Monthly Archives: October 2011

Considering the Badges 101 Webinar

Last thursday, HASTAC hosted a webinar about the DML competition: Badges for Lifelong Learning. Erin Knight led a discussion about the foundational ideas underpinning digital badges and Mozilla’s efforts to develop the Open Badge Infrastructure. Sheryl Grant considered the meaning and potential for digital badges, and Cathy Davidson historicized our current academic system while addressing some of the opportunities for badges and badge systems.

We had an excellent turnout that produced many wonderful questions. Some of those questions we were able to respond to on air and the remainder we gathered together in a working document—a document that the team is working to consider and answer. You’ll find some of those answers on the HASTAC site. Erin pulled a few of those questions and responded to them on her blog.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of fairly philosophical questions about digital badges, some of them bordering on existential. Some of those question were tactical, but all were earnest. The audience expressed excitement, yearning, concern, and impatience. We take this all as encouragement.

We’d like to note that as we develop the Open Badge Infrastructure, the badge recipient is foremost in our minds. Paraphrasing Erin, users will control the privacy settings for badges pushed into the Open Badge Infrastructure. They will have to accept each badge into their Badge Backpack and all badges will be private by default, meaning they are only accessible to the user. However the user can decide to share badges with specific displayers (i.e. a social network or job site) through the Backpack and/or set badges to public making them discoverable through the OBI. As the badge ecosystem grows, recipients will have increasing opportunities to display their badges in new venues.

The Open Badge Infrastructure is one attempt to address learning, skills and competencies that are currently either unrepresented or underrepresented in traditional, formal personal representation on resumes and CVs. Soft skills such as community-mindedness, peer interaction, and mentoring present great assessment opportunities that may result in some of the most important badges to arise from the ecosystem. But as it’s early on in this brand new system, we’ll have to see where value arises. It may surprise us all. And while the academic community has responded mightily to the idea of open badges, the target audience is much broader and consists of organizations, institutions, individuals, groups, etc.—ideally anyone who would like to offer and support representations of learning, achievements, skills, and competencies.

During the session, Cathy Davidson noted that the Badges for Lifelong Learning DML Competition “is an experiment.” As this experiment continues, we welcome your thoughtful comments.

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If you missed the “Badges 101″ webinar, you can watch the recorded presentation here. And we’re offering another webinar Tuesday, 10/11 at 3:00pm ET: “Process and Application.” If you have any questions about the DML competition application process, we encourage you to attend.

Moving forward: an open badge ecosystem

As the DML competition and badges conversation continues to move in many directions at once, at Mozilla Foundation we are starting to consider the future of the open badge ecosystem that the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) will help to originate. The good news? As a citizen of the open web, you are empowered to help define and build the digital badges that will populate it. You can help define what characterizes a badge; how, why, and where someone might obtain one; what it might look like; how long its lifespan might be; and perhaps most importantly, how it might live and interact in the larger sociocultural landscape.

Instead of badges arising from a traditional, top-down hierarchical, paternalistic system, think of them as a fluid opportunity. An opportunity to entirely rethink what it means to assess and recognize skills, competencies, learnings, experiences and achievements. In other words, think big, think extraordinary, think “why not?”.

To help frame all of this big, extraordinary, “why not?” thinking, here’s a bit about our role in this experiment. Think of Mozilla’s OBI as the plumbing: the thing that allows everything to work, the pipes that will help to irrigate and propagate the developing ecosystem. And it’s open source plumbing. If there are aspects that you’d like to mess around with, copy the code and fork it. That’s the beauty of open source code: it’s accessible and mutable.

Ultimately, Mozilla will make the system self-service, so that any organization, academic institution, group, or individual will be able to create a badge or badge system(s), as well as host it in their own backpack. This means that badges will always be portable, extensible, personal, and recipient-owned.

Already, interested folks are creating useful widgets that will help to extend the work that we’re doing. They include: Leslie Michael Orchard’s Django handicraft, Django-badger; Andrew Kuklewicz’s Ruby on Rails work; and Open Michigan’s (Kevin Coffman and Pieter Kleymeer) Drupal 6 effort. Eventually, you’ll be able to access these directly from the Open Badges github repository.

