My Girl Scout Sash is an App


The information contained in this project appendix was gathered from the original project proposal that was funded in 2012 and interviews with project leaders through the end of 2014.  This appendix and the overall design principles database from the DPD project does not reflect further evolution of the project or developments after the final interview that took place in 2014. As of the final interview, the Girl Scouts badge system had issued badges but these badges and the corresponding badge system was undergoing further developments. Based on this information, we have classified this badge system as a partial (rather than an implemented or suspended) badge system.


Girl scout building an Android app

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and NW Indiana learning to build apps for Android, and earning badges.

The digital badge initiative “My Girl Scout Sash is an App” was developed as part of a collaboration between Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI), MentorMob, and the Motorola Mobility Foundation. The initiative enables participants to gain skills in mobile app development. The project introduced a new digital sash from which girl scouts can add badges.  Through its badging program, Girl Scouts has provided a long-standing tradition of career development and leadership. Girl Scouts Chief Development Officer, Bryn Reese, described, “We’ve been living badging for about a hundred years, so that was not new to us. Implementing the badging program was not new to us. What was a new experience was taking it into a digital space” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Integrating the capabilities of digital media, Girl Scouts aimed to extend its reach among girls nationwide through its digital badging project “My Girl Scout Sash is an App.”

The program is organized into three stages or “courses,” including App Bootcamp 101, 201, and 301. Girl scouts earn digital badges for their sash, as they work with professionals from Motorola Mobility to build their own Android apps and progress successfully through the program series. Badge earners first learn about creating models of applications and creating a “Crystal Ball” app in the first stage of the program series. They then move onto programming and designing their own “Sash App.” Finally, the third level corresponds to the development of an infinite amount of digital badges and learners become experts in mobile development. Learners test and demonstrate the performance of their apps. Girl Scouts describes that the “application development process the girl learns and masters in earning her badges is a workforce development skill that may inspire her education and career choices” (HASTAC Q&A). To this effort, the badge systems promotes career readiness. The project outlines the goals of the badge system as including “mobility of the Girl Scout Sash to accompany the girl where ever she goes” and “progressively challenging curriculum that builds skills in science, technology, engineering and math through camouflage learning” (HASTAC Q&A). Girl Scouts planned to address these broader skills in its effort to award digital badges to girls for completing activities in mobile app development.

The initiative presents the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GLSE) on an online platform for girls from ages 5-17, offering them the opportunities to learn skills in the development of mobile apps. The project described the GLSE as “an outcomes-based framework for building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, based on the principles of discover +connect + take action = leadership for girls ages 5-17” (DML Stage One Proposal). The badging initiative focuses on developing the skills needed to create an Android app that are aligned with the existing resource The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. The handbook organizes levels of the Girl Scout experience by grade, including “Daisy (K-1), Brownie (2-3), Junior (4-5) Cadette (6-8), Senior (9-10), and Ambassador (11-12)” and  “outlines the national proficiency eco-system for each Girl Scout level” (DML Stage One Proposal). Interweaving this framework in the digital badging curriculum, Girl Scouts broadens the learning experience and enhances the skills that participants develop.

Advancing from the traditional Girl Scouts model, the project layered on a digital element that introduces girls to mobile app development and creation of badge apps for their digital sashes. Vicki King, Girl Scouts Vice President of Partnerships, Alliances, and Girl Initiatives, articulated their vision of the badge system, “Girls are very familiar with going through the process of earning tangible badges, but we wanted to introduce them to the whole concept of digital badging, extending their reach with earning the badges beyond just wearing it on their person, so that they can share their credentials around the world, and with other girls and whoever else is a part of their extended audience” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Incorporating digital badges, the project aspired for girl scouts to have the capacity to share their credentials and achievements around the world.


In 2011, Girls Scouts won a grant in the MacArthur/DML Badges for Lifelong Learning competition. Receiving the grant in March 2012, the project tested the badging system from June 2012 to June 2013. The Design Principles Documentation Project interviewed the badging system in August 2012 and February 2014. Girl Scouts emphasized that the badge system developed at a rapid pace. In June 2012, Girl Scouts rolled out the badge system at “Camp CEO,” which is a small camp where girls are partnered up with high-level women who help them explore career choices and think about their future. The project piloted App Bootcamp 101 in June, moved to Bootcamp 201 later in September 2012, and then Bootcamp 301 in March given its complexity and depth of development. As each bootcamp is a precursor for the next one, the project aimed for enough girls to progress through the series as they carried out the digital badge system (DPD Follow-up Interview). It then incorporated the digital badge project as a core component and launched it to the public as part of its broader program offerings (HASTAC Q&A). The project continues to offer its digital badge program in 2014.

