For Jewish education, digital badges can provide an alternative to traditional assessments. However, the emerging research on badges suggests a complex relationship between learning opportunities, the learner, and the design of the badge. An investigation of a digital badge system at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish middle and high school for girls reveals new findings on digital badges as well as how badges can be used in Jewish education. Qualitative analysis of student interviews details how badges can motivate, provide feedback, and serve as credentials in Jewish educational organizations. This research answers whether digital badges are Jewish.
This study contributes to the increasing amount of evidence that digital badges can support the goals of Jewish education. Orthodox Jewish girls can benefit from the use of digital badges in their formal education. However, this does not mean that the design of a badge system is simple. If badges are best used when students interpret them as reflective of their identity, then it is more important to create badges that reflect student interests rather than badges that reflect the goals of an organization. For Jewish education, this means that badges can’t be created to make students more Jewish. But badges can be created to allow students to explore their own Judaism.
In addition, because digital badges can have a positive impact on ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls, it is also possible that other emerging educational technologies could support ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls. Jewish educators might not need to first decide if a technology can even support a type of Jewish learning. Instead they can begin to directly address their respective student learning needs with whatever technology seems most compatible with the targeted learning goals.
Lastly, this study reminds all educators, both Jewish and secular, that their respective badge systems should combine motivational goals, feedback, and credentials in order to provide different badges that appeal to different learners. There is a growing amount of critical evidence in both secular and Jewish education, that the most successful badge systems enable learners by being 21st century assessments and not recreating traditional, flawed learning tools. In this sense, digital badges are not a cosmetic layer of traditional, ineffective practice but instead represent an opportunity for Jewish educational innovation.