Monday, December 24, 2012

merit, online, image, digital, and open badges

I read a tweet the other day about badges and it got me thinking about all the different types of badges and the names being used for badges. I wanted to capture what I understand to be four different kinds of badges;
  • traditional badges - these include merit badges (scouting), awards like ribbons, martial arts belts, and other patches, buttons, and displayed insignia, etc...
  • online (or image) badges -These are logos or images that infer participation or membership and are displayed on blogs and websites. These provide links back to the origin site, and, in general, don't provide an acknowledgement of achievement. More used for an affiliation.
  • digital badges - achievement and recognition type badges that are digital and awarded by online communities, learning/educational sites, and social networking sites. (Khan Academy, Four Square, P2Pu, and WebMaker are a few).
  • open badges - A badge infrastructure to support all of the above badge types with the addition of embedding meta-data into the badge image file. The ability to embed meta-data adds the ability for a badge to be self-describing and link back to why the badge was awarded.
In the end I hope all types of badges support an open meta-data standard describing the badge. This includes the traditional badges. I'd hope any badge earned over the course of a life could be displayed as a part of a persons online profile [wherever a person chooses their profile to be (facebook, linkedin, blog, wiki, etc)].

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Badge Clustering

As my digital badges seminar series came to an end I was doing a lot of thinking about badge clustering and what I meant by the term. With a little creative thinking, and some fun, I borrowed and edited three clustering terms and applied them to badges.

Badge Cluster
noun, epistemology:
A bunch of badges (ranging in number from a few to hundreds) which are bound to each other by their mutual knowledge domain as defined by the badge earner.

Open Cluster
noun, epistemology.
a comparatively young, irregularly shaped group of badges, often numbering up to ten to one hundred, and held together by and active learning journey; usually found associated with people who are gaining new knowledge where new ideas are forming on a regular basis. As the open cluster grows domain mastery increases.

Globular Cluster
noun, epistemology.
a comparatively older, spherically symmetrical, compact group of up to a few hundred badges, held together by a shared knowledge domain, that are located in the earners digital badge repository. Globular clusters are often stable with few new badges being added. In general, they show a mastery of a subject domain.

What is a Badge Cluster?
Badge clustering happens as a badge earner groups their badges into knowledge clusters as defined by themselves (the badge earner). This provides an approach for people to deepen their learning through grouping knowledge in ways that make the most sense to them. It also provides visual queues or information organization to identify gaps or holes in their self-directed study. Badge clusters can be compared to personal curriculum maps to identify the gaps in their learning.

Mozilla digital backpack as a badge repository.
Why badge clustering will be important?
As learners gather more badges into their digital badge repositories they will organize the badges into groups for a variety of purposes. The groupings will be for;
  • display purposes
  • setting public and private display
  • identifying personal knowledge domains
  • achievement towards a learning goal
  • inspiring others toward similar (yet personalized) learning journeys
  • organizing badges into micro and macro badges
With the correct number of badge endorsements, badge assertions, verified badge criteria, confirmed evidence, and the ability to analyze a cluster of badges against a known knowledge domain we could get to a persons completed learning efforts being assessed towards the mastery of an identified knowledge domain. I dream!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

An Introduction to Badge Systems Design

I believe there are two ways to explore badge systems design;
  1. what already exists in badging (and related) systems
  2. what innovations could be for awarding badges
Existing badge systems fall into two areas;
1. traditional badge systems
There are a number of proven badge systems. People often refer back to scouting as a solid and proven badge system. The martial arts belts also have much to offer.
  • scouting (and similar organizations)
  • martial arts (Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Juijitsu, Etc.)
  • university degree, diplomas, etc. (I know, many would not consider this a traditional badge system. For the sake of design, consider the course (with grades and completion) a badge and a collection of courses (degree or diploma) and patch or super-badge.
2. digital badge systems
There are also a number of existing badge systems and these exist in a number of different contexts. A thorough evaluation and a compare and contrast to these different digital badge systems can offer some interesting insights into what is possible with digital badge systems design.
Innovations for badge systems design
I believe this falls into two main areas, and where much investigation, innovation and research remains to be done with the emerging badge paradigm. Ah, the journey of a thousand steps...
1. badge systems
  • digital badges for the self-directed and life-long learners
  • digital badges for peer learning and communities of practice
Badge Clusters
2. meta-badge systems
The systems that form between and among badging systems that allow a person to create their own credential map (or badge clusters) of their accomplishments. Essentially allowing them to create their own credential(s) of proven mastery of their chosen area(s) of expertise. Mapping their own Personal Curriculum!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

