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Week 2 - Negotiated focus and structure (20-26 August 2011)

During Week 2 we're going to explore the themes, questions and issues arising from the core reading and research in Week 1. Therefore the 'tasks' we'll undertake collaboratively in Week 2 shall be updated as Week 1 progresses. 

Please add your thoughts and ideas for a weekly focus below.

We'll be meeting at 20.00 BST (GMT+1)* on Saturday 20th as we did last week (see transcript) via IRC. Join in by clicking on the link in the left-hand sidebar!

*Find out what time that is for you here.

Update: transcript of the IRC session can be found here.

Task Discussion

  • Lisa Featherstone   Aug. 26, 2011, 3:16 a.m.

    I’ve been following the discussions on here with interest and it’s good to have such committed and knowledgeable contributors.  Doug’s comments that “So some badges will be static, well-known things, whereas others could be much more ad-hoc, fluid, or even humorous badges. :-)”  gives us a pretty broad remit for this project.  I’d like to offer a couple of comments. 

    I really like the idea of the awarding of badges by peers.  In an FE college in the North west of England they set up a staff development system to encourage their staff to use technology to enhance their teaching.  This was set up as an 8 step process from ‘uploading the course documents’ to ‘ facilitating collaborative and interactive learning’.  The nice thing about this was that once a tutor had gained their 8th level they automatically became an assessor and were able to verify work done by another colleague.  This took away the need for the staff development team to spend a large amount of their time in verification and encouraged peer development and support.  This might be a possible model for the awarding of badges within an organisation for staff or learner development.

    My main experience in teaching has been with learners with complex needs (short hand for students with more than one difficulty, learning, sensory, physical or behavioural.)  I note the comments about rewards not being the end in themselves but there are very valid reasons for embracing and using them.  Many more complex learners achieve in very small and sometimes almost imperceptible steps.  Tracking learning and achievement for them is detailed and sometimes overly complex.  Involving the learner in their learning has always been something I tried to do.  I like the concept of learners assessing their own and other’s contributions to a lesson and we encouraged them to also reflect on their PLTS (personal learning and thinking skills).  We used to make the evaluation of the lesson part of the lesson and each learner reflected on their own and their peers achievements.  (we had very very small classes!)  However, this was recorded against pre-set targets etc within the information management system of the college.  How great would it have been for the students to be able to award each other and themselves badges to be added to their achievement records, portfolios or blogs.  The badges could also be used as a reminder of their achievements when the next lesson comes along (for students with short term memory loss getting to the place that you finished the last lesson is a major issue!)

    An additional problem I did and still struggle to resolve is the ‘spiky profile’.  I was in a specialist provider a month or so ago as a young man showed me how he edited the college’s podcast for the week.  He was a wheel chair user and had the use of only one arm.  He also had no functional literacy (in the general sense of the word).  However, he knew what he wanted to do, and was able to use audacity well to edit the audio track, add some incidental music and record the introduction.  I could see a badges system working well to recognise and celebrate this sort of achievement.  Many learners have a level of digital literacy which is far higher than their perceived traditional literacy.  They can do what they want/need to do – upload photos to facebook, download music etc.  But couldn’t write a college newsletter. 

    I realise my experience is probably not even close to the norm for most of the contributors here but thought I’d share it anyway.

  • JDAnsley   Aug. 25, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

    One issue with even the concept of badges has to do with current research and theory from two individuals involved in the connecitivism and ubiquitous learning movements.

    "Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus... by neglecting the ingredients of genuine motivation -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose -- they limit what each of us can achieve." 
    Daniel Pink 

    LIkewise, Stephen Downes (2011 stats that "At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted, as though it were some type of communication." 

    So to have the goal of acquiring more badges in order to make myself more valuable doesn't fit.

