Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Open Badges: What I've learned so far

Over the last couple of weeks I've begun to immerse myself in the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) with two main goals;
  1. Have the technical understanding to support the developer community who want to implement the OBI from the issuer, displayer and earner perspectives.
  2. To develop a complete curriculum [as an Open Educational Resources (OER)] around how to implement the OBI.
My immersion has created a number of enjoyable explorations and I believe it is this broadness to my learning that has given me the most value. I have explored every path that I have discovered, and collectively they have allowed me to understand both the technical implementation and the rationale behind the OBI. The paths and lessons are as follows;
  • open badges site - the site provides a great introduction to all the main concepts of open badges. It also serves as a launching pad, via the assorted embedded links, to deeper learnings across all subjects.
  • open badges wiki - the open badges wiki provides all the information the site has with much more detail and additional links and documents. Particularly important with the open badges wiki is the get involved section that provides all the references someone would need to engage with the community. Also, it is a wiki so feel free to contribute or start building pages under your profile.
  • community calls - if you can find an hour starting at 9 am PST on Wednesday, it is well worth your time to engage in a open badges community call. Also, a really good example of how distributed teams can work well together.
  • open badges google group - when the time comes venture into the google group, you will be glad you did, there is great depth to the discussion threads. The discussions vary from the technical details of how to implement the OBI, through the importance of evidence, the idea of a federated backpack, to how to design the assessment. all good!
  • github wiki - the github wiki gets into describing the syntax and technical details of the OBI. Venturing into this wiki requires an intermediate level understanding of web development and JavaScript. Even if you don't have an intermediate understanding of things diving in can add to the learning and bring insight to how things work.
  • github widgets source code - so far my focus is on how to use the OBI (not how to contribute to the OBI). As my focus remains on the implementation side having the opportunity to review other peoples code serves learning about the OBI very well.
  • github source - so far I haven't had the need to dive into the OBI source code. To me this shows the maturity of what is available as a code base and in documentation. To develop an understanding of things I don't need to look at the source code. This may come later when I start to push the OBI capabilities, but for just wanting to earn, issue and display badges the OBI can be learned without diving into the source.
  • taking apart and editing JSON files - taking apart and playing with the issuer JSON can go a long way to building understanding. Create a .json file on disk and push it into the validator. Look at each attribute and think about how it can be used.
      "recipient": "sha256$2ad891a61112bb953171416acc9cfe2484d59a45a3ed574a1ca93b47d07629fe",
      "salt": "hashbrowns",
      "evidence": "/badges/html5-basic/bimmy",
      "expires": "2013-06-01",
      "issued_on": "2011-06-01",
      "badge": {
        "version": "0.5.0",
        "name": "HTML5 Fundamental",
        "image": "/img/html5-basic.png",
        "description": "Knows the difference between a <section> and an <article>",
        "criteria": "/badges/html5-basic",
        "issuer": {
          "origin": "",
          "name": "P2PU",
          "org": "School of Webcraft",
          "contact": ""
  • blog posts by mozilla team members - when you come across mozillians online or through a retweet or rss feed follow through and follow them or subscribe to their feed. Often answers to you questions may come from a current or past post. Be thorough...
  • blog posts by badge followers (both critical and supportive views) - its a really good idea to seek out other views of things. And there is another side to badges, read posts that are both critical and supportive of badges. Deepening your understanding in this way helps to broaden your learning about badges.
What I've learned so far:
  1. all aspects of the open badges and Mozilla learning groups members are outstanding. They are incredibly helpful!
  2. you need to iterate around all the sites, groups, resources and references you can find. And loop around for second and third readings.
  3. you need to be an intermediate level developer with confidence around JavaScript
  4. you need to know a web programming language (Ruby, PhP, Python, Etc...).
  5. Deep diving into the json files forces a deeper understanding of the OBI.
  6. you need to be able to create a nice looking badge and save it as a png file.
  7. you need to understand assessment approaches.