Blog Post

Be More Than a Badger -- Be A Displayer!

Whilst the world has been getting Olympic fever over summer we have been busy creating our own medals for young champions using the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure. In the process we have come to realise the value not just of the medal but also of the podium.

(See Previous Post for How we became a Badger)

man proud of his many medalsThe Badge is the thing

When we started thinking about badges and how they could be integrated on our safe social platform for schools we really only focused on one element - making and issuing badges. This makes good sense, we are making and giving out badges for work students do so we needed to have that bit solid otherwise they wouldn’t  have anything to shout about. However, in making our first badge issuer we soon realised the wider potential of being a badge displayer - and some of the complexities that go with it!

Sharing as a value
A common question about Open Badges is ‘what is their real value’ this is obviously a much broader question than I am qualified to answer* but a key component of creating value in Open Badges is being able to share them with others and generally shout ‘Go Me!”. Whether it’s friends, teachers, universities or prospective employers being able to showcase the badges you earn is surely a major driver for earning them in the first place?

This was reinforced when we awarded our first cohort of students their badges - their collective response could best be summed up as “And?’’

Being able to gain a badge was a great way to engage the students and deepen their connection with the project but having an audience to appreciate it at the end was the bit that would keep them going and progressing further.

*(Erin Knight and Doug Belshaw are much better authorities on all things badges, value and methodology - read their blog if you dont believe me /

Open Badge on MakwavesThese are My Badges...Currently there aren’t many options for showing/sharing Open Badges - there are widgets for creating and showing badges on some systems such as wordpress but none that plug you straight into an existing audience and that are suitable for use in school - none that I’m aware of - please let us know of any and your experience.

We have now launched our first iteration of an ‘Badge display panel’ for Makewaves - (or BDP for those with a history in Hip Hop! ).

Students can now add a panel to their Makewavesprofile that will pull in any Open badges they have made public. Visitors to students pages can view the badges, click to view the criteria and click through to the evidence link - the visitor can then give feedback using the comments feature.

It’s a simple implementation at this stage and we plan to make it more elegant with more user controls and easier ways to organise the badges further down the line. However, it’s a start and now means we have a full (if basic) badge life cycle for S2R Medals allowing us to properly test the learning criteria, peer interactions, and how it all works in the classroom - the REALLYcomplex bit!

Universal Displayer
The display panel was developed as a means to an end so students could show their S2R Medals. However it’s not restricted to that. Any Open Badges that students have earned can now be displayed on their Makewaves profile page for others to view and give feedback on. If you have an Open Badge school students are earning now please get in touch to  explore how we can link.

Badge discovery
Being able to see what badges others in the community have achieved opens up some interesting opportunities for cross fertilisation between peers. As users start to discover other badges that their friends have we hope to see a network effect increase the attractiveness of badges and maybe some new hybrid skill sets emerging.

We are looking to build on the ‘discoverability’ of badges by creating a kind of ‘badge library’ that shows all the badges your friends have earned with links to how to get them. This kind of peer recommendation is a motivational layer that we hadn't considered at the outset but could have significant potential for the adoption of Open Badges.

Whole School Pride and League Tables
We work mainly with schools and we know from experience that schools are very keen to showcase student successes - at an individual level but also as an aggregate of the school’s overall success. Just think about how important trophy cabinets, local newspaper reports and school league tables are to a school’s perceived value.  If a school was able to easily display all their student’s badges or create a summary of the achievements it could help gain senior management support for the use of badges in the classroom and help reach a whole new audience of parents.

What Next?
Firstly a confession. The Makewaves Open Badge panel is not quite ready to be rolled out to the whole community just yet. We are currently testing it with a few users and will roll it out to more over the next couple of months. Part of the reason we are hesitating is about communication - How do we explain to students what Open Badges are and why they should get them?

This is our next big challenge with S2R Medals as we work with our partners DigitalMe to create a compelling programme that can be easily adopted by any school or pupil - more on this soon...

Why should I get an Open Badge?
It would be great to hear from others how you have tackled this communication problem. How do you convey to students what an Open Badge is and how do you answer the most challenging question from a teen...  “And?”

Further reading....


About the project
In March we embarked on a journey to research, test and launch a badge system as part of oursafe social learning platform for schools. In partnership with DigitalMe, we have been developing an Open Badge system for Supporter to Reporter, a project where young people create and share sports related stories, report from real world events and coach others in the skills they have learned.  (For more Information about S2R  see )

Becoming a Badger - an Update
In my previous post I discussed how we had created a simple badge issuing system as a way to get hands on with the technology and get feedback from users. This was an excellent learning tool for us and a practical tool to award real Open Badges to students. It also highlighted some challenges with the flow between systems.

Since then we met with Mozilla teams to discuss the issues in detail - they were really open to feedback and in most cases were already looking at solutions which will have a big impact. These include auto-validating Persona accounts from selected providers and being able to easily share individual badges rather than groups.

I highly recommend Chris Mcavoys Blog for fun and on-point updates on Open Badges and theMozilla Identity Team blog for  all things Persona and for sounding like a secret disguises division of the CIA!

DML Competition

Makewaves and DigitalMe  are winners of the 4th Digital Media and Learning Competition<>, held in conjunction with the Mozilla Foundation and supported by the MacArthur Foundation. This 12-month grant from the Digital Media and Learning Competition will enable the development of badge systems and their supporting technological and learning infrastructure to improve academic achievement, economic opportunity, civic engagement, and opportunities for lifelong learning. These funds will allow us to  contribute to a robust badge ecosystem, where traditional and 21st century skills and achievements are inspired, recognized, translated across contexts, and displayed and managed across the web using Mozilla's Open Badge Infrastructure<>. All winning badge systems will launch and join the badge ecosystem in early 2013.

Images: Flickr commons, Makewaves, , DigitalMe, Mozilla


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