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Badge System Design: standardization, formalization & uniqueness

This post continues the conversation about Open Badges, the Open Badge Infrastructure and badge system design. It’s one post in a series of thoughts-in-process that will culminate in a white paper about badge system design. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed: not only do they help mould the conversation but they help to shape its arc as well. Jump in!

“How do I create a badge system?”
I’ve felt some conflict about codifying badge system design due to the oft repeated desire I hear for a simple formula. A formula sounds like it ought to be the most appropriate approach. Yet this seemingly rational desire is precisely the point where most design systems go wrong.

Standardization & formalization
A formula seems to point toward having a complete understanding that the parts of the system are standard and that the variables are unchanging. This is not the case with digital badges or really anything involving human assessment. (Keep in mind Donella Meadow’s paradigm about paradigms.) Therefore as we progress through some basics precepts of badge system design, note that these comments are suggestions, pointers, and recommendations. They do not represent the sole badge system design methodology nor do they indicate a complete taxonomy. There are many pathways on the journey, many Yogi Berra-esque forks in the road to designing a useful or valuable or successful badge system. (And yes, I think it might be important to distinguish between usefulness, value and success—but that’s for another post.)

How badges relate to badge system design
Badges exist as visual representations—distillations if you will—of meaning. They’re a sort of shorthand for content. They can act as formalized recognitions of associations, achievements, skills and competencies, endeavors, values, etc. And on the other hand they can act as fun, playful reminders of past experiences, in-jokes, and community membership. An organization’s values help to determine its badge system goals—goals that can be inherent to the organization, can arise from its instantiation, or that can be co-created with it—occasionally with all of these things occurring at once. Consequently, badge system design can branch off in many directions. So, where to start?

A system of turtles
Your early choices will help to define the evolution of your badge system. Start at any point—a single badge, a group of twenty-one, or right at the system level—but recognize that starting at the badge level may affect your ability to grow your system categorically. Regardless of where you start, it’s more than likely you’ll end up somewhere other than your intended destination. That’s okay. Systems are living things, and your badge system by needs must be flexible. You must embrace a bit of chaos in its design.

That chaos stems from its genesis: an Open Badge system is more than a series of simple documents indicating learning. Instead it’s a rich and varied representation of journeys, experiences and learned processes. It’s a series of verbs encased in an active noun. The badges that constitute your system are living things, too. In the best sense, it’s turtles all the way down.

This sense of dynamic infinite regression resident within an Open Badge system provides many varied opportunities for representation, not the least of which is uniqueness. Let me counterbalance that assertion by noting that perception of uniqueness depends at the very least upon comparativity, and distance from the perceived object plays no small part. In other words, the roots of context are based in perception. Charles and Ray Eames‘ short film, “Powers of Ten,” places context, well, in context. If you’re unfamiliar with its message take a minute or two to watch it. This should help to orient you to the potential inherent in context. Distance is one type of context, time another, ideology yet another: in other words, more turtles standing on other turtles. Aside from these few, there are many more contextual variables. If you have a moment, start a list. No doubt you’ll find quite a few not listed here. There are hundreds, possibly thousands. All of them feed into context and so into perception.

When context disappears
Surprisingly enough, we also become inured to noticing when things actually are unique. If we are exposed repeatedly to something within a certain context our ability to distinguish it as unusual diminishes. So, we’re blind to some of the complexities of our own surroundings.

Anthropologists call this the naturalization of categories or objects. The more at home you are in a community of practice, the more you forget the strange and contingent nature of its categories seen from the outside (Bowker & Star, 1999, pp. 294-295).

So, as they say, there’s that. So much to consider and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

– – –

I’ll stop here for now. Much more soon.

Bowker, G., & Star, S. (1999). Sorting things out: classification and its consequences. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage points: places to intervene in a system. World, 91(7), 21. POINT. Retrieved from http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf 


Mozilla Open Badges Legal & Privacy Considerations

Quick update: Last week I designed a graphic for this post that underscores the relative insignificance of the legal considerations of COPPA and FERPA when compared to the lifelong learning impact that we’ve designed Open Badges to accommodate. I forgot to put it into the original post but now here it is! 

Lifelong learning contrasted with COPPA and FERPA considerations

The Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) is based on a simple concept: make it easy for people to issue, earn and display digital badges across the open web. Sometimes the things that sound simple prove to be fairly complicated in implementation. Open Badges is no exception.

Consider that personal privacy stands as one of the primary tenets of the OBI: the individual earner resides at the center of the Open Badge ecosystem. Earners consciously choose which badges they want to earn from a variety of issuers, and they can also choose which badges they’d like to share whether through their own website or through a variety of displayers. Earners are the central axis point of the system; they are the essential social hub. We think that that delicate social hub—the badge earner—needs someone to watch out for their privacy. Consequently, we’re working to ensure that a minimum standard of identity protection is built into the Open Badge Infrastructure.