  • Jenny Arntzen   Aug. 26, 2011, 1:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   JDAnsley   Aug. 25, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

    This is so interesting, because I had a completely different interpretation of the role badges could play in a distributed learning network. I work with the theory of enactivism and embodied minds, which is not far off from connectivism. Enactivism theory suggests that we are enacting the conditions of our emergence, as we are enacted into the conditions of our emergence. That is, there is no separation between our autopoietic responses to our environmental conditions (including our social processes of cognition) and the dynamic properties of our environments. We are in a constant process of recursively, and reflexively, maintaining our connection (structural coupling) to our environments (our contextual conditions). Thus, as Fritjof Capra explained the Santiago Theory of Cognition, as developed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, cognition, the process of knowing, is the process of life. As theorized by Maturana and Varela, cognition is the activity involved in the self-generation and self-perpetuation of living systems (including human beings). With this approach, cognition is the very process of life, which is the process of learning.

    I see badges as an opportunity to employ an emergent, organic process to qualify learning to meet the systematic needs of institutions. The acquisition of badges is not a motivation for learning, the learning is happening irregardless of extrinsic motivations. In my view, a system of badges could recognizes accomplishment of learning arising from intrinsic motivation, that is, learning that has not necessarily been pre-given, or pre-determined. What an individual has learned over their life journey can be assessed, evaluated and awarded recognition at significant instances in a learners' journey.

    It isn't so much the scout system of pre-determined learning skills and categories of accomplishment, but rather a system of prior learning assessment, that identifies significant learning activities and accomplishments and qualifies those skills, experiences, and knowledge clusters in relation to existing institutional categories.

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:05 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jenny Arntzen   Aug. 26, 2011, 1:57 a.m.

    Some really interesting ideas in this thread (and some references I'll need to look up!)

    I'd just like to come back down to earth slightly and, having had the privilege of seeing Dan Pink speak and reading his book, would point out that he was almost solely talking about financial rewards. In an educational context this would equate to high-stakes, summative assessment.

    Here, as far as I understand it, we're looking much more as badges as a way of recognising not not abstract knowledge but real-world skills. I think that's an important distinction. That's not to say, of course, that badges can't be used for summative assessment, but I think I'm not alone in saying we've kind of already got that covered in educational establishments... 

  • Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:05 p.m.

    I am not sure there is such a thing as knowledge without skill. One needs to be able to articulate the knowledge to self and others. As an example, a person who is an expert on a certain class of literature has learned to recognize quality, compare a work with others, extract deeper meanings, recognize writing techniques, and more. While understanding literature may not be considered by some as a 'real-world' skill, the critical thinking behind it is one of the skills that employers constantly request.

    And there is plenty of room for hip-hop, programming, cooking, and other less academic skills.

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:49 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:36 p.m.

    As a Philosophy graduate, I absolutely agree that critical thinking is important! But I'm not sure that badges are best used as replacing existing, tried-and-tested qualifications? I'd much rather see badges for things that currently aren't recognised - like, for example, the ability to mashup music videos:

  • Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:58 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:49 p.m.

    Many people involved in badges do want them to ultimately replace tried-and-tested qualifications/credentials because those credentials are inaccessible to billions of people due to cost, geography, and restricted enrollment.

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:58 p.m.

    Well, this is a broad church with different agendas and interests. I'd love Open Badges to be inclusive and provide a way to greater social justice. I just think that's a rather lofty goal for something just getting off the ground! ;-)

  • Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 3:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:59 p.m.

    Hal Plotkin of the US Department of Education was even loftier (is that a word?) in his keynote at the Connexions conference last February. He predicted that Mozilla badges would result in a cure for cancer, a solution to climate change, and peace in the Middle East.

  • JDAnsley   Aug. 24, 2011, 8:34 p.m.

    I would like to make the request that week 3 (or another subsequent week) that we discuss the questions surrounding:

    1. the security and therefore perceived value of "badges".  I realize the working draft provides some nice illustrations of the technical aspects but what about the intrinsic security (and therefore value) badges may provide?  How is this value created? How does the badge itself retain its validity and hence its value?  

    2. Building on the first point, what role do accrediting agencies have in the badge world?  Do we bundle badges into packages that resemble degrees?  Would I not be more valuable having completed 5, 10, or 15 "courses" to earn my "XYZ Degree Badge"?  When I look at highering people, I look to see that they completed 4 years of college because that proves to me they can stick with something. (thats just one argument for the "degee")



  • John McLear   Aug. 25, 2011, 5:04 a.m.
    In Reply To:   JDAnsley   Aug. 24, 2011, 8:34 p.m.