Evolving Practices and Design Principles

What follows is a list of practices as they relate to the general and more specific design principles in each category of practice. The headings name a (a) General Principle, (b) Specific principle, (c) Specific practice. The paragraphs below each heading detail the project’s (a) intended practice, (b) enacted practice, and (c) how that practice relates to the specific and general principles.

Design Principles for Recognizing Learning

Girl Scouts leveraged digital badge credentials to open up further avenues of learning and career possibilities to explore. The system aligned the badges to a set of standards that served as the basis for the girl scout experience. In addition, the Girl Scouts endorsement of the badge boosts the validity of the claims made, strengthening the perception and assertions of the credential.

Promote discovery > Discover learners and discover learning opportunities > Privileges within community

Intended, enacted, formal (Discover learning opportunities)

Intended, not enacted, not formal (Discover learners)

Girl Scouts intended for digital badge credentials to provide further opportunities within the issuing community. The project proposed that “[t]hrough “Make Your Own” badge Apps, identities and roles become infinite. Opportunities and privileges are provided to girls on a progressive basis through their badge work and outreach into their communities. Apps extend these opportunities and privileges by connecting girls to each other through a shared experience via technologies” (DML Stage One Proposal). This opens up additional avenues for learning. In the DPD initial interview, although excited about exploring this route, the project articulated concerns with this functionality regarding the quality and its effects on the broader Girl Scouts badging system. For instance, there was concern over how much weight would be given to these badges and how they would line up with the program-issued ones.

In the Girl Scouts digital badge system, participants can create their own badges. Compared with the original Girl Scouts curriculum, Senior and Ambassador members were able to create their own badges as well. The issue in both the original version and in the new digital badges is that it may not actually be used by the organization due to issues of validity and spreadability. For the most part, in terms of discovering learners, the girls do not know one another if they are not in their troops. In this sense, the practice of promoting the discovery of learners was not carried out. With regard to discovery of learning, the project offered the App Bootcamp at Chicago Summer of Learning, but they did not see the uptake they anticipated. Besides this, the project also made the bootcamp an entry point to the overall Girls Scouts program (DPD Follow-up Interview).

The practice “privileges within community” illustrates the principle “promote discovery” and the sub-principle “discover learners and learning opportunities,” for learners encounter chances to learn through earning credentials. Each badge represents the completion of a level in the Bootcamp series, functioning as a prerequisite for the next stage and unlocking more advanced concepts and activities for learning.

Align badges to standards > National/international standards and internal standards > Integration into existing curriculum

Intended, enacted, formal (Use national or international standards)

Intended, not enacted, not formal (Standards internal to community)

The project aimed to build the badge system based on the existing Girl Scouts curricular framework as well as design a targeted curriculum on mobile app development specifically for the digital badging initiative. Girl Scouts outlined that “[t]he “My Girl Scout Sash is an App” curriculum will allow girls to create and design a mobile App for the Android operating system tied to The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting” and the “resources will be The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Girl Scout Leadership Journey curriculum” (DML Stage One Proposal). On top of this, the badge system, including their partners MentorMob and Motorola Mobility, planned to construct activities on Android development.

The project determines much of the credentialing practices based on the existing Girl Scouts model, and their practices do not appear to be changed by the use of digital badges. The credentialing practices of the pre-existing curriculum drive the enacted credentialing practices. In addition, Girl Scouts carry out new activities for the badge system based on the model of “App Boot Camp,” which was developed with Motorola Mobility. The projects offers the program to only girl scouts in the program (DPD Follow-up Interview). App Boot Camp is about enriching the girls’ experience, and as a pilot program it will lead to more and more girls engaging in STEM learning and earning Digital Badges.

The principle “align badges to standards” and sub-principle “national and internal standards” is shown through the practice “integration into existing curriculum.” Girl Scouts connected the badge system to their standards in which the badges themselves are the product of the participant’s learning. As they developed the curriculum, they hold up the badges up to standards that represent a somewhat binary distinction of girl’ learning (i.e., earning badge if they successfully built the badge app).

