“A credential, like any common currency, is valued only because of the collective agreement to assign it value. The value of a college degree has been in question since the Great Recession, but there have yet to emerge clear alternatives for the public to rally the around. There are plenty of contenders, though, and it won’t be long before one of them crystalizes the idea for the masses that the traditional degree is increasingly irrelevant in a world with immediate access to evaluative information.”—Michael Staton - Harvard Business Review
A week or so ago Barry Joseph - a close and valuable colleague and contributor the Open Badges community - posted “My Beef with Badges”, where he calls for a healthy dose of skepticism and honesty about our successes and our failures with open badges. I do not disagree with Barry’s main point: the goals with the badging work are lofty and tough, and we won’t see any significant impact or change if we aren’t watching closely, sharing (all) findings, recalibrating or evolving as we go. But there are specific points that Barry makes that I, errr, have beefs with, or that I feel deserve more context and discussion.
The problem that concerns me the most is the lack of a broad ecosystem for badges. I want to tell youth in our programs their badges will have value outside our museum, and many even need to hear that as a condition for participation. But without such an ecosystem in place, I’d be lying.
Again, I do not disagree with the general sentiment: the badging ecosystem is still young and while there is a lot of adoption and interest, there is still much more growth necessary to recognize the potential. It’s true that the ‘issuing’ side of badges has received and continues to receive the most attention from the community. Why? Because without valuable badges out there to earn, the conversation about systemic change stops pretty quickly. That said, in the last year, there has been significantly more interest and work on the ‘consumption’ side of badges - employers using badges in the hiring process, universities using badges for admission, etc. - and we’ll see even more of that this year, as it’s a top priority of the Badge Alliance. But there are a few things I’ll say:
1) I think we’re selling ourselves and our learners short if we ONLY link ‘value’ with our own top-down predefined measures (i.e. got me a job). There is a lot of value that can come out of learning in and of itself, community participation, as well as reputation and identity building. Before the open badges work, we weren’t doing a very good job recognizing any of that stuff. Now we’re starting to change that, and there’s some value in simply calling it out to youth (or learners of any age for that matter). Recognizing learning can help them know what they know, learn how to learn, discover themselves. And unlike anything else they may have experienced so far in their education-related trials and tribulations, the badges they earn are theirs. They own the data about their learning. They can decide what they value, what is reflective of who they are or want to be. With that as a new starting point, they can begin to build a personalized, customized story in a way that’s valuable to them. So, if we as badge system builders get stuck in a cycle of trying to determine what’s going to be valuable for learners upfront, we’ll find ourselves reinventing the same system we’re dealing with now. Not saying that we shouldn’t be considering how to build badges that are valued and used by employers or admissions folks, but we can’t limit ourselves - or our learners - to that alone.
2) Don’t wait for the ecosystem, build some of those connections yourself. I’ve endured a lot of finger pointing and curved-eyebrow questioning over the last few years. Which employers are accepting badges? Which badges are being accepted for credit? By whom? Where can I use them? What’s the currency? These are all extremely important questions and as I mentioned before, a top priority of the Badge Alliance. But why wait for it at an ecosystem level? Build in some of the currency directly. Reach out to local businesses, forge that relationship with an institution. You know your learners better than anyone else, so figure out what they want with them and start to layer that into your badge system design thinking. That only makes your badges, your entire offering and the ecosystem more valuable. Win-win-win.
I mean I love them for what I’ve seen them actually achieve: new literacies amongst youth to describe their learning within a Brooklyn after-school program; new motivation within an Atlanta private school; pride in portfolios within a Bronx library; a new understanding of how to use learning technology in a New Orleans day school; the emergence of formative assessment within a New York museum. I am informed by the theoretical but guided by practice, by what I have seen with my own eyes over the past five years…
…But I preferred to focus on that achievement rather than the majority of youth who displayed little interest in badges as their design offered scant value beyond an additional form of grading.
I have to say I’m pretty sad if we can’t celebrate the individual learner anymore. Sounds like there were some pretty positive things that came out of the experience for some youth. Let’s not discount that. Indeed, let’s celebrate that! If we are going to hold ourselves to solutions that work for everyone out of the box, we’re on a slippery slope towards standardized testing.
But OF COURSE the badges didn’t ‘work’ for all youth (although we really need to define what ‘work’ means). Badges are not a silver bullet. They are not a magical solution you can overlay and expect them to enlighten every type of learner out of the box. Does anything work that way? Badges are a tool for recognizing more and connecting more learning than we were able to do before. We still need to approach badging by being thoughtful about how we’re developing them, using them, and consuming them, all the while paying close attention to our learners and their needs, etc. Barry is totally right that we need to be honest about what worked (and who it worked for), and what didn’t work (and who it didn’t work for), so that we can build better systems that have different badges or options for different learners. But we’ve still got to do the work.
But, I do harbor concerns. Not concerns about extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, or whether badges are the right focus for advancing alternative assessment. Those don’t concern me.
Interestingly, the things that Barry is not concerned about are the exact elements that we don’t have enough information about. Those are the things that we need the honest feedback and findings about. They are exactly the elements that play into how we design learning experiences and align badge systems that cater to each of our learners.
We all have a beef, or severals beefs with badges. I would be worried if we didn’t, because that would mean that we weren’t taking this seriously enough; that we didn’t think it had enough potential to warrant the tough questions. “Hopeful skepticism" is a common thing I hear, and even feel myself at times. We don’t have all of the answers figured out, but we agree that there are some problems that need solving and there is definitely some promise, some potential resident in the idea of badges that’s worth exploring.
My ‘yes, and’ to Barry’s general call for sharing and honesty about the failures, would be for us to be open and persistent about our beefs. And equally open and persistent about addressing and solving those beefs. Not to just state them or poke holes - that part is easy - but to commit to doing the hard work of finding answers, finding solutions, and suggesting alternative approaches.
I’m also pretty hopeful that the recent announcement of the Badge Alliance @SRL14 will help in this direction (Marc Lesser, from comments on Barry’s post)
Marc Lesser, of MOUSE and Open Badges community fame is spot on. I too am hopeful that the Badge Alliance will be able to move us towards progress, honesty, and impact. Simply creating the Badge Alliance (with close to 300 organizations already signed up as members), is a statement that we’re committing to collaborating and zeroing in on these issues. And now its my team’s (and ultimately the wider network’s) job everyday to ensure we are not only just talking about our beefs, but actually addressing them.
IN FACT, the Open Badges community call TOMORROW is dedicated to talking through some lessons learned so far. Join us.
So thanks, Barry, for your important and timely post. Looking forward to digging in together.
That paper is the initial outcome of a project they kicked off last year around exploring the feasibility of badging in the adult learning space. As part of that project I was invited to co-author the initial version of the paper along with Jonathan Finkelstein from Learning Times and Susan Manning from Northwestern University.
I have to say co-authoring can be really hard, especially when you aren’t co-located, but the AIR/OVAE folks did a pretty fantastic job wrangling us. It was a pretty fun experience, which included synchronous writing sessions on key issues to start to form a pool of notes that the outline was then derived from, dividing and conquering pieces of the paper and then swapping to put some fresh flavor, and facilitated chat discussions with a wider community to get feedback.
I learned a lot about adult learners in the process and really got excited about the potential. Adult learners are ‘non-traditional’. They may be looking to enter a new career path with more opportunity for them, or to learn skills necessary to advance within their job. They often have many life demands that make a 4 (or even 2) year degree unrealistic both financially and time-commitment-wise. They often have a wealth of life or job experience that is not recognized in any way, or easily communicated to a potential employer. The existing education system wasn’t set up for these types of learners and it does not always offer them many options. For me, badging was more than just feasible, it is needed. The adult learning space is screaming for a new way of thinking about learning recognition, discovery and communication. It’s screaming for badges. The obvious fits out of the gate were:
Badges can liberate adult learners from lengthy, required prescribed pathways, and allow for more a la carte choice. This also potentially shifts the power balance a bit so that teaching and learning institutions are competing for the learner, versus the other way around.
Badges can recognize more incremental learning so that a learner has something to show for the time they could put in, even if they couldn’t finish the course or complete the program at one particular time.
Badges can offer a map - a way for learners to better understand the skills they have, the skills they need, and where to find learning opportunities.
And finally, badges can help learners build their complete story and identity (including representing experience they already have) and connect that directly to employers.
While working through the paper, the conversation quickly moved from feasibility, to where to dig in first. The paper does a nice job outlining the potential uses of badges, as well as the particular affordances of badges that AIR/OVAE and the broader community felt had the most potential for adult learners. Some overlap with my initial thinking, but said much more eloquently. I’ll share an excerpt here:
Digital badge standardization and the democratization of achievement recognition: A world where achievement is recognized primarily with diplomas and degrees represents a world full of barriers for many adults. Badges break down walls and allow many organizations—even those not traditionally in the credit-granting realm to recognize success and achievement in their own domains of observation and interaction with people.
Granularity, portability, and retention: As the very definitions of literacy and most adult literacy curricula suggest, the skills required to be truly literate span a wide range of competencies and can be developed across a broad spectrum of disciplines. For adults, whose life demands make them prone to interruptions in completing courses of study, the granular nature of digital badges makes them an appealing measure of ongoing progress and success.
Embedded learning, new skills, and alternative providers: By virtue of their capacity to recognize discrete skills and the fact that any organization or entity can issue badges or digital credentials, digital badges open the door for the recognition of new skills and competencies….Badges magnify the potential to reward adult learners for their contributions, involvement, and achievement in nontraditional and alternative learning settings.
Despite a late March snow storm in DC, the briefing was well attended (only virtually by me thanks to said snow storm) and there was a lot of great discussion around the paper and badging in general. A few of the points that came up have inspired additional blog posts that will follow shortly.
All-in-all, a great experience and great things ahead.
When we decided to soft launch the Badge Alliance at the Summit to Reconnect Learning, my Communications Director had about 5 days notice to pull everything together. She did, of course, pull everything together as she always does, but there was definitely some throwing ‘good enough for now’ words up on a site at the last minute. As we are starting to more formally kick off some branding work, we went back to the tagline we used. While it might not be where we end up, there was and is a lot of truth in those words, and there are layers that really get to the heart of what we’re trying to do (and I suppose, what we’re now on the hook for doing!)
The Badge Alliance is “a network of organizations working together to build and advance an open badging ecosystem”
Let’s break that down a bit…
"The Badge Alliance is a network of organizations…"
The Badge Alliance is made up of organizations that want to work on these issues together, want badges to succeed, believe in a similar vision. These organizations (and in some cases, individuals) are volunteering to contribute to working groups, to roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary to move the badging work forward. They are the lifeblood of the Alliance, and of the ecosystem we are building.
After a relatively low profile soft launch, we already have close to 300 organizations that have not only expressed interest in the Badge Alliance, but have signed up to participate in at least one working group. In many cases, they have signed up for several. The initial response has blown me away and I am more convinced than ever that the Alliance is so important and timely.
One of the reasons we have created the Badge Alliance is that this work is so much bigger than any individual organization. It’s going to take a village. It’s going to take an ecosystem. That means non-profits, tech providers, agencies, institutions, schools, corporations, foundations have a role to play. It’s only through connection and collaboration across these organizations and sectors, that we will make significant progress for learners and workers across their lifetimes.
As I mentioned before, we’re pretty serious about the collaboration part. So much so that the Badge Alliance is completely built around working groups. All of the work is/will be done through working groups. All of the key issues are tackled through working groups. Most of our job will be to facilitate, recruit for and shepherd working groups. Working groups, working groups, working groups! We’re all probably going to start getting so sick of hearing those words, we’ll have to make up some others. Constellations! Action teams! Etc. But for now, working groups.
It’s a super exciting approach with lots of potential. We’ve already got a really healthy mix of organizations that seem energized and ready to dig in. But its also a little scary. I’ve always been of the ‘if it needs doing, I’ll just do it" mentality, but now our role will to wrangle, recruit and ultimately rely on lots of different players to move the ball forward. Again, together is the only way we succeed. We’ve been spending the last couple of weeks trying to create some guidelines and process to create a layer of accountability and confidence in working group outcomes, which we’ll share in the next week or so, but really these are working theories. This is going to be a constant work in progress, with payoffs so much bigger than any of us could accomplish on our own.
"…to build and advance…" (Or "…to build and grow…")
This is a pretty heavy piece. Building and advancing. What does that mean? Where do we start? What does success or advancement or sufficient growth look like? One deliverable that we are on the hook for, with our Steering Committee, is an initial definition of umbrella goals, strategy and metrics for the badge ecosystem, that we will then vet with the broader network. This will help to provide a larger context for all of your work, while also connecting work across the ecosystem, highlighting gaps or new opportunities to put some attention into and giving us all way to determine if we are winning.
But we don’t need that, and frankly, can’t wait for that to keep the momentum going. Each of you can probably list a few things that you think are needed to advance the broader badge work, or maybe even your own badge systems. Issues that need tackling, hurdles that are in the way, use cases you need to see, questions you need answered…I guarantee if you all did write them down, there would be a lot of overlap. And I can also guarantee that we’ve probably been talking about many of them since very early on. So let’s stop talking and dig in. That’s the purpose of a working group. Let’s pick one of these key issues and work together on it. Let’s set concrete goals and divide and conquer.
With our soft launch of the Badge Alliance, we tried to capture what to us felt like some of the most critical issues/topics through the initial working groups:
Open Badges Standard - shaping the evolution of the open standard for badges
Endorsement - how to build functionality and practice around third party endorsement of badges
Cities & Network-wide Badge Systems - how to support network level badging systems
Badges Messaging - how we talk consistently and effectively about badges to different audiences
Globalization, Localization & Badge the World - how to encourage and support badging in other countries and cultures
Web Literacy & Digital Literacy Badges - a shared badge system(s) for promoting and recognizing important digital skills
Badges for Admission to Higher Education - how to get badges into the admissions evaluation process
Recruiting Next Generation Workforce & Acceptance by Employers - linking badges to jobs, internships, career advancement and other opportunities
Badges for Educators & Professional Development - granularrecognition for teachers and educators
This initial set of working groups isn’t comprehensive, of course, but reflects where we and the broader community sense some the biggest urgency or heat. It’s a healthy mix of driving adoption on the issuing side, while also really starting to dig in on the ‘consumption’ or currency side of the ecosystem as well. We already have begun to identify a fast follow set of working groups that will most likely include things like research, validation (although this one is too big for one working group), K12/schools (also too big), pathways and privacy/data.
(you can still participate in these working groups - visit http://badgealliance.org to sign up. You can also suggest additional topics/working groups you think should be represented)
"…an open badging ecosystem…"
Oh you thought the last part was heavy? Wait for this one! :)
An open badging ecosystem. I could write several blog posts on the meaning/importance of that phrase, probably at least one post on each one of those words (the one on “an” would be a page turner ;)).
But while we *could* (and I am sure at some point *will*) get existential and philosophical, this doesn’t have to be that complex. If we agree that ultimately this is about recognizing and connecting learning of many (and of more) kinds across contexts and across lifetimes, and leveraging that recognition to better connect people to jobs, additional learning, personal growth, advancement, social connections and more, then there are some pretty obvious and important lines in the sand, but only a few. Two actually.
1) Badges must be interoperable. In this case, that means badges must align with the open standard, which is the ‘information model’ for badges.
2) Earners must own their badges and have control over where they are stored, how they are shared, etc.
That’s it really. If we all agree on those two points, then we have the makings for a healthy ecosystem. If badges are interoperable, then they are stackable, we can ensure we have enough information for making sense of them and we can always build tools and processes on top of them to better issue, manage, understand, etc. And if earners are in control, then badges cannot get ‘stuck’ in a silo and we can continually build in more connections and opportunities for that badge earner. The work doesn’t stop with these two ‘principles’, but these are the minimum required to ensure that the ecosystem can grow up around the badges in a way that places the learner at the center.
We haven’t gotten so far as to finalize a manifesto or formalize any requirements for membership, but I can’t imagine these two NOT being in there in some shape or form. We’ll be co-creating these types of things with our Steering Committee and Alliance members, so obviously much more to come here.
So…we didn’t do so bad with our first tagline. There’s a lot in here, maybe some of it is controversial. Certainly some of it I intend to dive into much more deeply in subsequent blog posts. But don’t wait for that - I’m definitely interested in getting feedback and hearing more from you on these somewhat rambling thoughts. Where do you agree? Where do you disagree? What are other working group priorities? What does open ecosystem mean to you? What other names for working groups should we use? :) This is a pretty critical juncture in the Badge Alliance and the overall work so now’s the time to weigh in!
And don’t forget, another way to get involved is to participate in one or more of the working groups. You can sign up on the site http://badgealliance.org
At the Summit, we announced a new venture to build a Badge Alliance. The Alliance is a network of organizations and individuals working together to build and support an open badging ecosystem. Members of the Badge Alliance will collaboratively tackle important issues, questions and opportunities to continue to push the work forward.
We also announced that I will be transitioning out of Mozilla to build and run the Badge Alliance. Over the the course of the year, I’ll move to the Alliance full time to drive this work.
I am incredibly excited about this opportunity - it really feels like the natural and necessary evolution of the badging work and of my role in it.
