This post title could probably have been prefixed with the word “slowly” as from the outside outside things have appeared a little quiet on the #digitalbadges front from me. But amidst the exam season and planning I have been burrowing away on the whole concept. A while back i blogged about my initial idea of digital badges. While I read a few posts about @openbadges I have to be honest that is as far as my knowledge of digital badges was. What came from that initial blog post has been a lot of research around the whole concept of digital badges with an attempt to look at the idea from an open mind investigating examples, good practice and the pros and cons of the badges. While I am in no way part of the educational higher order of thinking, I do consider myself to be passionate about education and for the students I teach. I don’t want my subject to die, not saying that it will, but looking at all the options on the table, I passionately believe that #digitalstudies has its place within the ICT curriculum, in that it takes all the good things from ICT which we do now and builds in computer studies and computational thinking. At the moment digital studies is still in its infancy, as is the concept of #digitalbadges but I do see an interconnection between both areas in order to move forward. I will apologise now if this blog post goes off at tangents in parts because I am trying to pack in a lot of ideas and thoughts which have been going through my head over the last few months. Hopefully a lot of this will make sense and firm the basis for where the #digitalstudues team see the future of #digitalbadges as not just a concept but a realistic and achievable idea for students. In parts of this post I switch between calling students, learners and the former. The definition of learners is another post I think but I read a quote which summed things up for me in lots of ways
You can’t be a teacher if you are not a learner – Edna Sackson @whatedsaid
There a number of ideas from this blog that haven’t been included in other documentation and I’m compiling a google doc which I will open up to others in order to gather some feedback and promote discussion. A lot of ideas have come from Barry Joseph’s excellent google doc which I would highly recommend, whilst other notable reads have been Erin Knights blog post about the 3Ts of a Badge system, the Open Badges definitions of terms started by Carla Casilli, Alex Halavais (in fact anything about badges he has written), David Goldberg, Mitchell Resnick, Henry Jenkins, Doug Belshaw, Cathy Davidson, Karen Jeffrey, Trent Bateson, Alan Levine, Audrey Waters and Alex Reid to mention just a few. These have provided an excellent starting point for me personally and given me a lot of food for thought. I have created a MentorMob collection of resources which people may find useful. I will add to this over the next few days of useful sites to find out more about badges and Open Badges.
So what are Badges?
I could try and define this myself but it is perfectly explained below
A “badge” is a digital symbol of recognition that complies with the Open Badge specification. Badges are useful in representing many things such as experiences, achievements, skills, competencies, learning, associations, interests, community involvement, peer interactions, etc. They can function in formal and informal settings and can lead to new learning opportunities, jobs, community interactions, etc. Just like a real-life badge, an Open Badge can represent almost anything, like accomplishments in a class you’ve taken, levels of achievement in an ongoing process, your membership in a club, or your skills as a gamer. The things badges represent do not need to have occurred online: they can represent physical activities such as sports achievements, skills like cooking, etc.
A good overview for anyone wanting to find out more about digital badges and open badges would be the folllowing HASTAC video
And also the presentation from Alex Halavais about using digital badges for learning
The following are notes and ideas from reading the great Google Doc by Barry Joseph which have shaped my thinking and initial ideas on #digitalbadges
Joseph outlines 6 different examples of using badges, some relevant, some not to #digitalbadges. Below I have tried to summarise each and link to their possible inclusion in our system.
1 Using Badges for “alternative assessment”
This concentrates on evidence based assessment. There are examples of badges being used in response to the fialing of tradiional assessment methods. At present we are somewhat hanging with the withdrawl of the ICT POS. Digital Badges could be used with students recieving both formative and summative feedback for their work/skills they develop. In order for this to be successful a platform needs to be built which links to digital portoflios. Nic has already blogged about b-portfolios within #digitalstudies. Is this a way of renaming existing assessments ot more a case of replacing current assessment models. There is a great opportunity for formative feedback which badges offer within a solid rubric assessment model. I can categorically say now that #digitalbadges will NOT BE USED FOR LEVELS
In the google document there are some great examples of where this has been used such as Media masters which is an after school program where students produced social media products about social and global issues. This fits perfectly with the viral videos project as part of #digitalstudies. In the Media masters project the successful students achieved digital literacy badges at the end of each module assessing. How would we assess this? Formal feedback from the teacher? There is a case for wideinging the net for feedback as commetned by Steve Wheeler and I’m trying this out with the afformentioned Viral Videos topic at the moment. In the Media Masters model assessment is summarised in 2 ways
- Skills development (formative assessment)
- Collected badges on a final digital trasnsript (summative assessment)
These then combined on a digital portfolio.