    My thoughts are that 4 years of a degree would gather thousands of micro badges that lead to one "master badge".  

    Alternatively, if you are looking for a specific badge when they send you a webcv (because we're being future orineted here) you will be able to specify a criteria for what badges you do/don't want to see.

    For me, limiting the badges to key successes completely ruins the point of a badge scheme, especially for primary kids.  I want to be able to reward as many badges as possible to try and get the kids that appreciate extrinsic rewards engaged or at least so I can identify them so we can use that knowledge in the future to help further their education.

    I'm completely open to debate this further, just trying to make sure that FE and HE don't get all the attention ;)

    Actually i have a live example of lots of micro rewards here, play some games for a while and you will start recieving badges as awards..  They increased time spent on site by ~10%

  • JDAnsley   Aug. 25, 2011, 8:21 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John McLear   Aug. 25, 2011, 5:04 a.m.

    I don't believe badges have that much of an impact on Primary Education versus that of Higher Education.  Granted there are incentive rewards that fulfill the intrinsic nature of badges, and this is all well and good for primary grade learners.  However, primary learners already have a system of reward in place.  Likewise, their exists a structure to primary education.  This is contrary to that of the pedagogical approach of Open or Peer to Peer Learning.

    We will start with that and see how this discussion developes smiley


  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 25, 2011, 11:50 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John McLear   Aug. 25, 2011, 5:04 a.m.

    Thanks for the contribution, John. What excites me about the mock-up of the badge backpack is that anyone can give anyone else a badge. Whether you display that badge is up to you. 

    So some badges will be static, well-known things, whereas others could be much more ad-hoc, fluid, or even humorous badges. :-)

  • IaninSheffield   Aug. 25, 2011, 4:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   JDAnsley   Aug. 24, 2011, 8:34 p.m.

    On point 1, maybe the value and validity ought to come from the very openness of the system. If the badge, the criteria against which its award is judged and the evidence that those criteria have been met are all available and open to scrutiny, then that transparency should help deliver the value ... maybe?

    If you'll allow me to play devil's advocate on point 2 Jason, can I suggest that spending 4 years in college could be indicative of many things, only one of which might be that the applicant can 'stick with something.'  And if an applicant came to you with an armful (to draw an analogy with badges in the Scouting movement) of badges from across a range of areas pertinent to the job for which you are hiring, then you'd surely give them a look wouldn't you? Do the badges really have to be acggregated into 'master' badge to have any worth?

    Just askin' ;-)

  • IaninSheffield   Aug. 25, 2011, 4:10 p.m.
    In Reply To:   JDAnsley   Aug. 25, 2011, 8:21 a.m.

    There may indeed  be a structure to primary education ... but we're not saying that children of that age shouldn't be allowed the opportunity to engage in Open Learning are we? Or that they don't have the capability?

  • Jenny Arntzen   Aug. 24, 2011, 2:19 p.m.

    I have been thinking about how to improve my assessment practices for teaching undergraduate technology studies education to teacher candidates. I have posted my thoughts here on my blog.

    My assessment challenges include: 1) acquisition of ICT skills and knowledge; 2) including social concepts of cognition into ICT instructional design; and 3) incorporating ICT interactivity into pedagogy and curriculum. 

    My experience with peer assessment is that there has to be a method to motivate and assess the assessors. Otherwise, they can take a lackadaisical approach and not really benefit in their own, or each other's, learning.

    I think a badge system might be really useful, as I already use lists of criteria to enact a behavioral/cognitivist approach to learning.

  • Jacky Hood   Aug. 24, 2011, 10:07 a.m.

    All --

    We decided last Saturday that we will have a Role Play around one or two learner stories in the online chat on Saturday August 27. Let's choose one story about a child and one about an adult learner.