We really need this. The badges work relies on a robust ecosystem and while there are many many folks playing in the space, we aren’t leveraging each other enough. We aren’t sharing enough. We aren’t building a knowledge base. We aren’t moving the ball forward as quickly as we could. And that’s not because we don’t want to. It’s not your job. You each need the space to do your work, your slice, with your agenda, timeline and perspectives. Someone else needs to help connect the dots, set overarching goals, drive the conversations that need to happen. Well, now that’s my job. :)
So I am just thrilled. This is going to be fun!
As this has been unfolding, I keep getting pulled nostalgically back to a dusty corner in a Barcelona museum…we were at the Mozilla Festival in 2010 in “the Badge Lab” and posed a set of questions: What if we reimagined credentials to support a broader definition of learning? What if we thought about digital badges as a way to capture more about what we know and an do? Folks then wrote down the questions, issues and ideas that came to mind.
Now that was a relatively small group of people - maybe 15. But let me tell you, the amount of post its produced was astounding. We’d both hit a nerve but also hit on something worth talking about. And talk we did, we spent the next 3 days digging in.
This story is relevant to me right now for a couple of reasons:
First of all, many of the folks in those conversations then are still in conversations today. In fact, many were at the Summit with me. That day, we started a community, we started the ecosystem that is vital to the success of this work. That has grown significantly over the last 3 years. There are so many of you contributing to major ways to the work and that’s absolutely critical. And there is so much potential when we start to leverage each other. I feel so motivated and inspired by this opportunity to get up everyday thinking about how to support you, connect the work and move us all forward.
Second, many of those questions that were written on those post it notes are still open questions today. In fact, some are topics we spent the first day of the Summit talking about. We’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time and we are at a moment where we can make decisions and really accelerate by more formally working together.
The Badge Alliance will operate through working groups that are facilitated by the Alliance team. This isn’t really new - as evidenced by the 300 people who showed up to the Summit to work through key issues - this is how we’ve been working already. The Badge Alliance will just layer in more intentionality, accountability and support.
We are going to hit the ground running. Today is the soft launch, with a formal launch planned for Q2, but in the meantime, we are going to kick off the initial working groups. These working groups will help us continue the conversations and work needed to move the ball forward on important issues. You can visit http://badgealliance.org to view the initial working groups, sign up to participate and suggest additional ones.
I may be taking a leadership role in the Alliance, but this is way bigger than me. Just as the Alliance is a network of organizations building the ecosystem, it needs those organizations to help shape it. It’s incredibly exciting to me that a number of organizations have already stepped up as founding members:
Huge hugs and high fives to these folks for their initial interest and support. And it’s not too late to contribute as a founding member. If you are interested visit http://badgealliance.org or email me at email@example.com.
Also, definitely sign up and secure your spot on the initial working groups that are important to you. You can do so at http://badgealliance.org.
Many many more posts to come from me with more information as this unfolds.
Just back from MozFest, where we announced BadgeKit, an Open Badges tool stack that will support the key pieces of the badging experience. This includes defining/designing, assessing, issuing, collecting/managing, sharing and using. BadgeKit will consist of open, lightweight tools that can snap together or be used alongside or within other sites or systems. Sunny and Jess both respectively wrote about it in more detail, but I wanted to dig into the “why”.
Why BadgeKit, why now?
We’ve been pretty good about explaining the WHAT of our work, but I think we can be better about explaining the WHY. Often the WHY is because of feedback we’ve gotten from you, or because of a risk to ecosystem, etc. The WHY is always tied to our values. But I don’t think we talk about it enough. So, I wanted to take a second and jot some of my thinking on the WHY for BadgeKit down for folks to start that conversation:
 Despite the progress we’ve made with interest and buy-in with badges, the gap between I get it and I have it is way too big. Platforms have emerged that are big, closed and expensive, and there is a huge risk of segmenting or closing large chunks of the ecosystem. Despite us promoting the ‘open’ part of Open Badges, its increasingly EASIER to build a closed system because of the limited availability of tools. We need to fix that. The ecosystem needs simple, easy, open options to move quickly and do so in a way that benefits the entire ecosystem.
 And building from that, we need to bake our values into the core so that it is easy to build badges and systems that are open, interoperable, transparent, learner-centric, etc. By offering a set of tools to scaffold badging, we have a chance to support our values even further. For example, we care a lot about the open standard (and in fact think that’s the most important piece of all of this), so we should make it REALLY easy to build badges that are aligned with that standard. Easier than building badges that DON’T align with the standard.
 But that’s not all. This isn’t a new idea out of nowhere, this is actually WHAT WE BUILT FOR CSOL, but more standalone, more complete, and more valuable to the broader ecosystem. We actually ALREADY HAVE BADGEKIT - we have all of the foundations. We are now really working to build out these tools in a way that makes them easy and accessible.
 Oh yeah and there are TONS of other organizations, cities and groups that want to do what Chicago did or something similar. Networked or ‘connected’ badges are the future - that’s the secret sauce that badges provide but we need the systems to support it. There are so many variables with these badge systems, that it seems to make sense to try to have some shared pieces to help minimize the burden and maximize the speed and efficiency of these roll outs. Plus, a shared technology infrastructure makes for easy sharing and leveraging across these networks. And if that technology is open and extensible, we all win.
 Finally, we don’t have a bottom line. Building tools in a way that works well with other tools, and invites - even welcomes - competition, is not what any VC would recommend or support. Our priorities are ease of use, but also extensibility, interoperability and playing nice with others. We want to spend the time defining common interfaces so that you can use our issue tool with an assessment tool from somewhere else. Or pick up our build tool and make it better. We want more and better tools in the ecosystem, but the key is that they all work within the same open ecosystem. I don’t say all of this to be snobby, I think its a luxury that we can work this way. But also an obligation. That’s what makes Mozilla Mozilla, and I think we need to step up and build these foundational pieces to increase access and help everyone, including other open tool providers, thrive.
On the why now piece, the demand really speaks for itself. But above and beyond that, I’ve been reflecting back on this entire wild ride. In late 2010 (2010!), when badges was merely a few months old, there was a lot of pressure internally and externally to build an issuing platform. Brian and I, the only Open Badges employees at the time, resisted this at the time because we were afraid that if we did that, we’d too greatly influence the development of the badge ecosystem. We didn’t have a really solid idea of what a good badge looked like or how badge systems could work at that point. And whatever decisions we made and built into the platform would have heavily weighted the ecosystem out of the gate. We showed this diagram (below) all the time and repeated over and over that the stuff in the boxes (with the big blue lines around them) was independent of us, by design. We wanted to build the necessary pieces to support and not confine innovation at the edges, where the learning was taking place.
And yet here we are building issuing tools. But I really think things are different now. We’ve seen a ton of badges and badge systems. We’ve built a ton ourselves. We’ve seen a market emerge around the tools, some done the right way, and some done the wrong way. We also know how to build more neutral systems, and our role in protecting and promoting the open standard. I still think that was the right decision initially, but also think that we’re really primed to do this now.
BadgeKit is already available for select partners - we’ve used it to support Chicago Summer of Learning, Connected Educator Month and Open Badges badges to date. We’ll continue to build out instances to support specific partners and campaigns that engage with us, but are aiming to release a free, open public beta of the standalone offerings in early March 2014.
We really do need feedback from folks on this direction, as well as the specifics of BadgeKit. We keep saying “simple” and “easy” but need some help defining exactly what that means to people, what they need. We will need help prioritizing all of the potential features as well. And more. So look for more from us, and in the meantime, reach out and tell us what you think.
The mornings are crisp and the leaves are turning rich colors here (you should come!)…it’s officially Fall. We’ve wrapped up the Chicago Summer of Learning and have had some time to reflect on how it went.
It was helpful to start the debriefing process with a look back at what our original goals were back in what feels like years ago, but was only February of this year. Looking at the numbers through that lens has helped us start to thoroughly evaluate this summer. We, of course, want to supplement the raw numbers with more real feedback from youth and organizations and research, all of which is forthcoming.
Challenge all Chicago youth to learn over the summer
Call on all youth serving organizations to collaborate and support learning initiatives over the summer
Highlight opportunities in the city related to STEAM
Internally, we also aspired to:
Reach as many youth as possible, especially low-income or minority kids, get them to earn at least one badge (goal: 100,000)
Provide pathways for youth to encourage additional learning and ‘leveling up’ (goal: 1000 kids leveling up)
Get as many participating orgs as possible (goal: 100)
Make the badges ‘worth something’ (goal: avoid all ‘participation’ badges, engage CPS and local institutions to recognize badges)
Total badges issued: ~150,000 (note: number includes some badges that are still in the process of being issued)
Total badges claimed to date: ~50,000
Total badges wish listed: >5000
Gender breakdown: of reported 53% Female, 47% Male
Race breakdown: of reported, 56% african american, 7% white, 6% asian, 29% latino/hispanic, 2% other
Age breakdown: of reported 26% under 13, 60% 13-17, 9% 18-24, 5% over 24
Average time on site: ~6 minutes
Total youth who earned city-level badges: ~600
Total youth who completed challenges, or successfully leveled up: ~300
THOUGHTS ON THE NUMBERS
What Went Well:
When I look through these numbers, the initial reaction is wow. We can go down the goals and check them off across the board. Over 100 orgs and 1000+ badging opportunities represents not only a lot of coordination and collaboration that I am still shocked that we all could pull off in just a few months, but also an incredible coverage across the city and a heck of a lot of learning opportunities. The badges themselves were really great - with only a few orgs issuing badges simply for participation*, but most badges focused on skill development with robust assessment and criteria. The Chicago organizations really stepped up and came into this summer and this new concept of badging with open minds and a dedication that was astounding. Huge kudos to all of them - they are the ones with the content, experiences and relationships with youth that matter. The badges are just the recognizer on top of that learning. That said, the badges were very strong and DePaul University has already stepped up to say that they will accept some of the badges for credit in their institution, and CPS is working to define rewards and advancement that they can offer for the badges.
(*Note: this is not to say that participation badges are *bad*. There are many reasons why rewarding someone with an initial participation badge could be valuable, including motivating additional work, recognizing time commitment, etc. But we wanted to hold ourselves to a goal of having the majority of the badges tied to a deeper assessment, which they were)
Orgs issued over 100,000 badges this summer - that represents a lot of learning and a lot of youth. And there is diversity among those youth. Time on the site shows that youth (and parents) were spending time searching for things to learn or digging into the self-paced challenges that were available for youth on the site, and the wishlisted badges show that some youth were setting goals and into learning more.
Even though we had set a goal around 1000 youth leveling up, I was pretty worried about this one given the fact that many programs started later in the summer and often required multiple weeks of participation and learning before a badge was issued. In order to level up, kids had to not only earn a badge, but earn several within the same category (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts or Math). This most likely involved doing a combination of local learning programs and online self-paced challenges. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost 600 youth got to the city level badges and had access to the challenges, of which almost half of those completed challenges, which were not easy and required commitment and hard work.
What Could Have Gone Better:
The part I am less wowed by is the disconnect between the badges issued and the amount that have been claimed. This number is less stark as it looks but only about 50% of badges issued were claimed and added to Backpacks. To explain this a bit, badges were issued one of two ways: 1) through an issuing tool built by Mozilla called OpenBadger that had an admin interface for org representatives where they could issue badges to youth emails, the youth or their parent had to click through the link in the email to accept the badge and have it show up in the youth’s backpack. 2) Organizations with offline learning experiences could also hand out paper badges with unique claim codes printed on each. The earning youth then needed to log on to the website and enter the claim code to see it in the Backpack.
There is still some research to conduct, including some surveys and focus groups that folks are conducting to learn about what worked and didn’t work for kids this summer, but its likely that the lower number of badge acceptance most reflects breakdowns in the overall user experience. Many youth haven’t checked their emails, or didn’t click through links of the original, text-only emails. Some might not have had access to a computer at all to claim or accept the badges. Others may have lost the paper badges - its likely there are lots stuffed down in corners of physical backpacks - before they could claim them. Another option is that kids just didn’t care about the badges, or didn’t understand the value, so that’s something we’re exploring more.
While, as I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of kids leveling up, we did not hit that initial goal of 10% of kids. Some of this can also be attributed to user experience design, some of this was the relatively short amount of time to learn and earn and level up. I also think there is an opportunity to design and promote challenges in a way that even more connects directly to youth interests and real opportunities. I’d love to see more challenges next year that show youth completing real projects for their neighborhoods or the city of Chicago. Or developing skills that are directly tied to career pathways, jobs and internships.
In general, the numbers were again, impressive, but I think we can do more. Through a combination of improved tools, better user experience design, more and better training and more marketing and communication, I think we can bring more organizations on board, reach more youth and see more accepted badges.
There is a big assumption in that last statement: that we are doing another CSOL in 2014. I think there was a resounding consensus in a recent meeting in Chicago that the results of this year’s summer were compelling enough to demonstrate the value and promise of this work. So there will be a CSOL 2014, and in fact, maybe something more on the lines of CYOL (Chicago Year of Learning or something like that). Lots of details to work out on the goals, roles and specifics for that work, but given that we are building from a foundation and set of findings, as well as starting those conversations in September instead of a few months before launch, to me, means the possibilities are enormous and exciting.
We’ve learned so much this summer about what it takes to build a badge system at this level, how we can better the tools, who to invite to the table from the get-go, and more. Lots of work to do to get to a 2.0, but there are a lot of pretty clear marching orders. Look from more blog posts from me and the team on these lessons learned and thoughts for moving forward on our pieces.
Also, turns out that Chicago is and will continue to be a hub for innovation and advancement with badging, but another exciting development is that more cities are interested in building something similar to CSOL in their neighborhoods and I think we’re going to see not only more geographical reach, but also a significant amount of more learning and youth impacted in less than a year.
“As I’ve written often in the past, I believe the automation of recruiting, job seeking and hiring has exacerbated America’s employment crisis. Online forms and tools like the “apply with LinkedIn button” make it too easy for the wrong applicants to apply for jobs, and harder for employers to find the right ones. But when a job applicant’s position on the stack of resumes can be bought, the search for the best-qualified candidates is even further compromised, and so is our economy.”—
My last post on the Badge Summit was more of a ‘here’s what happened’, but wanted to follow that up with some of my own reflections and inspirations.
Distributed leadership: We talk a lot transparency and community-driven development at Mozilla, and certainly within Open Badges. Our aspirations are so high, that it would be impossible to begin to even start to meet them without a movement, without markets, without more and more people not just involved, but driving things forward. We want to build a new system for credentialing and accreditation, we want to redefine learning - there’s no way one, or even three, organizations could do that. We need the full ecosystem fully realized and fully empowered. But one thing that became even more clear at the summit was that we are well on our way. I was awed by the leadership and work that folks in the room represented. There is so much that other people are already doing and contributing, we just have to make sure we are coming together from time to time to swap stories and celebrate the success.
Exemplars: The word of the day(s) at the event was “exemplar”. There were a few that even threatened to start a drinking game. But whether it was in the conversations about marketing and communications, or in a group focused specifically on higher education or workforce, it’s clear that the most critical way forward is to have working proofs of concept for each of the stories that we need to tell or use cases that we want to show. Exemplars allow us to scope and focus in on building something specific quickly, that then can be a model that other similar groups or organizations can follow. They also can also function as a laboratory where were are advancing the tools and experiences, while also learning a significant amount about what works and what doesn’t. CSOL is a great example of an exemplar because it includes a bunch of ‘new’ stuff that before were often only ideas or theories: network-level badging, earning badges across many informal learning experiences, leveling kids up through pathways and translating learning back into schools and local businesses. It’s a mini version of the ecosystem that we can see results of in a 3 month time period instead of 3 years, or whatever turns out to be. We need to do more of these. (And I don’t mean just ‘we’ as in Mozilla, but ‘we’ as the broader badging community. Mozilla will most likely do some but there are many that need to be defined, recruited for, designed, tested, communicated, etc.)
Local: Building off of the last one, there was a lot of interest in ‘cities’ at the summit - thinking about badges in a local context as a key set of exemplars. To me this is really exciting for a number of reasons, including the same thing I said before which is that we are building mini ecosystems, with all of the players - issuers, learners, validators, employers, schools, etc. - in the mix and at the table from the get-go. This is super powerful because it moves us away from some of the philosophical rabbit holes that we often get stuck in - like “How are badges validated? Do they have meaning?” - and make those questions concrete and addressable. City-level anything, let alone badge systems, are also really hard to do and there is tremendous learning involved. If we can make it work at the city level, then we’re in a good place for addressing needs at each org-level and even at the ecosystem-level in many ways. And finally, badges in the local community / city context have real meaning for those earners in their lives right away. So regardless of what happens in the broader ecosystem, those badges meant and will mean something to those learners. Let’s do more cities.
Small data: Another recurring theme, which I actually first heard at the DML conference, but then came up again at the summit was “small data”. The idea of personalized data tracking or even local community-level data, that can give you real-time feedback on who you are, what you can do, what you are doing, what role you play, etc., and help you choose your pathway or alter your behavior in the process. It’s the quantified self idea, but for learning. I’m not sure exactly what it means yet but I love the idea of learners owning their data and that being a powerful mechanism for driving choices, opportunity, evidence, etc.
Learning GPS: As we sketched out our own perspectives on the current state of the ecosystem a new role appeared several times across the sticky notes. The idea of a person or an organization that helps learners choose pathways. We dubbed it “learning GPS”. This exists right now in coaches or career advisors, but badges actually makes this an easier and more powerful role because they can surface the universe or ‘map’ of learning opportunities, all backed by information and data to show the value and endorsements of each step along the way. Exciting possibilities!
