What You Should Know about Badges
Badges, badges, badges! To badge or not to badge? What’s in it for you? How will it impact our education system?
“Learning today happens everywhere. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen online or out of school.”
Mozilla is hoping to bring something to the learning-table – “open badges”. Mozilla Open Badges helps “solve that problem, making it easy for any organization to issue, manage and display digital badges across the web” as they say on their website: http://openbadges.org/
This is billed as new method of recognising and rewarding skills learned, both in and out of the classroom. Learners earn the badges which display their achievements and 21st century skills across the web, unlocking learning and employment opportunities. The badges system is open source and available to all.
This past spring, Global Kids worked on a crowdsourced project to develop “Six Ways to Look at Badging Systems Designed for Learning,” a list of six different goals that badging systems are often designed to meet.
1) Badges as Alternative Assessment
2) Gamifying Education with Badges
3) Badges as Learning Scaffolding
4) Badges to Develop Lifelong Learning Skills
5) Badges as Digital Media and Learning Driver
6) Badges to Democratize Learning
(A full report can be viewed here.)
The potential of digital badges is being explored not only by agile, technology-based (and hosted) communities such as StackOverflow, Khan Academy and various social media (e.g. FourSquare) but also in more traditional contexts such as the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U. S. Department of Education and the New York State Department of Education (through Badgestack). In addition, the Smithsonian Institutions, Microsoft, Intel as well as entire school districts (e.g. School District of Philadelphia and Adams County School District 50) are implementing digital badge projects.
In higher education contexts, forward thinking educators such as Alex Halavais, Arizona State University and Daniel Hickey, Indiana University have piloted the use of badge schema to supplement or replace more traditional grading schemes in courses….
Erin Knight, Mozilla’s senior director of learning, says that “the browser was the first example where there was a monopoly and we decided to provide an open-source alternative.” A system whereby only accredited colleges can offer valuable degrees, she says, is a “shared monopoly across education, where you have to go down a very prescribed path to get learning that quote-unquote counts. We want to open that up.”
Mozilla is talking to providers of MOOCs, some of which offer certificates with metadata, about adopting its badge design. For now, the credentials are worth less than traditional credits, at least while employers learn how to use them. But at 100th the price — or nothing at all — badges are still a fantastic bargain.
In a remedial math course, for instance, a badge might be awarded for mastering a concept, whether “surface area” or “median and mode.” Or badges might certify soft skills not usually measured at all in college courses, like teamwork or asking good questions.
One key benefit of education badges could simply be communicating what happens in the classroom in a more employer-friendly form.
Purdue doesn’t offer a degree in making video games, for instance, but if it switched to a badge system campuswide, students could take courses with enough relevant badges to show an employer that they had focused on game design as they earned their degrees in computer science, Mr. Watson explains.
Passport, a new classroom app created by Purdue University, allows instructors and advisers to give students digital badges to indicate mastery of skills. The application uses Mozilla’s Open Badge infrastructure and is available for use by instructors at any institution. (Purdue University image)
Recently I have been working on developing a badging system for the online courses we run at the JISC RSC Scotland, using the Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). This has required a bit of thought but before going into what I have been considering, it would probably be worth describing our approach to our courses and how we currently recognise participant achievement.
The interview is with Daniel Hickey, the Director of Learning Sciences at the School of Education at Indiana University at Bloomington. Hickey was recently awarded a $400,000 grant by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative to study how digital badges, a non-traditional mechanism to record and display achievements and accomplishments, could be used to recognize, assess, motivate and evaluate learning. In this interview, Hickey discusses the value he thinks badges will bring to the higher education space and warns educators about challenges badges could face.
How the new badges work, according to Mozilla:
As users complete projects on Webmaker.org – like creating web pages, animated GIFs, or learning the fundamentals of programming — they can earn digital badges linked to their identity. This provides a lasting record of their skills and achievements, and shows off their new skills to teachers, classmates, peers or future colleges and employers, backed by Mozilla.
HOW TO MAKE #OPENBADGES WORK FOR YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION (by Doug Belshaw)
This is a post to point people toward how to make badges work. Badge ecosystem design is an iterative, emergent process. My main advice would be to make it an open, inclusive process involving the participants formerly known as stakeholders.
Katie Wilkie made an excellent post collecting helpful links for badge creation, organizations with current badge projects and who to follow about badges evolution.
Unsymposium: To Badge or Not To Badge……
(Virtual Worlds and Games UnSymposium, www.unsymposium.org)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bogrwf4Zouc]
Open Badges OBI community call – questions and answers