Planet Badges

Beyond ‘low-hanging fruit’: why I’m no longer an Open Badges evangelist

Doug Belshaw

Mon May 23 2016 17:04:38 GMT+0000 (UTC)

TL;DR: Open Badges have hit a tipping point and no longer need my ‘evangelism’. This is to be celebrated. What’s needed now is the dynamic and differentiated use of the technology to effect real change. This is why I’m continuing my work with organisations as an Open Badges strategist and change-maker.

Low-hanging fruit

Almost exactly five years ago, I stumbled across a pilot being carried out as a collaboration between the nascent Mozilla Learning team and P2PU around Open Badges. It’s fair to say that this discovery, made while I was doing some research in my role for Jisc, altered the course of my professional life.

As an educator, I realised immediately the immense power that a web-native, decentralised, alternative accreditation system could have. I carried out more research, talking about Open Badges with anyone who would listen. This led to me being invited to judge the DML Competition that seed-funded the badges ecosystem and, ultimately, to being asked to work for Mozilla.

I’m not going to turn this post into a blow-by-blow account of the last few years. This is a time for looking forward. That’s why I’m happy to say that, as of today, I no longer consider myself merely an Open Badges evangelist, but an Open Badges strategist. I’m interested in working with people and organisations who are looking to implement Open Badges in new and interesting ways.

What do I mean by that? Well, here’s a few examples:

  • Building badge-based ‘playlists’ for learning (with an emphasis on diversity and co-creation)
  • Developing new extensions and ways of using the standard in informal learning contexts
  • Scaffolding participation and activism through badges that ‘nudge’ positive behaviours in individuals and groups

One way of looking at this is to use Ruben Puentadura’s SAMR model, which I cite in my book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies:

SAMR model

There’s some interesting preliminary work I do with clients around ‘Augmentation’ but, as quickly as I’m able, I try to get them to think about the top two tiers of the pyramid.

If you’re an organisation looking for mere ‘Substitution’, then Open Badges ecosystem is now developed enough for you to do this by yourself. It’s never been easier to use one of the many badge issuing platforms to simply digitise your existing credentials. There’s documentation around how to get started all over the web, including the Open Badges 101 course that Bryan Mathers and I have curated during our time working with City & Guilds.

I’d challenge organisations and, in particular, universities, to go beyond what they’ve been able to do for the last few hundred years, and think about how to do true 21st-century credentialing. This is a situation where forward-thinking businesses, charities, non-profits, and institutions are in a strong position to drive not only organisational change, but societal change. The nature of hiring and onboarding, for example, can be entirely changed and revolutionised through a fresh look at how we demonstrate knowledge, skills, and behaviours to others.

Over the next few months, I’m looking to build on my doctoral thesis and the work I’ve done over the last few years, to help clients identify, develop, and credential digital skills. If you think I may be able to help you, then please do get in touch:

Image CC BY Ian Carroll

Notes and comments on ‘Digital Badges in Education’: Part I: Trends and Issues

Doug Belshaw

Thu May 05 2016 12:58:09 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Digital Badges in EducationLast month, a new book came out entitled Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases. At over £30, it’s the most expensive book I’ve purchased for a while, but thought it would provide some useful insights. And no, there’s no chapter from me in it: I seem to remember a call for contributions going out last year but I don’t work for free / less than my minimum day rate.

Over my blog I’ve been making notes on each chapter as I read it. So far I’ve completed Part I: Trends and Issues. As you’d expect from an edited collection, it ranges from the average to the excellent. One curious omission is an introduction from the editors.

The links below reference the titles of each chapter in Part I of the book. However, when you click through, you’ll notice that I’ve given my blog posts a different name. These, of course, are my own notes, highlights, and (in some cases) criticisms of the authors’ work.

Part I: Trends and Issues

  1. History and Context of Open Digital Badges by Sheryl L. Grant
  2. Badges and Competencies: New Currency for Professional Credentials by Anne Derryberry, Deborah Everhart, and Erin Knight
  3. The Case for Rigor in Open Badges by Richard E. West and Daniel L. Randall
  4. Competency-Based Education and the Relationship to Digital Badges by Rhonda D. Blackburn, Stella C.S. Porto, and Jacklyn J. Thompson
  5. Good Badges, Evil Badges? The Impact of Badge Design on Learning from Games by Melissa L. Biles and Jan L. Plass
  6. The Impact of Badges on Motivation to Learn by Samuel Abramovich and Peter S. Wardrip
  7. What Video Games Can Teach Us About Badges and Pathways by Lucas Blair
  8. Instructional Design Considerations for Digital Badges by Chris Gamrat, Brett Bixler and Victoria Raish
  9. Badging as Micro-Credentialing in Formal Education and Informal Education by Kyle Peck, Kyle Bowen, Emily Rimland and Jamie Oberdick
  10. Digital Badges, Learning at Scale, and Big Data by Barton K. Pursel, Chris Stubbs, Gi Woong Choi, and Phil Tietjen
  11. In the Eye of the Beholder: The Value of Digital Badges by Zane L. Berge and Lin Y. Muilenburg

I hope you find this useful! I’ll work on Part II next week.