These were just a few of the themes and reflections that I left with. I’m sure there are more and will try to add to this as I continue to process all of the goodness that came out of the two days in Toronto.
This week kicked off with a meeting of badge minds in Toronto. Around 30 of us packed into the lovely Centre for Social Innovation to discuss the emerging badge ecosystem and how to drive the next era of the badge work together. We were, you know, socially innovating. :)
A common theme was that the badges work is bigger than one organization, certainly bigger than Mozilla. There is SO much to do, and there are many roles that need filling, and more everyday as the ecosystem and market(s) grow. We’re already seeing leaders emerging beyond the initial Mozilla, MacArthur, HASTAC work and this meeting was about celebrating and honoring that, as well as encouraging more ownership to tackle key pieces that the ecosystem needs.
Day 1 was about visioning (what’s our shared vision of success) and level setting (what’s out there already). Day 2 was digging into some of the key questions, opportunities and challenges, with the focus on building working groups around them and getting actionable plans in place.
Core topics included:
Ecosystem: We talk about this all the time. But what does the ecoystem actually include/look like at this point? What are the roles to be played? What are the pieces that still need special attention? More to come - including a fancy visual - on this piece.
Sector specific needs: What are the specific needs and value propositions for badges from each sector? What’s the right messaging for each? What features, answers or examples do they need in order to move forward?
CGI: How can we get to 2M better futures in two years?
Exemplars: What stories do we need to tell and what are the partnerships, strategies and badges systems that we can help build to tell those stories.
Cities: how can we capture all of our learning from CSOL in a way that makes this easy for other cities to do this ‘right’?
Federation / Toolstacks / Localization: How can we design the infrastructure, tools and services to support the most scale, adoption and contribution? Another way to say this, is how do we design and build for a healthy and thriving ecosystem?
Endorsement: This one is huge and means many different things to many different people. Let’s put some definition around it and figure out the short term plans for demonstrating the idea (hint: exemplars!)
We also have plans for a shared user research framework and outreach plan, building the overall foundation of research and findings to back the work, creating a shared resource repository, encouraging innovative assessments within the badge ecosystem, and more. It was a busy two days…
There is a core documentation team that will be generating a report to share all of the conversations, plans, etc. Look for that in the next couple of months.
All-in-all, I was excited and inspired by the two days and really looking forward to keeping the momentum going. Many thanks to the participants who traveled from far and wide, including across oceans, as well as our fantastic facilitator, Gunner, who kept the motley crew on task.
Additionally, its worth noting that this event was by no means the comprehensive set of leaders in the badge work. We wanted to ensure that key perspectives and specialties were represented, but above and beyond that, last minute plans, summer schedules, budget, etc. also influenced the attendee list. We hope and plan to pull many more into the conversations and work as we go (if there are any up there that you know you want to be part of, let us know!). That said, don’t wait for an invitation - keep doing what you are doing, share your work, jump into conversations, etc. The only way we win is together.
My two weeks of vacation conveniently ended with a fun, relaxing week with my team in a remote oceanside town in Northport, Maine. Not sure there’s a better way to get reintegrated after vacation.
The retreat, affectionately called Badge Camp, was focused on reflecting on the Chicago work, as well as digging into the core features and directions ‘next’. We all stayed in an old inn where turns out we had limited internet, no cell connectivity, one semi-working refrigerator and a barn with a DJ machine - all of which were unanticipated, and only one of which was a happy surprise (hint: karaoke!) Sounds like the makings of an incredibly UNproductive week, right? Not with this crew. We capitalized on the opportunity for uninterrupted facetime to take planning walks, hold paper prototype demo sessions on the front porch, make new prototypes with felt and glue guns, huddle over meals with project teams and host mini focus groups over the camp fire.
Before Badge Camp, we had broken people into core project teams and had them brainstorm for 3 weeks, and everyone arrived with solid thinking and prototypes. In addition to feedback and (of course) a much deeper dive on the overall ideas and details than anticipated (but most welcome), we ended with roadmaps from now through MozFest for each project (some artistically written with glitter glue and construction paper (soon to be transcribed into a digital format). Unsurprisingly, the team was eager, serious and excited about the next phases for us - we’ve all been anxious to get back to the core product and features for the broader badge ecosystem. All-in-all, we made some significant progress in our plans and thinking on key projects and features, most of which will be coming through blog posts from the team, but I’ll summarize and highlight the core areas here:
Production Backpack: cleaning up code, fixing bugs, finalizing 1.0 features that need more love, knocking off the low hanging fruit want-to-have features and ux improvements. Also includes building some acceptance tests, which will significantly improve our ability to monitor and test our stuff, but also hopefully give the community more insight into what features we have with each release and help them help us understand what’s not working the way its supposed to be, etc.
Prototype Backpack, or ‘Backpack 3.0’: the bigger vision for the Backpack including more tools and features for the earners. More to come on this as the thinking develops.
Federation: Allowing many Backpacks to exist across the ecosystem and still work together at the ecosystem level. This will require a standard for a Backpack and APIs for ‘registering’ Backpacks, all as seamless as possible to the end user.
Open Badges Badges: Wait, we’re the Open Badges team and we aren’t issuing badges?! Blasphemy! Don’t worry, Open Badges badges are on their way and they will not disappoint.
CSOL: Continuing to support and push CSOL through the end of the summer.
Endorsement: Endorsement is allowing third parties to sign badge classes to formally endorse the curriculum and assessment that they represent. This is in the P2s not because it isn’t as important, but it relies on some pieces from the projects above, namely Federation and Prototype Backpack that this extends from. We’ll be kicking off some user testing and research on this in the meantime.
Productizing CSOL: We now have a pretty solid ‘tool stack’ for issuing, including the Badge Studio, OpenBadger and Aestimia (peer assessment). We also have some really cool new Backpack features like recommendations and COPPA-compliance. But these were all really built and customized specifically for CSOL. So we want to go back in and make all of this stuff accessible, useful and available to the wider community and ecosystem. This is also very important but will most likely be something that gets more dedicated time through additional use cases and projects that we take on.
Community Site 1.0: Last May we launched a mini community site, meant to be a placeholder for a bigger, more community driven repository for examples, resources and celebrations. The latter clearly needs to be designed with and through the community so we’re looking forward to kicking that off soon.
User Research: We are kicking off a new approach to our work, that includes more user research from the beginning! How revolutionary of us! :) We’ve always tried to loop the community in from early on and get feedback along the way, and that works great for the issuing side of things, and we will continue to do that, probably even more targeted. But we also need to talk to other audiences that we don’t usually reach on an everyday basis like earners and employers, so Emily on our team, is stepping up to map out our research process and bake it into all of the projects outlined above.
Partnerships: This could also be called adoption, but its working with issuers to build and issue awesome badge systems, and with employers and institutions to use badges on the other end. We’ve been doing this since day 1 and will continue to make this an ongoing priority. We’ve now got a powerhouse team to help us drive this side of things, including a set of key emerging community leaders who are owning these conversations within particular sectors or locations. +1 to this.
Marketing + Documentation: We’ve got a firehose of inbound demand, with almost no marketing efforts. I can’t imagine that will change significantly given that we are grant-based, but there are definitely things that we know we can do to make things more accessible or approachable, and Meg has joined the team to whip us into shape here.
What’s Next / How to Get Involved:
Let us know if you have feedback on this list, including what’s missing. Best place for this is our mailing list.
Watch our blogs for more info on each project. (btw: Planet Open Badges is coming back soon, which will be a one stop shop for all of our individual blogs, in the meantime, we repost most at the Open Badges blog)
Come to the community call this Wednesday at noon ET to hear more about the outputs of Badge Camp and weigh in through conference call and etherpad magic
If you’ve ever been to one of the many educational conferences in the US, you will hear a lot about North American-centric issues and proposed solutions. While making change in our country/continent is important, we often fall into the trap of only building solutions for our particular context and miss bigger opportunities for global collaboration and scale. This is why I’ve been happily surprised at the upswing of interest and adoption of badges outside of the US. Badges are flexible enough to be used in many different ways, to solve many different problems, and we are seeing that in action as they are being adapted and implemented across the UK, Italy, Australia and more.
I’ve just returned from a quick, but power-packed trip to Milan, where we met with our innovative colleagues from the Hypermedia Open Center (HOC) Lab at Politecnico di Milano. They invited us to Milan to talk about the badge work in North America and kick off a national conversation about badging in Italy. I was impressed at the reception and interest from the many Italians in the room - not only to explore badges for their own schools and workforce, but also across countries in the EU. There were handfuls of initial pilots that attendees signed up to lead on the spot. There is real opportunity and momentum here.
(that’s me on the right with the translation headphones :))
At the same time, just a few countries and only one hour time difference away, badges are booming in the UK. Together with, Doug Belshaw, our resident UK spreader-of-the-badge-word, Tim Riches and the folks at DigitalMe have built a significant community there already exploring badges. They are doing really interesting things with badges because they are more tapped into the schools and really pushing buy in from the top. They recently launched “Badge the UK" which is a campaign to get organizations and institutions to issue and accept badges across all of the UK. It’s incredibly exciting and we are learning a lot from one another.
We’re also seeing interest emerge from Australia, China, Estonia and more.
We are excited about the globalization of badges and one thing that is a high priority on our end is a solution for localizing badges. Good news is that all of our tools are open source, so countries or organizations can set up their own, localized Backpacks relatively easily (although we still have a bit more work to do to make them easily localizable and federated). But there will be, and already are, badges that are meant to be used across languages or learners that span several localities and languages, and so thinking through how the badge and the metadata become localizable is important and top of mind.
Would love to hear other ideas on how to best localize the badging experience, as well as places you’d love to see badges expanded to.
We recently formally launched the Chicago Summer of Learning badge work. This has been a pretty big undertaking for us, to say the least, we started early conversations back in January and for the last 3 months, my team has been almost solely focused on it. The all-hands-on-deck was because the scope of work was so big (and ever-growing), but also because of the potential weight and impact of the work. I’ll detail each below to help explain why CSOL matters for us, for Chicago and for the world.
What We Built:
The Chicago badge work started as a ‘simple’ statement of work - overlay badges on top of all of the amazing programs and learning content that local organizations and cultural institutions already provide across the summer. The goals were:
Help every kid in Chicago, or even visiting Chicago, learn something and have evidence of that learning (i.e. get a badge)
Provide pathways and encourage kids to learn more (i.e. discover and motivate more learning through the badges)
Communicate the learning back to schools and local businesses in the fall (i.e. show the badges are worth something)
The Mozilla contribution to the project was mainly two-fold. While we played a role in project management, we mainly focused our attention on 1) designing the overall badge system, including all of the organization-level badges and 2) building all of the technology components.
1. Chicago Badge System:
The Chicago badge system design was no small task. We had over 100 organizations all teaching different things in different ways across various age groups, some online and most face-to-face with limited connectivity. We needed flexibility in the badges to ensure that they reflected each unique organization and their offerings, and yet were still seamlessly connected for learners. We needed to make sure the badges were worth something and met some level of standards. And oh yeah, we need to have all of this defined and designed in 3 months time. No problem.
All badges mapped against the core theme of CSOL which was STEAM (STEM + Arts)
City-level set of badges that were standardized and controlled. These were the City of Chicago Scientist, Technologist, Engineer, Artist and Mathematician badges.
Organization’s had flexibility and freedom to design badges that reflected their programs and learning. We did the work to help them ensure the badges were robust, and then mapped them against the STEAM categories.
We reviewed all of the badges and came up with a taxonomy of levels - participation (not assessed, earned through attendance), skill (assessed badges, aligned with a particular skill or competency) or achievement (bigger assessed badges, combination of several skills or accomplishments, typically take longer to earn)
We then developed the algorithm to unlock the city level badges based on the available badges. It ended up being a fairly simple algorithm - 3 ‘points’ for the city level badge, participation were worth 0, skill 1 and achievement 2.
Once youth get the city-level badges, they unlock access to city-level challenges where they can use their new skills/role(s) to complete projects and learn/earn more.
The summer ends with a celebratory Summer Faire, where youth are displaying the work they achieved over the summer.
All of the badge information is then connected back to schools in the fall so that teachers can have a better understanding of the work over the summer and in some cases, award credit or other advancement.
The (outdated) internal diagram for how this works:
The prettier, external napkin sketch:
(it’s worth noting that Carla Casilli built this thing from the ground up, including working through each of the 1000+ badges. She’s awesome. We also had tremendous input and support from Nichole Pinkard, Caitlin Martin and the rest of the DYN crew. Well done, team!)
The CSOL work had some complicated technical requirements, including servicing badge definition and issuing from representatives from more than 100 organizations; supporting kids 13 and over, as well as under 13 in collecting badges across experiences, with required parental controls where necessary; suggesting pathways and more learning opportunities; sharing badges with schools and social networks; and providing the end user ‘site’ to find learning, badges, track progress, etc. It was really multiple systems that we needed to build in parallel, and yet again, still needed a seamless experience for all of the participants over the summer. Oh yeah, and 3 months, something something.
Advanced OpenBadger tool to support badge definition, design, awarding and posting to the Backpacks
Aestimia, mentor assessment tool that allows for badge pledging, assessment and awarding
New and improved Backpack with recommendation system
COPPA compliant Backpack for kids under 13
Organization / program / badge listing, search, filtering
Playlist functionality allowing kids to build a set of projects that they wanted to complete or badges they want to earn over the summer - their learning playlist for the summer
This is the first badge system at this kind of network level. Badges that connect across organizations, across the city. Badges that define pathways and push youth into deeper learning. Badges that truly connect learning of all kind. We learned a lot about how hard this is, but also landed on a model that we feel can be replicated fairly easily in other communities or networks, so that’s really exciting.
These badges mean something right away. We’ve been working at the ecosystem level for a long time and despite lots of progress, there is still a long way to go before there are enough badges to truly capture your skills and learning. But with something like Chicago, that is local and self-contained and comprehensive, in just 2 or 3 months, we’ll see the full value proposition of badges in play. Youth will earn badges for all of their learning and that will lead to advancements and opportunities in school and with local businesses right away.
All of the pieces we’ve built are open and replicable anywhere. We’re set up to roll this out in many cities, networks and communities. Our tools and documentation are open, we’re working on publishing toolkits and experiences to support other groups pursuing things at this level, and our services as now veteran advisors/consultants on these types of projects are available. We could see a huge set of real badges effecting real lives in a very short amount of time.
Chicago is innovating and leading the way with this. Despite some of the tough times Chicago is experiencing, they are fighting back by embracing their local organizations and their youth. The Chicago Summer of Learning is a celebration of what Chicago has to offer, through its organizations, cultural institutions and people. It’s a celebration of their youth and the opportunities available to them. More than a celebration, its about starting to unlock possibilities for youth that were not available or discoverable before.
Many thanks to my team and the extended CSOL team, including the City, DYN, MacArthur, Hive Chicago and more.
And thanks to our Open Badges community for your patience and support as we’ve focused in on this important endeavor. We are excited to get back to the core infrastructure in a big way. But I hope you’ll join me in congratulating the team, and congratulating Chicago for building something special.
The commitment is super exciting because it’s open and welcoming to organizations and partners to plug in and help us get there. (Join us!) From the conversations at the first day of meetings alone, I don’t think its going to be hard to reach. Help us blow past 2M! Let’s go for more!
CGI is also an exciting stage to launch this on because this meeting includes over 1000 organizations that are zeroed in on workforce development and jobs. They are the movers and shakers. They have the pull and reach to really connect badges to real opportunities.
Today is a monumental day for Open Badges. At the annual CGI America conference in Chicago, former President Bill Clinton just announced a groundbreaking new initiative - 2 Million Better Futures - dedicated to helping 1 million students and 1 million U.S. workers access opportunities…
We’ve been doing some strategy and planning work for Open Badges and the general badging work, and one thing that became clear was that we have some implicit values and principles that we have carried and/or want to carry with us into the future work.
We decided to write them down and turns out, that process alone was valuable for our strategy work. They have already been useful as a guide on our strategy and a litmus test for possible directions or opportunities. And that’s after just throwing them up on the fly. We want feedback and thoughts so that we can refine and agree on these, and in the process, set a direction that we can all work towards together.
Open Badges Values / Principles:
Empower the learner. The end game is about helping learners improve their lives, get credit for what they do, and give them the data/ammunition necessary to do the things that they want to do. There are other ways we’ve talked about this - redefining learning, rethinking accreditation, but ultimately its about putting the learner in the driver’s seat.
Agency. This is similar to the above and is specifically about control. The learner should control their data. They should control the interactions around that data. They should be able to collect and share any badges they want, even “smaller” or social ones that might mean something to them. They should decide who sees badges or what stories they want to tell about themselves (through the badges).
Open. This is a loaded word, but its important in every meaning of the word. Badges should remain open in that anyone should be able to issue them. Many ask to restrict what can be badged so that its easier to establish equivalencies but that means we are restricting the possibilities for learners. The onus is on us to figure out how to make sense of that data. There should also be tools to support badging that are free and open source. As mentioned before, no proprietary or closed system should control the badges, the learner should. Open, open, open.