We’ve spent about the last 1.5 years working on the Open Badge Infrastructure and the last 6 months focusing on the legal and privacy questions this new project has surfaced. We’ve had some great advisors helping us to get this right: many thanks to Mozilla’s Data and Product Counsel, Jishnu Menon, as well as Karen Neuman and Ari Moskowitz of St. Ledger-Roty Neuman & Olson, LLP. You can read some of their fine work addressing legal and privacy questions on our Legal FAQs page.  You can find other aspects illustrated in the Mozilla Badge Backpack’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. They’re all worth a read. We’re proud that they’re written in Plain English and not legalese. We want earners, issuers and displayers to understand their rights and understand how Mozilla approaches those rights.

Because our goals for Open Badges include global deployment, the future will find the Open Badges team considering EU legal and privacy laws as well as UK concerns. And as the OBI ecosystem begins to populate across the world, individual earner’s privacy considerations will continue to motivate our work.

For those of you who are not entirely familiar with some of the major issues we’ve been wrangling, read on below to learn a bit more about two of the heavy hitters, COPPA and FERPA.

What is COPPA? COPPA is the acronym for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and it’s a US federal law designed to govern and protect children’s online privacy and safety. The Federal Trade Commission administers this regulation addressing data collection and marketing to children under the age of 13. You can read more about it directly from the source: http://www.coppa.org/coppa.htm. COPPA complicates most efforts aimed at children under 13, but there are COPPA-compliant organizations whose primary communications successfully address that audience.

Current predictions seem to point toward COPPA becoming even more restrictive rather than less. Depending on an earner’s personal sharing decisions, the Mozilla Badge Backpack can be a potentially broadly public space. Consequently, at this time, the Mozilla OBI does not permit children under 13 to push their badges into the Mozilla-hosted Badge Backpack. However, it is possible to create and host a siloed Badge Backpack.

Worth noting: we have significant hopes for some external Mozilla efforts along the lines of streamlined identity protection and will keep you abreast of any new developments.

FERPA, also an acronym and also a US federal law, stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It’s aimed at providing parents with the right to protect the privacy of children’s education records. Those rights transfer to the student at the age of 18 or whenever they attend a school beyond the high school level. You can read more about it at the government’s website: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html. FERPA can introduce a level of complexity for badges emanating from academic institutions. You’ll find some potential best practices about FERPA on our site in the legal FAQs.

– – –
Now you know a bit more about how we designed the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure with built in identity and privacy considerations. As always, we welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and assistance in our ongoing endeavor.

More soon.

Open Badges & Badge System Design

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Open Badges and badge system design. During that time I’ve found myself weighing the idea of the Open Badges Infrastructure against the idea of Open Badges. I’ve come around to this thinking: one is a subset of the other. Open Badges is an umbrella concept about perception, achievement, learning, representation, assessment, and value that has produced the tool that is the OBI. Perhaps the OBI is an epiphenomenon of the conceptual work of Open Badges. OBI is to tool as Open Badges is to process. It’s a bit chicken/egg but as we progress the temporal distinction seems to matter less and less.

OBI the tool is designed to be agnostic, but Open Badges the concept presents opportunities for transmission of deeply held beliefs, strong opinions and decisive values about learning, education, agency, creativity, dynamism, change, and evolution. I’m racing through these important and defining ideas right now because I want to start sharing some initial thoughts about badge system design. But I’m happy to have this discussion in greater detail with you on this blog, on twitter, through emails, during calls, and if we’re lucky, in person. You have helped us and continue to help us build this amazing tool; now let’s talk about what we can do with it as well as what we want to do with it.

Serendipitously today after I had already written the few intro-type paragraphs below, I saw a tweet that lead me to download and read a highly influential systems design paper Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. As I read this inspirational document by Donella Meadows I grew increasingly excited: on my own I had arrived at similar realizations and had used nearly the exact terminology as she had in her paper. Those clues indicate to me that I’m on the right track. To that end, I’m dispensing with the many revisions I usually go through for a blog post and instead dropping in my initial rough draft to share it with you while the ideas are still messy and fresh. I don’t want to overthink them—at least not right now. Let’s begin our conversation now before the ideological badge cement has hardened.

Open Badges offers thousands of possibilities to those who choose to participate. I want to help you see what those amazing opportunities might be. Here’s my humble request: be my reader and my co-author on this journey.

