Project Q&A With: My Girl Scout Sash is an App

Project Q&A With: My Girl Scout Sash is an App

My Girl Scout Sash on MentorMob brings the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and career development badge program to a digital media learning platform for girls, ages 5-17, with a focus on middle school and high school. Through collaboration with Motorola Mobility Foundation and MentorMob, teams of girls will create apps, demonstrating and sharing the knowledge gained and badge proficiencies. MentorMob's Learning Platform will be scalable to any individual, teacher, or organization as it is free, open, and crowdsourced.

My Girl Scout Sash is an App is a pilot open badge infrastructure program through which girls, volunteers, educators, and community leaders gain the skills to build simple Android Apps that are informed by, and supportive of, the national Girl Scout Leadership Experience. The app program curriculum allows Girl Scouts to create and design mobile apps for the Android operating system as a step in their Girl Scout badge-earning experience. The progressive, increasingly complex program is for girls 5-17 with a focus in the pilot stage on girls aged 13-17.

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

The 3 most important things we would like to share with organizations just getting started:

  1. Select your stage one partners wisely (as we did)
  2. Know your audience/constituency, what they want, listen to them, observe their willingness to embrace digital badging
  3. Establish the value of your offering early in the process and keep as the key to building momemtum. Has to be percevied has having real value to succeed.
  4. Content is king. If possible, develop your badge around programming that’s already proved popular. Badges won’t make unpopular programming popular--it will make popular programming way more popular.
  5. Make it easy for users to get that first badge. Get them hooked. Pacing a learning pathway appropriately is super important.
  6. Expect hiccups. Don’t panic. Seek out another organization that’s worked with badges to get them to mentor you if possible.

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

Girl Scouts Grades 5-12

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

The goals remained consistent throughout the project.
The mobility of the Girl Scout Sash to accompany the girl where ever she goes.
The progressively challenging curriculum that builds skills in science, technology, engineering and math through camouflage learning.
The application development process the girl learns and masters in earning her badges is a workforce development skill that may inspire her education and career choices.

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

Badges for our system are participation- and skill-based and align with our App Boot Camp 101, 201, 301.
101: Learn basic App Inventor skill and create a crystal ball app.
201: Build upon skills acquired in 101 to build a "sash" app where digital badges are displayed on mobile devices.
301: Connect app development skills to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Girls create apps that tie to the badges they earn as Girl Scouts.

The criteria was determined using the same methodly as traditional Girl Scout badge ecosystem. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is based on the tenants of discover, connect and take action.

We learned two things:
1. Girl Scouts and Girl Scout leaders are not quick to adopt digital badging because their perference is for a tangible, physical badge.
2. OBI was not available for 101 and 201 roll-out therefore girls were not connected to the overall goal and project of digital badging and did not know the purpose of it. Girls that completed 301 and were able to push digital badges to OBI seemed to be more invested in digital badging.

What are three things you learned about badge system design? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

What we would do differently: Moving forward, OBI will be introduced with 101, 201, and 301.

This project is now part of our mainstream programming and offered to all Girl Scouts in the appropriate age group beyond the girls who participated in the pilot.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

Three main challenges to widespread adoption of our badge system:
1. Motivation: About the “cool” factor only rather than the learning experience or new found skill
2. Closed Badge System: Not publically available to all girls or the public
3. Delivery System: Too many gatekeepers who create barriers for girls to become engaged.

What is your badge system testing strategy? How have you or will you be testing your badge system prior to deployment?

The badge system was tested for a full year from June 2012 through June 2013. It is now fully deployed and an active program in our offerings.

What are the top factors that the success of your badge system are contingent upon?

  1. Girl Scout interest in app development.
  2. Girl Scout interest in completion of all three digital badge programs: App Boot Camp 101, 201, and 301.
  3. Parents see the value and support their daughter's full participation.

The program has added a new, relevant, cool dimension to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. It has been embraced an applauded and celebrated. Introduction to the universe of digital bading has peaked the interest in other badges in the DML world. The program is now offered to grades 5-12; we are now looking to scale to offer to girls in grades 2-5. The program continues to be of great interest to GSUSA to assist us in rolling out nationally and to expand to traditional badging.

We plan to continue offering in our 2014 program year. We want to move beyond App Inventor toward programming to introduce girls to more complex opportunities.

For “My Girl Scout Sash is an App,” MentorMob partnered with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana and Motorola Mobility Foundation to design and implement a new curriculum where girl scouts built a simple Crystal Ball App for an Android phone, received a digital badge, and then built a website to display that badge on a mobile phone as part of a digital sash.

