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Podcast: Microcredentials, Access and Equity


Join us for a brief conversation with Noah Geisel, badge consultant and community organizer of the Badge Summit, a day long exploration of “microcredentials, access and equity” (or all things badges) prior to the annual ISTE conference. This year’s Badge Summit will be help in Chicago on June 23, 2018. Learn more about how you might benefit from attending.


Susan Manning:                   Welcome to the Credly Podcast, where we touch base with our issuers, earners, and partners, and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning.  Today I'm talking with Noah Geisel, who's a digital badge consultant and community organizer. And we're going to talk about the Badge Summit, because this is coming up in June in Chicago. And Noah, first of all, welcome.

Noah Geisel:                          Hi. Thank you so much for having me, Susan.

Susan Manning:                   Yeah. I want to learn more about Badge Summit, so can you give me some basics on what is it and how it started?

Noah Geisel:                          Totally. So the 2018 Badge Summit is really, the short explanation is it's not trying to change the world. It's a one-day conference dedicated entirely to learning and sharing around digital badge credentials, and we're really focusing on transformational challenge through access equity, and really trying to reframe for people how we recognize and value achievements. And the start of that summit was really borne out of a Clinton global initiative commitment to action plan four years ago. I had the honor of being invited there, and part of this commitment to action plan that I made was to share out some of the amazing work that were producing in Aurora Public Schools. And it just so happened that as we started to put that together to say, "Hey, everybody, come beg, borrow, and steal from us," other people said, "Hey, can we share, too?" And we said, "Absolutely." And so it went from this sort of, "Hey, learn what we're doing and take what you can from it" to "Let's create this whole day to shine a light on amazing work that's happening all over the country." And it's grown to be even all over the world.

Susan Manning:                   And the amazing work that's being done, it's not only K-12. You represent all kinds of areas where digital badges are being used, correct?

Noah Geisel:                          Absolutely, yeah. One of the things that's really neat about this moment that we're in for digital badge credentials is that it's not some K-12 fixture of the real world, but the real world never asked for it. And that's kind of rare, so [inaudible 00:02:20] in the K-12 space, and so this really allows us to invite in higher ed folks, community and cultural organizations, workforce development, and even industry partners, who are saying, "Hey, these are really part of unlocking the future for us in how we do hiring smarter, better, more effectively, and from the equity lens in a way that is recognizing merit, that is totally blind to things like last name, race, and gender."

Susan Manning:                   I personally think there's a lot to be gleaned from finding out what's happening in other verticals, as well, so you're not just locked into one. You're not just higher education, you're not just corporate, or you're not just after-school programs.

Noah Geisel:                          Right. That's one of the really special things that happens at this every year is we get folks who normally aren't even aware that other people are at the same restaurant, much less at the same table, right? And this all of a sudden give us this chance to share a seat at the same table with folks. Maybe I'm an elementary school principal and I get to be on the same panel as somebody who's working at IBM or who's in the higher ed space, and I think that's really special.

Susan Manning:                   So this year, at least, it's the day before the ISTE Conference begins. Has it always been that way? Is that deliberate?

Noah Geisel:                          Very much so, yeah. And I definitely want to be clear that we do not have any official relationship with ISTE, other than anybody who's interested in ISTE is a likely person to have crossover interest in digital badge credentials. And so the first Badge Summit was borne out here in Colorado, and it just so happened to be the year that ISTE was going to be here, and so we planned it the day before, and that turned out to be a really successful model that has continued now into our third year and will continue, I think, really as long as we're as a conference meeting folks needs and need to exist.

Susan Manning:                   If I am to attend, what should I expect to experience, and what should some of my goals be?

Noah Geisel:                          Yeah. I mean, it really depends on what your background knowledge is, what your sort of mission for attending is, and so we really strive to make it a conference that all day long is offering amazing content, learning and sharing, for people, whoever and wherever they are. So if you're coming to this conference at a place of, "What is a badge? I'm really on a fact-finding mission for my school district or organization," there's going to be amazing learning and sharing for you.  And if you're somebody who's already knee or even chest deep in this work, it's going to be just a great kind of a synergy group space for you to connect with other folks who are also doing some of this really hard and challenging work for which there's lots of different right answers, most of which have not really been published about yet. And so just 'cause it's a great opportunity to connect, and we try and keep it fun and loose and interesting, and so while we have things that people are used to, like a keynote session and your traditional breakouts, we also have some nontraditional things, like a sort of semi-structured networking, ask-me-anything session.

We have a panel that we're calling "Failure Lab," where people are talking about missteps in their digital badge efforts, and we also try and have fireside chats and really just mix things up in ways that a lot of conferences aren't doing, as a way of just staying relevant and trying to just keep people interested and coming back year after year.

And one of the success markers for me is if somebody comes as an attendee one year and then the next year they're reaching out to say, "Hey, can I share the work that we launched out of this at next year's Badge Summit?"

Susan Manning:                   That is remarkable. Can you think of any other memorable outcomes from the past that you've seen that will inspire us?

Noah Geisel:                          Totally. It's really special for me when I hear from a vendor partner like Credly saying, "Hey, we met with this school district and they're now a client." That feels like mission accomplished. It's really great for me when I hear from people, especially in this sort of ISTE and techy world, of folks saying, "You know what? I'm kind of over conferences. I get what I need from my digital PLN year round. I don't really need to go to conferences." When I hear from people like that, who say, "You know what? I really only come to conferences for the networking, and this was a conference where I actually went to every breakout session and stayed and got something out of it," that's something that's really rewarding and that I've actually heard.

And I think the other cool one is I've had multiple people last year say, "This made my whole ISTE week for me," even though we're not actually part of ISTE, and that's an amazing legacy event with 20,000 people, and for people to say, "That made getting on a plane worth it for me, having this day right beforehand with the tribe of people who are playing in the dig badge credential sandbox and that really made it all worth it," that's something really special for me that makes it feels like we're a successful event.

Susan Manning:                   Well, I'm pretty excited. Since I live in the area, I'm going to be able to come in and experience Badge Summit myself this year, so I'm going to look forward to meeting you in person.

Noah Geisel:                          Yes, ma'am. I look forward to meeting you. Plan on breakfast, lunch. We're going to have an awesome after-party, thanks to one of our sponsors, and it should be just a really amazing day of learning and sharing.

Susan Manning:                   Great. I look forward to it. And thank you for your time, Noah.

Noah Geisel:                          Susan, thank you so much for having me.

Susan Manning:                   Thank you, listeners, for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at