Blog Post

Ulterior Motives –Start the Interrogation!


My first blog post as a HASTAC scholar must begin with a confession. I applied to be a HASTAC Scholar because I want this community's help. You better start the interrogation.

Who are you?

Oh, that’s an easy one. I am a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) and a student in his last year in the Learning Science and Policy program in the School of Education. There I’ve had the opportunity to investigate two different educational badge systems.

What’s an educational badge?

Another great question, but I bet others here already know the answer. Leading scholars and innovators, including Cathy Davidson, have already written eloquently about them.  You can check out her post, Mozilla’s Open Badge Project, and this year’s Digital Media and Learning (DML) competition – you can even find my name as one of the competition’s winners.

Why do you need help?

Ok, I’ll get to the point. If there is anything I’ve concluded about Badges already, it’s that they can mean many different things to many different people. It’s sometimes hard to even have discussions about them because so many people have different suppositions and beliefs about what badges are and how they can help.

Stop stalling and get to the point!

Whoa, this is a serious crowd. But that’s what I want. I want this community to give me serious feedback about what they think badges mean. Specifically, I want feedback on my badge research and what it could mean to any of you, even if you aren’t interested in Educational Badges.

You just want feedback. That’s easy, we ‘ve got tons of insightful commentary raring to go.

I hope it’s easy, but I think Educational Badges are deceptively complex and might require some deep thinking and lengthy dialog. But I like your confidence.

What’s the first step?

In the coming weeks, I’m going to blog about my different research studies and invite commentary.  I hope you know that no comment is too succinct or off-topic. I’m craving a dialog and I think this community can provide it.

This is a pretty strange first blog entry. Are all of your posts going to be this schizophrenic?

Only one way to find out. ;)



Hi Sam, 

I'll be honest right from the start: I don't get the whole badges thing. In fact <deep breath>, I may have even snickered meanly about them w/ my Twitter ed-techy types. Ignorance is bliss? I hope I'm going to learn from your posts, enough to help me ask intelligent questions!


Hi Karen,

Not only do I think your skepticism is good but I think it's far too early to tell what are the potential benefits of badges. With many new educational concepts, there is often an initial wave of very passionate advocates who push those concepts into the general public's mindset. Now, I think that is an important role because otherwise peoples' resistance to new ideas often win out. However, a new idea isn't always a good idea (and sometime they aren't new).

For example, everyone has been talking about the transformative power of the Khan Academy. But I am skeptical since it, at least initially, just seems to be is pre-recorded direct instruction. And you don't have to work hard to find the flaws of recorded lectures. But maybe I'm wrong and the unique aspects of the videos (e.g. their length, coverage of topics, ease of access) are truly innovative.

I think it is the job of scholars such as you and me to investigate and assess these concepts. I'll hope you'll continue to read my blog posts and let me know where you think your skepticism is valid and where it might be adjusted.