2 Using badges for the gamification of education
A lot of my students are gamers, both boys and girls. They are used to the rewards systems on the play station network and also Xbox live. Although I have accounts for both I have dabbled in either area in much detail. In both these systems the awarding of “trophies”/”awards” takes place and is managed outside the playing of the games. For this system to be implemented and used in the classroom students would be rewarded for the design of their “game”. The term “game” could refer to an activity carried out by the students but one of the key factors is the learning environment created. This model although popular in both systems is sufficient reward or motivation for students. We are currently developing a house system in school where this would be relevant but in terms of merits I have found from personal experience that competition between students for such systems are not a motivational tool. I have tried unsuccessfully to implement an online leader board recently for students who were playing retro games in order to understand the mechanics of games design as they learnt how to use both scratch and kodu. In both cases used a google form but lacked the time to develop an online leader board system. Students very motivated to see results of their efforts I lass even though they were only displayed in a google spreadsheet.
An excellent example pointed out by Joseph is the DIG/IT programme developed by LearningTimes. This concentrated on students transferred schools and how they developed digital literacy skills providing a context for them to learn how the Internet could have a positive impact.
Dig/it is described as
“social, game field adventure in digital life” using challenge based quests and badges to recognise and rearward competences and also good behaviour.
The former sounds like a great overall arching basis for the digital studies strands of literacy, authoring, society and technology.
4 – Using badges for “lifelong” skills.
One of the aim’s of digital studies is to
provide a a subject which will introduce pupils to computing and computer science but continue to encourage those pupils who are interested in digital creativity through multimedia as well as continue to provide the digital literacy skills which pupils need. – #digitalstudies wiki
This stand concretes more on metacognitive skills. Initially I floated the idea of digital badges for levels (wrongly) and also for such areas as higher order thinking skills. This area looks at the independence of students and although a valuable and necessary skills I am wary of over complicating things with the #digitalbadges ideas and want to focus more on other areas. Of course this is not saying that we don’t want to cover this in the overall badging system aims.
5 Using Badges as the driving mechanism
This focuses on peer based learning. Where do we see students in the badging framework? When students are aiming to achieve a specific badge how will they achieve this? Will they have to answer questions against specific criteria? Will they upload work which will be assessed? If so who will assess. whilst conscious of the assessment of badges we have to be wary and mindful of the simplicity of the #digitalbadges system. We want schools to sign up and get going with badges but in doing so I needs to be straightforward for both themselves and the students. In some cases some schools will have to report on levels against the old pos and we never know this may be the case when a new POS is finally published but will a teacher commit to assessing a piece of work against a level and also a badging system? I know I will but will others?
6 – The badges to democratise learning
I see this as something very much for the future where students take a role on the development of the badging system and idling so recommend peers for accreditation and maybe becoming a creditors. We have students for 3 years at Key stage 3, how long will this take and could it be the form of digital leaders? Of course the P2P web craft system is based around this and I’m slowly making my way through this. Within the P2P framework , learners collect badges from different areas and then display them across their networks. Interestingly and worth a read is the work of Trent Bateson who argues that central to the badging system should be the peer reviews of e-portfolios.
There is no way an effective badging system can address all six frames and it would be a mistake to even attempt to. One point as pointed out by Barry Joseph -
Badges work within a system, and the system is what transforms the learner, to misquote Cathy Davidson, not the badge itself.