Seek external backing of credential > Externally endorsed > Collaborations for validity

Intended, not enacted, not formal

Motorola Mobility planned to stand behind their curriculum, strengthening the validity of the claims made about the skills represented by badges. In this respect, the Girl Scouts digital badges receive backing from an external entity. The project aimed to pursue partner organizations such as NASA.

The Girl Scouts association stands behind the badges and the curriculum of the digital badge project. Bryn Reese asserted, “We’re pleased that we’re strong as an organization and able to stand on our own, but are open to partnership” (DPD Follow-up Interview). While the project intended to seek external endorsement of the digital badging system, this practice has yet to be implemented.

The practice “collaborations for validity” exemplifies the principle “seek external backing” and the sub-principle “externally endorsed.” The project can further strengthen the learning claims of badges by forming collaborations and obtaining endorsement from external entities. An outside organization backs the credential to increase the validity of its assertions.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

MentorMob knew coming into the project that they needed to work within the constraints of existing Girl Scout badges, but they have considered benchmark badges or rewards as interim motivational assessments leading up to digital badges comparable to Girl Scout sash badges (DPD Initial Interview). These interim assessments create a “feedback loop” that will help inform girls as they progress through activities. They have contemplated the development of different types of interim assessments that are customized to the Girl Scouts’ needs such as image-based multiple choice questions. As of the DPD Follow-up Interview, the project does not appear to have formalized any assessments of the learning represented by badges. Rather, girl scouts earn a badge upon completion of a task of the Bootcamp level, and the specific learning artifact is not assessed or measured based on standards of learning outcomes.

Use leveled badge systems > Hierarchical categories > Leveled badges

Intended, enacted, formal

The project intended to develop a leveled badge structure. In their DML proposal, Girl Scouts noted, “Learning occurs in a linear manner starting with elementary Apps and progressing towards more complex Apps culminating in the girl’s ability to independently construct Apps unique to her Girl Scout experience” (DML Stage One Proposal). Girl Scouts noted the function of “rewards” in recording the progress of learners that lead up to a badge. MentorMob knew they had the constraints of established Girl Scouts badges, which do not include motivational badges along the way, so they looked for ways to integrate those (DPD Initial Interview). The project planned to design badges based on the Girl Scout levels as milestones along the way and create “rewards” in addition to them as a way to motivate learners (DPD Initial Interview). MentorMob aimed to create digital badges that will correspond to to Girl Scout badges, but also building something new that adds interim motivational assessments leading up to existing Girl Scout Badges.

As learners grow up and progress through school, they move through levels in the Girl Scouts experience.  Interim motivational or benchmark badges will facilitate achieving a major badge (DPD Initial Interview). The project continued forward with this structure, with prerequisites in the App Bootcamp series (DPD Follow-up Interview). The leveled structure is employed as a way to introduce girl scouts to mobile app development and build their skills as they progress through the Bootcamp.

The practice “leveled badges” sheds light on the principle “use leveled badge systems” and the sub-principle “hierarchical categories.” The project organized the badge system in three core stages that girl scouts progress in building their skills.

Enhance validity with expert judgement > Use a combination of human and computer experts > Badge validation by a computer scoring system and peers

Intended, not enacted, not formal

Girl Scouts aimed for badges to encompass competency achievement at a range of levels and for the claims made to be reviewed by peers and a computer scoring system. The project explained,“The existing assessment is the completion of badge work by level of proficiency” (DML Stage One Proposal). MentorMob moved toward digitizing Girl Scout Projects and combined institutionalized aspects with new aspects for projects.The project designed the system so that some of the scoring will likely be automated, while other parts may include uploading a video of a girl completing a project and having peers assess their work (DPD Initial Interview).

The digital badging project indicates that the girls’ completion of the badge apps function as the assessment of their learning (DPD Follow-up Interview). Girl Scouts has not implemented a computer scoring system to assess the quality of learning represented by a badge. Additionally, the DPD project inferred that peer assessment largely takes place informally but is not the critical determinant of whether a badge is issued to a learner.

The principle “enhance validity with expert judgement” and sub-principle “use a combination of human and computer experts” is demonstrated by the practice “badge validation by a computer scoring system and peers.” The project planned to have assessments of the badges, but the efforts have yet to be developed in the existing badge system.

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

This initiative seeks to take the tried and true practices found in traditional, analog Girl Scout badging and apply it to a new, digital context. In this particular project, scouts will design Android apps to gain 21st century skills. The badges will serve as a representation of this experience. In order to best understand how this process will motivate the scouts, the initiative is observing how students interact with the system and making redesign decisions accordingly.