Some posts in new places

Carla Casilli

Wed May 04 2016 16:47:37 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Greetings From Atlanta!

Although this is the best place to stay on top of all of my open badges and digital credentialing thinking, I have been honored to be requested to write blog posts and articles focused on my work in credentialing and blockchain for some additional publications. In the interests of keeping them all in one spot and keeping you up to date, I’ve gathered them here.

The Common Language Working Group that I’ve been co-facilitating along with David Longanecker and Larry Good for the Connecting Credentials initiative  has been absolutely fascinating. It’s encapsulated in this EdSurge HigherEd post:

You can subscribe to the EdSurge Next newsletter here and follow them on twitter at @HigherEdSurge

If you’re interested in blockchain technology, or even just curious about it, you will find the BadgeChain Team Medium posts interesting and informative. The posts—and the team—examine the intersection of open badges and blockchain technology. Kerri Lemoie and I have written two of a series of five posts, titled From Badges to BadgeChain. We’re in the midst of writing Part 3 but you can find the first and second posts here:

Follow all of the BadgeChain Team posts and follow us on Twitter at @BadgeChain

Stay tuned!
While I write in other blogs and newsletters, this blog is my primary conversation point for all things open badges and digital credentials, so stay tuned! As always, interested in your thoughts and comments, so let me know what you think.



Tagged: badgechain, blockchain, edsurge, openbadges, software

Open badges + credentials: the value of the not-credential

Carla Casilli

Sun Apr 17 2016 14:48:43 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Image from page 205 of "Carnegie Institution of Washington publication" (1902-)

The value of things that count
We live in a world dominated by credentials. Credentials carry with them a public perception of rigor, assessment, brand. Credentials are the things that “count.” They’re what we look for on resumes, and what we ask about in conversations; they’re the lodestones and compass points of our social, cultural, personal, and political worlds. Unfortunately, some of our current social problems revolve around the basic binary nature of credentials: either you have them or you don’t. Either you have something that indicates your worth or you don’t.

The value of flexibility
Badges were designed to be agile tools: to operate in liminal spaces not currently acknowledged by other means. They were designed to capture learning whenever and wherever that learning took place, regardless of how or with whom. In short, badges are dynamic: flexible enough to represent formal education symbols (e.g., degrees, licenses) as well as informal social tokens (e.g., affiliations, friendships). Badges can fill the spaces that other learning acknowledgements leave fallow.

The value of credentials
I wholeheartedly believe that credentials (like degrees) can be and will be expressed as badges. Indeed, if there is a platonic ideal of a Connected Credential, it is an Open Badge. Open Badges include all of the quality dimensions defined in the ACE Quality Dimensions for Connected Credentials white paper: transparency, modularity, portability, relevance, validity and equity. Perhaps, even more importantly, they’re based on the concept of complete interoperability. Somewhat paradoxically, those are precisely the qualities that allow open badges to act as both credentials and things other than credentials: not-credentials, if you will. Badges let us move into a new world of inclusive “yes, and” types of learning recognition, affiliation, achievement, etc., replacing the restrictive “either/or” world of traditional credentials.

The value of public understanding
We exist in a world that already thinks it understand credentials, so let’s work with that. Let’s use open badges to wedge our way into the cultural conversation so that we can sow the seeds of change and encourage them to blossom. Right now, we still need badges to flourish in the non-regimented space of not-credentials—a world of value that has yet to be fully realized or appreciated—where the sliding scale of social and cultural currency changes depending on context.

The value of freedom
Badges should be allowed to take root anywhere: in the conceptual high steppes where learning growth has been stunted, in the loose, sandy soil of the low learning deserts, in places where learning recognition is thin on the ground, where acknowledgement encourages flourishing, where before there had been only barrenness. That’s where one of the most  important promises of open badges can be fulfilled: bringing free and unencumbered learning recognition into the spaces starving for it. We’ve already seen some promising results in this area. But we endanger further development by calling all badges credentials. With that term we enslave badges to existing understandings and expectations of the current crop of credentials. Expectations that severely limit open badges’—and by default our own—revolutionary possibilities.

The value of possibilities
Of course there will be new forms of credentials that are badges. But those aren’t the types of badges we need to worry about. The lonely, desolate corners where learning acknowledgment has been overlooked and undernourished, that’s where recognition is most needed. Let’s ensure that those places continue to get what they need by allowing them to develop and use whatever type of badge makes the most sense for them, credential or not.

The value of waiting
Let’s not limit the possibilities of the open badges ecosystem by forcing all badges to be credentials—before we’ve seen all the things that badges can become. Let’s be comfortable just a little while longer in our uncomfortableness—in this liminal and dynamic space of credentials and not-credentials. There’s still so much yet to be built, so much yet to happen. Let’s learn to welcome the beauty and value of letting a thousand different types of open badges bloom in their own time, some credentials, some not.

Tagged: community, identity, learning