Category Archives: General

Open Badges, wicked problems, and that thing called hope

"feather bad weather" by Erik bij de Vaate

“feather bad weather” ©2008 Erik bij de Vaate, used under CC-BY-SA

Open badges: they are so tantalizing to so many people, so full of possibility. They appear to offer so many solutions to so many different problems. They encourage us to look at old problems with new eyes. And precisely because of their dynamism, their precious novelty, we occasionally find ourselves overwhelmed with the hope that they’ll solve all of the problems. Everything.

This, my friends, this is precisely what’s at issue with introducing badges to our current social structure: recognizing that there are problems with existing acknowledgement and recognition systems. Problems that have not been adequately addressed. We need to crack that nut wide open as we begin to figure out how badges might change the game. We need to figure out what works and what’s worth saving in this new badge world. We need to look hard at the wicked problems that they might at least influence.

The issues most often raised about badges—accessibility, injustice, value, meaning, and rigor—are not necessarily about badges themselves but instead are rooted in wicked problems, the larger systemic social, political, and economic issues that surround learning and recognition. When viewed from this perspective, it’s obvious that badges are not a panacea. So, let’s be realistic in our discussions about the ability of badges to solve all issues of access, fairness, and equity: nothing so far has solved those issues and badges alone won’t do it, either. This is a known known; let’s not waste time arguing this point. Instead, let’s wrestle mightily with the all-too-familiar feeling of impotence when discussing any possible inroad to wicked problems. Because discuss them we must.

On the plus side of this discussion, here’s a tiny sample of what badges can do. They can provide markers of social and professional possibilities, they can acknowledge varying degrees of expertise in social skills, they can indicate job skills compatibility, they can evidence a variety of important learning experiences including capturing prior learning, they can demonstrate continued professional engagement, they can represent vastly different company and brand values, and perhaps most importantly, they can provide important and meaningful personal insight.

So for now, while we’re building this ecosystem together, let’s hold tight to that thing with feathers—our sense of hope, our sense of possibility—for when seeking change, particularly systemic change, odd though it may feel and sound to outsiders, optimism is a feature not a bug.


If you’re reading this and nodding your head, you might also appreciate this related post from Badge Alliance Executive Director, Erin Knight: More Beefs

Much more soon. carla [at] badgealliance [dot] org


Badge System Design: ideas to build on

Hey there, happy new year! I hope that the new year is going well and continues to go well for everyone. Over the holidays—and for quite some time actually—I’ve been meditating on some thoughts about badges and systems. And in the interest of starting 2014 off right, I have decided to throw them out here for discussion. Some of the ideas I’m pretty committed to and others are drifting in a bit more of a nebulous state. Still, overall there’s good content in here worth discussing, content I plan to build on throughout the year.

So how about a bit of context for this content? Last year saw me working closely with Radhika Tandon on ideas for illustrating and communicating badge system design tenets. Her innovative thinking led me to rethink some of my own proposed concepts and continue to explore others. What you’ll find below in the first set is a distillation of some ideas previously expressed in the (still fledgling) white paper about a the framework—previously principles—of a complex adaptive badge system. You’ll note that I’m now intentionally including the “complex adaptive” descriptor. Why? Because it’s a mistake to call an effective badge system a simple system. Indeed, a truly functional system is one that grows, changes, and evolves. It is one that adapts and eventually produces emergent qualities. I’m hoping that we can begin talking about and seeing some emergent qualities emanating from complex adaptive badge systems this year. (Suggestions welcome!)

Outline / framework for badge design
A quick explanation of the list: it began with enumerating a set of single words that encapsulated a primary, defining idea for badge system design. The second word came into being when I began to try to explain the first word from a slightly different perspective. Interestingly enough, the second word performed more of a conceptual rounding out than I had anticipated. Additionally, the second words provided new ideological possibilities because the first and second words began to create sets. In other words, they had a multiplying effect that resulted in sums greater than their parts.

I’m listing these quickly here in an effort to get them out there so we can begin talking about them in detail. Obviously, they’re somewhat stripped of their context—that will come! Even so, I’d love to hear your response to these basic structural tenets. No doubt the third one will invite a lot of discussion. I certainly hope so. But, here they are.

