Badge On: Open Assessment

I began the #ioe12 open assessment module by watching the Badges for Lifelong Learning: An Open Conversation YouTube video. The video is a snappy introduction to the concept of open badges with endorsement for them from a number of senior educationalists/academics and CEOs.

Digital badges will make the accomplishments and experiences of individuals, in online and offline spaces, visible to anyone and everyone, including potential employers, educators and communities.

OK, sounds good…but what exactly are open badges?? And what do they have to do with open assessment?

When people talk about open badges they are usually referring to the Mozilla Open Badges project. The project is making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web, through a shared infrastructure that’s free and open to all. Badges can be issued by anyone (educational institution, work place, online learning organisations) to anyone. These badges can then be displayed publicly on a digital (or non-digital) space (blog, Web site, Facebook, email signature, CV etc).

In the Launch of HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation DML Competition 4: Badges for Lifelong Learning YouTube Mark Surman from Mozilla talks about how they are building an open badge infrastructure system. The first building block is a backpack system where users can store badges (a set of APIs for users). There is also the DML badge competition.

One example from the ioe12 resources is the Mozilla run School of Webcraft in which you can obtain badges. This is through the Peer 2 Peer University, a grassroots open education project that “creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education”. They leverage the internet and educational materials openly available online and so enables “high-quality low-cost education opportunities“.

On closer examination there do seem to be other badging systems, such as the Global Kids system within the Hive Networks system in the US. Their paper Six Ways to Look at Badging Systems Designed for Learning gives an overview of how they badging system works:

  1. Badges as an alternative assessment – This is the idea that assessment can take the form of ‘validated accomplishments’ instead of tests
  2. Gamifying education with badges – The games based achievement system has it’s origins in the Xbox 360 game score system – qualifications filtered through achievements.
  3. Badges as Learning Scaffolding – Badges, as a form of scaffolded learning, reveal multiple pathways that youth may follow and make visible the paths youth eventually take.
  4. Badges to Develop Lifelong Learning Skills – By offering names for their new competencies and supporting communities.
  5. Badges as DML Driver – Badges support digital, media and learning practices.
  6. Badges to Democratize Learning – Some badges change who does the assessment and allow learners to shape the content of their badging system and perhaps even the structure itself.

It’s a really interesting area, and seems to be very much ‘taking assessment to where the students are’. New and different approaches always face challenges and I didn’t feel there was enough on this in the ioe12 module. I expect some of the key problems are around validation of badges, the ease with which badges can be created and standards. Also by focusing on badges I think other ideas around open assessment (such as e-assessment, portfolios/diaries, PLEs, self-evaluation, learner created content) were sadly missed.

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