Open Badges and Learner Memory
April 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
Students everywhere are capitalizing on educational opportunities outside of the traditional schooling framework. Twenty-four hour access, virtual worlds, grassroots community centers, peer networks, and a student-centered Edupunk movement (in all its incarnations) have prompted the need for a new kind of accreditation framework that takes into account this expansive “connected learning ecology.” I stumbled on this phrase when reading about the Mozilla Open Badges Project, which seeks to create a system of accreditation that would capture learning within informal environments. An initiative of Peer to Peer University and Mozilla in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, the project promotes a system that allows learners to collect and display different badges online that demonstrate achievements traditional transcripts and resumes often leave out. The badges would capture both “hard” skills, such as programming, and “soft” skills, such as critical thinking. The idea is based on popular frameworks like the Boy Scouts or Foursquare, which have proven to spur motivation among participants. You can read the working paper here.
I found this all very interesting. Truthfully, I haven’t been considering badges in terms of informal or even online learning, but in terms of the community-based learning framework that my school supports through our City as Our Campus program. City as Our Campus is a K-12 initiative that connects the community and the curriculum, ensuring that each student is challenged by real-world issues and is exposed and responsive to their community. As we move forward with this program, we’re considering how to provide students with a way to reflect on their community-centered learning. The badge framework is promising and could highlight important learning moments that occur outside of the classroom, and therefore not usually summed up in a simple grade.
Significantly, badges are not top-down – meaning that what badges exist and how they are distributed could be determined by a larger community, including students and community coeducators in addition to faculty. What I find most interesting is that something like an open badge framework would give students a “fun” item (the badge) linked to an artifact (document, video, etc. perhaps in the form of a portfolio) that would evoke reflection as they move from lower to middle to high school. Badges could build on each other and connect the often separate learning experiences in each division. It could make for a more cohesive K-12 City as Our Campus experience. Obviously, this is a seed of a thought, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the research over at Mozilla.