Interoperable. A single badge might carry some value in some contexts, but a group of badges that tell a more complete story about a learner is so much more powerful. Especially when those badges are earned across experiences. This requires that badges be interoperable. This requires that badges align with the open standard. If we can have consensus at that lower level, then anyone can build tools on top of badges to make them more useable, more shareable, more valuable, etc.
Distributed. We are working towards a more distributed ecosystem of recognition. That means each touchpoint in the ecosystem should be distributed - issuing, validating/endorsing, sharing, using badges, etc. Badges should be and go where the user is, and the badge information and value should follow.
Credible. We think badges can be the real deal - can lead to real results like jobs and credit and advancement. We need to continually think about what gets badges to these standards without squelching the other features of badges. I have some thoughts on that here.
Flexible/Innovative. (or “Weird.”) At the same time, we need to “keep digital badges weird”. We shouldn’t force all badges to be a one level or for one particular goal, we should build tools and frameworks to allow for innovative uses for badges.
Community-driven. The community is gold. We can’t do this alone, you can’t do this alone. We are stronger together and a community that shares resources and findings, vets ideas and builds this stuff together is the community that wins. Our community is the lifeblood of the badges work and we need to codesign our future together. (*hugs!*)
Something we are proud of. We are those feel-goody people that want to be proud of what we do. This means both not being evil, and also producing high quality stuff. On the former, I think we’re doing pretty well already but there is real risk of closed solutions segmenting or threatening the ecosystem and we should fight against this. On the latter, from the conceptual framework and the whitepapers, to the software and technical framework, to the toolkits and implementations, we want to walk away proud. There is a lot that we are proud of but turns out that this is pretty challenging to do all the time when there are so many moving pieces. But its a standard that we should all hold ourselves to and find ways to get there together.
What are we actively working against?
This list looks like the opposites of all of the above, but a few highlights:
Data about the learner not for the learner. In our recent offsite, @iamjessklein had a revelation that most, if not all, of the data about learning out there is not for the learner. That’s really broken.
Spy-ware. There’s a surge of attention around scouring the web to determine things about individuals or ‘score’ them, and then selling that information to employers. The individuals probably have no idea that this is happening. There is certainly some value in some cases, like the one in this recent NYT article, where some unsuspecting individual is rewarded for previous work or interaction with a job offer. But in most cases, its just spying and making decisions about people without giving them a chance to have their say. Badges should be all about giving people their say - letting them tell the story that they want to tell, but in an evidence-based, verified way.
Replicating accreditation. A centralized system or body for judging or OKing badges would be bad for badges. If we are embracing open and distributed, as I hope we are, we need to find and open and distributed way to build trust and assurance into badges. I’ve written more about this here [referenced above].
Closed and siloed. If badges do not meet the open standard or are stored in a system that is closed, we lose the real power of the ecosystem. To empower the learners, we need to let them have access to the broader ecosystem, craft their own pathways and write their own stories without predetermining the set they can work from or the constraints they are under.
We have a real opportunity for change and impact with the badges work, but we feel that the values/principles are important pieces for realizing that opportunity. As you can see from the list above, these principles do not define the solutions - there are still a lot of things to answer or figure out, but knowing the guiding principles can in some cases make those answers easy or keep us on course as we start to tackle them.
I’m sure the list is too long - maybe 3-5 is the magic number. Let us know what you think. Comment below or join us on the community call tomorrow to dig in.
The DML conference over the past few years has been a key milestone in the badge work. This year we formally launched the production version of Open Badges and it was awesome. As I was standing on stage announcing the badge work, I looked around the crowd and saw many many familiar faces. It made me reflective (and maybe even a little nostalgic) about the DML experiences over the years and the progress we’ve made together in that timeframe. In fact, if we use the DML Conference as a marker, its easy to see how the badges work has evolved and how far we’ve come:
(I threw in that last one because my team jokes that we can trace the lifetime of badges along with my son’s since they map quite nicely. I don’t know that that means but it makes it easy for me to remember how long I’ve been working on this stuff :)).
Looking through this list, you can see that the conversation around badges has certainly progressed in many ways - we’ve moved from solely badges 101 conversations into meatier topics like badge validation, and we’re now talking to policy folks, school boards, mayor’s, etc. about big implications and potentials of badges. The Open Badges technical work has advanced in that it didn’t exist (or was just in prototype form on Brian’s laptop) in 2011 and now its in 1.0, includes the open standard for badges and already has a significant level of initial adopters (over 700 issuers!). The DML Competition around Badges for Lifelong learning wasn’t conceived of yet in 2011 and now we have 33 grantees all demoing high quality badge systems and tools that will push additional job relevant and credit-worthy badges into the ecosystem. The team has also grown with the increasing momentum and resulting workload. We’ve come a long way.
There are places where we’re still spinning a bit. Mitch’s concerns echoed many of this thoughts last year, although I have to say that this year wasn’t anti-badge, but was more cautionary around ensuring that the badges represent learning and are thoughtfully designed. I’d have to agree with that wholeheartedly and in fact, have lots of ideas that I am going to pull into a separate follow-up blog post later this week. But it’s apparent that we’ve moved past the ‘what if' on badges and now really need to dig into the 'now what’. There is a great need for some knowledge sharing, research and toolkits around what ‘good’ badge system design looks like. A lot of this is already in the works, but we’ve got to make sure its accessible and actionable for folks. This has to be a community effort and the most valuable work will come from the people that are closest to the learning and assessment. Carla Casilli has stepped in on our side to help collect and curate this work, as well as put it into practice through our proof of concept badge systems like the City of Chicago and Webmaker.
I’m proud and excited about the progress we’ve made and also fully aware that there is much more work to do. My favorite part of it all goes back to the beginning of this blog post - all those familiar faces in the crowd - we’ve really built/accumulated a tight community - a family, really - of early adopters, advisors, skeptics and thinkers that have helped us get here and will need to help us get even further by next year (wherever that may be, hopefully somewhere warm!)
Here’s what 1.0 means to me, pulled from the talk I gave at the announcement on Thursday:
A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned.
Open Badges takes that concept further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through a credible organization.
And because the system is based on an open standard, you can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of your achievements — both online and off.
Badge earners can display their badges wherever they want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.
So what does Open Badges 1.0 mean?
Mozilla Open Badges is made up of two things: a technical standard that anyone can follow to make their own Open Badges and free, open source software for issuers and users.
How does it work?
Right now, Open Badges gives enables issuers to issue verified, open badges and connect their users into this broader learning ecosystem.
It also gives users a way to collect, combine, and share their badges.
Finally, every badge is full of information: employers and others can dig into the rich data behind each badge and see who issued it, how it was earned, and even review the projects the user completed to earn the badge.
Let me walk you through the process of issuing, earning, and sharing a badge.
This is the badge backpack, where you collect and manage your badges.
So to begin, users can create a backpack with just an e-mail
Here’s an image of an empty backpack - eventually we will have links out to possible badges to earn or things to learn here. For now, let’s show you how we earn and collect a badge. We’ll use a Mozilla Webmaker badge as an example.
Here our user is making a web page with Webmaker. On the upper right you see that they’ve been awarded a badge for the skills they’ve applied while making the project. This is a good place to remind ourselves that badges are just recognizers on top of the learning and assessment - that is the meat behind the badge. In this example, a learner is learning HTML and CSS Basics while they are building a webpage and earning badges in the process.
The user then sees detail of the badge, and can accept it and add it to their backpack.
Now the badge has been added to the backpack.
Earners will be able to organize their badges into different collections
They can then create a public-facing portfolio page with their badges, and add notes about what they’ve earned
You can also share your badges on social media. Clicking the Twitter link brings up a box to write and send your tweet.
And there it is in our user’s twitter timeline.
A plug-in for Wordpress built by a community member also allows you to display your badges right on your blog. There is much more to come here as well in the next few months.
All of this is powered by free and open source software that anyone can use. And Open Badges sets a technical standard that any issuer can follow, which means their badges can connect to and add up to more substantial recognition and opportunity.
Why does this matter?
We think Open Badges will changehow people think about recognition and achievement — from traditional institutions to leading organizations — and connect lifelong learning to real results like jobs and additional opportunities.
On the jobs front, we’ve talked to many employers, and they all say the same thing: undergraduate degrees are a check box, but they tell you very little about the skills that the particular person possesses; resumes are difficult to verify; and it is almost impossible to get an understanding of a candidate’s social or ‘softer’ skills.
Open Badges changes that, and gives us a way to tell a more complete story about who a candidate is, and what they bring to the table.
We are formally launching 1.0 but there are already hundreds of organizations working with Open Badges today - there are 600 orgs issuing badges and even more moving in that direction. Potential badge earners can now look for this symbol, which they’ll begin to display on their sites in the coming weeks.
And there’s lots more to come with new features, more social integration (Fb), more tools for issuing, new partners, and new ways to earn badges. We’re here to continue the conversation and collaboration, and build the ecosystem around Open Badges.
I want to give a HUGE shout out to the Open Badges team, which is still a pretty small, scrappy team. These folks get up everyday believing in this stuff and trying to change the world and I am so lucky to work with them. This was a herculean effort, and I can’t thank them enough.
I also want to thank our communications team which pulled out all of the stops to add the polish to our work and get the word out broadly.
Thanks as well go to MacArthur for the funding which is obviously important, but for also being an inspired thought partner on all of this work.
And last but certainly not least, we have to whole heartedly thank our community who works with us side by side to build and iterate on Open Badges. Through community calls, the mailing list and other channels, our community vets everything that we do and contributes to the broader conversation on a daily basis. They are also the ones developing high quality badges - we couldn’t do this or be to this point without them.
I look forward to your questions and feedback. I hope you’re as excited as we are to challenge our outdated ideas about what should “count” toward education, and empower people to create their own paths to success.
A couple quotes to leave you with
With Open Badges, you don’t have to just tell the world about how awesome you are—-you can prove it. (me :))
The more incidences of an “unaffiliated” (term used loosely) third-party creating web standards for credential sharing…the better off education will be. No two ways about it. (Techcrunch)
Here’s some extra commentary for all of you blog-loving folks:
There have been a lot of people that have claimed that badges could replace degrees. That collections of badges could serve as legitimate portfolios or pathways that tell the same story as a degree, and in fact tell a much more in depth story given that we can use badges to capture more granular learning and each badge is evidence-based. I get asked a lot if I believe that badges will replace degrees and it’s a tough question. It’s not what we are setting out to do necessarily, the use case for badges in informal learning spaces is a primary one since that learning is not currently recognized. But I know I do believe in the utopia where learners can craft their own paths across the many learning opportunities available - especially those that are free and accessible. Where on-the-job experience counts for you in a real way. Where all of the learning and experiences in your lifetime are connected and stitched together around your identity or identities. Degrees definitely do no do this for you, but badges could.
I guess I don’t really think degrees will go away anytime soon, but I do think that its possible for badges to function at that level for people. But in order to do so, we need some way to validate the learning behind the badge - to ensure it represents what it says it does. Another way to think about this is, we need to accredit badge issuers.
But remember that the point of badges is an open credentialing system. We want there to be lots of issuers of all shapes and sizes. We learners to earn badges across many different issuers and experiences. The one benefit of a monopoly - which formal education currently has on credentialing - is that you can super tightly control it. You can validate the learning from the top down and put the rubber stamps in the hands of a small group of people. This won’t work for badges, so how can we validate badges?
The proposal we have released relies on a similar model to current accreditation - standards, evaluation and evidence - but each piece is open and distributed instead of closed and top-down. It includes a set of technical requirements, as well as social requirements that cover:
Standards - encouraging badge issuers to align with open standards or competency frameworks and store that information in the badge metadata.
Endorsements (Evaluation) - allow third parties to review badges and sign them, or endorse the badge. This information then lives with that badge as additional valuation data.
Reporting and Analytics (Evidence) - ways to view usage and consumption data of badges so that we see which badges are getting which jobs, which standards are most used or accepted, etc. Surfacing those badges/standards/issuers that are bubbling to the top .
The goal is to create a highly efficient and effective way of validating, valuing and comparing badges.
It might all come together like this:
Diagrams: All of the standards, endorsement (evaluation) and usage/adoption data (evidence) becomes more information that lives with the badge and travels with it across the web.
The paper goes into much more detail around each part of how they work together. Looking forward to your comments and feedback below, or even better, on the Open Badges mailing list.
It’s roadmappin’ time again, folks. I’ve shifted my focus a bit to zero in on making badges a success and that has two pieces:
Web literacy badges
The Open Badge Infrastructure and wider badge ecosystem
This roadmap covers the web literacy badges plan for the rest of the year. Look for the OBI roadmap to follow shortly.
WEB LITERACY BADGES
Objective #1: Build the web literacy standard.
I’ve written about this before and done a bunch of thinking about it sense. This is a different spin on the work we’ve done so far to define the skills that we think are the core pieces of being web literate, or having those literacies. The goal is to co-create and maintain a learning standard with a bunch of partners - and then for us all to align to that standard and work together toward this common goal of creating a web literate planet.
We don’t yet know what the ‘product’ for the standard looks like, but we’ll be digging into that more deeply over the next few weeks. If you are interested in learning more, we’re hosting a virtual meeting next Thursday, Feb 7th. Join us!
Objective #2: Build more web literacy badges.
We rolled out the first set of web literacy badges last November through Webmaker, that covered some basic web competencies like HTML and CSS. Obviously, that is a small slice of our vision of web literacy and we want to expand the badge offering to cover more skills - ultimately to provide learning pathways and badges for all of them.
Objective #3: Build assessment pathways.
This is the fuzziest of our objectives because we could do it in lots of different ways. Ultimately, we want to give people a way to demonstrate the web skills they have, regardless of where or how they learned them, and get assessed and earn recognition (badges) for those skills. This could manifest as a mechanism for submitting a link to something you built to the Mozilla community to assess and then earning one of our badges. Or it could involve building mini assessments aligned with each competency/skill that you can come back to us to demonstrate your skills, or you could take those assessments and build them into your own curriculum, etc. Lots of things to decide on but lots of exciting potential directions.
Objective #4: Launch the New Backpack.
This is where the two roadmaps intersect a bit. The Backpack in the Open Badge Infrastructure is a repository and management interface for each badge earner. Right now, they can use their Backpack to collect badges across issuers, create groups and publish them and share out badges. It’s the, as we like to say at Mozilla, minimal viable product of what people could do with their Backpacks. We have lots of ideas of expanding on that to include dashboards, goal setting, discovery of other learning opportunities and finding mentors. We will most likely build this for Webmaker first and then role it into the broader ecosystem solution.
What Success Looks Like:
These are sort of cheating as far as success metrics go, but its still early and just want to give an idea of what we’d feeling like celebrating:
Launch the learning standard for web literacy
Have lots of other orgs and people aligning with it
Offer learning pathways and badges for all of the competencies/skills
See lots and lots of people earning and sharing these badges
How We Will Get There:
Tons of work to do and here’s how it will roll out over the year:
It’s that time of year again and I’ve been using the MoFoHoHo break to not only chase around a 14 month old and two chocolate labs, but also to reflect on my resolutions for 2013.
1) Set the groundwork (and standard) for a web literate planet.
We often say our work is aimed at ‘creating a web literate planet’, but this is the step before that - more about evangelizing the idea of web literacy, as well as creating and promoting web literacy as a standard, so that a bunch of people can work towards a web literate planet with us. The end goal is the same, but its a much more collaborative spin on how we get there. And my team’s contribution has been to build the foundations for this work and will pull together a collaborative working group early this year to iterate and build a standard that we can all use.
2) Tip Open Badges.
Open Badges has been steadily building up momentum and this is the year to curve jump or reach the tipping point. This will involve adoption work, to get high value badges and proofs of concept into the ecosystem, as well as consumption work, to see more organizations and institutions accepting and using badges for jobs or credit. We will also significantly improve and expand the Open Badge Infrastructure, as well as surface the information and connections required to make it easier and more effective to issue and use badges.
This one doesn’t need a lot of context - it’s beautifully eloquent and just dead on. I learned a lot last year about motherhood, leadership and work life balance. I had lots of great times with great people (and a particular baby) and some tough times as well. This year I want to roll all of those lessons and achievements into a more finesseful, confident and zen approach to my life and work. I want to be more present in each moment, carve out the time needed to give my full attention to things, take more time to really connect with people and as Mark said, generally be kind. At the same time, I want to be a rock and stay solidly focused on our growth, progress and goals for this year.
2012 was exhilarating and exhausting. So much change and momentum building. 2013 is a year of digging in and making things great. There is so much potential - I am very excited to do this together.
Open Standard for Web Literacy: A Vision for Webmaker
We’ve been doing a lot of planning and brainstorming and chatting about what Webmaker will look like in 2013. There are lots of good ideas floating around that you can see from a bunch of my colleagues here, here, here and here.
One thing I want to add into the mix is the vision for Webmaker as an open standard for web literacy.
That’s a mouthful so let’s work backwards and break that down a bit:
The Web Literacy part…
(Or as Doug reminds me, web literacies)
We’ve been talking for a long time about the skills that we think people need to be a webmaker. To be more producer-minded. To understand and love the Web. To express themselves in a way they can be proud of. To compete in today’s economy. To be an active citizen.
In addition to all of the flashy tools, content and branding we’ve been launching over the last year, we’ve also been doing some considerable ‘underbelly’ work to define the thing we are ultimately after: a generation of web literate people. Doug has been leading a lot of our initial work in this area, which looks something like this in its current iteration:
You can see that there is a mix of ‘hard’ skills like HTML and CSS - very specific skills that people need to know to make things on the web without wysiwygs or forms. But then there are also a lot of the more social or 21st century skills like sharing, collaboration and remixing.
