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  • Doug Belshaw 10:15 am on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    CBE and badges 

    Digital Badges in Education

    Competency-based education is a big issue at the moment in the US. The fourth chapter (‘Competency-Based Education and the Relationship to Digital Badges’) of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases makes some niche points in terms of national programmes, but also includes this very quotable section:

    [C]ompetencies are a way to describe achievements, skills, and abilities in a way that can be understood by a variety of groups, without any need to determine the exact path of how these were acquired, whether through academic training or on-the-job experience. Using competencies as building blocks, digital badges serve as micro-credentials and give competencies a standardized visual format that can be shared among learners’ social and professional networks and/or displayed in e-portfolios using software plug-ins from badging platforms and then recognized by colleagues, educational institutions, and employers. The ability to link badges to artifacts, which are tied to competencies, allows the view to verify the knowledge and skill of the person holding the badge. With this deep connection, badges become more than a visual symbol, they are explicit evidence of skills, competencies, and experience.

    As we saw with gamification, there’s both value and danger in aligning badges too closely with a particular programme or approach. That being said, CBE seems to be a very good fit for Open Badges – and an effective way to move the US away from its dependency on ‘seat time’.

    For the rest of the world, particularly Europe where competency-based education is more ‘normal’, the above quotation is a useful one to use to reinforce that evidencing competencies using badges is a worthwhile thing to do!  

  • Doug Belshaw 4:33 pm on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    You say ‘rigor’, I say ‘preserving the status quo’ 

    Digital Badges in Education

    The third chapter of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is ‘The Case for Rigor in Open Badges’ by Richard E. West and Daniel L. Randall. The last section of the chapter includes recommendations of ‘key principles’ for Open Badges going forward:

    We offer the following as key principles:

    • Badges should be awarded through rigorous assessment processes and thus carry weight and represent real achievement and learning.
    • Badges should have value outside of the learning environment and have signalling power to other persons about the learner’s skill and knowledge.
    • While we do believe gamification can be a positive thing in education, badges should do more than be points or check marks.
    • Badge providers should use rigorous assessment practices to truly authenticate what a learner knows against clear and measurable criteria.
    • Badge providers would likely benefit from collaborating together to build brands that will grow the credibility and acceptance of the badges being issued.

    To my mind, this whole chapter is the ivory tower equivalent of, “if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything begins to look a lot like a nail.” I don’t think the authors understand how completely different a system based on badges could be, and have focused on what would be on the lowest tier of Puentadura’s SAMR model. What they are advocating is merely substituting badges for a system we’ve already got. Such an approach is tokenistic and, I would argue, lacks imagination.

  • Doug Belshaw 4:12 pm on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The exchange value of badges depends on alignment 

    Digital Badges in Education

    In Chapter 2 (‘Badges and Competencies: New Currency for Professional Credentials’) of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases, Anne Derryberry, Deborah Everhart, and Erin Knight explain how the Open Badges ecosystem works, including how badges operate as currency:

    Collaboration on the design of badge systems between standards organizations, learning providers, assessors, and employers can benefit all stakeholders. When badges are tied to assessments that are themselves aligned to industry standards and best practices, the likelihood of finding the right match between a job seeker (badge holder) and an employer is greatly improved. Further, learning providers can use these alignments to offer programs that better match employer requirements and offer greater value to their learners. If the ecosystem is in balance in this way, the exchange value of badges is high; when the ecosystem is out of alignment, the value of badges is low.

    This is a key insight: the value of a badge in the current ‘market’ depends on alignment with the existing priorities of stakeholders.

  • Doug Belshaw 3:41 pm on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Open Badges are about trust and identity 

    Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases

    The opening chapter of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is a piece written by Sheryl Grant entitled, ‘History and Context of Open Badges’. There’s a great section of this that I wanted to share:

    In the relatively static infrastructure of twentieth-century education, we are wed to a system of accreditation and endorsement to measure what is good. Our traditional institutions of learning also use grades, degrees, diplomas, licenses, and certificates to determine whois good. To gauge the quality of this “goodness”, a small but influential cottage industry has, for better or for worse, sprung up to measure and rank schools and universities based on a combination of hard data, peer assessment, and intangibles, such as faculty dedication to teaching. While the obvious purview for both students and schools is to teach and learn, the overarching system described above blends different systems of assessment and reputation in order to determine what it means to be good – or competent, or proficient, or even masterful – in the eyes of others.

