Introducing Webmaker, the Product
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.
- “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.
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
- Badge issuing
- 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
- Peer assessment
- 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!
Mozilla Foundation Launch Codes
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!
Mozilla Summer Code Party.
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!
Party like its summer 2012. Launch code.
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.
Use the editor. Try out a Thimble project. Launch code
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!
Webmaker Learning Projects.
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.
Project Launch Codes
Early Version of PopcornMaker.
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.
Get involved! Party with us! Launch Code
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.
COMING UP LATER THIS YEAR
Mozilla Badge System.
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.
The Three T’s of Badge System Design
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 what badges? 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
JISC webinar on Web Literacy
MichelleL and I gave a presentation on our webmaker / web literacy work through JISC last Friday.
On webmaking and the Web:
- 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):
- 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.
Doesn’t all content eventually become something owned by Google, Facebook or YouTube at this point?
- 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?
There are no mention of Web 2.0 tools in your skills. How do you see this fitting in with Web 2.0 tools?
How does this map to computer science requirements / pathways?
OBI Public Beta
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:
- Store badges
- Manage badges
- Import badges
- Group badges
- Publish groups to a unique URL and add narrations/notes around each badge to share
- New displayer API
- New documentation
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!
What does it look like?
Technically like this…
But really like this…
(Sample Badge Backpack)
(Published group of badges)
How can I get involved?
- Be a badge issuer or a badge displayer
- Earn badges and push to your Backpack - in fact, you can earn your first badges at openbadges.org
- Check out the code. Fork it. Get Technical Documentation. https://github.com/mozilla/openbadges
- Join our community calls: https://openbadges.etherpad.mozilla.org/openbadges-community
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!
Reflections on Reflections on Badges
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.
More to come I’m sure.
Alex Halavais Badges: The Skeptical Evangelist
David Theo Goldberg: Badges for Learning: Threading the Needle Between Skepticism and Evangelism
Dan Hickey Open Badges and the Future of Assessment
Audrey Watters (who I finally met in person at DML!) Thinking (Strategically) About Badges
Cathy Davidson Can Badging Be the Zipcar of Testing and Assessment?
Philipp Schmidt Let’s Make Badges Not Stink
A Week to Crush all Weeks(tm)
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 on her 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.
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? ;)
Open Badges Roadmap
I posted last week on the Mozilla Learning Group roadmap. You might have noticed some aspects explicitly missing, namely all the awesome work around the Open Badge Infrastructure. That’s because its so awesome, it warrants its own roadmap!
2011 was a big exploratory year for Open Badges. We built initial pilots, had a ton of conversations with folks about badges and badge system design, planned/kicked off the DML Badge competition and launched the first version of the OBI.
2012 is a big implementation and roll out year - we will be releasing everything publicly in a way that makes it as easy for people to plug in as possible. We’ll put it out there and then get out of the way and let the ecosystem grow. Here are the things we know we need to do:
- Release a new version of openbadges.org - including an overhaul of documentation and resources (end of Q1)
- Build a demo to help people see the OBI. The OBI is built to be underlying plumbing and the Backpacks are private to each learner so there isn’t a lot to see by design. But we get that people need a little more to be able to grasp the concept, see what we’re building, etc. So we’re building a demo environment to help that happen. Will be available from the new openbadges.org by early March.
- Release a public beta of the OBI. We released an initial private beta last September - it was more of a developer preview. Now we are working towards an open, public beta that includes:
- Fully developed issuer API
- First-party signing of badges (as an alternative to needed to host/maintain the badge assertion on your site)
- Fully developed displayer API
- Initial endorsement API - supporting third party signing of badges
- Legal considerations built in
- Ramp up partners pushing badges in and pulling badges out over the course of the year. Get more badges in the ecosystem!
- Release the 1.0 version by the end of 2012. There is a lot that goes into reaching ‘product’ level in Mozilla so this version will build on beta, add in additional features and meet product-ize requirements.
You can see the full current working version of the roadmap here.
We definitely are looking for suggestions/insights/etc. on this roadmap. Does this align with your plans for badges? Are there elements that are missing?
Definitely feel free to log thoughts/feedback through comments, but the best venue for discussion is our new Open Badges community call, each Wednesday at noon ET. Here are the details and notes from the kick off call - please join us next week!