Friday, November 16, 2012

Webmaker Badges Are Here: Get Recognized!

I wrote awhile back about our thinking around the Webmaker Badges. Well that thinking is now a reality, we launched the first set of Webmaker badges at MozFest.

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.

Deeper Dive

Webmaker Badges

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.

Starting small.

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.

Innovative assessments.

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.

What’s Next

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.

More badges.

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.

Open sourcing.

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.

Shout Outs

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.

-E