– – –

Badge system design presents a variety of exciting challenges and opportunities. In some ways, it’s similar to designing the perfect society, one in which important things are recognized, feedback is welcomed and used, individuality is respected, people are encouraged to express themselves freely and creatively, expand their potential, attempt difficult but rewarding experiences, interact with and aid others, seek and find opportunities, learn, experience, make, scaffold, share and grow. Perhaps a little thinking is in order, huh?

Humility plays a key role in the design of any system, including badge system design. Your badge system design, no matter how brilliant, most likely will not end global hunger, solve the debt crisis, or fix a broken educational system. However, if created with intelligence, finesse and empathy, it may have the capacity to change someone’s life. Indeed, it may possibly help to alleviate some of those other, larger concerns.

Currently, the entire ecosystem remains an unknown quantity: how many badges will flicker on in the badge system galaxy? What will happen as it knits together? It’s quite possible that your simple designs may take on a far more complex role than you can imagine. So a few suggestions, notes, and recommendations are in order.

History is littered with lessons and examples of great ideas that went bad or never got off the ground. The human equation always introduces an element of chance. While that tendency certainly presents a massive complicating variable, ultimately that’s where the ground might be most fertile. Be fearless, investigate it.

And yet note that it might be best to start with a simple idea and let organic evolutionary properties run their natural course. Because unexpected emergent properties will occur even if you think you’ve planned for everything. Eventually Taleb’s black swan will fly overhead. Perhaps its shadow will pass by, perhaps it will skim the waters for a while and move on, or perhaps it will land and begin swimming in your happy little pre-planned badge ecosystem. Who knows?

Okay. Taking a somewhat more clinical view, some psychological research indicates that resilience contributes greatly to long term happiness. Resilience is important to a robust system. How can you build in resilience? What do we mean by resilience? Your badge system design will play some role in an earner’s sense of self. And so, like the person earning the badges you’re designing, if it’s to have a long and happy life, your badge system must have its own source of resilience. Whether that arises from the community, the planners, or the larger ecosystem does not matter.

– – –

Those are some initial thoughts. Much, much, much more to come.

Open Badge Infrastructure Public Beta!

Today we launched the public beta of the Open Badge Infrastructure. This proclamation represents a huge accomplishment and is one that we are exceedingly pleased to announce. A few months ago, the OBI was a bit more concept than reality. No longer. Now you can visit http://openbadges.org and earn your first badge. Now you can push that badge to your Mozilla Badge Backpack. Now you can go to Open Badges on github to see our code. Now you can see our technical wiki. Now you can read our documentation.

There are many questions yet to be answered, many opportunities yet to be seized. But for right now we’ll stop to celebrate this momentous achievement today. A respectful and heartfelt thank you to the MacArthur Foundation for their fierce and courageous commitment to supporting learning wherever it occurs. Connie, An-Me, and Jen, we hope our efforts do you proud.

Many thanks to the indefatigable Open Badges group, too. Specifically, I’d like to acknowledge the fundamental work of the early Open Badges team: Erin Knight and Brian Brennan. Their profound efforts constitute the core of the Open Badge Infrastructure. Kudos and deep bows in their general directions. Additional thanks go to Chris McAvoy, Sunny Lee, and Mike Larsson who have continually strived to produce a quality experience and superior product. And while  Jess Klein and Atul Varma are not formal members of the team, they have worked alongside us to help us get to where we are today. And so we award them the honorific title Valued Friends of Open Badges. This brings me to the not insignificant effort put into the OBI by our community. Through a variety of different venues, you’ve built and shared widgets, declared your thoughts, begun thinking about the beginnings of a Wikipedia article, expressed feedback on weekly calls and just generally impressed the hell out of us. Our small team has worked hand-in-hand with you, our terrific volunteer open source community, to achieve something quite extraordinary in not very much time. Many thanks and congratulations go out to you, as well.

Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we begin our journey toward release 1.0. Yes, we continue on with our work—fully cognizant that there has been and will continue to be a good deal of discussion around the idea of Open Badges. To this we say, “Bully!” You may have guessed that we’re excited by the prospect of digital badges and we expect to remain so. Our heart is in the work.

In the coming days I’ll be following up this post with some history of how we got here, some decisions we made along the way, as well as some considerations for our future. Of course, you’re all invited.

Thanks for everything so far. More to come.

2012: Mozilla Open Badges update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update about our work on the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure: we have had our heads down working on making it the best possible system for a while. Here’s some insight into what we’ve accomplished thus far and where we’re heading in 2012.

First of all, a thank you to those who have not only expressed interest in our efforts but have worked to help us find ways to make it better. We’ve been lucky enough to have some of you work directly with us; we look forward to having even more of you do so in the future. Your enthusiasm and commitment feeds our work.

