SCoPE Seminar: Digital Badges Implementation

Peter Rawsthorne  spoke to the SCoPE community about badge system design and implementation in a live webinar last night. See the SCopE site for a recording

Peter is a mine of information  about this subject (see his blog). It seems that digital badges are probably here to stay. Some pretty heavyweight organizations appear to be investing in them –  see Peter’s post An introduction to badge systems design. Some current key questions for those in the digital badges community seem to be around

  • how to come up with a common international standard for badges
  • how to develop the technology to easily design and issue badges

What has been most interesting for me during this seminar, is my own feeling of discomfort with all this discussion about badges. I have been reflecting on why.

First I was reminded in last night’s webinar of Etienne Wenger’s ‘purple in the nose’ story. When meeting a friend to share a glass of wine, he suddenly realized that his wine-tasting friend (who described wine using an unknown language – ‘purple in the nose’), was a member of a community to which Etienne did not belong. Etienne had to decide whether he wanted to belong to that community and learn that language. I have felt the same about this seminar. I feel ‘outside’ this community of digital badge enthusiasts.

Maybe those involved in designing and implementing badges have already been through the questions which remain for me; questions about the credibility of these badges, their value, their integrity, their status, what they represent, who they represent and so on.

A most telling comment for me in the SCoPE discussion forum has been

‘More hack, less yak!”

Our facilitator has clearly been frustrated that the group has been ‘yakking’ about the issues rather than getting on and completing the tasks. As he put it, with good humour, ‘Sheesh…. What a bunch of academics <big smile>’

So I still wonder whether the badge system will promote the ‘completion of tasks’ approach to learning, more than a focus on developing a depth of understanding.

The word that kept going through my head in last night’s webinar was ‘control’.  The discussion of the design and implementation of badge systems made me wonder whether this could ultimately disempower learners rather than empower them. Given that my current research interests are related to emergent learning, I am struggling to see where digital badges would fit with this.

There was a brief discussion at the end of the webinar about the possibility of individual self-directed learners designing their own badges and legitimizing them.  For me this was the most interesting aspect of the discussion. I would have liked more ‘yak’ on this 🙂 .

Finally I wonder whether the earning of badges will be more important to some learners than others and if so, what the reasons for this might be.  I say this because one member of my family is very keen to earn and collect badges, whereas I don’t seem to have much enthusiasm for it.

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