Image via Bryan Mathers CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Image via Bryan Mathers CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This is my second post in regards Open Badges in response to the course offered by Think Out Loud Club. My first post can be viewed here.

a-certificate-is-just-a-badge
Image via Bryan Mathers CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

There are so many different ways that you can create and allocate Open Badges. Whether it be high or low stakes learning, badges offer a flexible form of micro-credentialling that is really up to your own imagination. One way of making sense of an Open Badge is as a traditional certificate with built-in breadcrumbs. Another difference is that badges are often a part of an ecosystem. Although they can be created individually, their true potential is ability to interconnect and provide different pathways for learning.

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Image via Bryan Mathers CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The most obvious pathway is the stepping stones aproach. Sequential in nature, it involves doing one step at a time in a prescriptive manner. See for example, Doug Belshaw’s kanban badges using Trello. Another option is where badges are a part of a collection. Like the game Trivial Pursuit, this is where several achievements are grouped together in a non-linear manner. Perscriptive in nature, collections can be linked with the completion of standards or levelling up. In contrast to perspective badge ecosystems, constellations offer a more open-ended approach where users can choose from a range of possibilities, carving out any number of pathways. This is conducive to life-long learning and offers the potential to write your own learning story. Open to borrowing from different providers, it is for this reason that it is descriptive rather than prescriptive.

To make more sense of these differences, lets consider the act of blogging. Although sites like WordPress have badges built in, these are more about engagement and gamification than the actual skills and competencies involved. Approaching it as a set of stepping stones, you could create a space, write a post, add an image and embed different content. This is often the way that Edublogs structures their challenge and the manner is clearly outlined. Thinking about it as a series of collections, you could have a series of levelled badges, each a combination of smaller steps completed in any order. So a Basics of Blogging Badge might include micro-credentials such as creating a blog, writing a post, making an about me page and using tags and categories to organise. As a constellation, a wide range of badges with support, but without set structure, allows users to create their own blogging pathway. This might include such skills as adjusting the theme, improving engagement, turning a blog into a book or self-hosting a blog. You could complete all of the badges or some of them, in whatever order you like.

If you are looking for a guide for creating a badge ecosystem, DigitalMe have a canvas which outlines all the different requirements in a clear manner.

So what about you, do you have an example of a badge ecosystem? Or any thoughts on badges for blogging? As always, comments welcome.


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image
CC-BY-ND via Bryan Mathers

This is the first module of as a part of Think Out Loud Club’s introduction to Open Badges.

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CC BY-SA via Kyle Bowen

Open Badges are online representation of a skill you have earnt. It is an infrastructure that was originally backed by Mozilla, but has since been taken over by the Badge Alliance, with the support of the MacArther Foundation. Open Badges allow you to verify different information, such as a description, issuer, criteria of achievement and standards met. This is done by hard-coding the metadata, that is the data about data. Some such as Doug Belshaw suggest that the future of such hard-coding is connected with the blockchain.

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CC-BY-ND via Bryan Mathers

Digital badges are a continuation of physical badges issued by organisations, such as Scouts, just in an online form. They usually offer a way of gamifying an activity and are usually built into different sites, whether it be WordPress or Khan Academy. A few limitations is there lack transferability and lack of credibility. In contrast, anyone can check credibility of the open badges and they can be shown anywhere. In addition to this, they are not controlled by any one organisation, often devised to be stackable, evidence-based and add an element of trust into the process.

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CC-BY-ND via Bryan Mathers

Open badges can be used in a number of ways, including gaining recognition for skills demonstrated and plotting your own learning pathway. Don Presant suggests that they could be used to celebrate the acquisition of skills, extra-curricular activities or the completion of different programs. In the end though, it allows different organisations to develop a secure yet open foundation to recognise learning.

See Bob Price’s book for a more comprehensive introduction to Open Badges:

Badges book from Bob Price

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Image drawn by Bryan Mathers
Image drawn by Bryan Mathers

Reform needs Team

I was in a staff meeting the other day, the start of which focused on auditing the curriculum in regards to a whole school initiative that had been progressively implemented over the last few years. The task was divided into year levels. As staff all sat down together, many looked at each other wondering who had sufficiently incorporated the different modules in their planning. There were a few cases of ‘it doesn’t fit into our learning in …‘ and ‘I just did it informally‘, while others simply had a blank look of ‘what are we talking about here‘. The one thing that did become apparent was the necessity to work as a team, crossing all learning areas, focussing on the student at the centre.

The River of Education

Being in a somewhat unique situation of having both ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ classes in the same school – and having taught in traditional ‘Secondary’ schools in the past – it can sometimes give you an insight into the different ways things work (and sometimes don’t work). For example, in my view, it is often easier to implement a cross-curricular program in a primary environment as there is usually a core group of staff responsible for the majority of the learning. Juxtapose this with the Secondary scenario where students can have anywhere up to 7+ subjects, creating a sense of consistency across the board becomes a more fraught process.
 
To me, this whole difference in structure is analogous to the path of a great river. Initially students feed into the main stream from different points, with different backgrounds, different interests, different experiences. More often than not though they are progressively consumed in the main current that slowly meanders its way to the sea. This has its benefit with all students presumably benefiting from the same learning opportunities. However, something happens in the Secondary situation where the once uniform river starts to spread out into a delta where students are invited to start choosing divergent pathways as they make their way to the sea. The problem that arises in this situation is that sometimes, some things are missed out, overlooked, forgotten about. They start becoming somebody else’s problem. It is in this scenario that having a strong sense of team and support is so important, where everyone works together, picking up what the other might have missed, so that no student is missed.

Complicated or Complex?

I guess this leads me to a greater concern though, where to now? In thinking about this whole scenario, I can’t help but think about Sir Ken Robinson’s many discussions about 21st century learning. It makes me wonder, is this it? Is continually auditing, reviewing and managing curriculum really reforming learning or is the idea of a river not some slight more organic portrayal of the age old mechanistic factory line? I have been reading a lot recently about different models of curriculum reform from around the world. The one thing that seems to jut out is glaring problem that to fix many of the problems involves finding a complex solution. +Peter DeWitt suggested in talking about Common Core’s attempt to solve the poverty issue in the USA: “Poverty is a complex issue and it needs a complex resolution”. Continuing with this, it makes me wonder, are our solutions really that complex or are they just more complicated versions of what we have done in the past?

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