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Mozilla and the world of Badges May 1, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, making the invisible visible, social computing.
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André Knörig, who is project lead of our research project “Experience the Energy“, pointed me to an interesting development related to badges: Mozilla and Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is trying to establish and open system for badges called OpenBadges:

We’re building an open platform that will enable anyone to issue, collect and display badges. Providing learners with new ways to get public recognition for their skills and achievements.

Here a diagram explaining the system:


(images source)

Here an interesting section from the FAQs:

Why do we need badges?

  • In today’s world, learning happens everywhere. With multiple pathways for learners to gain competencies and  skills.
  • Learning opportunities have grown to include multiple contexts, experiences  and interactions. And have become more social, informal, participatory, creative and lifelong. 
  • What’s missing is the public recognition of these competencies and skills. It’s often difficult to get credit or recognition for these new forms of learning.
  • A badge system can fill this gap. Providing the critical missing piece for the web and other new learning environments to realize their full potential.
They are basically planning to provide a hole range of badges, either related to skills, which a student learned, to “granular accomplishments” or status in certain communities.
Surprising – as the system is called OpenBadges – was the current idea on who can issue badges:
  • Traditional educational institutions (e.g., x, y or z)
  • Communities of practice (e.g., open education projects, peer learners, or the individual learners  themselves)
  • After-school programs and learning networks.
  • Online courses and open courseware initiatives.
I have the feeling that this is quite an traditional approach to this idea an does not really sound like “learning happens everywhere” and “open”. And this also shows the problem with badges: as they are purely symbolic, they need to be part of a recognized reputation system – at least recognized by the community! Otherwise they are worthless. (A little anecdote there: when the wall came down, it took not long a one could buy badges from the old East German government for next to nothing. With the fall of the system they turned into worthless cheap pieces of metal…)
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