The Standard part…
I think this is important work for more reasons than just enumerating the things that Mozilla cares about or may provide learning pathways and badges for, but as a definition that we, as in the royal we of the web world, can all get behind and all teach to. One of the issues with the digital literacy work that’s been around for some time, is that there isn’t a commonly agreed upon description of what it actually means from a skill perspective, or when we can draw a line and say, congrats, you are digitally literate! Some of that is beautiful - we want flexibility and room for innovation - but I think there needs to be a core definition that people can build from. I think that’s one thing that Webmaker can offer. You can use our tools if you want, but you can also use your own tools or other options out there - but if we all agree on the basic thing that we’re working towards, we’ve created a web-wide choose your own adventure for learners, with a success story that benefits them and helps us all reach our goals.
The Open part…
This is a loaded word and that’s intentional here. I think in order to be successful, this standard needs to be open in several ways, some of which I’ve already alluded to:
1) Open as in open source:
Mozilla cannot build and maintain this standard alone. In fact, we haven’t been - Michelle and now Doug, have been traveling the world, talking to experts and n00bs and everything in between to get a sense of what skills are important. Lots of people have contributed and we are going to be ensuring that this is even more of a community effort moving forward.
Additionally, this standard needs to be extensible. We should see this as the core and leave room for people to easily hang things off of it (i.e. design skills, game theory, etc.).
2) Open as in open ecosystem:
Mozilla can’t be the only place you come to learn this stuff. Lots of other people are already teaching people many of these skills and so let’s leverage each other to teach web literacy at web scale. In fact, as you look at that grid above, it’s highly unlikely that any one organization will teach all of those things, so again, it’s together that things become more comprehensive and more powerful.
We also aren’t saying that there are particular ways that people should teach this stuff. We are building some of our own learning pathways which will be very making-forward, but to appeal to everyone, there are a lot of other approaches that should be in the mix (for example, folks like Codecademy, Coder Dojo and Khan Academy), but also including approaches that aren’t even intended to be learning experiences. There is a lot going on through Twitter or Instagram that help people develop web skills like sharing or curating. Again, it will be important to leverage a lot of the work and options that are already out there and find ways to build the learning/recognition layer on top of things people already love to do.
3) Open as in Open Badges:
We are developing a set of badges that are aligned with this definition of web literacy, but again, if Mozilla sites are the only places that you can earn those badges, we’re limiting ourselves, and constraining learners. Recognizing the learning and skill development, and fostering reputation and identity development around web literacy is as huge part of all of this and that necessarily means that we need a solution for a more distributed set of badges. Good news is that our other day job is building and promoting Open Badges, so we have the infrastructure in place, but no one else in that ecosystem is sharing badges across organizations so solving for that will be an important challenge.
What we end up with is a co-designed, shared purpose with a much wider network with much wider reach…and a much higher likelihood of ‘winning’ together.
Lots of work to do on this moving forward - excited to work with all of you on it.
There was a big Mozilla post and fanfare around the launch, so I’ll just let you read that for the high level details, but I wanted to go a level deeper and also highlight some key next steps.
Skills + Participation.
As I detailed in my previous post, and as you can sort of see above, the initial badges cover a range of ‘hard’ skills like HTML and CSS, but also a range of participation and contribution activities. We think web literacy is more than just learning how to code or specific technical things, but also about being good active members of communities, etc. The first Webmaker badges are a taste of this.
The badges above represent the first of a much larger set of badges that we plan to release over the next year. We knew we needed to start somewhere and zeroed in on the core skills that we were already covering in Thimble, as well as participation badges aligned with MozFest, but plan to release badges that span more skills, levels and events.
Repeat after me: Badges are not assessment. Badges are the thing you get after you’ve learned something and successfully demonstrated that learning through an assessment. The assessments are incredibly important because they are the ‘evidence’ or meat behind the badges. For the initial Webmaker skill badges, we are using embedded assessment, meaning that we’ve built rules into Thimble that automatically assess as the making is occurring and issue badges accordingly. We love this type of assessment because its built into the making, or the stuff that the learner wanted to do anyway, versus making the learner do some artificial separate assessment like a multiple choice quiz. It works pretty well for things like HTML and CSS.
Smart issuing technology.
We’ve built a pretty awesome tool, currently called Open Badger, that supports badge creation and issuing. It allows someone to define a badge, including assigning a name, image, and all of the metadata behind the badge, generates criteria pages, gives you an API to award badges based on learner behavior on your site and posts/hosts the badge assertion for you. And I’m sure I’m missing a few things. It’s pretty awesome and of course, its open source. We’ll be releasing it early next year for folks to run on their own servers. For now, we are beta testing it as the engine behind the Webmaker Badges.
User experience tweaks.
We watched a bunch of people earning badges at MozFest and while people love the badges, we’ve got some work to do on the UX to make sure that people not only understand the badges, but make the connection back to the learning that occurred. This launch was the MVP so we knew we made some sacrifices on the UX front and the good news is that we learned a lot at the festival and have the right people in place to take the experience to the next level.
As I mentioned before, this was just the initial set of badges. Next up, we are working to launch badges in Popcorn Maker, as well as add more badges across the web literacy skills to our arsenal.
More assessment innovation.
We did some pretty cool stuff with the embedded assessment for this launch and we want to do more of that, as well as explore peer and self assessment approaches to provide additional flexibility and robustness to the badges.
One of the main goals for 2013 is figuring out how to meet our goal of building a generation of webmakers without getting in the way. There are a lot of other people already doing awesome stuff that teaches various webmaking skills or web literacies and we want to include them or recognize their learning, etc. We don’t know exactly what that means yet but we want to find a way to open up the Webmaker Badges to a much broader set of organizations and learning pathways.
I’ve been lucky enough to be the one introducing the world to the Webmaker Badges, but the credit really goes to the awesome team, including:
Carla Casilli - Chief Brains and Systems Designer of the Webmaker Badges and learning pathways behind them. She’s the big kahuna of Webmaker Badges and she pulls together all the pieces to make it a badge SYSTEM.
Chloe Varelidi - Assessment Guru and Badge Mentor (while also driving all of the hackable games work!). She helped define all the initial badges and assessment approaches.
Doug Belshaw - His Majesty of Web Literacies and Skills. He owns the definition of the web literacies and skills.
Chris McAvoy - Chief Techie Wrangler. He wrangles all of the brilliant geeks (and is in fact a brilliant geek himself) to deliver production grade stuff on schedule.
Jess Klein - Aesthetic Sorceress. She wields her magic to make things beautiful, usable and effective for all of Webmaker.
Atul Varma - The Innovation Developer, or the Guy-Who-Makes-All-The-Crazy-Ideas-Real-Things, responsible for making the embedded assessment in Thimble a reality, among other things, like, um, Thimble.
Brian Brennan - Badges Overlord. But not the evil kind. He is the technical brains behind the Open Badge Infrastructure and built the issuing technology for the Webmaker Badges.
Mike Larsson - Finesse Doctor and our go to Fire Fighter. He not only builds mission critical stuff and fixes problems, but adds the finesse on top of everything.
Chris Appleton - Badge Designer Extraordinaire. He not only designed the first School of Webcraft badges way back when, but designed our pretty honeycomb badges for Webmaker.
Sunny Lee - Big Picture Advisor. She represents the Open Badges work and helps keep the Webmaker badges work firmly grounded in the wider ecosystem efforts.
Thanks all! You should all get badges for the awesome work! And thanks to the extended team that gave feedback, fixed bugs, promoted the work, etc.
If you head on up to the top floor at Ravensbourne, you’ll find yourself in the mystical place known as the Webmaker Floor. This floor houses almost all* of the Building Webmaker sessions, as well as the Hacktivate Zone, which is where a bunch of really smart people will be figuring out how to teach this stuff and scale our reach. The Webmaker Floor is also the home to the Webmaker Bar, explained more below, and some fun lounge-y, hang-out-with-the-designers areas as well. We’ll have some ambient hack zones too, like a project idea board where you can put up starter project topics or ideas that you’d like to see, as well as a huge hackable web literacy skills grid that you can post questions and suggestions directly on.
*I should note that there are definitely sessions and activities relevant to Webmaker occurring on the other floors and you should definitely check out all of the floors and tracks. Come visit the top floor for the core set of get-your-hands-dirty-with-Webmaker sessions.
Note: this image is not completely updated - we are still working with the configuration of the teaching studios. But it gives you an idea of all the energy that will be happening at any given time on the Webmaker Floor.
The Webmaker Bar will be the place you go to make awesome stuff during the Festival. We’ll have some programming there to kick start your creative juices, but its mostly about coming and using Thimble, Popcorn Maker, the X-ray Goggles or a tool of your choice to make something and share it. BYOL(aptop) or use some of the computers we’ll have set up there. Check out all of the starter projects to see some ideas on what to make.
The couches next to the Bar will feature some of our designers and product folk at various times across the two days for some one-on-one user testing and deep dive feedback sessions.
“[On the flipped classroom model] The videos support the learning, they don’t drive it. I think, sometimes, in the flipped classroom, it’s still the traditional model. So what that the lectures are online? You can’t call it interactivity just because you can pause it.”—Jackie Gerstein (via Howard Rheingold) http://bit.ly/QwwM6v
As you all may remember from previous posts and announcements, we launched Webmaker, the Brand, a few months ago and built and released some of the core foundations, like Thimble, PopcornMaker and the initial learning projects. All of this existed under the common branding umbrella, but were still stand alone projects, teams and processes and end user experiences.
As Mark mentioned in his post, over the last couple of months, we’ve been focusing on Webmaker, the Product, not as a major pivot - we’ve been doing this stuff for almost a year now - but really as a new perspective on our work and honing in on core priorities. We’re doing so for two core reasons:
Experience - we want to develop a Webmaker experience that helps people make things that they want to share and learn web skills in the process. The tool or the mechanics of how things work behind the scenes shouldn’t get in the way of the making and sharing experience. This requires a group of people thinking about the experience from that level, stitching together various tools and sites, creating pathways across projects, etc. At the same time, we need to make sure the tools and projects behind that experience are high quality/robust and remain innovative, so we want to have clear foresight into the roadmaps against the Webmaker goals.
Efficiency - we want to make sure that we’re prioritizing things and allocating resources in a way that supports that experience. But this isn’t just internally, we also want to make participation and contribution as easy and seamless as possible - this needs to be designed and supported as a core part of the product.
With all of this in mind, we spent a few weeks drilling into the details and landed on a crisper definition of what Webmaker (the Product) is, who it’s for and how it’s going to roll out and grow. We need some help in gut checking on this to make sure it feels right and that there aren’t any major gaps:
We want to teach people about the web through the web and real technologies. What better way to understand and fall in love with the web, then realize that you can remix it for your own views and opinions and then share it with your networks? And what if in that process, you learned core skills that helped you not only make more things on the web, but changed your attitude in life from just consumption and acceptance, to production and expression? That’s what we are trying to do here, that’s why Webmaker.
What is Webmaker?
Two elements of Webmaker:
Tools - tools that support remixing, making and sharing on the web, while building learning into the process as well. Thimble, Popcorn Maker and X-ray Goggles for now. Game Maker, Mobile later. [logos]
Starter Projects - projects, challenges, games and content that sit on top of the tools and guide people in making cool shit and provide instructions and learning objectives as well. On Thimble, starter projects are hackable webpages that have some challenge or project that you complete by editing the HTML and CSS code on the left. In Popcorn, starter projects are thematic videos that you can remix, with some skill development baked into the core content of the video.
Who is Webmaker for?
Two audiences for Webmaker:
primary: webmakers - people with something to say, those who want to express themselves and tinker*
secondary: webmaker makers - i.e. educators - those who want to teach other people this stuff, amplify our cause and our reach. We want to build this community, inspire them to teach webmaking and empower them to not only use our content, but remix it and to contribute back.
*A few important pieces here to unpack:
“with something to say”: we are targeting the current or future Tumblrs of the world - those people who have an opinion, a sense of humor, a cause, etc. We want to help them make things that they care about and want to share with the world.
“tinker”: we’ve decided that for now, our target audience is more amateur and playful. So we want to support someone making a webpage to show their love for Lady Gaga, but not necessarily someone who wants to come make their business webpage. Doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t make their business webpage, but we are not explicitly focusing there. Also has implications for the types of service level agreements, domain registrations, etc. we offer.
How will Webmaker roll?
Making + learning foundations (mostly done, in progress)
Experience design and connections across tools (MozFest)
Contribution foundations (end of 2012)
User + social features including gallery, collaboration within the tools, etc. (end of Q1 2013)
MozFest is our first big deliverable for Webmaker, and its a really important one since its the place that we can not only show off our stuff, but more importantly, playtest and user test our stuff and our ideas so that we can come out of it with a solid direction and set of priorities for 2013. Here are some of the core deliverables for MozFest (note, this is the high level view, look for a post from our head of software, Chris, on the technical and more minute details):
Experience: ship more unified UX, connecting the Webmaker experience across tools and sites
Webmaker Badges: launch badges in Thimble. We see badges as a connector between tools and learning experiences, but also between learners and community members. We are starting with badges and associated assessments within Thimble.
Projects: build set of ‘real’ projects like portfolios and other things that people will want to make and share, as well as a plan for testing at MozFest
Popcorn: ship PopcornMaker 1.0, the first production version that helps people make awesome Popcorn-ified videos.
Instructor Community: ship and test hacktivity kits which help provide some hackable curriculum and scaffolding around our tools and content
Contribution: initial plan for localization - where to start, who to enlist for help, etc.
Engagement: prototype of community-led QA
Open Badges: ship new Badge Backpack UI - the Mozilla-hosted badge Backpack is part of the Webmaker experience
Open News: build Thimble and Popcorn starter projects for journalists
Hackable games: prototype hackable games in Thimble
I love this list because you can see how our various projects and programs all start to snap together as part of this Webmaker Product. Still a lot of work to do but its feeling like its moving in a good direction. We would love some feedback and help shaping the next iteration. Key question for now is: Does this make sense to people? What parts are still foggy? Are there any gaps in the narrative?
We are encouraging people to take comments and feedback to the Webmaker list so that the entire community can benefit and respond. I’ll post this to that list as well.
“The traditional methodology for studying innovation in education may have been adequate at a time when only small changes were possible, when in fact one did change an aspect of the mathematics curriculum and keep everything else the same. But we need a different methodology altogether when we envision radical changes in education.”—Papert, S. (1990). A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future. M.I.T. Media Lab Epistemology and Learning Memo. Cambridge, M.I.T. Media Lab.
We’re gonna launch some Webmaker badges at MozFest and some more next year. They will include a variety of badge types and some awesome assessment. Get ready world.
====LRIYW; (Longer, read if you want version)====
We’re building a Mozilla Webmaker badge system - eventually feeding into a larger Mozilla badge system. As I mentioned in my last roadmappin’ post, this is our number one priority from now through MozFest. And it’s WAY more than designing some pretty images, its the skills, assessments, technology, metadata and learning content as well. It’s all underway and here are some of the details, pulled from a presentation I gave on the Webmaker call last Tuesday**.
I think it’s important to explicitly talk about the why or the goals behind the badges. Not only is that important for justifying and explaining why badges are a huge priority for us, but it can also help inform some of our decisions about the types of badges to include, what’s in scope/out of scope, etc.
Badges = disrupting a monopoly and putting the control back into the individuals’ hands…it’s what Mozilla does.
Defining / driving a Webmaker experience.
tying together tools and experiences
defining potential learning webmaking pathways
defining an architecture of participation and contribution
Building fun into the Webmaker experience.
Recognizing and tracking learning.
Building and formalizing community.
Scaling our stuff beyond ourselves.
With those goals in mind, the following is the current set of badges, assessments and tools (types, touchpoints and technology) planned for the first iteration of our badge system.
Skill (I can ____, I know ____)
mini (I can hyperlink)
cumulative (I know HTML Basics)
Achievement (I made a _____)
mini (I made a webpage)
cumulative (I am a webmaker)
Participation (I attended an event)
Contribution (I hosted an event, I created a project, I added code)
*NOTE: because we are starting with a very small set of explicit ‘hard’ skills, we are awarding the cumulative based on accumulation of the mini badges. Moving forward, we want to expand to a much broader set of skills, including softer skills. We know that moving to a peer assessment model will be very important for adding more review, evidence and mentorship behind the badges. Look for peer review to come early next year. We’ll be asking for your help on designing an effective peer assessment system.
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
the badges constellations available by the end of this year below.
NOTE: we are still working through the possibilities with Popcorn so there may be another set of skill badges: mini and cumulative reflecting those skills and that learning either in the first iteration or shortly thereafter.
So how are we going to make all of this happen? (answer: very quickly, but more specifically:)
We are building OpenBadger (OBr), a lightweight badge issuing tool that, despite being lightweight, will do most of the heavy lifting. Specifically, OBr will handle:
Badge creation and metadata definition
Connection to the OBI
In addition, we will be doing some tool and site integration:
Building embedded assessments into Thimble and Popcorn
Building calls out to OBr within Thimble and Popcorn. For example, when someone clicks publish, issue this badge, etc.
