Moving Beyond Aspirations on Mozilla Open Badges Call

Last week I was delighted to to be invited by the Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges Call – a weekly call that has been going on for years open to anyone interested in badges for learning – to raise issues I addressed in my DMLcentral post, “My Beef with Badges“.

I felt I was there less to restate the issues I raised in my post – anyone on the call could read it – but rather to facilitate a conversation about my main concerns: that when we speak publicly about our work with badges we need to separate our achievements from our aspirations, to clarify where we are struggling to achieve our goals and what we are learning along the way.

It was a lot of fun to hear from the community and the wide varied of responses to both the topic and the concerns people would like to express or see addressed. You can read Mozilla’s write-up about the Call here or listen to it yourself below, starting at minute 8:00.

Here are some highlights from Mozilla’s write-up:

In a recent blog post, Barry made a call to action – or rather, a call to conversation:

“If we advancing digital badging systems want to solve the major challenges before us — badging networks that link learning organizations to each other and to career and academic opportunities; badge system designs that can offer different value to different youth; comprehensive, elegant and flexible tools; and more — we need to start painting the full picture. Let’s welcome newcomers to this important project not by asking them to rebuild the wheel but to learn with us through public and honest self-reflective practices.”

In his own badging explorations, and those of others he has worked with and spoken to, he found that many who are starting out with badges seem to come up against the same obstacles, and wonders if there is a way to avoid or diminish these blocks by sharing more about what we know, how we got there, and lessons learned along the way.

In 2008, Barry was working  at Global Kids on a project to help youth develop metacognitive skills, for which they would earn badges. He has since worked with the first Hive network, in New York, and now works on digital learning programs for youth through the American Museum of Natural History.

In each of these endeavors Barry has worked with badging programs, and has heard the same struggles many times. In participating in badging initiatives, he has observed that much of the dialogue has been split, with the positives of badging being presented publicly – and often in response to a general set of concerns, whether actual or perceived. On the other hand, the problems faced by those building badges were often discussed internally rather than shared publicly. As a result, new badging initiatives came across the same problems again and again because they hadn’t been told about previous experiences in their entirety.

A connected issue Barry is concerned with is the limitations of badge value in the current ecosystem, young and disconnected as it is at times: while many badges may have ‘local’ value within the issuing organization and its immediate community, Barry wants badges to gain more ‘global’ value and inter-connectivity, echoed in our own goals for the ecosystem.


About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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