An ocean of badges #mozfest

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

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4 thoughts on “An ocean of badges #mozfest”

  1. Really interesting Oliver. It has made me think especially as I work with young people who have been excluded from mainstream schools. We do look at different ways to engage them and also the barriers we may inadvertently put up.

  2. The problem is formal educations’. The “need” to test and grade rules. Ive been puzzling about just that linear pathway problem over the past few weeks. I’m teaching a subject which is not part of the National Curriculum (Creative Media) but still expected to include levels in my assessment. What I’ve come up with is an interface between the truly open badges that Mozilla are offering and the “closed” system most teachers are expected to work within. It is lego-like with hints of progression 🙂 The key for me has been continually reminding myself that badges should be evidence based. This is an untested work-in-progress but I’d love some feedback…
    http://www.digitalglue.org/p/creative-media-badges.html

  3. From a primary perspective I see open badges as a digital kind of Brownies/Scout badge. What a great way to recognise and celebrate skills in a more permanent way than a sticker on a jumper. As more schools move to digital reporting / online learning journeys, it will be a fantastic way of showing a more rounded picture of the child as a learner.

    I am also excited about the prospect of using badges with our digital leaders, to celebrate and share their many achievements. This already happens successfully in Edmodo, but it would be great to have something more public that they can take to their next school.

  4. Like Sheli
    from a primary perspective have a nationally recognised award badge system for Core Challenge and Achievement activities with criteria as recognition of their skills and progress

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