“We don’t need no stinking badges”. It’s a classic movie line and it had a blogging overtone for me recently. I was reading Stephen Downes’ Twitter feed and he had commented in his resources on a blog entry by David Truss about folks being duped into putting a badge on their blogs or websites that promote other services that may not necessarily be desirable or worthy of support.
In sort of a smart alec comment, on Stephen’s site, I commented on the post asking about a Downes.ca badge.
There was a time when I had a number of badges on this blog. I just happened to be looking at my blog on a data projector one day and it did give me cause to pause. The blog looked like a comic strip with all of the different colours and designs for these badges. When I added them, it seemed to be the thing to do at the time. After all, the blog was nominated for this or that and I liked this resource and wanted to promote it and … But it just looked silly. So, when I did a redesign of the blog, I went for a more minimalist approach. I do support the International Edubloggers and the efforts of educators in their blogging efforts so it’s there as well as a link to Alltop where I share with anyone who cares just what blogs turn my crank during morning coffee. So, that was it.
Then, Stephen gets back to me. To quote – “Ask and you shall receive”. He has designed a Downes.ca badge and made sure that I knew about it with a reply. It also ended up being an entry on Stephen’s site.
So, what is this humble blogger to do? Well, of course, it ends up on this site and you can see it in the right sidebar.
That’s the story behind the badge appearance on this blog. But, what does this mean? What am I supporting?
I’m currently at the ISTE Conference where I’m doing some serious learning myself. I’ve touched base with many folks that I’ve learned with over the years already and had some great discussion. When I get my act together, I’ll be headed out to the convention centre to kick it up a few notches.
All day yesterday, I kept thinking about this new badge as I was having my discussions with friends, old and new. It could be interpreted in so many ways. My focus is on the word “free”. Has Stephen used it as a verb? Or, does it connect with “learning” to be a noun. It seems to me that it takes on a different connotation depending upon how you use it.
I’m going to go with the latter. The former is too political and I’m not in a position to wade into that arena. The second interpretation deals with something that I believe passionately about. I wish that there was a forum for blogging years ago. I would have enjoyed documenting things that my computer science students had taught me. The closest that we came was a Bulletin Board System and extra phone line that I purchased for 24 hour communications. It worked but to a small group. Does anyone remember Essex Wildcat! or Bay Street Bulls or Card Guppies?
Today, there are so many tools that let you create and share your bit of expertise. You can do it for free. I’m sure that’s the main focus in “Free Learning”. So, sure, stick the badge on your resource but make sure that you’re part of the game. “Free Learning” should be a two-way street. It’s easy to take, however, there needs to be a point where you give back based upon your abilities. I’m giving back through this blog, my wiki, and through my work on GEC Computers in the Classroom. All of it is free and I’m tickled when people take advantage. I’m also so appreciative to visit internet resources where people give back. Whether it’s hard-core content or a blog where alternative views are shared, that’s the learning that I value so much.
I’m also thinking about the concept of the ISTE Conference with the thousands of those in attendance. Certainly, attending is not free. There also isn’t one entry point or one exit point. You walk into the conference centre and, unless you’ve paid for an extra charge session, you’re on your own to pick and choose where you’ll go. In that sense, it’s more like “Free Range Learning”.
I do like what Stephen has started and I hope that people get behind and support this concept. If you’re generating content and are happy to share it, why not? It’s a badge worth having.