As I mentioned above, we are pushing towards MozFest for an initial release, but we are already thinking about the follow-up releases and where we ultimately want to get to. So the roll out looks something like this (although everything is subject to change and wide open for comments/suggestions). More detail on the follow up releases to come in separate posts.
November 9-12 in London - don’t miss it!)
All of the above, first iteration of the badge system
More badges and skills covered
Pathways (including non-Mozilla options)
Dashboard, goal-setting, portfolios
So that’s the current plan. We would love feedback and suggestions on how to improve the first iteration of the badge system, as well as ideas for the follow-up releases. Let us know!
It’s that time of year again. Roadmappin’. After a series of big, successful launches including Thimble and all of the learning projects, as well as the Summer Code Party, we’re now finalizing the plans for what’s next.
Here’s what’s up from now through the end of 2012 (in most cases, by MozFest in November):
Our number one priority deliverable is an initial badge system for our Webmaking learning experiences. I intentionally say badge ‘system’ because its more than slapping a few pngs on top of Thimble projects, but its the skills, learning content, assessments, tool integration and issuing technology…oh and the badges. Specifically, it will include:
Publishing the 1.0 of the webmaker skills
Badge and assessment definition
Project updating/creation to ensure we fully cover
All the technical stuff lead by Chris McAvoy, including:
Building OpenBadger, our lightweight issuing tool
Thimble and Popcorn badge integration
User account integration across tools/sites
Badge issuing UI/UX
Look for a fast follow post(s) on our plans for the first several iterations of that badge system, but you can expect to see the first Mozilla badges at MozFest later this year.
Lead: Carla Casilli*
We’ve built a foundation of content and approach under our learning-by-making umbrella, but for only a very small set of skills (HTML, CSS) for a small slice of our audience. We know we want to cover more skills for more people, as well as have more interest-based access points for the same sets of skills. So there is a lot of work to do on Webmaker project creation. Good news for my team is that we actually want Mozilla to build very little of that ourselves, but instead want to work with the community - you - to build your own projects and ideas and add it to the options for learners. Therefore in the remainder of this year, we’ll deliver some additional projects, but also a queue of project ideas and a streamlined mechanism for community members to jump in and start creating projects.
Lead: Carla Casilli
Learning and Contribution Design.
Our learning projects were built to sit on top of our tools/sites and the two work together to create the Webmaker experience, learning pathways, motivation, etc. All the stuff that we care about. So we’ll be contributing significantly to the design for these tools/sites. We will deliver plans and initial implementations of 1) unifying features and functions across our tools to create a consistent Webmaker experience and learning pathways, and 2) how we can build contribution into the core of our tools, projects and experiences.
Leads: Jess Klein on the UX and learning design; Michelle Levesque on the contribution design*
Open Badges is hitting its stride in a big way. There are over 100 organizations pushing badges into the ecosystem with tons more developing badge systems. The demand is awe-inspiring and overwhelming! We will continue to deliver on Open Badges in the following core ways: 1) Ux overhaul of the Backpack, 2) Partner and community support (and first iterations of a distributed support system! whee! more to come on that), 3) release of OpenBadger as an open source issuing tool, 4) plan and initial work for a 1.0 release of the Open Badge Infrastructure (to deliver in March 2013) and 5) hiring of 2 new team members.
Lead: Sunny Lee*
While we built a lot of initial content and experiences, our goal is to reach web scale with this stuff and that necessarily means we can’t be in the middle or the driver for very long. So we are very focused on building networks and a community that will use our content, remix it, contribute their own, etc. We’ll build the tent but we need lots of other people to come on in and keep the party going strong. We’ve done a bunch of this in the US through the Hive and our initial partnerships. The next big focus is the UK. We are setting some deep roots in the UK including a MozSpace in London, handful of employees based there, series of events (MozFest in November - you should come!) and initial partnerships and growing relationships with key stakeholders and organizations. By the end of 2012, we will deliver a strategy plan and initial events and outreach to build a network of organizations who are teaching webmaking and contribute to the ict conversations by giving teachers real, relevant content to work with, among other things.
Lead: John Bevan
Note: All the leads mentioned are the Learning Team Leads. Chris McAvoy is the Techincal/Software Team Lead for pretty much everything above and is awesome at it. Also worth mentioning that the leads have rock star teams behind them that include the Learning Team folks, but also some from Engagement, Software, etc. Yay for no silos!
In addition to delivering things, we will also be scoping a bunch of stuff that will then influence the 2013 roadmap. The main three are:
Hackable Games. (Lead: Chloe Varelidi) Making / hacking / modding games and learning webmaker skills in the process. Could be cool, right?
Mobile. (Lead, TBD) Apparently Mobile is the new black. It’s where it’s at, so we need to be there too.
We also had a section of the roadmap called “OUT OF SCOPE" - and not surprisingly, everything on there has moved into the Scoping/Prototyping column. We’re just too dang creative. But we can safely say that will will not deliver any production anything for all of the scoping projects, so that’s something.
More posts to follow shortly with a deeper dive on these pieces.
We’ve been rolling things out in a big way and in my opinion, it would be a huge fail if we didn’t use this momentum, attention and summer code partyin’ to learn something about the stuff we’ve built - specifically for me and my team, about the learning projects. Enter The Survey. We have a survey that is available upon completion of a Thimble project* that asks some pretty basic questions about level of previous experience, fun, learning and if/where people got stuck. It’s not meant to be the most robust thing ever, but instead to do some temperature gauging during this first wave of users/learners.
*Note: we have another version of the survey (duplicate except for the word “Thimble”) for the DIY projects, which are the projects that point people out to different sites or tools. But so far, there are very few reposes there (~8) so this analysis is focused on the Thimble projects.
We have almost 150 responses so far, which is way lower than the estimates of folks using Thimble so far (more in the thousands), but not a bad response rate given that the survey link is a little awkwardly presented - right under the copy-your-link-to-your-finished-project field in the ‘Publish’ flow.
Here are some highlights on what the numbers are telling us so far…
1) We’ve gone global
People are doing projects all over the globe. From the event registrations, we knew that we had events in 67 countries across the summer, but pretty cool to see this much activity in just a couple weeks.
2) Lots of existing experience.
We have a pretty even distribution of webmaking experience so far, with a slight advantage to those with more experience. This is a bit surprising since the Thimble projects are more targeted at entry level to intermediate, but its likely that some of this is due to the fact that we also just launched Thimble and have a bunch of people that are exploring it just to check it out. I’d also love to believe that there are mentor/facilitator/instructor type of people checking it out for the purposes of using it to teach other people these skills, but that question didn’t make this round of the survey (hindsight!!), so we’ll get those numbers in version 2.0. See below for a cross tab analysis of how this factor influenced other ratings.
A whopping 74.8% thought that the project was fun and of that 39.4% said super fun. We are aiming for personally engaging, interest-based experiences so the sense of fun is an important piece.
4) There was perceived learning.
63% reported some learning, with 25% reporting that they learned a lot. This is, of course, self-reported learning, not hard-core assessed learning* - but at this stage, again, to gauge the temperature of people’s experiences, I would say this is a pretty solid number, especially given that fact that over 50% came into the project with some or a lot of webmaking experience.
*Note: On the hard-core assessed learning: 1) we are building in more assessments that will use the work as evidence to validate that certain skills are demonstrated; but 2) all that said, again, ultimately we are after interest-based webmaking with some learning that happens in the process, so if people are engaged and able to make the things that they want to make, then I would call that a success without all the pre-post data hubbub…but we’ll do some of the latter as well next year.
5) People reported getting stuck.
One of our core design principles is to design for graceful failing - or said another, more direct way, don’t let people fail. By the numbers, it would appear we are there yet since 50% of people reported getting stuck. However, looking through the explanations, while there were a few that were overwhelmed by the code, it seems like most people were able to work through their stuck point:
"The </body> and </html> codes were missing and the webpage was showing errors and did not want to complete the project successfully. I figured it out at the end."
"I didn’t put an end bracket in the right place for the hyperlink. Which is good, because it meant that I had to go back and figure out why it wasn’t working."
"In the beginning. I had to read more carefully than just skim read."
That’s actually pretty promising then, because the projects were challenging but the learner had enough to solve the problem. It shows trial and error and tinkering which are also really important aspects to our learning philosophy.
There was a trend of ‘stuck’ responses about the publish feature which we need to investigate some more. Right now, when you click “Publish”, you get a URL which you can copy and share through Twitter, Fb, email, whatever but that doesn’t seem to be resonating with everyone. Responses included “I don’t think the publish worked right for me” and “Copy and paste WHERE??”. Apparently some people don’t understand that flow. So we’ll look into that more.
6) Cross Tab == Cool
Of the people with no webmaking experience:
70.9% reported having at least some fun, with 41.9% reporting a lot of fun.
66.6% reported at least some learning, with 43.3% reporting learning a lot.
Only 10% (3) reported not learning anything at all.
58.1% reported getting stuck.
Of the people with some webmaking experience:
86% reported having at least some fun, with 43% reporting a lot of fun.
68% reported at least some learning, with 15% reporting that they learned a lot.
Notably, 0% reported not learning anything at all.
36% reported getting stuck.
Of the people who came in with a lot of webmaking experience:
34% though it was super fun, and 65.8% reported that it was at least kind of fun.
48.7% reported some learning with 23.1% reporting that they learned a lot.
35% reported that they didn’t learn anything at all.
56% reported getting stuck.
6) Some great suggestions
How to make it more fun:
"More animal parts."
This was the number one request. The Zoo was definitely one of the most popular projects and people wanted more options to create more animals. I’ll take that as a notch on the side of ‘this was fun and engaging’. Also points to needing more projects with rich content and topics like this one.
"When a project asks you to replace one image with another, it would be helpful if it supplied some links to alternate images."
This is an interesting suggestion. On the one hand, its a great idea and something that’s relatively easy to do, but on the other hand, again, part of the learning experience, and of web literacy as a whole, is being able to use the Web to find things that are interesting to you. I think what we definitely can do is provide better instructions on places to find images, how to properly attribute them, etc.
"More cat integration."
How to foster more learning:
"Maybe a toolset of html elements and drag and drop as well for different html elements."
There were a handful of comments around this same topic of making it more WYSIWYG like or drag and drop. We intentionally built it this way, so that it is exposing the real code and learners/makers have to get their hands dirty in the code to make something. I think the potential for learning relevant webmaking skills is greater working with the real code…that said, we have to balance that with ensuring that the barrier is not too high. We are planning on doing some experiments with some different approaches with different abstractions with our DIY (read:non Thimble) projects later this summer.
"Maybe give the user an end result to aim for. Can you make your document look like this [screen grab] or create a page with a story or something and they have to create the next page."
This is a good suggestion and we’ll consider it moving forward.
"The explanations when you click "read more" are WAY above a beginning coder’s head."
This is great insight - we’re pulling the hints from the MDN, which is awesome, but typically targeted at web developers. So we’ve started a “simple MDN" to start to write more basic descriptions. This is a community project - jump in and help out!
We’re on the right path - the projects (+ Thimble), and thus this approach to learning, are providing some engaging and fulfilling experiences for a majority of people.
Even though some of the feedback pointed to Thimble and the projects being too advanced for beginners, the numbers show that they reported the same amount of learning as those with some experience. The beginners reported it being a little less fun and got stuck a little more, but 43% reported learning a lot. I think even though the projects might feel overwhelming b/c of being dropped into the code, it seems like it was actually beneficial for people in terms of learning. We’ve already started working on making Thimble even more accessible to entry level folks by integrating the X-ray Goggle functionality (you can now click on the right side preview pane and see things highlighted in the code on the left) and creating some more starter projects that focus on one or two elements at a time. It’s also worth noting though, that a lot of people with some and a lot of webmaking experience also reported learning and fun. I would guess that number would go up even more if (when) we have templates that are more targeted to various audiences and skill sets. So we’re on to something here.
We need more projects that provide more interest-based access points for people - things like the Zoo project with rich content and compelling topics. We really want the community’s help with this so if you have an idea for a Thimble project, tell us about it.
We need more help and hints baked into the projects so that the barrier to entry is lower and less people can get stuck.
We need to revisit the Publish flow to make that work for more people and (bonus!) use it as a teaching moment for those not used to sharing things on the Web.
Last weekend, we launched the Mozilla Summer Code Party with the Global Weekend of Code, which was a resounding success. Over 100 events across over 30 countries, with over 1000 people learning to code. And there are at least 4x as many event scheduled for the rest of the summer. Now that’s a party.
Most of the partiers used our new webmaking tools: Thimble and Popcorn Maker. As I’ve talked about before, we have developed a number of projects and templates that sit on top of these tools and give learners an interest-based access point into some webmaking of their own, and of course, some learning in the process.
My role last week was on the Party Squad, monitoring the social medias and retweeting / posting / sharing all the awesome stuff that came through. It was an inspiring place to be in - just amazing to see all of the webmaking that was occurring. I wanted to reshare a few of the projects here. I know you’ve probably seen them all via our constant stream of blogs, tweets, posts, etc. last weekend but it’s worth taking the time to dig a little deeper to expose the learning that’s actually occurring underneath.
This one may seem simple at first - it was built from what’s intended to be an entry level project for people that are total newbies to HTML and might be intimidated by a lot of code right away. The project introduces the basic concept of tags and comments, and then some text handling tags like <p>, <h1>, <h2> and linking. So there is actually a lot going on in there. And this maker not only mastered these HTML basics, but also added in text that was relevant and interesting to him/her, so that it became something that s/he made that mattered. And learned some HTML in the process.
This is another entry level one that requires the learner to fix a bunch of issues in the code. The fact that you see the page without big errors or floating <’s means that the maker successfully fixed all the issues. This requires you to understand the concept of open and close tags and other HTML syntax details, and then also introduces you to images and text handling. This particular maker decided to add a video to the page. The caption says “i put up this video cuz i figurd that lots of people would like it”. *smile* Thimble currently requires that videos be handled through iframes (because of security issues with the <video> tag) so this wasn’t a super easy thing to figure out how to do. It’s possible the maker pulled it from another project, but isn’t that the beauty of the Web? Of course, there are design aspects like how to surface the video above the map images, but that wasn’t a core part of this project and the maker was still able to hack it to add his/her own content.
This project focuses on image handling, and helps makers learn the <img> tag, how to find and use image URLs and how to resize images, all under the theme of creating an invitation list for an awesome party with Loaf Cat. (If you don’t know Loaf Cat, ask the internetz) Makers are also asked to work with hyperlinks and link out to secret guests that will attend as well. This particular maker made this his own by using pics of NBA stars and cartoons (and a tomato?) and linking out to super heroes and characters. S/he even hunted down and edited the intro message to read “Porta Pottys Rock”. Silly? Yes. Legitimate HTML skills and interest-based making? Absolutely.
This is one of my favorite projects - it’s by the London Zoo and it asks makers to read about several endangered species and then create their own creature by moving HTML images around, and then wranglin’ text and lists to describe the new creature. There’s a lot on the page too, so you have to get comfortable sorting through the code to find the parts you want to move around and edit. And on top of all the awesome webmaking skills required, there are some great learning opportunities around conservation and biology. You can see here that the features and description of the new animal are pulled together from features of the real animals themselves, so the maker was internalizing those details about the real animals and mashing them together for the new creature.
This one is worth calling out because it requires some pretty advanced CSS positioning. The game involves using %, em and pixels in CSS to move objects to block zombies that are invading your lawn. Not only did this maker demonstrate positioning skills by moving everything to the bottom right corner, but also hacked the game completely and swapped out the zombie images for images of their own. I think some of the most compelling learning/making that we’ve seen is people that not only complete the challenge, but completely hack the process and page to make it something that they care about. Brilliant.
This one was just awesome. One of the things on the Thimble roadmap is a gallery so that people can share the things they built with other webmakers. Well this particular enterprising maker just used Thimble to build their own gallery highlighting the links out to the projects that their group made. It’s meta and it’s awesome. Maybe they started with a project and made it from there, made they just used the plain ol’ editor. Doesn’t matter how they got there at all, they knew enough or were able to hack together enough to make a page that suited their needs. Did I mention that I love the Web?
Popcorn is our awesome web native film hacking initiative/technology/tool set and we just released an early version of Popcorn Maker that let’s makers build stories through video augmented by information that is relevant to them/their story. In this video, the maker adds a map of London and some pictures of their own, as well as some pop-up captions as the story progresses. This template also allows you to add comments that the robots will read in a robot voice. Very fun, but also some heavy duty skills required around video wrangling, open video, procedural storytelling, storytelling in general, information gathering and curating, etc. I particularly love that the maker started with a screen that says “I have no idea what I’m doing” and yet was able to add a bunch of personal touches and hacks to the video.
So in summary, despite some of the surface simplicity of some of the projects, there is a lot of learning and web literacy behind them. I think we should be pretty proud of that. Of course, we don’t yet know what level of skills people are coming in with, and we hope to build more of that into the experience so that we can truly measure the learning. Anecdotally, we heard lots of people say “I am learning so much” and “I can’t believe I just did that”, and we have some basic survey results that I need to analyze and share soon. But above and beyond that, its hard to say right now how much people learned in a traditional pre/post kind of way…but from my viewpoint, we got 1000+ people engaged in making stuff about things that they care about online, and demonstrating a lot of webmaking skills in the process. I’ll call that a victory.