  1. Ethos / Intent
  2. Content / Recognition
  3. Assessment / Estimation / Appraisal / Reckoning
  4. Visual / Interpretation
  5. Tech / Implementation

7 aspects of roadmapping + resource management
This set of ideas sprang from our MOOC on badges. In addition to building the badge system for the MOOC, I also ran two labs; one about badge system design and one about badge system roadmapping. What you see below is the streamlined view of the latter lab. I truly enjoyed this lab: it stretched my capabilities in thinking about and expressing tangential yet vital aspects of developing a complex adaptive badge system. The order is not necessarily pointing toward any deep meaning; however, some of the enumerated points may be contingent upon others.

I hope to dive into this list this year. There are many ideas here that deserve their own discussion. For example, Funding appears to be a continuing concern for many badge creators. This concern might possibly be mitigated by developing partnerships between organizations. In my discussions and research, this has not been a typical finding. Okay, so take a gander at these, we’ll be visiting them again this year.

  1. Funding
  2. Partnerships
  3. Research
  4. System design
  5. Timing / time management
  6. Technical resources
  7. Design resources

2014 is going to be an exciting year for the open badges ecosystem and I’m looking forward to discussing it with you here, during MOOCs, on blogs, and during the Mozilla Open Badges Research / System Design call.

Much more soon.

State of the Union: Mozilla Badges

Our work within Mozilla—co-creating great open source software, working with longstanding contributors, interacting with our larger volunteer community—ties in perfectly with badges. Recognizing people for being great at their jobs, acknowledging active collaborators, encouraging folks to deepen their participation is a no-brainer for a community-built and community-reliant organization like ours. Consequently, we’ve begun to develop and pilot internal badge systems within different areas of the organization. Not surprisingly, this growing group of Mozilla badge systems is revealing itself as fertile ground for investigating the development of a variety of badge systems.

Because we work in the open, because many people might find our badging work to be useful as background research into their own work, because we’re large enough that not everyone here is yet aware of the badge design work that’s happening at Mozilla, and because a number of folks have been inquiring about where they might earn badges, I’ve gathered all the badge work that is currently underway or planned for 2013 into this single blog post.

Some Mozilla badge systems pertain directly to education and learning, some are more heavily  focused on capturing and acknowledging prior work, while others are based on encouraging greater commitment to the community. Different badges for different requirements and all of it happening under the Mozilla tent. Nice.

The list of Mozilla badges for 2013 (in very loose chronological order):

  • Webmaker badges
  • Web literacy standard badges
  • WebDev badges
  • Capture Mozilla badges
  • Webmaker Mentor badges
  • SUMO badges
  • Engagement badges
  • QA badges
  • MDN badges
  • Student reps badges
  • Creative badges
  • Affinity badges
  • Air Mozilla badges

Webmaker Badges
Many of you are familiar with the Webmaker badges that we debuted at MozFest last year. Those included mini-skill badges earned for learning basic aspects of html and css, along with badges for activities and participation at MozFest 2012. Good news! We have more planned for the coming year. In fact, I’ve just written a great shareable tweet for webmaker badges and I’ll share it here because, this summer it’s going to come true. “Coming soon: Mozilla #webmaker badges built on the community-driven Mozilla #weblitstd; assessed and awarded by peers to peers.”

No doubt by now you’re curious. “What are the peer assessed badges that I will be able to earn this summer?” Good question. Here’s what will be available: badges for remixing, HTML, CSS, composing for the web and credibility. But how did we arrive at these? There’s something more at work here, and that brings us to our next badge system.

Web Literacy Standard Badges
If you haven’t been following our work with Web Literacy, there’s still time to get in on the action. We’re working with the Mozilla community to develop a web literacy learning standard. A standard to which organisations may choose to voluntarily align. We’ve made great headway and we’ve just announced our first Web Literacy Standard draft! For those of you who need a TL;DR of this work, here’s another tweet length explanation, “Co-creating a web literacy standard w/ the Mozilla community. Addressing assessments & badges. Join us: #weblitstd” Feel free to share that statement on your twitterstream.

Over the last month or so we’ve worked through a mountain of content to a series of areas that we’re calling strands for now. There are three primary strands: Exploring, Building and Connecting that are composed of competencies like remixing, HTML, CSS, sharing, credibility, collaboration, security and privacy. These competencies will be used as a foundation for web literacy badges. Web literacy badges that you’ll be able to earn accomplishing projects here at Mozilla, but that you’ll also be able to earn for work done elsewhere on the web. With the development of these badges we will accomplish our goal of developing a distributed learning environment as well as a distributed badging network, stewarded by an organization dedicated to keeping the web open and free. That’s hard to beat.

