Project Q&A With: MOUSE Wins! Badge-based Achievement System for National Youth Technology Leadership

Project Q&A With: MOUSE Wins! Badge-based Achievement System for National Youth Technology Leadership

MOUSE Wins! Badge-based Achievement System for National Youth Technology Leadership will scale a national network-wide online badging system called Wins! & Wins!Tracker. The system supports youth in building computational, digital, and workplace literacies and establishes the assessment of community participation and learning as bedrock for our programs’ culture. MOUSE provides young people with authentic situated learning environments that support their school community, increases opportunities to gain experience applying skills, and offers exposure to new interests and a growing community of supportive peers and adults.

What are the 3 most important things about building a badge system you would share with another organization just getting started?

  1. Design programs alongside the badges wherever possible. Badge systems can be a terrific supplement to existing programming, but the fullest affordances of badge integration seem better realized when learning experiences are being designed in tandem with systems themselves.
  2. Think early about data. Ultimately what do you want badge information to tell you? Be sure that you're planning for a system that can handle that data and serve up useful reports in a timely way.
  3. Fail fast and find deliberate systems that help process practical heuristics and design direction that can be gleaned from mixed success.

MOUSE Wins! Launches Peer2Peer Awards

MOUSE and long time design and development partner Minds on Design Lab launched a brand new Wins! feature this quarter that allows members to award each other Wins! and give feedback on MicroProject submissions. This feature, launched in early February and shared at this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference in March is part of a brand new space created on mousesquad.org dedicated exclusively to the Microprojects competition, which was also launched this quarter. The Peer2Peer awarding system is particularly important because it is a tool that helps our members to support each other as teammates, collaborators and makers across sites nationally. It is a space where they can show off their skills as inventors and earn cred from peers for the effort they put into their creative and technical work.

The new feature launch includes 4 Wins! and a badge. Students can award three of these Wins! (Creativity, Technical, and Inspiration) as part of the feedback they give on their peers’ Microproject submissions. The fourth is the Motivator Win!, which members automatically receive when they award Wins! to other members. This Win! has a counter attached to it, which increases with the number of Wins! a member awards as a way to earn points for participating in this space. Another part of this release was the Microprojects badge, which MOUSE staff will award to the winners of each month’s project.

The new Microprojects space truly is a tool of its own that was built from ground-up on the existing mousesquad.org infrastructure. Members can navigate to this space from a link at the top navigation menu. Here, they can review the current month’s challenge, see submissions posted by other members, submit their own entries, and give feedback and Wins! to other members. Since launching in January, entries in the contest have not only increased in quantity, but also in quality as members are offered a space to demonstrate their skills and participate in discussions about other entries.

Integrated Assessment Tools and Coaching: our programs run in a unique context where non-formal learning experiences are being supported in the context of schools and by educators who are typically trained through the system of formal learning. In many cases, the unique challenge that occurs is that formal educators (not formally trained in non-formal fields like Game Design) are using the system to “certify” or badge students in an area where practical assessment tools are lacking. Following the HASTAC Badges meeting in September, we dug more deeply into the question of: How much support is necessary to ensure that badge issuers (community members) can make consistent judgements about when badges have been earned? That while badges aren’t assessments themselves, they are obviously part of an assessment system that relies (in our case) on culminating human interventions that have reliable and consistent feedback systems, e.g., rubrics. We left wondering: What more can we embed in the badging system that helps the issuer (within the community) to feel confident that their assessment meets the criteria for what the broader system deems valid and badgeworthy.

We’ve already started to use this question as a great opportunity to develop of site features like WinsTracker. A key question: How can we use our system to empower users to award badges in ways that are consistent across the network and authentic to what experts (in a field like game design) value most about a given work product?

Recent update: Kissmetrics
Kissmetrics is a website analytics tool that helps us track specific user events on mousesquad.org. Events we are interested in are things like earned and awarded Wins! and Microproject submissions. Kissmetrics is a little different than other analytics tools because it gathers information we specify about users, and not just about the events they participate in on our site. With this tool we hope to get a better sense of which segments of our member population are most active, at different levels of granularity ranging from state to site, or in different demographic groups. We’ll also have the ability to do comparisons using these different metrics.

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

Our goal is that ultimately the MOUSE Wins! system provides a reciprocal advantage to the organization and the end-user. Our efforts began in an attempt to help young people connect their accomplishments with their evolving identities in our programs over time. Through that process, our goal has always been to capture the milestones that emerge along the way as points of reflection (and as wayfinding devices) that empower the user to pursue pathways forward and demonstrate their expertise in learning and professional contexts where not enough of their experiences are being counted. For MOUSE, we feel the following represent the best opportunity for impact:

  1. Understanding more about our learners choices and trajectories helps us refine the design of our programming;
  2. The badge system provides our educators with more efficient supports for assessing their teams in a context where their time is extremely limited;
  3. Having participants in our programs share badges publicly helps disseminate the organization’s brand;
  4. The more invested our users become in the badging ecosystem, the stronger the impetus for their participation in the program as active co-owners/participants in a national program network;
  5. Badging systems help us get smart about mapping data to our programs’ experiences and, hopefully as a result, better illustrate mission-driven outcomes

First, at the time of the award, our design team - between MOUSE and our partners at Minds On Design Lab - had established working processes that enabled us to leverage our Badges for Lifelong Learning award as an infusion of support rather than a catalyst for getting started. As a result, we’re lucky to avoid the normal delays of building relationships, systems, tools for tracking work, etc.

Secondly, an established system. Our designs are working to enhance and grow an established environment online with existing patterns of use, design, code, etc.

Lastly, a captive audience: One unique resource is that, unlike many budding badging systems, ours grows as a support to an already established network of educators and youth (and a program that has always been rooted in offline activity). That is, we’re not using badges as an initial engagement point for potential users in our programs and so we’re not burdened by recruiting a community of users - our users are existing participants. Of course, it’s important to note that part of what we’ve learned over time is that it’s often harder to change users’ behavior or obtain their interest again, in something new than it is to orient them as new members to a culture where a program feature (like badging) is part of ‘how things work’ from the start.

For those who want to follow the development, implementation, and adoption of your badge system, what social media sites will you be posting updates to?

MOUSE will continue to post updates about the development of the system on our network-wide blog: http://mousesquad.org/wire , and hopes to continue to be able to take advantage of both the HASTAC drupal site to post ideas and best practices, and will also seek opportunities to guest post to related sites within and outside of our networks. View the Q3 Launch post on mousesquad.org here: http://www.mousesquad.org/wire/peer-2-peer-wins-why-they-matter.

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