We’ve been a little busy here at Mozilla Foundation, as you may have noticed 1) by my radio silence on this blog but more importantly, 2) by the series of huge launches from us.
Here’s a guide to the awesome projects and initiatives we’ve launched in the last 2 months, with links to find out more or get involved (your very own Mozilla launch codes!):
A FEW MONTHS AGO
Public beta of the Open Badge Infrastructure.
The OBI is the core technical ‘plumbing’ to support an ecosystem of badges as alternative credentials for lifelong learning. It’s a mouthful and its awesome. “Public beta” means a publicly available, critical feature complete solution. Over a hundred independent badge issuers are already plugging in. The Open Badges work supports Mozilla’s wider goal of making the Web as awesome as possible and helping people benefit from it. A badge ecosystem supports learning that looks like the Web - open, distributed, customizable, personally navigable - and happens across the Web, by creating a recognition system that can help learners tell a more complete story about their skill set, and in turn, get real results like jobs, credits and other opportunities. Check out my previous entries for more nuance on Open Badges.
Earn your first badge! Set up your Backpack. Launch code
OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS
Our goal: build a generation of webmakers who have the skills and passion to be makers on the Web and of the Web - instead of just consumers. You’ve heard me and my colleagues talk about this for awhile now, but now its a top level Mozilla initiative - it’s even available in the “tabzilla” - the Mozilla dropdown menu across all Mozilla sites!
In line with the Webmaker Initiative, we launched our first big push for webmaking - the Mozilla Summer Code Party. It’s a summer-long, planet-wide webmaking and learning party, kicking off with the Weekend of Code where thousands of people will host events, make cool stuff on the Web and learn webmaking skills together in the process. You should definitely party with us - you can host your own event, join one of the hundreds of events other folks are hosting or just do some learning projects on your own or with a few friends. Let’s par-tah!
What would you do with the Internet of the future? Mozilla Ignite challenges us to come up with app ideas for a 1Gbps network - and there is $500,000 in prize money. It’s Webmaking on a whole new level. Later this year: You can plan to see some learning content from us around some of the awesome technologies and practices relevant to this advanced webmaking.
(Formerly called WebpageMaker) Thimble is our new 2 pane editor tool that helps people make things on the Web and learn HTML, CSS and other webmaking skills in the process. Thimble allows you to write and edit code in the left hand pane and see it immediately rendered in the right hand pane. And we’ve built handy js libraries that capture errors in the code, and leverage Mozilla Developer Network content as helpful hints on all the tags. Coming soon to Thimble: badges and a gallery of published projects as well. The Thimble development team is nothing short of superheroes - our own Avengers - huge kudos to them for creating a kick a$$ tool in a very short amount of time.
The new website to support the Webmaker initiative and the upcoming Mozilla Summer Cody Party. We are a wiki and etherpad culture so to have a core polished website like this, you know we must mean business. This site will definitely grow to support more of the work we’re doing but you can use it now to find projects (see below), tools like Thimble, and events. Yay Team Ross+Andrew and Team Engagement!
We’ve built a bunch of learning projects to help you find interesting and personally inspiring things to build, while scaffolding the learning and webmaking skill development. All of the projects are one page learning challenges and they come in two flavors: Thimble projects and DIY projects. Thimble projects sit on top of Thimble and are hackable learning challenges that allow you to edit the code in the left pane to complete the challenge, while seeing your changes immediately rendered on the right pane. You can publish and share your creations as well. (And don’t forget to give us some feedback so we can make more and better projects - there’s a survey link in the Publish dropdown). DIY projects are similar, but are learning challenges that use other tools or take you to other sites to build stuff. All the projects are available here.
You’ll notice that there are some projects by Mozilla, but a bunch of projects by other folks like the London Zoo, Tumblr, New York Public Library and P2PU. That’s the idea here - we want to create a movement and we can’t do it alone, so the goal is to have some Mozilla content, and some Mozilla tools but to pull together content and tools from all the other awesome people and organizations that are already teaching webmaking in their own flavors. So you can expect more projects from more folks as we go. And if you have an idea right now, you can submit it here.
You may have noticed that I have a little more to say about this one - that’s because it is near and dear to my heart. My team is brilliant, mindblowingly creative and super productive, so huge applause to them for building and wrangling some pretty cool initial stuff. More on these projects to come in another follow up post b/c I just can’t stop talking about them.
We’re starting to build our platform of making tools with Thimble, which I already talked about and now PopcornMaker which helps you build awesome Popcorn-ified videos. PopcornMaker features a bunch of awesome out-of-the-box templates to guide your work and help you learn about Popcorn and a bunch of webmaking skills in the process.
This is a much anticipated launch - 1.0 is coming later this year but you can play around with an early preview version now. Launch Code
COMING UP THIS WEEK:
The Weekend of Code.
The kickoff weekend of the Mozilla Summer Code Party. It’s a worldwide party, people, and thousands of people across the globe will be making things and learning skills together this coming weekend. We’re bringing some projects, tools and some friends - you bring some friends of your own, your creativity and maker-y-ness, and some chips and dip.
COMING UP NEXT MONTH
Sleep…and more learning, partying and strategizing.
July will bring some well deserved reprieve for my team. We’re pooped. That said, the Summer Code Party will still be going strong, and we’ve got a few strategy sessions to start planning for our next wave of awesomeness. So make sure to give us feedback on your experience with everything over the next few weeks so we can feed that back into our roadmap for the rest of the year.
COMING UP LATER THIS SUMMER:
Open Badger and Alpha Webmaker Badges.
What could make our learning offerings and pathways better? Well, badges of course - a way to get recognition for the skills you develop while making stuff online. So we are building some alpha Webmaking badges that will be aligned with projects and sharing of the things that you make over the summer. And since we need to build the tool to handle the badge creation, badge issuing and connection to the OBI, we’re releasing that to the public as well, as a lightweight badge issuing tool and set of js libraries to make badge issuing easy for you. It’s the next stop on the badge train.
Why stop there? Our ultimate goal is to have learning pathways for all of our webmaking skills - with earnable badges for each skill, as well as levels across the skills. And the broader Mozilla has a bunch of ideas for badges for contribution and engagement as well. So that’s all going to roll up into an awesomely supercharged Mozilla Badge System with interest-based learning and contribution opportunities with job-relevant badges behind them.
I am sure there will be more. We are not ones to sit around idly and the creativity and innovative nature of my awesome colleagues, as well as their uncanny ability to build things at light speed, means I am sure there will be lots of cool stuff before 2012 ends.
*As you can see, there’s been a lot going on, so I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention something else. Let me know and I’ll update as needed.
We’ve been working on the Mozilla Webmaker badge system, or at least initial alpha badges for the Summer Campaign and it’s tough! We knew that going in - if it were too easy, then we probably wouldn’t end up with very valuable or robust badges - but that didn’t make it easier. There are many things to consider and it’s very easy to get caught up and stuck in the core question of whatbadges? That’s a really loaded question because its not just about what to call the badges - which is a rabbit hole of itself altogether - but its also considerations around specific skills, levels and granularity (which is a huge/tough one), assessment, experience, etc. We spent days trying to answer the what badges question - should we have an HTML Level 1 and Level 2 badge, or just an HTML badge (and what do those mean?)?; should we call them Ninjas or Samurais (note: we decided on neither)?, is there a Webmaker badge that everything aggregates up to and if so what are the badges that make that up?; are all badges the same granularity?, etc. The decisions at this level are also things that more people care about and have to sign off on so that also slows down the process.
I’ve since stepped back and looked at the process and realized that there were a few considerations that actually helped us move forward - and that those considerations were one or more steps removed from the badges themselves. I’m now calling this my 3 T’s of badge system design, and so far its proving to be a helpful place to start or at least move back to when you feel you getting buried in badge level decisions.
3 T’s of Badge System Design:
(1) Types - general categories of badges. Do you have skill badges or participation badges? Progress badges or achievement badges? To do this, you need a general understanding of the learning experiences, the community and most importantly, the goals of the badge system, but you don’t have to go super deep. You don’t, for example, need to know the exact set of skills that you want to badge. And you definitely don’t need to finalize the badge names ;). You just need to decide if you are badging skills or actions or achievements or progress, etc. Finalizing and putting some lightweight descriptions around your types of badges can really help you scope the system before diving into the questions around the specific badges that fall into each.
Our alpha badge TYPES*:
Skill badges - I developed this skill
Participation badges - I attended or hosted this event
Achievement badges - I made this
(2) Touchpoints - next you do Touchpoints or general description of how someone will earn the TYPE of badge. This starts to pull in assessment and criteria but again, you don’t have to go super deep at first.
Our alpha badge TOUCHPOINTS*:
Skill badges will be based on work that the learner submits, assessed by peers against a rubric. (note: this is probably even more specific than you need to go at first)
Participation badges will be based on registration for an event and proof of attendance.
Achievement badges will be based on work that the learner shares with the community.
It’s a good practice to think through if there are several possible touchpoints for each badge type (and the pros/cons of each approach). Thinking through this at the outset gives you more flexibility going into the technology considerations and helps you better work with any technology constraints you might have. For example, back up touchpoints for our badges might be:
Skill badges will be issued when the learner completes a learning challenge that cover the skills.
Participation badges will be issued by the host of an event directly to attendees.
Achievement badges will be based on completion of making exercises/projects.
(3) Technology - finally, you translate the touchpoints into high level technology requirements.
For the first set of touchpoints, our TECHNOLOGY requirements might look something like the following:
Badges integrated into the learning tool environment and the events site
A Gallery component that learners can submit work to with a voting or rating capability for skill/achievement badges
These can be more granular but don’t have to be at this point. Just think through the basic requirements and see where you net out. It may immediately become clear that something won’t fly and you can start to work around it right away instead of way later in the process. Going back to our example, maybe we would find out that we weren’t able to have a gallery component and if this is the case, we could go back to our touchpoints and decide to use another option for those types of badges and tie those badges to the learning exercises, and thus the learning tool, instead. That decision would most likely change elements about the assessments and the specific badges we ended up defining as well, so the information flow works both ways.
What you end up with is a general map of your badge system and a basic roadmap for what needs to be built to support the badge issuing. It could also help you evaluate existing badge issuing platforms to see if they have the features that meet your needs.
Next steps are to start to dive into each piece a bit more. Define a few of your skill badges and work through the work flow again - what is the specific touchpoint (rubric, rating required, etc.) and what are the specific features needed to support that. Press repeat, press repeat.
Again, this is the model that we’ve accidentally started to use with our badge system design. It’s not rigorously tested by any means, just seemed to work well for our first few iterations. Would love to hear back from folks on if this is helpful, where it breaks down, etc.
*Note: our alpha badges are still in alpha so are subject to change
“So I think the number one task has to be to really create spearheads, nuclei of change where we can really demonstrate that something really different can be done – something not improvement, but radically different.”—Papert, S. (2000) Keynote Address at CUE Conference. Palm Springs, CA.
I’ve been re-immersed in the digital literacy world lately and have seen lots of different ideas and projects that get kids interacting with technology. I also recently subscribed to the Daily Papert and have been enjoying my daily dose of constructionist genius*.
But it has gotten me thinking about something missing from the conversation: The Web. The messaging is often SO similar to ours - interest-based learning, teaching kids to make, authentic assessment, customized pathways/experiences, programming to help make abstract concepts concrete, etc. - we are all telling similar stories and are after similar goals, which is awesome - but most of the practice and implementations we see are using closed technologies and systems. We see this all the time in the digital literacy and teach-people-to-code space. Learning providers use heavy programming and engineering technologies - or fake, sandboxed learning languages - and spend tons of money and resources to create (often impressive) tools and environments to scaffold the learning, but without broadly applicable understanding at the end. Where is the Web? Where are the open technologies and standards that learners can go on to use across the Web today? Not there. There are entrenched policies and proclivities, and probably a lot of unawareness, that guide people down these closed/sandboxed paths. But the Web is definitely missing and I think that limits the power of a lot of the innovation.
Why you should consider the Web.
The Web is THE platform for learning right now. In fact, it can be THE platform for almost everything these days. There is SO much opportunity for learning across the Web and we have an obligation to teach people things that will matter for them beyond individual projects or learning experiences. Web literacy is a top level literacy at this point for the general public.
The Web is THE model for the types of learning that we all clearly believe is the future of learning. Transparent, open, accessible, multi-pathway, participatory, etc. these are all principles behind the Web, and behind the learning innovation that we all care so much about and are investing so much time and effort into making happen.
The Web is THE THING that we can make on, learn from, etc. We can build stuff on the Web, as part of the Web. Learners can view source and hack on web pages or videos, etc. There is so much content that is part of the Web that we can leverage, or contribute to, that can support learning and making of all kinds.
How to build the Web into these conversations / learning experiences.
This requires a bigger conversation and some deeper thinking but I think there are a few easy wins:
Start (even end) with the Web stack (HTML, CSS, JS). These are much more powerful than you may think. These are the core technologies on the Web and someone with a little bit of understanding can do a lot on the Web, and someone well versed can make some pretty powerful stuff. Getting kids making things on the Web gets them one step closer to web literacy which is becoming more and more important and necessary in today’s world. The Web is where it’s at people and we have the opportunity to not only move folks from simple consumers to producers and active participants, but prepare them for success in a wide (HUGE!) range of jobs, not JUST engineering or programming.
Use Web technologies to build the scaffolded environments. You can do almost anything these days with open Web technologies. Then your work becomes more accessible to folks, and possibly more interchangeable or plug-and-play with other tools, works better or more aligned with and across the Web and possibly advances the technologies and standards. We all benefit if we are leveraging the same underlying components.
Consider opening up the back door. Open up the code! Now, this isn’t always possible for folks but when it is, its a really powerful thing. Suddenly your tool or content can take on a life of its own through community remixes, forks, etc. The learners themselves can hack the tools to make it do something better or more advanced. That’s the ultimate pinnacle for learning, afterall, to have someone not only understand and use the stuff you’ve created, but actually take it the next step further.
Bake in sharing at the core. Help learners share their work and encourage remixing and repurposing of that work. The Web makes this possible and pretty darn easy. We all know transparency in learning is valuable, and we even spent some time talking at a recent conference about the rash of research lately (which I still need to look up) on the benefits of letting learners see the work of others for their own learning (ahem, view source, ahem). Lots and lots of options for and opportunity through openness and transparency.
I am sure there are more ways, and I would love to hear about them! Let’s do this together!
* To cut Dr. Papert a bit of slack, he was writing about this stuff before personal computers, let alone the Web. I’d love to have a conversation with him today about how he would leverage the Web for his work.
We want to help people understand that the Web is like Legos - you can build original things, take things apart or remix them, create and weave stories and narratives around your creations, etc.
Part of this is about making learning fun and relevant again, but its more than that. Webmaking skills are important life skills.
Why is the Web such an important part of this:
The Web is a platform for learning
The Web is a model for learning - transparency, openness, access, collaboration, participation
The Web is the thing we can build and learn with
Why is webmaking important? I’ve written about this before so check that out for more (also, the Web is about interconnectedness of information and pathways…win!)
Favorite slides (adapted from a Mark Surman presentation):
On The Skills:
Mozilla is building learning content, badges and software to scaffold webmaking and learning. But a critical part of that is really understanding or enumerating what webmaking means from a skill perspective.
So after a bunch of research, including interviews, focus groups and first hand experience, we are proposing an initial definition of web literacy. Kudos to MichelleL who drove this work.
We didn’t dive in to all the skills but the parts to highlight are that:
There are 25 of them, and only a few of those cover what some may call ‘coding’. This is not about programming, but a general literacy, with a combination of hard and softer skills.
The skills are currently grouped in columns reflecting skills needed to: navigate or consume the Web, create lightweight content and contribute on the Web, share and participate, build more advanced things on the Web and protect yourself and your content.
Most importantly, this is still in alpha or request for comments form - we definitely want feedback. And we know this will evolve anyway - both because once we are really using this definition, we will learn things that we can feedback into it, but also because the Web itself evolves.
We got some good questions including:
Doesn’t all content eventually become something owned by Google, Facebook or YouTube at this point?
This was an great question with lots of subcurrents so the answer was manyfold as well:
Part of this is about teaching people how to control their own content, understand things like ownership and privacy on the Web, be able to make informed decisions about where and how they share their stuff.
Part of this is about empowering people to not be confined to CMSs, proprietary technologies or forms for building and sharing things and thus demand more openness. If we are all demanding more openness and Web technologies, the big companies will follow. We’ve already seen it start to happen with YouTube (from Flash and proprietary technologies only, to supporting WebM and HTML5). We will see more of this.
How do you plan to recognize these skills?
Badges! We are developing a webmaker badge system that will recognize development of these skills, motivate learning and help create pathways for people to become webmakers and level up.
There are no mention of Web 2.0 tools in your skills. How do you see this fitting in with Web 2.0 tools?
We are not focused on specific tools and technologies, other than some of the basic open Web building blocks like HTML, CSS, JS. We want to teach conceptual and social skills that can then be applied or layered on whenever someone is using one of the millions of Web 2.0 tools/platforms out there like Twitter or Facebook.
How does this map to computer science requirements / pathways?
We are not focused on making more engineers - we are focused on a more general literacy that can be relevant and important in everyone’s lives. That said, there is some work going on to look at this link. Andrea Forte, from Drexel, is looking at how early webmaking experiences translate to entry level computer science curriculum and requirements. Again, these skills are a big deal across the board. ;)
JISC recorded the session and should be posting [update 4/30] has posted a link next week so check back or watch on the Twitter.