Second of all, a hearty thank you to everyone who has started imagining the rewarding possibilities of a future with Open Badges in it. The MacArthur Foundation’s 4th Digital Media and Learning Competition, Badges for Lifelong Learning, has provided us with the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of folks. Through it we’ve discovered nascent badge systems, well-developed badge systems, strategic assessment platforms, deep interest in alternative learning environments, and a variety of long-range goals. Perhaps most importantly, the DML competition has helped to enliven the conversation about alternative assessment and recognition of learning. We are tremendously excited about the three different competitions (Research, Badges, and Teacher Mastery), two of which (Badges and Teacher Mastery) will culminate at the DML conference in the beginning of March. You can see all the winners at the Mozilla Science Fair.

Undertaking something as significant as proposing and building an Open Badge infrastructure—with all of its attendant direct and indirect meanings—continues to prove to be a humbling and rewarding experience. As the Open Badges team engages the public to work with us to test this hypothesis, we’re learning a huge variety of things. Some of these things seem obvious in retrospect, and some seem surprisingly hidden, but this is the learning process, and we’re committed to it. As the Open Badges website states, we’re interested in capturing learning that happens anywhere at any time.

Consequently, we aim to keep on learning, modifying, adjusting, and recalculating as we go. We’re listening to your comments and we’re excited by your enthusiasms. We’re doing this to reimagine what learning can be. What’s nice about the entire experience is that we are stepping through the same process that others will experience themselves. The past few months have been revelatory: we’ve made new alliances, we’ve discovered possibilities for extensions of our work, and we’ve found eager audiences. As we continue to move forward, we run towards, stumble upon, back into, and greet with open arms new opportunities, like improving ease of use for the backpack or reconsidering our website (a full-on redesign is underway).

If you’ve been wondering what else is in store for 2012, please take a look at our newly modified roadmap. The first quarter of this year will see us posting Issuer APIs, Displayer APIs, and a rough cut of an Endorsement API. Looking at the immediate future, members of the team are about to kick off a week-long development sprint in New York City, speak at the Connexions conference in Houston, attend the DML conference in San Francisco, and then attend SxSW Edu in Austin. In addition, we’ll be conducting a webinar for Open Education Week on March 6th (more details to follow). We hope to see you at these events. And if there are other events you think we should know about, please drop us a note.

Two Three last things worth noting:

1) We now have an Open Badges community call every Wednesday at 9:00am PST (-08 UTC). You can learn more about that call, including the local and international dial-in numbers here: https://openbadges.etherpad.mozilla.org/openbadges-community.

2) If you are not already a member of the Open Badges conversation area/google group/mailing list, please join: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/openbadges. There you’ll find a rich history of software questions, notices of documentation efforts, philosophical considerations, and references to github repositories.

3) You can find us on Twitter here: @OpenBadges


Mozilla Open Badges: help us build the future

Mozilla is collaborating with the world to develop an open badge ecosystem.

What, might you ask, is an open badge ecosystem? Well, it’s a system that recognizes learning no matter where it occurs, whether it’s someone sitting alone in their room learning html from a peer-based learning organization like Peer to Peer University, or someone separating from the military getting recognition for their prior learning, or a non-traditional student taking an open education sociology course vetted by a prestigious university like Parsons / The New School.

Badges, the core of the open badge ecosystem, are digital representations of learning, skills, competencies, and experiences. They do not have to occur online but are represented through badges that contain metadata indicating the learning. You can learn more about our work at http://openbadges.org

We are building the core infrastructure technology for a digital badge environment that will support a variety of badge issuers—groups, organizations, academic institutions, or individuals who have developed assessment criteria and want to award badges to individuals as representations of their experiences or competencies. They can address both hard skills and human or soft skills.

And we hope that you are as excited about this new possibility as we are, and that you’ll help us build this brand new world. Experiment with us through the Digital Media and Learning competition: Badges for Lifelong Learning. Stage 2 is now underway.

Join today’s webinar Thursday, December 15 at 1pm Eastern / 10:00am Pacific. Check out http://dmlcompetition.net for more information about Stage 2.

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.

– – –

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.”  https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/953425726 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: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/977635438
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

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

HASTAC / MacArthur Foundation DML competition http://dmlcompetition.net
Scoop.it (a compendium of blog posts) http://www.scoop.it/t/badges-for-lifelong-learning/
Planet Open Badges (a compendium of badges blog posts) http://planet.openbadges.org/
Open Badges Infrastructure: http://openbadges.org
Archived video of announcement: http://www.dmlcompetition.net/Competition/4/dc-event.php

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: https://plus.google.com/104952151710859328097/about
NITLE blog post based on the hangout: http://blogs.nitle.org/2011/09/27/badges-and-education-a-nitle-videoconference-discussion/

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.