Friday, May 31, 2013

Designing a badge to span contexts

Designing badges so they can span contexts is good for badges. The idea being that a badge designed for one context could fit well within another context. This context spanning should work for learning specific skills, informal learnings, accomplishments or attendance within a conference, helping out in the community, or being recognized for something of importance. There are many ways badges can be awarded and designed to be used across contexts. This is well understood through a couple of scenarios;

  1. Soldering badges
  2. There is a growing number of organizations and events that support the hacker ethos. Hacking has also been a hobby of many for generations. The idea of figuring something out and making it better, or combining it with something else, or starting from scratch and creating your own goodness is what hacking is about. Some of these organizations include; hacker scouts, maker faires, hardware hobbiests, and adafruit. They all focus on hacking, making and inventing. Mostly hacking occurs within technical environments, but things are changing where you can pretty much hack anything to better serve your needs. All four of these organizations see the ability of soldering as a skill required to be a successful hacker. And each of them offer ways to develop and recognize the skills of soldering. Hacker scouts provide lab type environment to develop soldering skills, maker faire will have workshops or table setup where a person can prove their soldering skills, home hobbiests could create a short video displaying their soldering skills, and the adafruit organization has learning reasources and toolkist to learn soldering. All these organization and approaches could issue the same badge in this capacity.

    The same badge design, criteria, validation, and endorsements could be used across these different contexts to award the same soldering badge.

  3. Lighting badges
    Many different disciplines include lighting as a part of their learning curriculum. These disciplines include;
    • Landscape architecture where lighting is important for safety and showcasing the landscape at night.
    • Theater lighting where lighting is important to the stage for the particular theater performance.
    • Band lighting where the performance band needs lighting across many different sized and shaped venues.
    • Residential lighting where lighting is designed specifically for the residence.
    • Industrial lighting where lighting is designed for the specific industrial of large public space.

    The importance here is that different contexts have the need for different (yet similar) badges. Each needs a lighting badge and each criteria would be different due to the environments they are wanting to light. Each badge should be designed for each specific environment, while each badge could be reused into another curriculum. As an example, an independent learner may want to learn all they can about the lighting of space, regardless of context or environment. They could earn badges from all five disciplines and create their own lighting specialty curriculum.

    Different badges of the same descriptions, developed for different contexts could be used within a new unique and specialized learning program.
What does this mean to badge design? What design approaches should be considered so a badge could be used across contexts?

There are five main attributes within the badge metadata that describe the badge and how it relates to other things and where its criteria is described. It is within these attributes that the badge can be designed to span different contexts and environments.
  • image - the badge image should remain issuer agnostic. There should be no branding information within the image of the badge and the badge should use universally recognized imagery that aligns with the meaning of the badge. The above soldering badge could serve as an example.
  • criteria - the wording within the badge criteria should describe the learning, achievement, or recognition using a neutral language. Within the badge criteria refrain making reference to the issuer, context or environment. Consider the badge having the abilities being issued by another organization or within a different context.
  • tags - use tags to decribe the badge across contexts. 
  • alignment - if the badge aligns with a standard other similar badge with a well articulated and similar criteria add AlignmentObjects. Keep in mind that official standards are sometimes difficult to find in areas of innovation. If other similar badges exist, add them here, and also link to thier official describtions or critiria URL.
  • endorsement - when endorsement comes available within the OBI. Seek endorsements for your badge.