    Please join us to look closely at a Learner Story and have some fun. Plan to take on one of these roles:

    • Learner
    • Parent
    • Guide (formerly known as instructor)
    • Prospective employer of the learner
    • Propective client/customer/patient of the learner
    • Taxpayer
    • School administrator
    • Government education authority
    • Badge issuing organization/individual
    • Others?

    We do not need to have all the roles covered and there can be more than one person in the same role. Once you have assumed a role, please include at the beginning of each comment you make. Overacting is welcome!



  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 25, 2011, 11:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jacky Hood   Aug. 24, 2011, 10:07 a.m.


    (although I'm happy to take on any role) :-)

  • Jacky Hood   Aug. 27, 2011, 2:44 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jacky Hood   Aug. 24, 2011, 10:07 a.m.

    Let's use Shelley's first scenario for our role play. This is an adult/teenager learner story and it's very compact.

    Carmen Pulido started taking piano lessons when she was seven, but taught herself to play the guitar. When the bass player for her fledgling garage band moved to South Carolina, Carmen started teaching herself bass. And shortly thereafter, as the Nilla Woofers ran through a song that sounded depressingly like their last one, she had an epiphany and realized that what she really needed was someone with a knack for arranging. “I bet there’s a badge for that!” said her tech-savvy friend and lyricist Gigi. So they hit up Facebook, and sure enough, the lead vocalist of a band they’d heard and liked on Radcast had an arranger badge posted in his public backpack. They clicked through to the issuing org, and discovered that of the 456 “Stave Master” badges posted that year, 23 were in New Jersey. Now all they had to do was post a badge-ad and start figuring who might be their best fit.

    If there is time remaining, we can tackle Kevin's scenario about an 8-year-old learner.

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 23, 2011, 3:53 p.m.

    If you follow Kevin, Dan and Ian's lead and blog a 'Learner Story', don't forget to add a link here to it! :-)

  • LindaH   Aug. 24, 2011, 7:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 23, 2011, 3:53 p.m.

    I have blogged a 'Learner Story' using the Openmatt blog post as a template. You can find it here:

    Open Badges Learner Story

    I found it an interesting way to explore the issues & spent far too long on it :-)

  • Andy Duckworth   Aug. 24, 2011, 12:29 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 23, 2011, 3:53 p.m.

    I have blogged a learner story relating to a computer lab help desk.

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 25, 2011, 11:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Andy Duckworth   Aug. 24, 2011, 12:29 p.m.

    Great! Thanks Linda and Andy. :-D

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 25, 2011, 11:54 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Andy Duckworth   Aug. 24, 2011, 12:29 p.m.

    Great! Thanks Linda and Andy. :-D

    (although Linda, your link doesn't work?)

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 22, 2011, 11:48 a.m.

    Just to keep everything together here, Kevin McLaughlin, Daniel Stucke and Ian Guest have responded to Saturday evening's call to provide 'Learner Stories' for the use of Open Badges. :-)

  • daniel stucke   Aug. 21, 2011, 3:52 p.m.

    I've added some ideas myself here:

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 20, 2011, 4:01 p.m.

    We had a good chat this Saturday about the potential structure for the remaining of this semester of learning. What we agreed (subject to further discussion and debate this week!) is that it might be a good idea to flesh out and provide more contextualised Learner Stories.

    The idea would be to write about 500 words on how Open Badges would work in a context with which you are familiar. Kevin McLaughlin has kindly offered to write the first one.

    How does that sound?

    (transcript of our conversation is here)

  • kvnmcl   Aug. 20, 2011, 4:56 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 20, 2011, 4:01 p.m.

    It's a great idea Doug and one that should increase participation. 

  • butwait   Aug. 26, 2011, 11:51 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Doug Belshaw   Aug. 20, 2011, 4:01 p.m.

    I've blogged a couple of Learning Stories here:

    Hope that's helpful!

    in peace,

    Shelley (aka @butwait)

  • Doug Belshaw   Aug. 20, 2011, 8:30 a.m.

    Do join us this evening (20.00-21.00 BST*) for our weekly IRC session on Open Badges! Click on the #p2pu-235-open-badge link next to 'Chat' in the sidebar.

    *What time is that for me?