You may have already unlocked your first badge here at Digital Pedagog if you read our last article, Gamification: Epic Win or Epic Fail? Now you have the opportunity to take the next step and examine more closely one aspect of gamification that is receiving noticeable attention these days: learning badges.
The concept of badges is certainly not new to any of us. You surely earned a few badges back in the day if you participated in youth organizations like Eagle Scouts or Girl Scouts. Now badges have found their way back to the mainstream with the Internet’s pervasive influence on our daily lives. Mozilla has launched their Open Badges Project, an open badge ecosystem that aims to “support skill development and lifelong learning for real results such as jobs and advancement.” And there are countless other badge systems out there being employed by social media sites like Trip Advisor, Huntington Post and Mashable. But what does all this have to do with our students anyway?
Learner Badges for Authentic Assessment & Student-Centered Instruction
Badges harness the ability to recognize a wider range of experiences that students have while they are engaged in both formal and informal learning. While the assumption might be that badges are best suited for gamed-based learning environments, there are other ways badges are being used in academic settings without the integration of an actual game.
Professor Alex Halavais’s BadgePost System illustrates just one example of how learner badges can foster student-centered learning and create opportunities for authentic assessment. (To see a short video on the BadgePost prototype and listen to student feedback, click here.)
“My own application of badges puts formative assessment by actual humans (especially peers) at the core. Over time I have come to believe that the essential skill of the expert is an ability to assess. If someone can effectively determine whether something is “good”–a good fit, a good solution, aesthetically pleasing, interesting, etc.–she can then apply that to her own work. Only through this critical view can learning take place.”
Professor Halavais has not intentionally integrated badges into his instructional strategy as a vehicle for extrinsic motivation. In fact, the connection that has been made between badges and gamification is a point of frustration for him.
“Perhaps my biggest frustration is the ways in which badges are automatically tied to gamification. I think there are ways that games can be used for learning, and I know that a lot of the discussion around badges comes from their use in computer games, but for a number of reasons I think the tie is unfortunate; not least, badges in games are often seen primarily as a way of motivating players to do something they would otherwise not do.”
Will We Replace One Point System for Another?
As we move forward in our examination of learner badges, we should keep students’ intrinsic motivation to learn at the center of this conversation. Adopting yet another system for recognizing accomplishments, whether they be small or large, may end up turning into the same “game” that has been created with letter grade systems. Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, states, “American education is already gamified: for too many students, even good students, it is already about collecting badges and they calculate carefully what they need to do to make the ‘A’. I worry that badges can become just another points system and as a consequence, undercuts the motivational structures which have historically led young people to engage in these kind of practices.”
Do learner badges play a role in your instructional approach? If so, how do you use them in your teaching? What student feedback have you received? If you haven’t taken the next step to integrate learning badges into your courses, what concerns do you have about employing such a system? Tell us more in the comment section!
Goldberg, David Theo. (2012, March 6). “Badges for Learning: Threading the Needle Between Skepticism and Evangelism”. DML Central. Retrieved from: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/david-theo-goldberg/badges-learning-threading-needle-between-skepticism-and-evangelism
Halavais, Alex. (2012, March 6). “Badges: The Skeptical Evangelist”. A Thamturgical Compendium. Retrieved from: http://alex.halavais.net/badges-the-skeptical-evangelist
Jenkins, H. (2012, March 5). “How to Earn Your Skeptic Badge”. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2012/03/how_to_earn_your_skeptic_badge.html
The Mozilla Foundation and Peer 2 Peer University, in collaboration with The MacArthur Foundation. (January 2011) Open Badges Working Paper. Retrieved from: https://wiki.mozilla.org/images/b/b1/OpenBadges-Working-Paper_092011.pdf