On Friday morning, I attended a monthly meeting for HIVENYC members on Badging. But before I talk about that, I did the very New York thing of finding myself running late for a meeting.
So in true NYC fashion, I ran into the street, stuck my hand out and whistled for a Taxi. I had 14 minutes to get from E84th to E25th at 9:15 in the morning – a tricky journey at the best of times let alone in 14 minutes during peak hour.
As we listened to some classic rock on Q104.3 and hurtled down the FDR at breakneck speed, the driver and I complained about the general state of things: too many tourists, not enough sanitation workers, dog owners not picking up after their charges.
I arrived at 9:32 – just in time to answer the question from the facilitator on what I would like a badge for – to which I answered that I would like a badge for mastering the hand gesture/whistle needed to hail a Taxi in this city!
A Brief History of Badging. (via Badges for Learning)
In 2005, Microsoft introduced the Xbox’ 360 Gamerscore system, which is considered to be the original implementation of an achievement system. According to Wikipedia, “in video gaming parlance, an achievement… is a meta-goal defined outside of a game’s parameters. Unlike the systems of quests or levels that usually define the goals of a video game and have a direct effect on further gameplay, the management of achievements usually takes place outside the confines of the game environment and architecture.”
In 2007, Eva Baker, the President of AERA, gave the Presidential Address at their annual conference, entitled “The End(s) of Testing.” After exploring a wide range of problems with the current use of assessments within schools, she focused on her key recommendation: the development of Merit badge-like “Qualifications” that certify accomplishments, not through standardized tests, but as “an integrated experience with performance requirements.” Such a system would apply to learning both in and out of school and support youth to develop and pursue passionate interests. Baker envisioned youth assembling their Qualifications to show to their families, to colleges, to employers, and to themselves. Ultimately, Baker believed “the path of Qualifications shifts attention from schoolwork to usable and compelling skills, from school life to real life.”
In came the alternative assessment and games & learning academics, like James Paul Gee, who combined the two. They recognized that Baker’s “qualifications” closely resembled, using the parlance of the digital age, the “achievements” within digital games. They were inspired to transfer these powerful in-game learning tools into the real world. They combined “achievements” with “qualifications” to create “digital badging systems.”
Work in this area remained largely under the radar until 2011, until the release of the White Paper, “An Open Badge System Framework,” authored by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation. The paper provided some much needed definitions and an overall framework. Badges are explained as “a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest,” and the paper provides as examples uses by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, PADI diving instruction, and the more recently popular geo-locative games, like Foursquare.
The report asserts that badges “have been successfully used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success in many contexts” and proposes that when learning happens across various contexts and experiences, “badges can have a significant impact, and can be used to motivate learning, signify community and signal achievement.” The report also makes clear that the value of badges comes less from its visual representation than from the context around how and why it was conferred. The stronger the connection between the two, the more effective the badging system will be. “Badges are conversation starters,” the report explains, “and the information linked to or ‘behind’ each badge serves as justification and even validation of the badge.” For example, a badge should include information about how it was earned, who issued it, the date of issue, and, ideally, a link back to some form of artifact relating to the work behind the badge.
In September, 2011, the HASTAC Foundation launched the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, to fund $2m worth of new badging systems.
The meeting started with a representative from The Y (YMCA) discussing their future Badging projects and how they aspire to use Badging as another method to encourage, support and track their member’s activity – with a particular interest in their U18 programming.
The Y are interested in using Leaderboards (among many other things) to reward positive behaviours from their users – but are still teasing out some of the mechanics of the boards as they don’t want to create an environment that is overly competitive and statistically based – as we all know that statistics don’t tell the whole story!
A representative from The AMNH then talked about one of their main areas of thinking around Badging: teasing out the difference/tension between rewarding experiential skills acquisition and acknowledging course completion.
In a learning environment where science, biology and history are at the fore, it traditionally made sense to reward the completion of whole modules of learning – but as more and more learners move fluidly between disciplines (non-linear learning pathways) there is an increasing need to reward skills acquisition in a way that hasn’t always happened (I don’t think that this is something that only affects The AMNH).
One of the phrases that I’m picking up on a lot here is shallow and deep diving – as a way of describing student engagement in learning. Traditionally, students who chopped and changed what they were learning about would have been thought of as shallow divers – and that deeper knowledge could only be gained through a sustained, linear acquisition of knowledge.
The Cooper Hewitt’s Badging Platform is proposing to use non-linear learning pathways – something that I think is important as an authentic Badging experience relies on learners identifying areas of interest that are important to them (not per-determined by the Institution)- allowing for both specialisation and diversification in learning pathways.
The Open Badge Infrastructure allows for Institutions and Educators to support students whose areas of interest are diverse – while acknowledging that subject speciliasation can result from a diverse learning pathway (somewhat of an oxymoron I know!).
This is an area of learning and achievement that really interests me – and I’m looking forward to further conversations internally here at the Cooper Hewitt, as well as a part of the larger Hive Network. I’ve also talked with Christian Duell about the upcoming Design Minds website launch – and the possibilities of using micro-credentialing to allow users to build capacity and present their own expertise in Design through Design Minds. Exciting times ahead!
Examples and Further Reading.
BadgeStack Project – BadgeStack is built on the popular open source WordPress platform. It is the first system to be Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) compliant, allowing badges earned in BadgeStack-empowered communities to be managed and shared by learners virtually anywhere on the web, for life. BadgeStack also offers plug-and-play compatibility with IMS Global Consortium BLTI-compliant learning platforms, like Desire2Learn, Moodle and Blackboard.
DIG/IT – The DIG/IT web environment is a social and fun community learning space designed to support Digital Literacies, a course for learning about digital citizenship as students Live, Learn, Earn, and Play online and in the world beyond high school. DIG/IT aspires to get students ready for college and careers and give relevant, in-demand skills that will help students no matter what next steps they take in life.
Learning Times – have produced live online conferences, webcasts, podcasts, and educational programs for more than 400 organizations and associations in technology, publishing, museums, libraries, K – 20 education, government, training and non-profits.
Mozilla Open Badges – Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to make it easy for any organization or learning community to issue, earn and display badges across the web.
Nature Badges – NatureBadges: Open Source Nature & Science Badge System is a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and LearningTimes. The team was recently awarded a grant from the Digital Media and Learning Competition 4 – Badges for Lifelong Learning competition for this important STEM badge-based learning program.
Smithsonian Badges – Smithsonian Badges inspire students to explore their own ideas and interests online, in school, at home, and across the nation. The quests connect and reward learners of different ages and in different regions as they learn through discovery and collaboration. Rewards include digital badges that students (and teachers) take with them for life.