At the Mozilla Festival this weekend there has been a lot of talk about Open Badges, Mozilla’s decentralised system for accrediting learning. A fundamental part of their commitment to ‘creating a generation of webmakers’ is accrediting the learning that this takes, and creating a recognisable framework for theses skills which are often learned informally.
In a session on their Web Literacies framework with Doug Belshaw the penny dropped for me for one aspect of how this system is different to the kinds of curricula and qualifications we are used to in formal education.
There is a huge assumption that I think we often have about learning that it is a defined pathway. A leads to B, and often you can’t do C until you know A and B. This idea of linear pathways are often so ingrained we don’t question the fact we are imposing this structure on learning.
Open Badges are very different to this. The learning that leads to one badge may be a great help in achieving another, but they are deliberately designed to be a vast collection of discrete skills. Much as when dealing with real projects, and when making things, you pick up badges as you go from a vast ocean of different skills and competencies.
I started questioning Doug thinking about levels, age ranges, and progression, but then I started to question the assumptions I was bringing to the table. Perhaps it would be helpful sometimes to ditch these assumptions about linearity, and think instead of learning as unique building blocks that can potentially be fitted together in any way like Lego.
This makes a lot of sense as a way of accrediting informal learning, but I also wonder how thinking like this might affect programmes and courses we run in more formal settings.
Image: CC Roxanne Ready