I’ll certainly have more to share about web literacy badges again in the future. Indeed, here are two “-quel” badge pathways posts to further explain where we’re headed with the web literacy badge work.

WebDev Stewards Badges
We were really excited to hear that the Web Development stewards were interested in issuing badges recognizing the meaningful contributions that volunteers have been making to Mozilla over the years. They had already put together some basic criteria and done some preliminary thinking about what their badges should represent and how they should be awarded. With that much work already considered, the team felt emboldened to try something new with this endeavor: working with the community to develop the designs for these badges. Considering that these badge represent community participation, it made a sort of beautiful sense to us that they be designed by community members. And so they were.

We received a number of really wonderful designs, some of which made us think hard about what we were communicating through the visual designs and some of which just made us say, “ahhhhh.” There’s much more to say about badge visual design and we’ll cover that in a future post, but I’ll note here that these designs correlate quite nicely with the subject matter that they’re meant to represent. Friends, this is no small feat. Kudos to the team on that. I wrote a bit about these before and I’ll revisit the process of getting to the final product in another post, but for now I’ll just let these badges speak for themselves. (To learn a bit more about our design process, read this fine post by John Slater.)

Capture Mozilla Badges
I learned of the Capture Mozilla badges through a surprise posting on Yammer. Learning about these badges was like earning a stealth badge—surprising and delightful. Mozilla team members finding ways to acknowledge their contributors in ways that are public and shareable through Open Badges. Yes! Of course, we were excited to hear about it and we reached out to Dia Bondi, who along with Sean Bolton and Dino Anderson, is endeavoring to encourage people to contribute to the Mozilla repository through recording their experiences on video, even in less than perfect ways. Knowledge permanently captured is knowledge that continues to work.

Attempting to counter the inaccurate notion that on-camera skill is required or that a lot of preparation is involved, Capture Mozilla turned to badges as a way to be able to “talk about [the] project in a way that acknowledges other people’s contributions.” The team is thinking about the next steps for Capture Mozilla badges, in particular deepen the badging structure. Dia notes that “badging will allow the project to scale.” Music to our ears. People, earn those badges!

Webmaker Mentor Badges
The Webmaker Mentors group is tearing it up with their work on the Webmaker MOOC, “Teach the Web” that is taking place May through June. The team is testing out a number of theories with this work. And they’re integrating badges into their approach. They’ll be offering a series of four Mentor badges. These badges are nicely reflexive in that they reinforce the very thing they seek to recognize, because when you earn the Mentor badge, you in turn become able to review other people’s work for mentor badges. All in all, a great system that encourages community participation while also acknowledging learning and growth. By the way, these badges will also help folks ramp up for Maker Party 2013: Learn, Remix, Sharecoming to you this summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you call home).

SUMO Badges
SUMO badges are in the planning stages. Roland Tanglao is busy working his way through some foundational aspects of this badge system. For those of you who are curious as to how this comes together, you might be interested in taking a look at the fun google spreadsheet I’ve devised to helps folks (and myself) think through content.

Engagement Badges
With the recent Firefox OS work, it sort of makes sense that we’d want to start acknowledging peoples’ participation through badges. Emily Goligoski has been working with Chelsea as Engagement start thinking through their four proposed badges aimed at Mozillians and Mobilizers who have participated in Firefox OS launch activities: Firefox OS Events, Firefox OS Trainer, Firefox OS Launch Day and Firefox OS Core Team. It’s still early days and these may change, but suffice it to say that they’re on their way to acknowledging their contributors in a new and dynamic way.

QA, MDN, Student Reps, Creative, Affinity, Air Mozilla
We’re very much looking forward to working with these groups to implement badges. Certainly, QA, Mozilla Developer Network (MDN), and Creative are essential components of what constitutes Mozilla to the outside world. Student Reps provide some of the major firepower behind our offering.  Affinity is weighing the options about ways to acknowledge types of commitment, both financial and temporal. They’re also working hard to ensure that their badges have rigor and value associated with them. Air Mozilla is the newest kid on the badges block. This bunch represents a wide variety of potential badges emanating from Mozilla. We can’t wait to work with them to bring them to life.

