Project Q&A With: EarthWorks

Project Q&A With: EarthWorks

The Ohio State University and Digital Watershed are developing the Earthworks Rising website and badge system, an accessible gateway to meaningful, engaged learning and mentoring experiences that empower young people and learners of all ages to cultivate a broader understanding of the importance and cultural value of the Earthworks of North America. The vision, voices and multiple perspectives of Native American culture will direct and guide the content developed for this interactive initiative.

What are the 3 most important things about building a badge system you would share:

  1. Throughout all phases of production, gauging user perceptions is invaluable.
  2. Develop a very detailed Project Plan. Review it. Update it throughout the project. It is essential to clearly define roles in the Project Plan.
  3. Clearly define the Project Scope and take the time to document approvals of iterative project deliverables throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

Youth, ages 13-15

What were your initial goals for the badges? Did those goals change at all throughout the design process?

Learners participating in the Earthworks Rising website and badge system begin at the “EarthWorks rising” website. Deeper levels of the site provide information about “CASE” elements: Connections, Awe, Sovereignty and Earth – all elements tied to the Native American medicine wheel. These elements were identified by the American Indian advisory committee as key ways of understanding the earthworks, past and present. After exploring background information and challenges, the earners will identify a challenge they wish to make into a project. Projects may be of various media types, including community organizing, writing a blog, producing a dance, publishing a presentation, or other creative outlet that can be documented digitally.

The prospective earner submits a link to their creative project, which is reviewed by volunteer, American Indian mentors.  Mentors evaluate the project using a rubric that is tied to learning objectives, and if approved, a segment of the badge is awarded though an administrative section of the website.

The earner is given a link to their Mozilla OBI badge, which include an evidence link to our interactive “pie badge”.  The badge has twelve sections to be earned, three for each of the CASE elements. The badge also acts as an interactive app.  When sections are earned, they are identified by project title, description and  to the evidence of the segment through up to twelve evidentiary links.

The goals changed somewhat through the project and were simplified from our original vision:
We had originally planned that earners would be able to create and contribute learning modules for others and that learner-created projects contributed would be crowd-sourced to a group of three learners or participants who volunteer as mentors.

We have simplified that approach in our prototype by starting with all Native American mentors and letting earners choose from a wide range of challenges presented to them.

Talk about your badge system design/models.

Badges are based upon digital creative projects made in various digital formats. Up to three badge segments (also called “strands”) per each of the four CASE elements for a total of twelve (12) “strands”. All strands are awarded at the same level and each includes a visual representation in the badge, a short description, and a URL link to evidence.

How were the criteria for the badges determined? What pedagogies (if any) informed the learning and badge system design?

Challenges The “Challenges” are ideas for projects posed to the potential earners come.  The Challenges reside in the website. Professor Christine Ballengee-Morris provided an alternative to Blooms Taxonomy that was more in keeping with Native American pedagogy (See: The primary difference is that it includes wisdom and creativity on the higher end of Bloom's and active words were chosen that would be more age appropriate for users. The change from nouns to verbs associated with each level is why it works so well with Native American Pedagogy—verb association. Christine aligned this taxonomy with the medicine wheel.

These progressively move the learner toward building and creating more complex and rich understandings. Categories progress in this manner: remembering, understanding, doing, reflecting, wisdom, creating. A matrix cross-referencing CASE elements with a progression of cognitive categories used student-centered language, and provides the basis for creating specific examples of challenges for learners.

Can you share any lessons learned?

We took too long to establish the tools for communicating ideas, timelines and organizing assets and using them seamlessly became an issue. Materials offered for review by teams were sometimes not reviewed because of the complexity of our asset storage system, of which several were tried. Different communications styles and misunderstandings of roles made progress less efficient, and latent acknowledgement of difficulties was made much too late in the project.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption?

Initially, the widespread adoption of the Earthworks Rising website and badge system will be cultivated and grow through the text, tweets,blogging and online community conversations of our target audience, young people ages 13 - 15. A large percentage of our target audience is unaware
these fascinating earthworks exist. One of our major challenges involves developing a dynamic Badge System that actively engages our target audience and inspires them to share their knowledge and discoveries with their peers, families and communities.

