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Some Things About Assessment that Technology is Changing

Some Things About Assessment that Technology is Changing

As a technology person who has been working in assessment for a while now, this is a response to Daniel HIckey's post, "Some Things about Assessment that Badge Developers Might Find Helpful".  I agree that if you want to implement assessments, you should invest some time into learning about learning.  I have experienced the point of view that Daniel Hickey explains, "Different assessment functions generally follow from different theories of knowing and learning, but these assumptions are often taken for granted." I would like to suggest that technology is changing some of this by introducing structure and flexibility into the assessment process that hasn't been possible before.

When our team implements assessments, we break them into three main parts:

1. Activity:  there is some activity happening when the learner is assessed

2. Data:  assessment data is collected to document the assessment

3. Reporting:  the assessment data is reported and displayed for analysis

Which theory of knowing and learning an assessment is associated with has a lot more to do with the Activity and the Reporting than it does with the Data.  Badges are a mostly just a way to collect the Data.  The activities performed and the information shared will determine the effect on the learner.  This is part of beauty of Open Badges and the Badge Backpack.  By separating these three components, it allows for flexibility in how different badge systems are used in practice and also allows for changes overtime.

A use of badges that caught my attention lately is at Weight Watchers.  Weight management and life style changes are notoriously difficult problems and Weight Watchers is great at it.  Here is an image from their system where they are using badges (milestones) to motivate users.  The badges themselves don't impose any point of view.  They are just colored stars associated with weights on particular dates.  What makes them so effective are the activities that Weight Watchers promotes around the badges and how the information is displayed.  The display of information is effective because it helps the learner reflect on their accomplishments and how the activities they've done have made that possible.  It helps take a process that often is dominated by extrinsic motivation (doctor's recommendations, peers' perceptions, ...) and makes the motivation becomes more intrinsic through thoughtful reflection and a sense of control.


It would be really powerful if the badge information displayed on this website was shared in the Badge Backpack.  It would allow others to take a try at displaying the information in a way that they think is useful and open up new learning experiences as a result.  I would like to suggest that the main question to ask in implementing a badge system is, "What information belongs in the backpack?"  You want to try to separate the Activity and Reporting from the Data and create an opportunity for communication and cooperation across different learning theory communities.


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