Thank you!
That’s a quick summary of the groups within Mozilla who are interested in developing badges or are already in progress with them. If I’ve missed mentioning you, or if you’re interested in working on badges in your area, please contact any member of the open badges team: we’re all happy to work with you. We are deeply grateful to the Mozilla folks who have already reached out to the Open Badges team seeking new and innovative ways to enhance their communities, recognize commitments and acknowledge participation. To say that we’re excited about next steps is to significantly understate our enthusiasm. Just a quick heads up on some immediate next steps, shortly we’ll be meeting with Annie Elliott to begin thinking through metrics for Mozilla badges: another exciting avenue to explore.

And finally, a quick and specific note of thanks to David Boswell for his fantastic work with the Community Builders and Grow Mozilla teams; he and they are proving to be invaluable partners in the ongoing development of badges here at Mozilla.

More soon.

Badge system design: investigating assumptions

Last week during the Open Badges community call, we introduced a new repeating discussion area: badge system design. (We’re considering expanding badge system design into a standing call of its own and so we’re testing the depth of interest within the existing community call.) The first few questions I posed to our call tribe were, “What assumptions are there about badges? What have you been running into in your discussions? Where do your assumptions lie?”

Karen Jeffreys of ForAllSystems was kind enough to share her thoughts with the group and this, in turn, acted as a catalyst for additional thoughts within the group. After her initial verbal response, during which I took notes, a number of others began a flurry of writing in the etherpad. Folks also began to verbally pour out their thoughts on this subject. Success! We had hit upon a previously untapped area that was worthy of exploration and conversation. It seems that there are a number of assumptions that everyone is working with as they progress through the discussion, creation and sharing of badges.

While the group wrote and spoke about a number of different areas—and we ran out of time on the call—their responses tended to fall into these categories.

  • Languages/terminology/semantics assumptions
  • Usage/sharing assumptions
  • Perceptions of badge types
  • Process assumptions
  • Technical assumptions
  • Educational assumptions
  • Risk/assessment assumptions

Languages/terminology/semantics assumptions
Let’s expand upon these assumptions a bit further, starting with the first bullet point. The languages/terminology/semantics area is fairly large and covers a variety of assumptions. In particular, our community members noted varying interpretations of the word “badge,” the use of metaphors or other descriptors for that word, such as “micro-credentials.” This is definitely an area we have heard before and one that we will continue to investigate.

Usage/sharing assumptions
The occurrence of usage assumptions appears to be on the rise as more people become aware of badges. This may be due in part to folks assuming that all badges represent learning, when badges can be used to indicate affiliation, as well as achievements that are not related directly to “learning.” Badge usage represents an area for further study as it relates to the life cycle of a badge: issuing, earning, sharing, consuming. With regards to the sharing assumption, we have been assuming that once badges are earned that there would be a ready marketplace for them, not only from a personal representation perspective, but also from a community appreciation of them. But there may also be reasons why people choose not to share their badges: deeper investigation into different demographical behavior patterns for sharing / not sharing is warranted.

Perceptions of badge types
Perceptions of badge types is linked to usage assumptions as well as audience assumptions. Since by their nature badges are so protean, they can be used to represent a huge variety of different concepts, things, ideas. Mozilla has been building badge systems based on three types of badges: participation, skill, and achievement, but there are many other ways to slice the badge type pie. Contextual understanding of the conceptual framework of a badge system is necessary to fully comprehend not only its goals but its success at achieving those goals.

Process assumptions
The process assumptions seem to stem from different interpretations of how a badge might be used—and how a badge system might be implemented. There are many types of badge systems, therefore they can be interpreted in a variety of ways. As we share our badge work with the world, it’s important to realize that how we think that our badges will be used or perceived may not match up with the ways that they are perceived. Issuers may have assumptions about how they fit into their process and yet, hiring organizations may have an entirely different set of assumptions about how best to use badges. To that end, research and reflexivity should be built into the process.