    Open digital badges arise from the same human urge, which is to instill a degree of trust that people are who they say they are and can do what they claim to do. Badges also reflect a desire to resolve a peculiar and novel problem in the digital age: To whom does reputation belong online. Only on the Internet can reputation be tethered to a proprietary system. For example, eBay, which implemented one of the first peer-to-peer evaluation systems, prevented Amazon from importing customer reputation to its own platofrm (Resnick, Kuwabara, Zeckhauser, & Friedman, 2000). The idea that our reputations could belong to anyone other that us is a recent phenomenon that applies equally to learning platforms like Khan Academy or massive open online courses (MOOCs) where people earn badges that can only be displayed within the technical system whether they were awarded. The badges are thus only visible to those who are logged into the system, which limits the value and portability of the reputation to outside audiences. Open digital badges, however, contain standard technical specifications, and these open standards (not to be confused with academic standards) help foster a digital medium of exchange for credentials that previously did not exist, allowing learners to collect, keep, and share the reputation they have built across different platforms.”

    I particularly like the way that Sheryl frames badges in terms of trust and identity on the web. I think this is a good way to improve messaging around Open Badges more generally.

  • Doug Belshaw 10:19 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Europeans aren’t more cultured, they’re just more privacy-aware 

    This post, shared on Hacker News, is really interesting. Entitled Why European Children Are So Much Quieter Than Yours, it’s written by an American mother bringing up her children in Vienna.

    The playgrounds weren’t just beautiful. They were quiet. That was what struck me when I first moved to Vienna, Austria. Children there played and laughed, but rarely yelled across the park. Naturally, we Americans stood out. It wasn’t just my young daughter yelling, “Hey Mom, look at me!” from atop the climbing gym. I was part of the problem: “Time to go home!” I’d thoughtlessly yell from my bench, and then feel other parents’ eyes dart toward me in disapproval.

    I was skeptical after reading that opening paragraph, much for the same reasons as one HN commenter:

    Man, when do we stop this European thing? Have you tried to compare a kid in Naples with a kid in, say, Denmark? Come on, the kid in Naples will be a 24/7 hurdle, shouting in the street from when the sun rises. I even have a hard time talking about Italians since kids from North and South are very different.

    However, I was disarmed as the author of the post continued to share her experiences:

    Americans often hear about how much more sophisticated Europe is: women nurse their babies openly, and people change their clothes in public parks or by swimming pools because they don’t have our hang-ups about nudity. It may be that Europeans are just more comfortable with nudity, but this different relationship with public spaces also comes into play. In Europe, I may be in a public setting but the space around me is mine. I know that my neighbors at the playground, café, beach, or bus stop are going to do their best to ignore me entirely and give me whatever privacy I may want or need.

    She also makes a great point about how, because (most?) Americans have large backyards, etc. they don’t use public areas in the same way that Europeans do. 

    At first, I mistook these customs—the failure to make eye contact or smile while passing on the street, the utter lack of chit-chat that’s the background buzz of American waiting rooms and checkout lines—as evidence of a core coldness. Yet I’ve come to see it not as a lack of friendliness or compassion, but an outgrowth of the Europeans’ respect for privacy in the public sphere.

    It’s a great post that I’ll hang onto when I need to explain the differences (not better/worse) between Europe and North America.

  • Doug Belshaw 9:38 am on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Rejecting the neoliberal idea of maximal productivity 

    Matthew 12

    I was in church yesterday when this passage from the gospel of Matthew was preached by John Rowley, a man for which I have the utmost respect. John’s a retired engineer who is an associate vicar in our parish. He was talking about the importance of work, of craft, but also of the spirit of the Sabbath.

    What really struck me, as I sat helping with the A/V for the service, was that as a society we tend to focus on the letter rather than the spirit of the law. And by ‘the law’ I mean not only the law of the land, but the kind of implicitly contracts that bind our working lives. No matter what your religious beliefs and affiliations, it’s pretty clear that working continually without rest is good for neither the individual nor society. Productivity has to have a point to it.

    Today is a Bank Holiday in England, a day of rest for most people, where they get a chance to do all of the things they’ve been meaning to do up to that point. For some, that’s a bit of DIY, for others it’s spending more time with their children, for others (like me!) it’s a great chance to catch up with some reading. 

    There’ll always be people looking to treat others as ends rather than means. Those who say that the workforce has too many holidays, too many benefits, that this generation ‘has it easy’. These kind of people see human work as something that can be ‘mined’ or ‘farmed’ for maximum profit. We should be rising up in solidarity against such mindsets and approaches. 

    I’m fortunate to have been able to create a situation for myself where I can choose to work four days a week. So, for me, this is just another four day week, but with the ‘day off’ being a Monday rather than a Friday. Despite that, I still find there to be something a little sacred about the idea of Bank Holiday. Perhaps it’s the idea of everyone (or most people) being off work together. Perhaps it’s just the notion of a ‘bonus day’. Whatever it is, I think we should value this time and explicitly not seek to make it maximally productive.

    Whatever that means.

  • Doug Belshaw 6:51 am on May 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply  


    After more migraines than usual in April, I’m abstaining from coffee and alcohol in May. I’ll be drinking a lot of camomile tea…

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