Recognize identities > Roles within a system > Identity

Intended, enacted, formal

Girl Scouts pointed out the multitude of identities in the badge system as well and its potential to increase infinitely.In their DML proposal, the project outlined the range of “[i]dentities and roles include but are not limited to Inventor, Computer Expert, Dancer, Scientist, Money Manager, Philanthropist, Business Owner, Musician, Digital Photographer, Product Designer, Entrepreneur, Book Artist, Public Speaker, Digital Movie Maker, Website Designer, Textile Artist, and Adventurer. Through “Make Your Own” badge Apps, identities and roles become infinite.” The project intended for girls to assume identities while participating in the program, serving as a motivating factor behind their learning.

App Bootcamp 301 is an expression of this principle. Bryn Reese described that the badge means so much more to them if they can apply what they learned in App Bootcamp 101 and 102 toward their own interests (DPD Follow-up Interview).

The practice “identity” illustrates the principle “recognize identities” and the sub-principle “roles within a system.” Girl scouts express their own identities by choosing which badges to create and applying what they learned toward their interests.

Recognize identities > Targets a specific group > Designed for girl scouts

Intended, enacted, formal

The project planned for the badge system to operate within the Girl Scout program. In specific, the project is geared toward girls ages 5 to 17. Girl Scouts have a long history and role in American Culture. Introducing badges into a culture that already exists with tradition behind it could have interesting effects on motivation in the program.

Chief Development Officer Bryn Reese noted that the girls are very excited about the digital platform because that’s where they lived. What surfaced in the badge system is that girls scouts want both digital and sash badges. The project considered whether they should also issue a traditional badge for the digital platform, but girl scouts have not asked for a traditional badge (DPD Follow-up Interview).

The principle “recognize identities” and sub-principle “targets a specific group” is shown by the practice “targets a specific group.” Girl Scouts designed the badge system for members of the organization nationwide.

Provide incentives > New activities > Privileges

Intended, enacted, formal

Girl Scouts intended to offer privileges to girls “on a progressive basis through their badge work and outreach into their communities. Apps extend these opportunities and privileges by connecting girls to each other through a shared experience via technologies” (DML Stage One Proposal). Girl Scouts planned to provide privileges as girls progress in earning badges. One such privilege is the ability to be connected to other girl scouts.

In the badge system, girl scouts connect with each other by showing one another the proficiencies. Sharing these digital badges is somewhat the same as traditional badges, which girls show in person, face-to-face, and sometimes in large forums where girls get together (DPD Follow-up Interview). Girl scouts move through the Bootcamp series after earning a badge. Given this, the badges open up further opportunities and privileges for girl scouts to try out new activities and advance their knowledge of mobile app development.

The practice “privileges” illustrates the principle “provide privileges” and sub-principle “new activities.” Badges unlock further activities for girl scouts that can enhance their knowledge base and understanding of Android app development. The prospect of new learning opportunities can affect the motivation of learners in the badge system.

Display badges to the public > Learners can choose to share their badges with others > Sharing badges

Intended, enacted, formal

The project intended forgirl scouts to share their badges with one another. Girl Scouts planned for “[b]adging through mobile apps will allow [a girl scout] to gain immediate competency feedback and share her competency with girls locally and globally” (DML Stage One Proposal).

In the badge system, Girl Scouts are able to share their badges with other Girl Scouts. They primarily share their badges with one another in their troops. Girl Scouts asserted that “[a]n important element of badge earning is the ability to demonstrate or share a new competency with another girl” (DML Stage One Proposal). In this way, girl scouts can share their learning and accomplishments with one another. MentorMob developed an online website for the Girl Scouts badging effort, where educators can deliver programming and participants can display their badges. In the existing badge system, however, the project does not deploy the website developed by MentorMob. Rather, girl scouts show their digital sash app on their mobile devices. When MentorMob moved on to other efforts, the project did not implement the functionality for girls scouts to push their digital badges out to their Mozilla Backpack or display them online, though the earners can share them by showing other people the badges embedded in the sash app they built in 201 (DPD Follow-up Interview).

The practice “sharing badges” provides an example of the principle “display badges to public” and the sub-principle “learners can choose to share their badges with others.”