Technical assumptions
From Mozilla’s technical perspective, open badges can be relatively easy to implement. However, from an outsider’s perspective, or a non-technical perspective, they can seem like a wonderful solution that can only be viewed behind a glass window. Differing levels of technical expertise can make the creation of an open badge system seem complex. There are differing perceptions of the technical chops necessary to implement badges effectively. While badge creation and issuing platforms are easing the process every day, there are new concerns being raised about vetting, consumption methodologies, and open source requirements surfacing. We must remain vigilant about assumptions about technical implementation and ease of use.

Educational assumptions + Risk/assessment assumptions
Badges have been received into the educational world with open arms. Consequently, a variety of assumptions about usage within that environment and possible best practices have arisen, too. Assumptions are rampant about varying pedagogies, the dilution of educational efforts, the devaluation of formal credentials and the meaning and value of different types of assessment. Education is a cultural touchstone and masses of perceptions exist about how and what are the best ways to teach or to learn. What does it mean to introduce another form of assessment within the educational world? How will it be used and by whom? Badges help to expose many of our pre-existing tacit assumptions in this realm. Accordingly, it’s vital that we work to unpack the thinking associated with badge use within this existing, extremely complex system.

Badges open many doors to many solutions, but those doorways need to be investigated and understood as having their own meanings as well. The only conclusion to be reached here other than understanding that badges are dynamic, vital things that can be interpreted in many very different ways, is that it is useful to understand the contexts in which we are creating, sharing, disseminating and conversing about badges.

Thanks to the community for sharing their thoughts on assumptions. I invite you to share yours as well. More soon.

Boundless learning: the continuum of web literacy

There are a lot of people who think that our educational system is broken. I tend to think of it as problematic rather than broken—because it still works for some people, just not everyone. Wouldn’t it be great to have a system that works for more people in new ways?

A look back to look forward 
Here’s how we may have arrived in this confusing spot regarding education, a spot that is overripe for reimagining. The web.

The web is limitless. And its limitlessness has revealed to us the profound limits bound into earlier systems of knowledge measurement. Let’s use an example. Books were a previous primary yardstick. And we thought that all of them gathered together in the form of libraries constituted a window onto the edge of knowledge.

The lure of the past
But with the rise of the web in the last few years, we’ve realized that that was a false limitation. Libraries, even spectacularly large ones, that previously seemed like they contained all the information in the world are competing against an ever-growing, easily accessible accumulation of knowledge from around the world. The last Encyclopedia Brittanica—for years considered the gold standard for reference to be found in a printed set of thirty-two bound volumes at the cost of $1395—is now dwarfed by a free site on the web. That free site? Wikipedia. Over four million articles can be found on Wikipedia; it contains over twenty-nine million pages. That’s just one site on the web. And interestingly enough, it’s a site to which many editors contribute but that no one person “owns.”


“The web has allowed us to see that the world is significantly more complex and interesting than we thought it was.” (2012, Weinberger) Indeed, the web mirrors much of our world in that it:

  1. contains massive amounts of information,
  2. has a distributed ownership model, and
  3. a large part of the information found on it is entirely free.

A new model for learning
Thanks to a lot of people who recognized the value of the web (and who like teaching and tinkering and sharing) learning can now happen and is now happening anywhere and everywhere. So, how can we break free from the limited thinking that chains us to book learning and formal academic levels? Can there be alternative methods of information dissemination?

The learning continuum
Let’s agree on this: learning is a process. There is no endpoint.  But what does this mean for education? That there is no cap to the amount of knowledge we can accumulate. And now because there is no endpoint, we need to rethink how people might find their way through this glut of information. We need something to fill in the space of what was there previously—or at the very least to find a way to acknowledge the new learning spaces that we’re beginning to see.

The last printed Encyclopedia Brittanica was published in 2010. It’s now 2013. The world has not stopped amassing information in that interim. So, we must become comfortable with the idea that there are volumes of knowledge that we’ll never know. It’s simply not possible to do that anymore; it’s not possible to put edges or boundaries on learning opportunities. This is where badges can provide their greatest value: as guideposts in an increasingly complex knowledge universe. Badges can be issued on an atomic level. We can start to acknowledge the primary elements  that constitute a basic level of knowledge.

I’m hesitant to even use the word level here. Due to its requirement for contextual definition, the idea of educational levels often leads straight to a bizarro world where levels are spoken about as if they’re universal, but their implementation reveals that they are most distinctly not universal in application.

