Seeing Peter McAsh at the ECOO Conference last week jogged me to a blog post that I had started to write but never finished. That’s on the order today.
In our hall closet, there’s a big picture frame and inside there are things from my youth. Underneath the glass covers are all of the badges I earned from the Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts and swimming awards from the Red Cross, Royal Life Saving Society, and the Canadian Lifeguard Service. Every time we do a thorough house cleaning, the question is posed “Why are you keeping this stuff?” My response is always the same “I don’t know but I worked really hard to earn those. I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.”
In fact, I bought an extra Bronze Medallion and Award of Merit when I earned them. They remain with me all the time on a chain around my neck. (except, of course, when I remove them to take a picture…)
Some of the other badges/awards just don’t follow me around like those two do!
Probably the one that I had to work the hardest for was the Bronze Medallion. I remember that I had to take the course twice. I failed the first time but got it on the second. It smartened me considerably that success wasn’t just the in-pool work but that the RLSS took the academic knowledge part seriously as well. Given the change in mindset, the Award of Merit was mine on the first try. These two and all of the other things I’ve collected mean a great deal to me.
The concept is similar to education. You learn; you pass a test; you win or lose, pass or fail. Except that in education, we have different levels of passing. By assigning a number to the work, we somehow quantify “how well” someone passes. I wonder though – does that really matter? I recall a number of students who wouldn’t be satisfied with 99%. They wanted 100% for everything. “Sir, it’s no sweat to you…just change it”. I usually did. It never happened but I often wondered how I could justify a “low mark of 99” to a parent or a “high mark of 99” to a principal! After all, maybe the assessment was about proficiency of the IF statement. How do you quantify that? Isn’t it better that learning how to use that statement was an accomplishment and you could either use it or not use it?
It turns out that this type of logic is shared is other places as well. In fact, the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. In the “real world”, whatever that means, you learn various tasks and the test for success is whether or not you can do it. Recently, I just took the Google Power Searching course online. It was one of the better online courses that I’ve taken. I actually signed up for the course earlier this summer but didn’t have the time to complete it. I made a concerted effort the second time around and passed. The result? I have a certificate. In order to be successful, I had to be able to demonstrate that I knew the concepts before passing. Fair enough.
Some more examples…
The description of this lays it out very nicely. “The Ubuntu Accomplishments project is designed to provide a means in which you can be awarded trophies for different types of accomplishments in the community and elsewhere. The project is designed for Ubuntu’s needs, but actually supports any community and project.” In this case, trophies are given for contribution to the community which is at the heart of the Ubuntu philosophy. Or, there’s another alternative that I’m enjoying doing. As you learn how to do things in Ubuntu, you’ll earn a trophy!
In this case, I learned how to change the desktop wallpaper. Got me a trophy!
This was where Peter came in. He and I had had a discussion about the use of badges for achievements in courses offering all or some of the course in this learning environment. Edmodo comes with pre-designed badges or you can create your own!
Mozilla Open Badges
The folks at Mozilla, which gives us Firefox and Thunderbird, have a really interesting concept in the Open Badges project. By participating, you have an “Open Badge Backpack” to store the badges as you earn them.
I think that there’s a great deal of merit in the approach. In fact, most skills are ultimately judged by whether you can do them or not. Why can’t assessment be a celebration of the fact that you’re able to do something instead of trying to assign a number to everything.
Finally, it you’re an Ontario Edublogger, why not add an Ontario Edublogger badge to your blog. I think it’s another good example. If you’ve elected to become a blogger, that’s it. There’s no percentage of posts or anything else required to be a member – just do it.
Finally, as I’m writing this entry, I dodge into my Diigo account and see that I’ve also bookmarked a site called badg.us. I’ll admit that I haven’t used it to any great extent. The whole concept of do something – get a badge really intrigues me.