Below is a brief overview of MentorMob’s role in the project and a list of experiences the technology we built made possible, followed by an update on MentorMob Beta, which is our updated social network for learning that will motivate and reward its users with digital open badges. An advance invite code to MentorMob Beta can be requested here:

MentorMob built a private website for Girl Scouts GCNWI, which facilitated the following:

  • Bringing the Girl Scout experience online so administrators could design, organize, and deliver programming using a private MentorMob Girl Scouts website.
  • Facilitating assessment using multiple choice & essay questions.
  • Issuing digital open badges that could or could not be pushed to the Mozilla backpack.
  • Encouraging collaborative, peer-to-peer learning through chat and social media sharing features.
  • Enabling girls to become makers by encouraging them to build their own Learning Playlists organized around subjects they found interesting.
  • Feedback analytics that allowed administrators to measure user engagement, track user behavior, and make adjustments to the curriculum accordingly.
  • Content management that enabled administrators to control which leaders and scouts had access to what content.
  • Privacy controls that made it possible for scouts under 13 years old to still participate.
  • Successfully completing the My Girl Scout Sash is an App as a pilot program for Girl Scouts USA as a first step toward bringing aspects of the scouting experience officially online.

The product, design, and development teams at MentorMob are designing and implementing the badge system we will be introducing to our users later this year. We’re focusing on life-long learners of all ages, so our badges need to have a universal appeal. We want our badges to help motivate, track, and reward informal learning as part of the larger movement in education toward an interest-based, self-directed, blended model. There will be beginner, intermediate, and expert badges awarded for topics as wide ranging as entrepreneurship, snowboarding, running, and photography (with many more to come as our user base grows). We are also building learning pathways that guide a learner through the most relevant resources depending on their skill level and goals as a learner. When designing a new badge, we seek out experts in the topic via our social media networks. This ensures the criteria for earning a badge is rigorous enough, but not so rigorous beginners are discouraged from continuing.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

  • Many people do not understand the difference between a badge graphic and a real digital open badge with accompanying criteria URL.
  • Badges need to look awesome. Nobody wants a boring badge.
  • Once learners earn a badge, additional badges awarded for similar skills should be suggested to keep them engaged.

For MentorMob, widespread adoption of our crowdsourced learning ecosystem, a national transition to more collaborative, social, interest-driven online learning, and the adoption of digital open badges as a legitimate method of credentialing all go hand in hand. In the long term, we are a for-profit company using a proven business model that includes targeted advertisements, sponsorships, and sales to organizations that need to organize learning content and facilitate an online community for specific markets (like the Girl Scouts, for example).

Badges will be integral to the learning experience on MentorMob, so the challenges to widespread adoption of our badge system are the sames as challenges to adoption of MentorMob as the go-to site for high quality social learning online. The solution to this is effective inbound content marketing, and securing partnerships with learning institutions and thought leaders in education. In addition, of course, to building a website that really does make crowdsourced online learning easy, fun, and effective.

What is your badge system testing strategy? How have you or will you be testing your badge system prior to deployment?

We are extensively testing how users react to badges by integrating with Facebook. We can measure a host of factors, including likes, shares, and conversion rates in order to see how we can maximize badges’ motivational qualities.

Our users need to
1) Want to earn a badge
2) Earn the badge
3) Share their earned badge with their friends.

We invest a lot of time in community management; that is, nurturing relationships among people who share similar interests. We trust our community of learners to evaluate each other’s accomplishments the same way we trust them to organize the best online resources.

As a lean startup, we can iterate very quickly. Every two weeks we can modify the learning and badging experience on MentorMob based on user feedback, user interviews, and analytics reflecting user behavior.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

As MentorMob scales, and more subjects are curated by our community, our badge system will be implemented and scale accordingly. Our biggest challenge with getting buy-in from our learners is funneling different types of users into learning pathways that most appeal to their learning style. Borrowing from gamification techniques, learners are typically most motivated by competition, socializing, exploring, or achieving one goal after another.

By building learning pathways between the offline activities and online experiences produced by the Hive networks in Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh, we’re hoping to facilitate interest-driven, collaborative, problem-based learning as part of the Chicago Summer of Learning and beyond. The Mozilla Webmaker MOOC (which uses #teachtheweb as its hashtag) has incorporated MentorMob into a curriculum on web literacy and remixing.


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