Let’s just say that there are continua of knowledge and as a whole we are on them. To quote my colleague, Doug Belshaw, from our in-progress web literacies* white paper, “Literacy is a condition to be obtained not a threshold to cross.” The key to that statement centers on the idea of conditions: we are continually moving through and across boundaries of knowledge. This is one of the beauties of the web—and of life. In general, the boundaries we experience have been created and defined by us in the development of our society. Badges let us reimagine what those boundaries are and where they might appear. Thus, we can move ever closer to aligning our ability to acknowledge all of the learning now possible with the web’s vast capacity for increased knowledge acquisition.

Learning pathways 
Right now we’re focusing on what a web literacy standard might look like and how it might be implemented. A significant portion of this thinking will include developing potential learning pathways. Along those lines, we will be thinking through the framework’s ‘Beginner’ and ‘Intermediate’ levels before considering ‘Pre-Beginner’ and ‘Advanced’. Taking this approach will allow us to produce multiple touchpoints and signposts along the way to web literacy. We’ll use those touchpoints and signposts to develop a web literacy badge system that accommodates various learning pathways, builds upon the web literacy framework, encourages continued community badge creation and aligns with Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure.

The honor of your presence is requested
There are many ways that you can participate. Here are just a few:

  1. Join our weekly web literacy standard community call on Thursdays 8am PST / 11am EST / 4pm GMT. Here’s a canonical etherpad agenda that includes dial in information.
  2. Visit our continually updated wiki.
  3. Continue to read and respond to these posts.
  4. Share your ideas about what might be useful indications of learning.
  5. Begin to imagine a world where web literacy is an easily understood literacy with badges that communicate where someone might be on that arc.

We’re gathering together with you at the forefront of our understanding of what web literacy is and we’re aiming to map out a workable future. We’re pretty excited and we’re really glad you’re here.

* It’s worth noting that we’re distinguishing between our earlier work with web literacies and our new efforts for a web literacy learning standard.

Flickr image CC by mikeedesign

Much more soon.
carla [at] mozillafoundation [dot] org

Web literacies: something serious, something funny and something fun.

We ran our first online gathering last week during which we sought to begin the process of co-creating a web literacy standard. You can read more about that on Erin Knight’s blog here and Doug Belshaw’s blog here. And while I want to delve into that effort in detail, right now I just want to share some thoughts about ideas related to web literacy.

Something serious
Directly related to those ideas, I’d like to suggest that if you haven’t yet visited the Webmaker google group, please do. There are some extremely interesting conversations and intimations happening there about things like Internet accessibility, worldviews and what those sorts of things might mean for web literacy. These big questions are right up my alley. As a firm believer in context driven language, communication and interaction, I’m convinced that these are excellent areas of inquiry. What does it mean—in practice—to develop a standard that may or may not pertain to several billion people? And how can we ensure that our co-defined thinking allows room for growth, modification, interpretation but remains strong enough to withstand rigorous assessment and investigation? We are going to be discussing some of this again next Thursday at 9am EST. Please join us.

Something funny
We’re asking, can you help us build this from a close-in standpoint while recognizing a need for a top level view as well? In a recent online back and forth with Brian Brennan, gentleman coder and the original and chief software architect of Open Badges, he made a coding joke. A joke that I did not get—because despite what I know, I do not know many of the nuances of coding. In total, it was this, “I’d tell you a UDP joke but you might not get it.” This was succeeded by the following comment, “!!!NERD JOKE ALERT!!!” Once explained (see Something fun), these few sentences are actually pretty funny.

Why are we talking about this, aside from how it nicely illustrates what a funny and informative (and badass) programmer Brian is? It serves to show that it’s possible to be on the spectrum of web literacy—even to be quite advanced on that spectrum—and yet still have plenty of things to learn. Web literacy in short: many levels, not all required for success. Now let’s contrast this degree of literacy with the literacy level of people who are only peripherally on the web because they don’t have things like a solid internet connection, or they live in a place where there isn’t a dependable communication infrastructure, or maybe their lives are full enough or complicated enough without the web.

How does this tie into badges? In a very interesting way. First let’s acknowledge the new folks that we’re excited to have join our team to help answer that question. They include Jess Klein, Atul Varma and Chloe Varelidi. Together we’ll be building some exciting new activities and incremental assessments, the outcome of which will result in web literacy badges and their associated pathways. That’s right: this all leads back to my old friend, badge system design.