One of the advantages o the open badges system is that allows users to bring their badges into a system that could be then transferred to other systems. One of the key underlying objectives of our system is that I want to be autonomous of any learning platform / system. Once the learner achieves the badge they are free to display it on which every platform they choose, be it a WordPress blog, posterous, google sites, Facebook etc.
From all this research (and there has been a lot!!!) the notes from David Truang referred to in Barry’s Google Doc that
badges need to challenge learners and reward them for overcoming skills based challenges.
is something that has stuck in my mind
Now at this point my brain nearly overloaded with ideas and I have to admit I’ve played with coding a badging system but scrapped it I anger 2 weeks ago. This was after implementing a Drupal system and then other PHP based interfaces. I some ways I felt I’d set myself up for a fall with a number of people not just expressing interest in #digitalbadges but wanting to see a prototype after I promised some form of a system by may half term. On reflection this was unachievable but in terms of the principles of the #digitalbadges system we are in a more advanced stage items of methodology and objectives than we have ever been, rather fortunately I stumbled over a blog post by Erin knight titled The 3Ts of badge systems. This encapsulated a lot of my thinking and made things a whole lot clearer and focused.
Whilst blogging about the development of the #digitalbadges system I felt better about my own experience when reading that someone else had found it tough. Rather than dive straight into a badging system like I had done I had to reevaluate and reclassify a number of different areas. There are lots of things to consider and I got myself caught up with a lot of questions similar to what Erin describes as what badges?. Between the 3 of us Brian, Nic and I along with others including Dan Stucke looked at areas we wanted to concentrate on in a google doc. Principally – which badges did we want to award, what and why. My role is to formulate the how and also come within a realistic roadmap.
We have settled on a 3 levels of badges with. Bronze, Silver and Gold. What we call each level remains unclear as I don’t want to label a learner a beginner even though they have achieved a badge. The word intermediate and advanced aren’t suitable either. As yet this is still up in the air but the notion of the 3 levels is not.
On her blog post Erin outlines the 3ts which have been important to establish before I get buried again in badging decisions and the coding – Types, Touchpoints and Technology.
We will have the following badges
- Skill Badges – “rewarding” students for the skills they have developed while studying #digitalstudies
- Achievement badges – a ” reward” for the end of project solutions which the students have produced.
I use the term rewards loosely.
This focuses on how students will “earn” badges
- Skill badges – awarded on a demonstration of the skills they have developed. This could be assessed against a rubric. Tis raises a number of questions as to who does this assessment, teacher, peer, online system. Alternatively the simple 101 system asks a series of onscreen questions which if answered correctly award a badge which can be then pushed to the student backpack. Is this infallible. A big question and something ongoing but will have an impact on the comes it’s of the solution we come up with.
- Achievement badges – based on the projects/products that students complete. The assessment of these is food for thought and something i want to come back to in a later post. There are a number of considerations including the assessment of the products ie who/why and how. One interesting thing I’ve tried with my Year 9 students is their Viral Video work which has been posted on Youtube for feedback. Steve Wheeler blogged on something about students sense of audience yesterday. For this to be robust a set criteria has to be in place but there a boat load of other questions….
This is where i struggled in anger over the past few weeks. However after standing back and also after a great conversation with @solatelee and @prawsthorne today things are a lot clearer and i look forward to setting the wheels in motion over the next few weeks.
I have said repeatedly that i would like the #digitalbadges system to be autonomous of any learning platform but once the badges are issued then they can be displayed via a backpack on the “portfolio” of the schools/students choice. This is still the case. We have badges, we have a set criteria and we have a hosting system. However initially i look forward to working with Peter on an Open Badger idea to get things moving in the right direction before other plans are put into place. This will then inform a timeline for the whole system.
There are a number of drivers and principles which need to underpin a successful system. One of the main ones is a robust assessment framework which can be used to award the badges. I have been very wary and worried about the credibility of #digitalbadges and it is very important that if and when students are awarded a badge or badges it actually means something and can be taken seriously by both their peers, teachers, employers, universities etc. There are a few avenues I have thought about exploring
One of them was based around the @openbadges framework and loosely based on the P2PU programme where students access an issuing platform and and once they meet set criteria they are then awarded a badge. This PNG file can then be displayed or carried on a backpack and then transferred to other platforms to act as a digital resume of their skills.
