative to Wisconsin and partnered with local schools, employers, and organizations to pilot and launch LRNG:Badgerland in 2018. In 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Education joined to co-host the LRNG:Badgerland network. This network — and the digital badges it provides — serves as "connective tissue" for:
- Teachers looking for efficient ways to make curricula relevant to real-world situations
- Employers looking for meaningful ways to partner with schools and provide opportunity for young people
- Post-secondary programs seeking motivated students prepared for success
- Community leaders looking to leverage their philanthropic investments
The platform's digital badges introduce students to careers in nursing, construction, hospitality, manufacturing, information technology, science, and education. Badges are earned after a student completes a series of assignments (we call it a “playlist”) and submits evidence of their learning and competencies for each activity. Typically, this evidence is a combination of authentic learning artifacts: a portfolio or collection of new work that the student has created; their own analysis of real-world problems; quiz scores; and more.
Badges can serve as students' entry tickets to either a guaranteed job-shadow experience or an invitation for a job interview. Some badges prequalify students for entry into more advanced career program offerings, such as career academies, workshops, and other pre-professional programs. Other badges earn students rewards or incentives such as t-shirts, water bottles, digital devices, tickets to events, and more, in addition to professional or academic recognition. Soon, some badges may even count toward high school or college credits.
LGNG: Badgerland's Commitment
By bringing together stakeholders and students and connecting them to the educational experiences and resources available throughout Wisconsin, LRNG: Badgerland makes educational offerings seamless and available to every student, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The LRNG platform provides career-relevant educational experiences in a format that is engaging, exciting, and accessible for youth, regardless of ZIP code or schedule.
Examples and highlights
There are multiple ways to engage with LRNG:Badgerland. Students can access and explore the platform independently, or the experience can be embedded in the more traditional classroom or afterschool program experience.
For example, high school students with an interest in healthcare can dig deeper and discover available careers in that field via online sources and by connecting with local professional mentors. Activities on the platform include explanatory text and resources to help students familiarize themselves with the profession, identify the mentors they want to meet, and learn etiquette and best practices for making informational interview calls. As students deepen their learning and earn digital badges, the badges can be uploaded to an academic transcript, resume, or career platform, providing evidence of students' knowledge and experience.
Much like a diploma represents an institution’s certification that a student has completed and succeeded in attaining a level of academic excellence, digital badges represent a community’s certification that the learner has demonstrated a specific level of mastery and competence in specifically defined academic and career areas. For example, students wishing to job-shadow in a hospital must first demonstrate that they are familiar with the employer, understand conceptual foundations and procedures, and understand and follow privacy and safety protocols. Attainment of the badge pre-qualifies and “opens up” the opportunity to job-shadow, as both learner and employer are now assured that the student has the foundational competencies and confidence required for more sophisticated real-world experiences.