Utilize different types of assessment > Peer and computer > Privileges within community

Intended, not enacted, not formal

Girl Scouts planned to incorporate both peer and computer assessments of learning, which the DPD project inferred to have positive motivational effects on learner engagement. In the badge system, the project’s intended to  integrate informal assessment by peers as well as the functionality to evaluate the completion of the activities as constructed with MentorMob. Overall, the choice to utilize different types of assessment can strengthen the motivation of learners to perform the designated activities.

Design Principles for Studying Learning

Monitoring the badge system, the project employed a human-centered design process to gather data and feedback on the user experience. As they conduct research, they observe patterns in user behaviors and aim to identify their needs and motivations.The project leverages this information to make adjustments to the badge system and inform their development process.

Improve badge impact > Research for Badges > Human centered design process

Intended, enacted, formal

The platform partner, MentorMob, uses the Human Centered Design Process to inform their practice. The focus is on the needs and motivations of the users; for example, the research team will look at how girls interact with a prototype and what features do the users find necessary. They use “entrance interviews” and try to understand the motivation of why the girls want certain features as opposed to what they are asking for. They ask the question :What are the solutions for these motivational needs?” The research team is using the Human Centered Design Process to evaluate the needs and motivations of the site users to inform the design process (DPD Follow-up Interview). The project articulated that “[f]eedback analytics that allowed administrators to measure user engagement, track user behavior, and make adjustments to the curriculum accordingly.” (HASTAC Q&A). The project conducted pre- and post-evaluations with girl scouts regarding the digital badge system (DPD Follow-up Interview).

The principle “improve badge impact” and sub-principle “research for badges” is made clearer through the practice “human centered design process.” The project focuses on the needs and experience of the users, conducting research and gathering data on the badge system.

Improve badge impact > Research for badges > Beta testing

Intended, enacted, formal

The DPD project noted that badges seem intended to fit tested motivational needs of users. The project implemented beta testing to observe the needs of users. They decribed, “One thing that we’ve turned to is trying not to stick to our assumptions of the process, but having those questions of motivations turned back onto the actual users. We’re taking observational views of how people use the system that we currently have, the product, and going into different types of research methods. We’re really sticking to the concrete motivations and needs of the actual users as opposed to what we think they actually need.”

Challenges this Project Faced

Girl Scouts faced hurdles in motivation as well as challenges that cut across assessment and motivation. The project encountered the constraints of an existing, national model already in place, and it worked toward moving into the digital space. Layering a digital element to their badges, Girl Scouts met questions of how girls would respond to it and how to deliver a strong learning experience and meet the needs of girl scouts through the digital badge system.

Challenges in motivation

The project raised the concern that girls would be motivated by “the “cool” factor only rather than the learning experience or new found skill” (HASTAC Q&A). The original Girl Scouts badges posed constraints on the design of the badge system, and the project developed a badge structure that met the purposes of the digital version. There was an issue of girl scouts finding the initiative appealing solely because of the digital aspect rather than for the learning experience. Rather than focusing the experience on the novelty of digital badges, the project designed a curricular program that enables girl scouts to gain skills in mobile app development and create badges that relate to their personal interests.

Challenges in assessment and motivation around leveling

Girl Scouts encountered the challenge of assessing learning and motivating learners to progress through the App Bootcamp series. Vicki King noted that, in the national Girl Scouts organization, there tends to be a dropoff after girls complete fifth grade, leading to fewer girls leveling up to the 301 stage in the Bootcamp. In addition, there are considerations of parent permission and other factors that present challenges to girls advancing in the App Bootcamp (DPD Follow-up Interview). Given these factors, the project faces challenges in creating assessments of learning that can offer learners feedback and propel them forward in the badge system.

Recognizing Principles Assessing Principles Motivating Principles Studying Principles
Specific principles: Specific principles: Specific principles:

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Mozilla Open Badges
Digital Badges are web-enabled credentials of learning or accomplishment. -Erin Knight, director of the Badge Alliance
Badges contain detailed claims about learning, links to actual evidence of learning, and they're shareable over the web. -Dan Hickey, DPD Project Lead Investigator
To me, digital badges represent the bridge between formal learning & informal structures. -Alex Halavais, DML research competition winner
Open Badges can help people tell a verifiable story about their accomplishments. -Nate Otto, DPD Project coordinator
Regardless of where you start, it’s more than likely you’ll end up somewhere other than your intended destination. That’s okay. Systems are living things, and your badge system needs to be flexible. You must embrace a bit of chaos in its design. -Carla Casilli, Director of Design + Practice at the Badge Alliance