The other system is loosely based on e-commerce principles with students/teachers logging onto to a platform; should learners achieve a set of criteria they are then presented with a voucher code which they would then use to achieve a badge. This could then be displayed on their digital portfolio.
A third which is not on the road map but an alternative to online issuing would be to provide #digtialstudies teachers with a set of badges and the assessment rubric. Of course this could open a whole number of issues but i will return to that in a later post
I have a number of considerations around this. One of them being students just copying the badges and displaying at will. This would undermine the credibility of the whole system and something I wish to avoid. In a recent conversation with Sunny Lee of Mozilla we talked about this and discussed the principles of building a wall around the certification and awarding of badges but you can only build a wall so high.
The idea of linking to the Open badges framework is the most appealing and something I’m striving to achieve. A number of people have expressed an interest in the #digitalbadges with a wish to see the platform as it stands now. At present this is very much in the development stage as I feel it is important to put in place the underlining principles of the badging system with Erin’s 3 Ts at the core of the design.
One of the first examples we are going to use is Kodu. I recently had a very interesting conversation with a member of the Kodu development team on the principle of #digitalbadges and using them to reward students with badges for the skills they have developed using Kodu and also for the games that the students produce. In order to meet a lot of the core principles of #digitalstudies we are formulating a robust assessment rubric with the help of teachers, Kodu and the #digitalstudies team.
So were are are we now? We are working on “simple” of system to issue badges, we have “baked” a number of badges which can be issued in the skills areas of Scratch and Kodu, we are looking to finalise the assessment rubric of these badges with input from Kodu themselves and we have a sandpit which I plan to work on in the summer term. In the short term I hope to work on the issuing engine in more detail and “link” into the Open Badges framework with the help from the wonderful Mozilla team. A lot of food for thought to ponder and keep me busy over the summber term.
In some ways I suppose this is an apology to those expecting me to deliver a system by half term. I took a step back last week on the coding of the issuing engine to concentrate on the key principles behind the badging system to ensure its long term success. I hate to use the words road map (bsf tinged) but i’m looking to pilot the badging system at some point during the summer term for successful implementation in September 2012. I stubbornly worked on the system with the shutters up and got frustrated but now the way is clear for a very exciting system.
One conclusion I have come to is that in order for our #digitalbadges system to be a long term success it is not as simple of awarding a badge for Video skills, Scratch skills etc There needs to be a number of key elements which underpin our badge system to ensure its longevity. These are that it needs at least
- a robust assessment rubric for each badge
- a stepped approach for skills sets
- it “rewards” the skills gained/learned while studying #digitalstudies
- a fully working issuing engine
These are exciting times for both #digitalstudies and #ditigalbadges for the whole concept it also the forthcoming work with Kodu. I never thought I would ever thank Mr Gove for lambasting the teaching of ICT and I’m not about to start now but it certainly has sparked a number of us into some great initiatives which will not only have a positive impact in the classroom but also raise its profile back to a credible level it deserves.
As I have said previously, a lot of this work is being done in my spare time alongside planning and producing resources for the #digitalstudies Moodle site. Key dates will be the Northern Grid for Learning Conference and Rethinking ICT where I hope to speak more about the development and plans for #digitalbadges.
I have to say my thinking behind #digitalbadges has moved on significantly from my initial thoughts I blogged about and the tweets that took place in the weeks following. I am still looking for an alternative assessment model for #digitalstudies and #digitalbadges I firmly the best way of achieving this. I want to say a big thank you to those people who contributed to my initial google document and provided me with a lot of inspiration and ideas for how the idea of #digitalbadges could be implemented and moved forward successfully. Oh and of course Brian and Nic – my fellow #digitalstudies musketeers
If you wish to find out more information about #digitalstudies and #digitalbadges please let us know.
Please feel free to comment on this blog post or get in touch via @infernaldepart