The ignite talks from this year’s DML Conference are posted. I wasn’t able to get to the Ignite talks at the conference due to the inevitable impromptu side meetings that always pop-up (which is kind of the beauty of conferences like these).
Highlights (transcribed from the video so with some paraphrasing):
We are not talking about hacking like “breaking into banks and stealing credit card numbers”, but “what I am talking about is a certain kind of technological industriousness - a maker disposition that’s tied to innovation and creativity.
Again, this is very much aligned with our concept of webmakers and web literacy. These skills are more about building a webpage or knowing how to code but about an approach to learning and to exploring the world. Rafi called this “technological industriousness”. John Seely Brown coined the phrase “entrepreneurial learner” - its all about a sense of ownership, control and empowerment…over technology and the Web, over learning and the pathways we take (and choose!), and over our lives in general. I know, its mind blowing stuff.
All technology is political. All technology is made by people and people are political and those politics get baked right into the technologies when they design it whether they like it or not….What a hacker understands is that technology is malleable and if it doesn’t line up with our values, we can change them.
Again, it comes back to this idea that we are talking about something bigger here. The individual skills add up to way more than just the sum, but an approach to everything in life. It’s about moving people from consumption to production, not just so that they can make things (although that’s cool too), but so that they don’t take things for granted, or accept things as they are. So that they don’t just remain oppressed, but understand that they have a voice, they have a channel for that voice and they can change things.
The Internet [read: Web] was not an accident. All the things that we like about it - the openness, transparency, participatory culture - these things were by design.
YES. The Web is awesome for so many reasons and we should use it - both as a medium for connecting people, empowering people, helping them build things…but also as a model for what we are trying to do here. Open up education/learning, allow for the emergence of many pathways and connections, make learning and assessment a transparent experience and exploration and connect learners together at web scale.
Digital literacy is about empowerment through technology. Hacker literacy is about empowerment in relation to technology.
This is pretty deep. I had to stop and think about this for awhile. But it’s really powerful. I think it’s both a leveling up thing, and a literacy thing. Leveling up: I think we probably need to start with some of the technology as the medium, but we shouldn’t just stop there, at the what-I-can-do-with-them-stage, but use that as lessons about a broader sense of what’s possible across technology and in our lives in general. Literacy: he talks about these as hacker literacies, we talk about web literacies - the word literacy is in there intentionally. Again, its not about just a few hard skills, but a broader set of competencies that stitch together for possibility and opportunity. And many argue that these literacies should first order literacies like reading and writing…I definitely think we are moving in that direction.
Finally, Rafi’s marching orders are below, with my commentary:
position kids as designers and makers of technology (= webmaking. check.)
talk with kids about relationship between tech and values (help them understand intentions, biases, etc. - this comes back to the idea of moving us out of ‘elegant consumption and acceptance, and approaching the world with a sense of “I can change this if I want/need to” which is part of this newer literacy)
integrate hacker literacies into digital literacies (see above)
embrace hacking everywhere - everything should be hackable (yes! hack the planet!)
“Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing. Its considerable value is not based on the information it provides, which is paltry. What does a letter grade in a course often described only by the combination of a generic department label and an arbitrary number (e.g. Econ 302) really mean? Nobody knows, which is why accredited colleges often don’t trust that information for the purposes of credit transfer, even when it comes from other accredited colleges.”—Chronicle: A Future Full of Badges
We are announcing today that we launched the Public Beta of the Open Badge Infrastructure. Huge milestone and huge kudos to the team for making it happen.
What’s the OBI?
The OBI is the ‘plumbing’ of the badge ecosystem. It is a specification for badges, set of repositories (“Backpacks”) for storing badges and APIs for pushing badges in and pulling badges out. It’s an important piece of this badge experiment because it moves us beyond more silo’d systems, allows the learner to collect badges from lots of different learning experiences and provides the structural components to enable badges to be transferred and leveraged across the ecosystem for real results like jobs or credits.
What’s Public Beta?
With this Public Beta launch, the OBI is now publicly available for use. Badges can be pushed in and pulled out and earners can store badges in the middle in their Backpacks. And more! Specifically, Public Beta includes:
New and improved issuer API
Backpack feature upgrades:
Publish groups to a unique URL and add narrations/notes around each badge to share
New displayer API
Wait, weren’t you already in beta?
Yes and no. We were calling it ‘beta1’ which was a made up word to mean that it was a step up from alpha but not quite all the way to beta. It was essentially the initial issuer API and Backpacks, but was available basically by invite only. We should have called it a ‘developer preview’ but hindsight, something something. This Public Beta (capital B!) is a proper Mozilla beta (security review, user data committee review, on Mozilla servers, etc.) and its publicly available! Woo!
We are moving to a much shorter release cycle - releasing things at least every two weeks, but possibly more quickly as we go. But we are aiming to move from Beta to 1.0 by the end of the year. In addition that work, plus bug fixes along the way, we are also working on some lightweight tools that make creating and issuing badges easier, and eventually will most likely do the same for displaying badges.
Who should we congratulate?
The team for being some of the smartest, hardest working game changers I’ve known, as well as our community who have been advising us every step of the way. Thanks to you all - congratulations!
There have been a bunch of posts from really smart people reflecting on badges over the past month, leading up to and following the DML Competition culmination and DML Conference. There is certainly a dose of skepticism across some of the posts (like here and here), mostly coming back to the question around motivation and rewards. In fact, Mitch Resnick held a session about his motivation-related issues with badges at the DML Conference, but unfortunately the room was so small, that most of us weren’t able to squeeze in, so we formed an Occupy Badges makeshift session to talk about badges ourselves.
After getting an update on Mitch’s session and catching up on some of the posts, the common concern is around introducing badges as extrinsic rewards into learning experiences where intrinsic motivations may be at play, and potentially disrupting a delicate balance of motivations or existing interest-driven learning. (It should be note that this is a generalization and there is more nuance to their claims - definitely worth a read).
I’ve been wanting to add some of my reflections on these reflections (get all meta) for awhile now and finally scheduled some time - a meeting for myself - to dive in so here it is:
On intrinsic vs extrinsic motivations:
There is a classic scenario referenced a lot: kid gets good grades in school because he wants to do well and then his grandparents start giving him money for every A. When the grandparents stop paying the kid later on, the kid suddenly isn’t motivated to get good grades anymore. It’s called ‘crowding out’ - the intrinsic motivations get crowded out by the extrinsic motivators. That’s the core of the argument against badges - that badges will be yet another extrinsic motivator that will squelch any existing intrinsic motivations.
This binary view of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is too simplistic. Dan Hickey, an assessment and motivation guru out of Indiana University, has a nice summary for those of us with less expertise on different theories of motivation and learning, and points out:
One of the things that has been overlooked in the debate is that situative theories reveal the value of rewards without resorting to simplistic behaviorist theories of reinforcing and punishing desired behaviors.
The ‘crowding out’ concern is real (and should be considered with grades as well!) but too simplistic for learning and these complex social environments. We all agree on the issues, and we run the risk of doing nothing about them if we cling to overly simplistic interpretations of theory or research studies. It’s also worth noting that badges do not have to just be a carrot, but can be built as tools for formative assessment, empowerment, roles/identities, etc. This means we need to put some thought into the badge system design, but that’s exactly what the competition and other parallel work right now is focused on.
Don’t muck up interest-driven learning
There is another set of related concerns that go something like this: there is a lot of youth interest-driven learning already happening and its awesome because it is separate and pure and we aren’t mucking it up with adult-imposed rules or rankings, etc. Badges are just another top-down adult-driven system of rules that will just interfere with the learning.
There are some HUGE assumptions in here. The first is that all youth have opportunities for interest-driven learning and the second is that those that do understand that this is valuable and legitimate learning. I don’t think these are true. I don’t think most kids have opportunities to explore their own interests - instead are forced down the pathways we prescribe for them in school. And if they aren’t inspired by the topics or projects at school, then they are labeled as bad students and that’s not something kids can rise above very easily, or in most cases at all. Most don’t understand that there are other avenues. For those kids that are lucky enough to have some opportunities to explore interest-based stuff, usually in afterschool programs, I doubt that many understand that this learning at all, and that its legitimate and important and could lead to a lot of opportunities for them. They aren’t as empowered by these experiences as they could and should be. These are the gaps that this badge work is looking to fill - to recognize learning and help learners use it for real results like jobs or credits, as well as to help learners find other learning opportunities.
There are some smaller assumptions like badges are only for youth, which they aren’t and that badges are only created and issued top-down and they don’t have to be. But the big assumptions are the dangerous ones.
Badges as a silver bullet:
There were some concerns around badges being positioned or thought of as THE solution. It might have seemed that way at the DML Conference because there was so much attention paid to them. But badges are not THE solution. In fact, badges themselves are not even A solution, but part of a toolkit and common approach of redefining learning to be something that occurs beyond classroom, beyond age 22, etc., recognizing and legitimizing more types of learning and helping the learner have more choice and control about pathways and interests. Badges are the representation, the gateway, the conversation starter, but its really about this new way of thinking and approaching learning that is the powerful part.
I’ve also heard things like “why are you focusing on only one approach” or “one form of assessment”. It’s worth reiterating that badge itself only represents the learning, assessment, experiences and evidence behind it. There aren’t any constraints on the learning or the assessment behind the badge - and that’s by design at this point. If you stop and look at the badge systems people are developing, you will see that there is a lot of thought going into how to utilize badges for specific learning experiences and how to be innovative about assessment, etc. Badges don’t limit this at all.
Another flavor of the silver bullet concern is that we are moving too fast and have one standard too soon. But again, the standardization is only at the level of what information is included with the badge - there are no constraints on the learning and assessment part, at least not from Mozilla or the badges themselves. If there is still concern about the standardization at the level of the badge - I’m not sure how we would really truly give this a solid try if we weren’t working together. A bunch of siloed systems are not going to help empower the learner or help them create their own pathways. We need some way for the badges to work together - for the learner - and be tapped into a larger ecosystem of opportunity and access. That’s what the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure is supporting.
A few last small(ish) reflections:
Education vs Learning: I think its worth making a distinction between ‘learning’ and ‘education’. Education is a set of policies, content, structures and expectations that we define and force youth through. That sounds negative and its not meant to be, education systems are important for many reasons. But learning is so much more than that - it’s any experience where people learn something and that can happen inside a classroom but can also happen in a seemingly limitless amount of ways outside of classroom, and across lifetimes. It’s all that other learning that isn’t currently consistently recognized or valued. That’s where badges can fit in, or at least that’s the current hypothesis we are working under. That’s not to say that badges don’t or won’t have some value in formal education, but there are some bigger questions to think through there - it won’t work if we just overlay badges on the existing system or trying to force the existing system on top of badges.
Badges are not a Mozilla solution - this experiment, and its success, is not dependent solely on Mozilla. We are building the infrastructure to support the badges, but its on everyone else - the learning providers - involved. It’s on them to continue to offer awesome learning experiences, be innovative and authentic about assessment, design badges that amplify that learning and empower learners, etc. But again, if you look at the types of badge systems proposed for the competition, this is exactly what people are doing.
The Learning Group got back together last week to re-roadmap based on all of the developments in the last couple of months. Good news is, we are a lot more clear on objectives and able to scope more than we were a few months ago.
We actually did everything on our original list in Q1 - we’ve been busy!
We published the initial version of the web literacy skills which has gotten a lot of interest and feedback. MichelleL is working on the next version of these skills, with some more definition and scope, to be released at the end of Q1.
We prototyped the first Pilot, this one for journalists through Open News (more from Jess here, here and here), which allows people to build out their story online and in doing so, learn some basic web literacy skills.
We worked with the engagement team to develop the initial event kit and learning offerings for that kit. That is set to launch at the end of Q1 as well.
HUGE Q1 so far, and its not even over yet. There are a few more things that we will release before the end of March. Kudos to my kickbutt team!
Summer Campaign. You’ve all probably heard about it - if not read this and this and this. It’s a Mozilla day of action around learning webmaking skills, followed by a summer of opportunities and resources for more learning. And its going to be awesome. Needless to say, the summer campaign work is a huge priority for us and is threaded into everyone’s individual goals.
Webmaker Tool. We realized that we’ve been building the same experience over and over again and so are abstracting out the reusable chunks into a Webmaker Toolkit. This will include things like a side-by-side editor where you can edit the HTML on the left and see the live page rendered on the right, a template/mission library where you can pull in templates on top of the editor to build stuff and learn things. A mission maker that lets you create your own missions. A public gallery where you can publish the things you’ve made. A badge issuing tool to inject badges into all of these experiences, etc.
Mission Maker. This is technically part of the Webmaker Tool work, but has a much higher level set of goals. We’ve made some really awesome and beautiful stuff to date but that’s not scalable. We want other people to be able to build on our stuff, or even create their own stuff that plugs into our stuff. So we are working to build a learning offering (or ‘mission’) model that specifies the necessary pieces for building missions, and then some examples on top of that for you to dive into, fork or use as a model for a totally new idea. These missions will be lightweight, hackable pages that present a particular challenge and allow you to learn some HTML, CSS or JS by hacking on the page directly. Cool, right?
Instructor Community. We’ve been gaining some momentum with building a community around the web literacy skills and content but in Q2, we hope this is going to really take off. In addition to launching an initial site for instructors, we are going to be holding a set of instructor conferences in SF, Boston and London in late April/early May to not only solidify those networks, but also to do some massive requirements gathering around how to best support that community.
Pilots. We’ll be launching our Open News pilot, currently called StoryThing, which allows journalists, or anyone really, build out a story online and learn some HTML, CSS and stuff about the open Web in the process. We are also working with the ever awesome Popcorn team to develop a pilot to layer some more learning elements (or surface them, really) into the film/video making process through Popcorn Maker.
Big quarter coming up - what else should we have on our radar?
We just returned from a crazy packed week that I’ve now dubbed the Week to Crush all Weeks(tm). Last week crushed all other weeks in: productivity, output/achievements, networking and exhaustion. ;) Here’s a little peek into everything that went down:
EVENT KIT SPRINT
Some Learning Group and Engagement folks locked themselves in a room (with snacks and an amazing view of the Bay Bridge (see below)) for 3 days to come up with a way to easily and efficiently support folks in running events around webmaking learning content. I was only able to drop in for part of one day, but lots of cool ideas were surfaced. I won’t try to dive into the details since there are so many good posts about it by Jess here, MichelleT here, Ben here and MichelleL here.
Note: this awesome mockup was developed at the sprint by the equally awesome Jess Klein - more onher blog.
Highlights / Takeaways:
Event menu - help people pick the best format for their event
Layer on the learning - pick the skills/topics that you want to teach through the event and find resources from us and other folks
Get support - lots of checklists to help streamline organizing
Hack the process - use the resources to create your own event or experience to fit your own needs.
(you thought I was kidding about the view, didn’t you? This is from the new Mozilla SF office)
DML BADGE COMPETITION FINALS
The DML Competition (focused on Badges for Lifelong Learning) culminated in 2 days of awesome work at the California Academy of Sciences. What better place to get together to think about how to capture and extend the value of informal learning experiences, than this fantastic space full of school groups exploring science?! I was so impressed by the quality of badge systems that were pitched - this whole badge idea has come a long way since Barcelona. The funded projects were announced on Thursday evening and now we roll into a year of development and implementation of the badge systems.
Highlights / Takeaways:
A sense of “we’ve come a long way, baby” - in just a year and a half, this exploration of badges has gone from a ‘what if’ discussion with a small group in a dusty corner in Barcelona, to a movement with real potential.
Rockin’ badge system ideas with badges covering a wide range of skills including STEM skills, digital citizenship, manufacturing jobs, financial planning skills, etc.
Lots of buy-in and momentum around badges and coming together around common issues of supporting learning of all types across all ages.
Huge community potential - we want to capitalize on all of the momentum and community around badging and help support groups - funded or nonfunded - moving forward.
OPEN BADGES WEBSITE / DEMO LAUNCH
The Open Badges team produced a slick demo and new openbadges.org site that allows folks to come in and not only better understand Open Badges, but also start earning badges themselves, check out their Backpacks, etc.
Highlights / Takeaways:
Cool new spiffy look and feel
Quick and easy entry points for various audiences - funnel people directly to the info that is relevant to them.
Learn about badges and earn your first badge in the process!
Push the badge to your Backpack and check out all the features
The week ended at the Parc55 hotel for the DML Conference. Per usual, lots of energy and excitement - I really dig these people. They think like me, like Mozilla. They care deeply about democratizing and opening up learning, especially through the use of technology. There were only 6 sessions across 3 days with lots of good stuff each session (and I left after day 2), so I know I missed out on a lot. But the networking was probably even more valuable which is common with conferences but on a whole new level with DML.
Highlights / Takeaways:
Occupy Badges: we had a make shift session to dive even deeper on badges. More to come on this in a separate post.
Learning to make by making has traction in this crowd. Lots of excitement around the Mozilla Learning work.
"Make" is a loaded word and means lots of different things to people so we need to take that into consideration for the branding.
Lots of focus on supporting informal learning for youth - which is super important. But need to build in ideas around adults as well. Lifelong learning FTW!
Schew! Oh and did I forget to mention that I also traveled with my 4 month old as well? Just to make things as high energy as possible? ;)