Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Open Badges Values

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.

-E

Friday, May 3, 2013

What learners say about badges.#iheartdigitalme

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Evolution of Badges, DML-by-DML

image 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: 

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(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!)

-E 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Open Badges 1.0 Launch

You may have heard but we launched Open Badges 1.0 on Thursday at the DML Conference. Here are some places to read more:

My version

Here’s what 1.0 means to me, pulled from the talk I gave at the announcement on Thursday:

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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.

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This is the badge backpack, where you collect and manage your badges.

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So to begin, users can create a backpack with just an e-mail

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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.

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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.

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The user then sees detail of the badge, and can accept it and add it to their backpack.

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Now the badge has been added to the backpack.

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Earners will be able to organize their badges into different collections

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They can then create a public-facing portfolio page with their badges, and add notes about what they’ve earned

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You can also share your badges on social media. Clicking the Twitter link brings up a box to write and send your tweet.

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And there it is in our user’s twitter timeline.

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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 change how 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. 

What’s next

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. 

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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.

Thank yous

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)

-E

Monday, October 10, 2011

Badges 101 Webinar Follow-up

Last Thursday I presented on a Badges 101 webinar run by HASTAC. The goal was to give some foundational information and answer questions about badges in general. It was well attended - over 200 attended and more weighed in with questions. 

You can see the recording here: http://www.dmlcompetition.net/Blog/2011/10/badges-101-webinar-follow-up-and-recap/

We were only able to address a handful of questions during the webinar since time was running out, but we are all currently weighing in on the great questions that came in and will be continually posting our responses via the HASTAC Badges forums. There were a few that caught my attention and I wanted to answer here as well:

Isn’t grade just another form of a badge I can post A,B,C,D, F on fridge, The internet just makes fridge bigger?

I love this question. The internet as a big fridge just makes me smile. But it is also a really good question. Are badges the same as grades? Aren’t we just reinventing the same system? I think this is exactly what we should avoid. Grades are a very limited and in many cases, ineffective system. A grade is abstract and often tells very little about what was behind the grade. Even for those situations where the criteria differentiating an A from a B is clearly defined, once removed from that experience, the grade loses all of that information. Even just looking at the system - 5 grades - imposed on everything regardless of what is being taught/learned, feels irrelevant and artificial. And then there is normalizing and grade inflation… 

A driving principle behind the badge work is that we will use badges to capture a wide, granular range of learning so that the skill, competency, achievement, etc. is explicitly expressed through the badge, and of course that badge carries with it all of the information needed to understand the badge, including the criteria/assessment behind the badge and potentially even a link to the learner’s work as evidence (an optional piece of metadata). Thus badges move us away from a standardized, artificial system and start to lay the foundation for an authentic, personalized system that captures and continues to communicate the learning and skill development that occurred. 

And returning to the fridge metaphor - in my childhood, only the papers, quizzes or homework that got the A made the fridge. Regardless of the work, when my parents saw an A, they implicitly knew what that meant and knew how my work compared to others’. Badges sets us up for a different, more personalized system where learners can collect badges for a wide range of skills and achievements. Badges can represent unique and individualized pathways of learning. It becomes less about comparisons to other learners, and more about personal interests and accomplishments. It becomes less about the rating and more about the work itself. This makes some people nervous - how will we make sense of it all if we don’t have the standardization? It will be a different system, that’s for sure. But what gets me excited is that it opens up the opportunity for so much more authenticity, flexibility and recognition. A learner’s collection of badges could be on that fridge but instead of just a few papers with A’s, and it would represent a much more complete picture or narrative around that learners achievements, strengths, interest and skills. 

Seems like the success of badges at least partly depends on educating employers and the public about their value?

Yes, there will certainly be a learning curve. We are starting something new here so it can’t be expected that HR departments are going to suddenly know what to make of badges on digital resumes or applications. But that said, we have talked to a bunch of employers and hiring managers and many are open to the idea, and beyond that, almost all (if not all) recognize a need for a new system. They are looking for a way to get more contextual information on applicants, including the evasive social or softer skills that are so important and relevant to employers and success as an employee. Badges can offer a way to present more granular and comprehensive information about a person, and that information is more than just something flat listed on a resume but instead is linked to information about criteria and evidence to validate the badge. So while, yes, as with any new system, there will need to be some initial education around badges, the potential is so huge that I don’t anticipate it will take much to tip folks in favor of a the new approach. But we’ll see!

There is a follow-up Badges 101 webinar on October 17th at 2pm ET so if you missed that one, or still have more questions - check that one out. Also, for questions specific to the competition details and instructions, check out this webinar tomorrow (10/11) at 3pm ET

-E