Something fun
So, someday soon, knowing things like the difference between UDP and TCP and how that manifests itself on the web may prove to be one aspect of a web literacy pathway. And because we’ve gotten this far without yet learning the difference between them here’s Brian’s verbatim explanation of UDP and TCP. Please note that he communicated this through an informal online exchange so it’s a less standard explanation than Brian might otherwise deliver—but it sure does get the point across.

“UDP doesn’t guarantee order of packet delivery, or delivery at all. TCP ensures order and integrity, but incurs overhead because every packet has to be acknowledged. So UDP is suitable in an environment where it’s acceptable for things to come out of order and where the client can ensure integrity. BitTorrent is a great example of this. I associate it with shoveling data out a window while saying ‘yo I don’t give a FUCk’.”

If you’ve ever heard of or used Pirate Bay or torrents, you’ve actually come into contact with UDP. And since you’re reading this right now and it’s all arrived on your computer in one intelligible piece, you’ve also come into direct contact with TCP.

Congrats, you’re on your way to becoming even more web literate! Now we just need to develop a distributed badge system that indicates that knowledge so you can share that with other people. And friends, I’m here to say that we’re on it.

- – -

Much more soon.
carla at mozillafoundation [dot] org

Friday badges wrap-up: Jan 20 – Feb 1, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day, all! Punxsutawney Phil has spoken: here’s to an early spring!

- – -
Things that happened with Open and Webmaker badges: week of 1/20

Two weeks ago (Jan 24-25) the Open Badges team attended the final face to face meeting for the Digital Media and Learning (DML) competition’s funded winners. What a fantastic event: thanks to UCHRI for hosting and all of HASTAC for helping to make it happen. The funded winners presented to one of three expert panels, and if they chose to, each other. The panels were comprised of a learning content expert, a design expert and a marketing and communications expert. We coordinated this combination so that the grantees would have an opportunity to think through their badge systems in new ways since the last face to face meeting at Duke. Charles Perry from MentorMob (a DML funded winner working with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago) has written up a terrific recap of the event. And our own Jess Klein, who acted as a design expert on one of the panels wrote up a list of her top 5 feedback points for badge design. They are both definitely worth reading.

That week also saw most of the team participating in a Future of Badges meeting with a variety of advisors, thinkers, and luminaries during which we talked about our hopes and plans for Badges. A primary point of interest and discussion was Erin Knight‘s presentation of her thinking and writing on where Open Badges is headed with validation. (Hang tight, we’re still working on this document but will share as soon as it’s ready. It’s safe to say that we want to reimagine validation in a way similar to the way Open Badges reimagines the possibilities inherent in learning.)

Two folks of note who were invited to this meeting were Ann Pendleton-Julian and John Seely Brown. Ms. Pendleton-Julian was unfamiliar with the scope and breadth of our Open Badges plan but found herself convinced during our discussion of Endorsement. Having them share their thoughts was both rewarding and helpful in orienting where our talking points are effective and where they still need some work. But, onto endorsement. I have written about endorsement on my blog quite some time ago, but never fully dived into what it is and how it will work. I have long felt that endorsement is a key aspect of a fully functioning Open Badge ecosystem and therefore it deserves its own post—and I will write that post soon—but suffice it to say that endorsement will begin to knit together the trust networks that I wrote about in previous posts. Endorsement will begin to answer the long-asked question, how can we guarantee that a badge represents the learning, experiences, accomplishments that it’s said to do.

That week also saw the launch of some projects (and badges!) that we’ve been working on and coordinating for a large and dynamic foundation. There will be a more comprehensive announcement about this in the coming weeks.

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Things that happened with Open and Webmaker badges: week of 1/27

Last week was a heavy work week filled with progress on a relatively new effort but one that stems from our validation thinking: developing a web literacy standard. My colleague, Doug Belshaw, has already written about some of this on his blog. That said, we’re interested in co-creating with the public a web literacy standard that will support the framework for Open Badges as well as our work on Webmaker Badges (one of my current areas of focus). We will be running an online gathering to kick off this thinking on February 7th 11am EST. You can sign up (or simply attend) here on Lanyrd or here on EventBrite. And if you are interested join our mailing list / google group!

