I’m returning to my thinking space today thanks to a provocation from Donald Clark.
There is a grain of truth in each of his points about open badges but I think they need to be countered with some informed experience which is what I would like to provide here.
- Credibility: You cannot assume that credibility comes with ownership by “a major accreditation body”. This is something Donald has called out in the past so I wonder why he has changed his mind here?
- Objectivity: currencies matter within communities. They matter outside those communities when what they represent within those communities is established as having value elsewhere. This takes time but (as Brexit will show the UK) can be destroyed very quickly. Learners and other stakeholders who perceive value contribute to the trust required by sharing and showing their learning.
- Extrinsic/Intrinsic motivation: much of the research in this area focuses on children, not adults. Mirjam and I looked at this for this publication. The open badge infrastructure can provide useful pathways to discovery of learning opportunities.
- Portability: badges which are implemented using the open badge infrastructure rather than locked into proprietary systems can be exported between systems by the earner. I have done this many times, the shared standard generally works. Why would you lock your badges down?
- Branding: As an educator and a lifelong learner I rejoice when learning focuses on the substantial not the superficial. Sure it is nice to have a lovely graphic but it is low on my list of priorities.
- Mis-measurement: A badge can be trivial, attendance badges can be a way of identifying a community and a record for the earner of where they’ve been over time. It claims to be no more than that. So it is not “mis measuring” any more than a ticket for a concert (remember them?) can provide a nice reminder of an experience.
So my conclusion is not the same as that which Donald arrives at. I am more optimistic about this disruptive technology, particularly because it can work to address social justice. It puts learners at the heart of their learning at a time when jobs are scarce and the gig economy is hoovering up our young people, threatening them with an uncertain future in a world in which monetising basic resources is running unchecked. The current government clearly doesn’t value those who teach or indeed education as a public good. Having spent 35 years in education as a practitioner in both Secondary and Higher Ed sectors, I know that the learning landscape changes rapidly and assessment and curriculum design is too slow to keep up. My experiences with open badges are summarised in this publication which came out today.
In a recent discussion with Serge Ravet about the Open Recognition Alliance he makes very interesting points about how badges need to be about empowering learners to move on. He explains that we have to look beyond the badges themselves, they matter little. They are useful catalysts for discussion about what we value in learning, conversations which have not taken place for too long. Conversations which should include learners and practitioners as their experience matters. Currently such discussions are shaped only by those who wish to control: government ministers and private bodies who stand to benefit financially. Learning is too important to be trusted to such individuals. This last part of the discussion merits consideration so I am embedding it here.