To successfully earn an Earthworks Rising badge, our target audience will be challenged to invent, create and share projects that express their individual ideas and visions as they reflect on content that revolves around key Native American cultural perspectives including Awe, Earth, Connection and Sovereignty . Again, the widespread adoption of our Badge System will grow grow exponentially each time a project is submitted to Earthworks rising. Our challenge is to effectively showcase and celebrate a wide spectrum of diverse projects (and ideas) to inspire more young people to contribute to the mind-meld.

Engaging the input and ideas of our target audience to assist us in the design and development of a wide range of online and real world identity “seeds” that can be distributed at no cost to young people, schools and organizations will be pivotal to the growth of curiosity
about the Earthworks Rising website and badge system.

What is your badge system testing strategy prior to deployment?

Our final badge system testing strategy still needs to be clarified. We do have commitments from the Science Museum of Minnesota and schools including the Heritage Elementary and Sycamore Elementary in Pickerington, Ohio to conduct user testing with our target audience prior to deployment. The extent of user testing that will be conducted prior to the deployment of the Earthworks rising Badge System will be dependent on our budget and key production deadlines being successfully completed.

We will seek feedback from students on badges, badge design, badge functionality, learning content and motivation to learn/create, as well as interest in content. Our research includes finding out how their motivation to develop their own projects (i.e. earn badge strands) is manifested through discussions and garner ideas on what could be improved. We would do one on one discussions, group discussion, online forum conversations, online chat conversations, web data analytic tracking of badge use and participation, web data analytic tracking of content use and participation and e-mail.

What is the success of your badge system contingent upon?

  1. The entire team needs to clarify and establish a consensus about the scope of this project. Stephen Rueff has come on board as Project Facilitator to assist in improving communication between team members and also to help us expedite this process.

  2. The Earthworks Rising Badge designs needs to be finalized and approved by key members of the collaborative team and then built in ZebraZapps.

  3. TheEarthworks rising Website needs to be completed and approved. (This includes all FINAL Content being integrated into the Website and also the integration of the Earthworks rising Badge.

What have you done/will do to evaluate your badge earner community?

Before we formally commenced the project, team members met and talked with young people at the Science Museum of MN about the Earthworks of the Ohio River Valley. At this time, we discovered that 38 of the 42 young people we talked with were unaware that the mounds even existed.

During the past year, members of our team have participated in several conferences, the National Indian Education Association Conference in Oklahoma, several HASTAC Conferences, E-Tech Ohio Conference, National Art Education Association Conference, World Arts Association Conference (Finland), and Ohio Arts Education Conference. Our American Indian Committee has met 7 times and provided us with feedback.

Many members of our staff have met with Project Advisors at the Science Museum of MN, the Minnesota Historical Society and PBS. A great deal of online research has been done.

How would you characterize the impact your badge system will have on badge ecosystems?

The Earthworks Rising website and badge system will help cultivate a new genre of badges that organically integrate online and hands on learning with the badge.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

At the current time, no formal plans exist to scale our badge system. Our focus continues to center on the completion of this project. Many wonderful ideas have surfaced the potentially could be developed in future iterations of this badge system.

How successfully are you getting institutional buy-in, or adoption from your learners?

Several large educational institutions and schools have expressed interest in this project on an on-going basis. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the Minneapolis Foundation have also expressed interest in this project. We have also generated interest for this to be included on several reservations such as Pine Ridge and an interest to be used at NMAI (National Museum of American Indians) in their future exhibition about earthworks.

How self-sustaining is it? How much do you anticipate maintenance to be?

Maintenance costs should be minimal for the website. With the OBI badge, we will need to have someone on an ongoing basis manually input information before “baking”. Similarly, new “blank” badges in ZebraZapps will need to be published from a template each time a new earner receives their first sub-badge (strand).

What social media sites will you be posting updates to?

We will be creating a Facebook and Twitter account for the project. In addition, the Earthworks Rising website has a community forum in it with the opportunity to connect with other badge earners, as well as a link to the most popular social media sites from the home page of the website.

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