In addition to this work, I’ve also been writing up a Badge System Design etherpad that is chock full of (almost) everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how to design a badge system (as well as a single badge). It’s not finished and I’m coming around to the realization that most likely, it will never be complete, just as most systems are incomplete and continue to evolve. Nevertheless, in a few short days it will begin to transform into a few variations, e.g., a brief bulleted list, a white paper, the long and comprehensive list, and worked examples. I’m super excited about this and am looking forward to getting your feedback in the next few months.

I have another blog post in the offing based on some of what I’ll be discussing at Educause ELI where I’m pleased to be presenting and talking about Open and Webmaker badges Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In a thrilling development, the conference will be issuing badges. No doubt, you’ll hear more about that in a future post.

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Let me know your thoughts. More soon.
carla at mozillafoundation (dot) org

Fear of a Badge Planet

On Thursday, September 15, two related things happened. 1) The MacArthur Foundation announced the 4th Digital Media and Learning (DML) Competition. 2) Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges project entered early beta. Some other related things occurred around that time, too. Sebastian Deterding posted a somewhat damning critique of Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham’s O’Reilly Media book Gamification by Design. This last thing, while seemingly unrelated, complicates the perception of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Thing 1 on its own is thrilling and exciting because it sounds the call for organizations, academic institutions, businesses, groups, students, even individuals to begin thinking about alternate ways to represent both personal and community achievement. This new approach toward achievement won’t focus solely on degrees or certificates but will seek to include soft skills like co-learning, collaboration, camaraderie, and community-mindedness. The DML competition hearkens a new way of thinking about performance that doesn’t rely on formal education or traditional methodologies.

Thing 2 signals a beginning, a break with the past, a series of possibilities and vast potential. Additionally, it may signal a sort of beginning of the end of formal education’s monopoly on acceptable representations of academic and business success: one that has dominated our culture for at least the last thirty years. With the introduction of the Open Badge Infrastructure, Mozilla is engaging the net in rethinking achievement recognition in an open source, open access, open education manner.

This all sounds good, so what’s the problem? The complication surrounds the term badge. Prior to social software like FourSquare, a badge was most likely something you remembered from your years in the Scouts system. No longer. Cue the ominous music as we conjure the dark arts of gamification. Ian Bogost calls gamification exploitationware. Elsewhere, he wasn’t even as charitable as that. Suffice it to say that it’s a touchy subject.

Deterding’s concerns about gamification—in a review that was roundly touted in game design circles as impressively well considered—are valid; however, gamification is not entirely worthless. Even Deterding himself notes this in his follow up to Tim O’Reilly. Perhaps what’s most important to realize here, though, is that Mozilla’s Open Badge effort is not a gamification of anything. Instead, the Open Badge system is an opportunity to reimagine personal communication of social representation. Think of it as an entirely new, authenticatable, verifiable, dependable means to an end: a brand new vision for the old resume/curriculum vitae. Consider the possibilities. Badge systems that, with some nurturing, will develop into a robust ecosystem capable of altering not only the current western educational paradigm, but possibly some sociocultural and economic ones, as well. (The rise of the Badge Class?)

This endeavor will empower individuals in ways that may seem impossible now. When learning can happen in a self-paced, self-motivated way outside of traditional formal systems, and when that learning can be formally recognized in a useful way, then change has great potential. By engineering a system that more accurately represents personal achievement, Mozilla is working toward addressing at least two long-standing problems: the inability of both formal education and business to capture vital, useful and relevant communication and interaction skills, and the failure of the educational system to keep apace with technological advancement. This project has the potential to radically shift worldviews while improving individual lives. If that’s what others are mistakenly decrying as gamification, then I say bring it on.

I’ve touched on the potential for change inherent in Mozilla’s effort. Over the next few months, I hope to expand upon our direction, our challenges, and our successes. And I hope that you’ll make the trip with me. I welcome your thoughts and comments. Let’s move past our fear of a badge planet and look out onto the vast universe of possibility together.

¡Hola, muchachos!

Here’s a post because I promised myself I’d post and so I’m posting. I’m leaving the “Here are some suggestions for your first post” content because something about it strikes me as universal and welcoming. We’ve all seen it before, right? And this PressThis thing, it might come in handy.

Or it might simply be another way for organizations to monetize the site by tracking my every move. Paranoia and the web go together like peanut butter and jelly. Mmm. Toast.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can alway preview any post or edit you before you share it to the world.