Being Loud about Badges

I read this article: The Quiet Revolution in Open Education and then I read this article: We do in fact need some Stinkin Badges in which the author addresses this comment (which I also laughed at):

Dear Mr. Carey,
I sincerely hope you are operated on by a surgeon and cared for by a nurse with a “mozilla open badge” as their source of legitimacy in the field.  When you sue for malpractice I similarly hope your attorney just kind of figured law out on her own. Should be lots of good results.

I had to comment on the comments because I think that people are missing the core idea of badges.

Pete May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm I see two challenges to this system. 1) Cheating. Badges are fine but I’m sure hackers can get around it and anyone can log in under a users name. 2) Where is the affective learning? It may be great at credentialing certain specific skills and knowledge but what about intangible, hard to measure outcomes that good schools can produce like critical thinking, collaboration skills and so forth.

In response to the “cheating argument”, I would like to point to an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education “The Shadow Scholar” ( Or how about the fact that the German Defense Minister plagiarized his PhD and recently resigned after the scandal that erupted. People cheat at life, they’ll cheat at badges just like they cheat in universities. This is a total NON argument.

As for critical thinking, collaboration skills and so forth, are you kidding? The Online World possess plenty of opportunities to advance exactly those skills. And those skills can be measured as well, as the pilot badge system from Mozilla and P2PU is clearly defining. There are badges for participation, collaboration and the like that multiple peers award you, and if you don’t get multiple peers to assign you a badge (multiple as in more than one), you don’t get the badge.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we (the education activists out here) aren’t looking to disband learning institutions, we’re looking to change the system for the better. The fact is education is changing because of new tools and techniques available to both teachers and learners. The whole ideas of standardized testing and “shut up and listen” learning have proven to be ineffective. It’s just fact.

The idea behind badges is to give people credit for things they learn, even when learning doesn’t happen in a traditional school environment. Badges will potentially be smaller segments of information (ie Badge in CPR as opposed to a Badge in Nursing). So you have a badge in CPR, no, you aren’t a nurse, but you can potentially save someones life and it’s a skill that should be recognized!

Sherman DornMay 18, 2011 at 11:20 am Conceptually, this could be seen as the potential to unbundle course credits (which are supposed to signal accomplishments in an academic program).
It’s a good point that unbundling degrees wasn’t successful (associates degrees mean exactly nothing, as do vocational certificates). The problem is that skills aren’t being recognized and lack of skills still are based on a degree. There are plenty of smart, talented and skilled people out there that didn’t have the benefit of money and thus learned on their own. They don’t have a degree from a higher learning institution and some are not getting jobs that suit their skills because of the lack of degree. Then there are people who had the benefit of wealth, went to a top name school, cheated or scraped by, and they’re earning top dollar.

There are more complicated implications to a program like this. Another comment said:

Will the open education resource become a viable alternative to a faltering, if not failing, educational system for the middle-class and working-class children in our society?  Highly unlikely as many of these students don’t have access to online educational resources, nor do they have a vision of using education to escape their current situation.

Yes, we have an internet literacy problem, an internet access problem, some of us are working on that. And yes it’s scary that, as a society, we’re failing our youth by NOT giving them that vision that education will help them escape their current situation. But this is a problem that badges also seeks to address, in my opinion. Collecting badges is supposed to be FUN. It’s adding a game element to learning, and I don’t see how that can be painted as negative. There isn’t anyone who didn’t play Memory to help them learn something or do quiz games with their friends before a big test. Games engage people, adults and children alike, and they can be used as an incentive to learn.

Education needs an overhaul. Students are graduating without learning how to read and write and we’re letting it happen. To me, badges seems like a pretty good way to catalog your learning, show other people that you’re learning and inspire learning. It’s a good way to showcase your knowledge in an easy to understand form. I’m pretty sure that exactly no one has ever looked at my actual college transcripts. I have a BA in Digital Graphics and am earning a MA in Media and Education. What do you know about those degrees? Did you know that I took Statistics and did well? Or that I have taken 6 different Art History classes? Or what about that I won a debate on Human Sexuality in Primitive Cultures?

With badges, you would know more about my education, I would be apt to collecting as many badges as possible, thereby igniting a passion to learn. It’s a good idea, and I think people need to get on board with the fact that education is changing.

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Being Loud about Badges

6 thoughts on “Being Loud about Badges

  1. It’s always comforting to see people being on the same page on the fundamentals of education :-)

    However, there are a couple of points I disagree on or would like to discuss.

    “The fact is education is changing because of new tools and techniques available to both teachers and learners.”
    => This is not true. There is no causality (I would know of) between new tools and changes in education. At most, technology provides a potential to change.
    I’ve been at the “e-education” day in Bordeaux. If you’re interested in my opinion of the event and read French, here is the full thing
    Long story short, they reduce technology to interactive whiteboards. The entire day was more or less dedicated to tell teachers what they can do with this tool (because it will be in their classroom soon anyway).
    I won’t say interactive whiteboard aren’t useful, but the problem with the fact that technology is associated with them is that it shows how mentality haven’t changed. The same “professor standing in front of a room and students sitting in a consumer role” paradigm is not questioned. Worse, politicians feel they’re being modern and progressists by turning non-interactive blackboard to interactive whiteboards.

