Steel City Credentials: Building the Future of Credentials in Pittsburgh

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Topics: Emerging Trends, Future of Learning, Readiness

eSchool News recently reported on the new digital badging initiative that launched in the city of Pittsburgh. The initiative comes to the area courtesy of Pittsburgh City of Learning, and consists of three programs; county-run program called “Learn and Earn” which focuses on youth employment, a mixed academic and digital literacy program called the “Summer Dreamers Academy” being led by Pittsburgh Public School, and a summer reading program for middle and high school students organized by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

While digital badges are no longer a new concept, they are a signal of change and point towards quite a few possibilities for the future of credentials. In my paper focusing on the future of credentials, I explored four scenarios of how credentials might appear in the year 2025. Those scenarios are:

  • “All Roads Lead to Rome” imagines a future in which degrees awarded by the K-12 and post-secondary sectors still serve as the dominant form of credentials, but there are many roads toward gaining those credentials, such as diverse forms of school and educational assessments.
  • “The Dam Breaks” explores a future in which the employment sector accepts new forms of credentials, such as micro-credentials, on a standalone basis, leading to major shifts in both the K-12 and post-secondary sectors and new relationships between the academic and working worlds.
  • “Every Experience a Credential” considers what credentials might look like if new technologies enabled every experience to be tracked and cataloged as a form of credential for both students and employees.
  • “My Mind Mapped” imagines a future in which breakthroughs in both the mapping and tracking of brain functions have created a new type of credential reflecting students’ cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills.

Pittsburgh City of Learning’s digital badge initiative is an excellent signal of change for the future of credentials and serves as a signpost for two scenarios that the paper explored; “All Roads Lead to Rome” and “The Dam Breaks.” The question as to which future this initiative might be a signpost towards centers around the critical uncertainty as to whether new kinds of credentials, in this case, digital badges, will be accepted on a standalone basis, thus steering credentials into the future outlined in “The Dam Breaks.” Or, will there be hesitancy to acceptance of new types of credentials as replacements to the long dominate traditional diploma, in effect pushing digital badges into territory where they are used to augment existing degrees as described in “All Roads Lead to Rome?”

I will be keeping my eye on this initiative to see how the Steel City embraces digital badges. With their focuses on areas such as workplace readiness, summer reading, and digital literacy, as well as their cultivation of such a wide variety of partners ranging from the county, informal learning spaces, to city’s public schools, Pittsburgh City of Learning digital badging initiative is actively shaping the future of credentials and the future of learning.