implementing a really simple badge system

I aspired to create a really simple badge system design so a beginner could implement open badges. I had the following restraints to this implementation;
  1. creating the badge images needed to be really simple, and saved as .png files.
  2. the badge system design was to be a basic hierarchy where three micro-badges lead to a badge.
  3. the tasks to earn each badge were to be simple.
  4. the badges needed to be hosted and issued from one of the free services currentlly available.
  5. the badges had to easily move over to the Mozilla digital backpack for organization and display.
Scenario: the badge to be earned was by making a cup of tea. I know, not a rigorous amount of learning, but I was wanting to keep it simple. To make a cup of tea you need to prove the following three basic skills; boiling water, finding a teabag, and add the boiling water and teabag to a teapot.

Step 1: decide on the hierarchy of badges and their design
I chose to follow my thoughts on the martial arts for coloring my badges. Making hot drinks can become increasingly complicated and I want to be able to add more complicated tea making badges later. I want to become a tea ninja! The next level up could be to make filtered coffee or tea from dried leaves...
Step 2: create the badge images.
These images needed to be quickly created and contain a simple design. I chose visio to create the badges cause it allowed for transparent background, supported the png and svg file types, was *gak* windows based, and had a few basic shapes. There is no reason why you couldn't use windows paint to create a basic square with a couple of words in it as your badge. just remember to save as a png file.
Step 3: use a simple badge issuing site
I wanted to use a simple badge issuing site that integrated well with the Mozilla Open Badges backpack. I ended up using This site allowed me to easily add badges and issue them. Once the badges were issued they could also be easily claimed via links in the issuing email.
Step 4: move the badges into the mozilla backpack
Once the earner had claimed their badges from within they could easily move them into their mozilla backpack by selecting the badge within click the "Add this badge to your Mozilla Badge Backpack" button.

image attribution
tea bag -
kettle -
teacup -

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Confessions of a badge addict

I'm fully into moderating a two week seminar series on digital badges. The seminar has far exceeded my expectations, the dialogue is outstanding and the participants are more than I could have dreamed of. 

When I was responding to one of the discussion threads I realized I am a badge addict. I have badges from more sources than anyone I have met during my last eight months of exploring and discussing digital badges.

In my youth I earned badges from at least five different sources. As show here I have badges from; Scouting, YMCA leaders and swimming, Red Cross, Canadian Particip-Action, and Canadian Yachting Association. I always knew what the criteria was and planned out my earning of the badge(s). And I don't recall ever just being given a badge. I looked forward to the events when I received my badges. I think I now know why I am so commited to furthering the idea of digital badges... and most of my efforts are in a volunteer capacity... this is all good!

I also spent time in organizing my badges, at first they remained sewn onto the scout sash or another appropriately wearable piece of clothing. I wore them with pride. When i was in my teens (I was into stitching) I moved all my badges onto a single piece of fabric and displayed it on my wall. I organized them by issuing organization. Now they exist in an old brown leather covered box and they are one of the things that stays with me as I move house, change cities. I'm not a big believer in keeping stuff (IMHO, it just clutters ones life), but the fact that these badges remain as one of the things that stays with me, implies I continue to attach importance to these achievements...

If you want to join in the two week seminar series on digital badges, feel free to jump in, introduce yourself, add to the discussion or just follow along. You would be very welcome!