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NASA Expands Its Education Portfolio With Digital Badging
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden speaks from a podium

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden addressed a crowd of education stakeholders to share NASA's enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Image Credit: NASA

NASA's efforts to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education took a giant leap forward this week. The agency joined the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the HASTAC Initiative, and Mozilla in a Badges for Lifelong Learning event held at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Sept. 15, 2011.

The event highlighted the burgeoning world of digital learning badges, an exciting new concept of offering online learning, with digital badges serving as recognition of skill achieved. It also served as the kickoff for the 4th Digital Media and Learning Competition, which will provide up to $2 million in grants for innovations in the use of Badges for Learning.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, executives from MacArthur and Mozilla, and other stakeholders to promote this new educational opportunity.

Julia Stasch, vice president of U.S. Programs for the MacArthur Foundation, announced NASA's selection as a collaborator for future badges. Using the excitement inherent in scientific research and space exploration, NASA will use the digital badging platform to advance interest in STEM.

Administrator Bolden told the crowd of more than 200 how pleased he was that NASA has joined this new effort to encourage lifelong learning. He shared that NASA’s Office of Education has conducted an assessment of activities, interests and needs in the kindergarten to 12th-grade area. NASA has identified robotics and teamwork as two themes for constructing NASA's initial digital badge set, which will focus on grades 4-12. Future NASA Teamwork Digital Badges could be developed to focus on other mission and research areas.

Following Bolden's address, attendees got to hear a panel session titled, "A New Way to Show What You Know." It brought together public, nonprofit and private sector panelists to discuss the potential of digital badges to inspire learning; demonstrate skills and knowledge; unlock job, educational and civic opportunities; and open new pipelines to talent. NASA's head of education, Leland Melvin, was on the panel and spoke of NASA's unique ability to provide compelling content to further STEM education through STEM studies.

Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin

NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin joined a panel of experts to discuss NASA's commitment to STEM education. Image Credit: NASA

He also spoke enthusiastically of the digital badging concept and how it will complement and augment NASA's existing educational offerings and help redefine learning in the future.

"NASA is always on the forefront of discovery. Stepping forward now in this way, as a collaborator in the world of digital learning badges, will enable us to discover how our content, existing missions and educational programs might be part of an ecosystem to reimagining learning in the 21st century," said Melvin. "Taking a systems approach to education helps us identify the best practices for effective teaching and learning. There are common skill sets that NASA and other organizations are seeking. Badging can be used in a cross-cutting way to help learners, educators and institutions meet the demands of the future."

NASA's Office of Education is committed to finding new ways to use its missions and programs to inspire learners. Using resources like digital learning badges and other information technology-related platforms, the agency will reach a much wider audience, encourage STEM education and careers, and help build a pipeline of talent critical for succeeding in the future.

Related Resources:
› NASA Education
› Digital Media and Learning Competition   →

Ann Marie Trotta: Public Affairs Officer for NASA Education