    Tools won’t change education until people are ready to question current education with or without technology.
    Moreover, I don’t think the open education movement has been invented recently. It probably was here for a long time, scattered in schools all over the world. Internet was certainly just a tool to help them creating the community and giving them visibility to the rest of the world, but there are several people who thought education could be done differently long before the web.

    “Yes, we have an internet literacy problem”
    => I think we have a deeper problem. A computer literacy problem. People are completely disarmed when there is a problem with their computers. They have no idea that software comes from source code, they have no idea of the difference between an open and a closed file format. They aren’t taught these things because it would empower them. Internet is a step further.

    “internet access problem”
    => So true. Though, some country apparently get the importance of the web like Finland. One good thing could be to fight to get that in all countries. Would solve the internet access problem for most part.

    “I’m pretty sure that exactly no one has ever looked at my actual college transcripts. I have a BA in Digital Graphics and am earning a MA in Media and Education. What do you know about those degrees? Did you know that I took Statistics and did well? Or that I have taken 6 different Art History classes? Or what about that I won a debate on Human Sexuality in Primitive Cultures?”
    => I love this paragraph! :-D
    I’d like to share my own experience:
    I have a degree in Software Engineering and am working on a PhD in Software Engineering on web technologies. What do anyone know of these degrees? Can one know that I’ve been working on an art project with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux turning 15 computers into sculptures? Or that I gave a speech on individuals diversity during my year abroad? Or that I give JavaScript company training? JavaScript, a skill I’ve gained entirely out of my degree.

    1. laura says:

      Thanks so much for your comments! You’re absolutely right, I did sort of generalize a couple of statements. Also, I wish I could read French.

      The tools and technology do have the potential and the causality doesn’t exist, my bad. There are some innovative programs happening around the world that are questioning current methods of education as well as using technology in a much more succinct way than what you’ve described (ie the interactive whiteboards). Take for instance the Lake Forest Country Day School (for rich kids :( They boast an information literacy program and have a course going on right now called “Mapping Meaning” (created by awesome educator and friend Abigail Rudner) wherein students are taught to use Sketchup and online collaboration tools to re-envision a problem area in their neighborhood and create a solution together with their peers. The program teaches a whole plethora of media skills, both online and offline. Also, the Werkstatt schools in Germany. My niece attends this Werkstattschule and it’s pretty awesome. They have media responsibility discussions and are inspired to be curious about what is possible in terms of technology and, of course, the Web. They don’t have grades, don’t sit with a teacher up front, don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom…

      Thanks for clarifying for me. I don’t think we share different opinions on these matters, I too believe we have a computer literacy problem, I too believe education won’t change until people start questioning the state of education (also with or without technology). I’m in full agreement that having specialists present to help eliminate fear of computers is the best way to share knowledge in this area.

      Also, I liked your individuals diversity speech – I’m currently going through some sort of existential non crisis crisis so many of my details are now for everyone to see (here on Zythepsary), but even my honest and rash writings surely leave out important aspects, so we should meet sometime, perhaps at Drumbeat. Thanks again.

  2. I’ve been semi-conciously avoiding the Badges thing. I think Badges remind me too much of the ‘pieces of flair’ in Office Space, a movie which my closest colleague in a very bureaucratic organisation would quote constantly. However reading your post is encouraging me to take a look.

    Especially, thinking about the same bureacratic organisation’s desire for continuous improvement and very little idea of how to prove that you were, indeed, improving, continuously. You could probably use the Mozilla Badges as supporting evidence. However I don’t work there anymore so can’t try it.

    I think the internet literacy problem is probably a flow on from the general problem of people accepting what they’re given eg film, tv, music, books, magazines … so that many people will come home and watch tv, or use facebook, rather than making something. I’m really into encouraging people to make stuff, and I guess YouTube is cool in that people post their spoof videos, and that is one kind of making things.

    And the internet access problem is huge. I’ve just come back from Tasmania, the southern most state of Australia. Yes it’s an island, yes it’s remote, but it’s a whole state! And the internet access is crap. There are little access points in the local libraries but what do you do if you’ve been working on a salmon farm all day and when you get home the library is shut? I dunno.

    I’ve kind’ve got off the point of badges … hmm. Thanks for the interesting post!

  3. Hi Laura, I would appreciate it if you would give me credit and not post my work ideas or my words (as in your recent post about the history of the PI… where you quote me but don’t mention my name…) without proper mention of me… the creator of Mapping Meaning… many thanks, Abigail Rudner

    1. laura says:

      Abigail, I’m very truly sorry. Absolutely you deserve HUGE mention and THANKS for your inspiring work on Mapping Meaning! Please excuse my lameness!

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