Mozilla is interested in keeping the commons of the web open, and that includes a badge and assessment system. If you’re curious about participating in the active tech conversation about OBI, join our badge-lab group. If you are interested in creating widgets for the OBI, review our code at GitHub and away you go. If you’re ready for a larger commitment to open source software and Open Badges in particular, consider joining our expanding team. Erin Knight, our stellar project lead, writes a terrific blog: World of E’s. There you’ll find detailed explanations of our work to date as well as our open positions. In brief they are: an Open Badges Developer; an Open Badges Partner Manager (Business and Design); an Open Badges Engineer (Tech and Support); and a Mozilla Badge and Assessment System Designer/Specialist.

We’re counting on you to be involved in the conversation and creation of the Open Badges ecosystem. So, open web citizen, get out there—there’s no time like the present to start changing the future.


State of the DML competition conversation

General overview
This past week saw activity in response to the 4th Digital Media and Learning (DML) competition: Badges for Lifelong Learning announcement as well as the idea of badges themselves. It was a bit of a bounce-back week where people were absorbing the idea of the competition and considering the impact of badges, primarily within the academic environment. Thus far, the business community’s response has been limited.

There has been a good deal of interest and response in the blogging community to the DML competition. And the DML competition website’s blog has been producing some great posts that spur continuing conversations. As for the general blog world, we’re getting responses in several directions from the academic side: “the current system is broken”; “peer learning is vital”; “the proposed system is problematic because it commodifies learning”; reference to the work initiated by the edupunk movement; and, concern about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I unearthed one thoughtful blog post that sought to address badges for business: there the concern revolved around the potential for a plethora of badges in the ecosystem, and the potential for blowback in specificity of hiring criteria.

hashtags: #dmlbadges #openbadges
Lots of discussion and general poking-it-with-a-stick is occurring on Twitter. The conversation ranges from curiosity to “I’ve been thinking about something like this for a while,” to “when can we start implementing this?” While a few negative tweets float through, the initial shock of the new seems to have worn off and contemplation is beginning in earnest. A wonderful outcome: it appears that potential entrants are searching each other out through Twitter.

Note: Bryan Alexander will host another G+ hangout Tuesday, 10/4, 1pm ET.
A relatively new venue: one that could yield impressive information as we move ahead with the digital badges initiative. Additionally, it offers the ability to have small ad-hoc pseudo-webinars as the stages unfold. This past week, Bryan Alexander tweeted that he’d be leading an impromptu hangout where other members of the academic community could weigh in on the Open Badges Infrastructure as well as the concept of digital badges. This type of informal hangout seems to be an ideal communication method. Matt Thompson followed up with him to lead another in the coming week. Additionally, I have asked attendees of Bryan’s hangout to participate / mediate future discussions with the caveat that a badges team member attend to glean useful data. Additional recommendations about pursuing this venue or ideas about potential conversations are welcome.

Upcoming: October 6, 2011, platform: GoToMeeting
Details and registration requirements:
Hosted By: Cathy Davidson, Duke University Professor and HASTAC Co-Founder; Sheryl Grant, Director of Social Networking, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation DML Competition; Erin Knight, Assessment and Badge Project Lead, Mozilla and P2PU; Matt Thompson, Education Lead, Mozilla Foundation; Carla Casilli, Project Manager, Open Badges, Mozilla Foundation

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The following information presents more granular explorations of the synopsized information above. 

HASTAC / MacArthur Foundation DML competition (a compendium of blog posts)
Planet Open Badges (a compendium of badges blog posts)
Open Badges Infrastructure:
Archived video of announcement:

Blogs, sample posts
A special mention for Cathy Davidson’s cool, collected and significantly commented-upon post from 09/16/11

Twitter, sample tweets
“I hope @khanacademy is getting in on this #openbadges conversation and submitting a proposal to the @dmlComp Badges + Knowledge Map = !!”   —@timothyfcook

“I think #openbadges has legs. Many common concerns but consensus we need assessment that is open, portable, modular, realworld ”  —@anya1anya

“@mvexel interested in Mozilla #openbadges for OSM, especially for mappers-in-training here in Haiti. Potential for @dmlComp collaboration?”   —@mapmeld

G+ hangouts 
Bryan Alexander:
NITLE blog post based on the hangout: