For the past few months, we’ve been meeting with a small group of Global Kids staff members called the Badges Fast Action Team or B-FAT. The group consists of five staff members who convene every other week to discuss big picture questions as we build out badges for our organization. So far, we've discussed what the overall badging schemata for Global Kids should look like, including what features there should be and what skills, abilities, accomplishments, etc. we want to badge. You can read about that in more detail here and a template of what it looks like here.
Most recently, we discussed two key questions:
1. Are their GK badges that we are offering to youth not in GK and GK badges that we want to certify other organizations to offer?
2. What is our process for rolling out the badges system and what challenges can we foresee?
For the first question, there was unanimous consensus that we do want to certify other organizations and educators offer GK badges. The easiest places to start doing that would be to look a the partnerships that we currently have and which educators are already using GK curriculum or workshops. It could also be a way for us strengthen our partnerships with communities we work with outside of New York, such as Washington, D.C. We would start testing this out in the fall with a small number of organizations.
Questions remain about whether or not we would be certifying what youth learn or what they learn through being in Global Kids, and whether or not the badge is about youth learning or GK teaching? Another question is that if we badge youth for content they learn in another program, is that us taking credit for work done by others? For the second question, we know that our priority is to develop a centralized plan for our staff. To begin, there will be training for our summer staff who are beta-testing the badges on how to use the system, and I will write a workshop that staff can use to explain to youth what the badges are about. In June, I will lead a badge development day for staff to develop badges by program, and there will be additional training on how to use the system in early September.
The main challenges we foresee have to do with the human resources needed to sustain the badging system over the course of the school year. For example, who will be the staff person(s) for each program that are the key badge experts? What groups or staff are needed during the year to keep all the work moving forward? Additional challenges we foresee are technical. For example, how will we get all our youth into the system when many of our school sites have limited internet access? What will be each program's plan for getting their youth online?
We also came across a new rule of thumb we could use moving forward for a recurring issue: how do we know if we are designing a new badge or rebuilding the wheel? If the rubrics are different, we decided, then the badges are different. If the rubrics are the same, then the badges are the same. This means that sometimes badges that are very specific, with unique rubrics, can be combined into one badge with a more general rubric. For example, a "blog writing" badge and a "fan fiction" badge can be combined into an "online writing" badge; this simplifies the system by cutting down on the number of badges but maintains what was unique about the two original badges by moving what made them special from the "badge" category into the "mission" category. In other words, potential missions for achieving an Online Writing Badge might be "Post a link to a blog you have written" and "Post a link to a piece of original fan fiction you have written." We COULD have kept them as seperate badges, but combining achievements at this level makes sense for how we plan to use badges.
Finally, we discussed the idea that badges are an enhancement to an enhancement, and that it's important to remember that it's okay if some of our youth do not pursue badges and that we should be careful about not creating a power dynamic between those who are more involved with badges and those who are not. This affects what we choose as our power-ups and whether or not power-ups are required to access other GK activities or whether or not they should only relate to external rewards and opportunities within the badging system.
Lastly, as we build out our summer beta badges, we have found that the templates we created are incredibly useful. For staff running our summer geocaching program, they went straight to the badges template to look for outcomes. They found that the Hard Skills and Knowledge categories were most useful in determining the educational outcomes they want youth to get out of the program, while the other categories were not as useful.
By Barry Joseph
When we began the badge development process at Global Kids, we focused heavily on "global"-badges, which is to say badges which could work across the institution. We looked at our organizational Outcomes & Indicators, and developed a process for analyzing nearly four dozenletters of recommendation. While that process continues, and is bearing fruit, a parallel process has moved faster and may be proving more productive: developing "local"-badges, or program-specific badges.
Today we had our first meeting (dare we say of our fourth badging group - the Badge Betas?) of the four summer projects which will beta test the program over the summer. There are two 2-week long digital media-based programs, a 3-week long intensive camp at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a four week trip to Kenya. We developed templates for creating badges - one for any individual badge and one for the constellation of badges that are to found within any one Global Kids program (and tied to the "role badge" earned in the process), designed to produce something like this:
Using the templates, each program went off to develop their constellation (and save the development of those particular badges for later). After an hour each group had a well-developed but idealized list of badges for their program. Some of the badges were specific to their program and others could be generalized to offer relevance to their and other GK programs.
For example, the animation program wanted a badge for taking inspiration from a professional animator. That was generalized to something like the "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants" badge, in which the mission, when used for this summer program, will challenge the youth to list an animator who inspired them. However, the same badge can be used for the program at the Council on Foreign Relations, with a mission localized for their program, e.g. "To discuss one of the program speakers who inspired them and explain why." Same badge, different missions.
It became clear that, as an overall direction, we want to have as small a number of badges as possible, by globalizing their use, but as many missions as we like, localizing their youth. We need to make sure the badges are clear and specific (otherwise we have squished too much together) and that the missions assess equal levels of related achievements so the badge can maintain validity across programs.
So while today's meeting was aimed at developing project-specific badges it also helped us develop, in a very concrete and practical way, badges that can provide global value across the organization.
When we next meet we intend to refine our program's badge ecology (most were too robust to develop in time for and run during rather short summer programs) and note what other badges we can globalize and share across our programs. The next steps after that is to identify the 8 characteristics we need for each badge and then move them over into LearningTime's Badgestack system.
Two trainers, both rather new to GK's badging process, had this to report about today's process: "Thinking about the upcoming program in terms of badges is informing how we will shape the program," "This helps me to reflect on last year's program and the educational goals for this year," and "This will give youth tangible things to let them know they are on the right track, rather than us having to tell them over and over when they are not."
By Barry Joseph
This past week has been a veritable badge-a-palooza. The only reason we had four separate badge meetings was because the fifth was postponed for a week when an earlier meeting ran over. Phew!
Global Kids' Youth Badge Advisory
Last Thursday, Daria and I were so excited to launch the first meeting of the GK youth advisory. This group will ensure that GK youth leaders are playing a key and substantive role in the development of the GK badging system.
After learning about digital badging systems and what GK has planned, they were ready to get down to work. We started with four dozen or so Global Kids Letters of Recommendations (with names changed to protect the innocent). Following the model we had developed earlier in the month, the youth color labeled the letters to identify whenever a GK staff member mentioned any of the following categories of learning: hard skills, soft skills, knowledge, participation in a GK program, and roles. When the youth finish this part of the task, they will be entered in a spreadsheet where, together, we will analyze the results and see if they suggest any GK-wide badges that should be incorporated into the badging system.
It was hard work, and tedious at times, but they appreciated what they were learning and said they were motivated to keep at it when we meet next week.
Hive Chicago Badging Meeting
Yesterday, on Monday, Joliz and I traveled to Chicago for our first meeting with the Hive Chicago Learning Network to explore the development of a community-wide badging system. There were people there from most of the member organizations who expressed interest in getting involved:
Agape Werks, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Architecture Foundation, ChicagoQuest Schools, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Common Sense Media, Free Spirit Media, Museum of Science and Industry, Now Is The Time, Office of STEM Education Partnerships, Northwestern Univ., Project Exploration, Shedd Aquarium, and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program
They were superengaged and asked deep, provocative questions throughout. It became clear early on that, as we had all suspected, Hive Chicago is in a very different position than Hive NYC, when it comes to badges. Hive Chicago is a younger, smaller Network, so there are less organizations interested in a badging system. However, as this means they are small enough where "everyone knows your name," this potentially supports a closer and deeper level of collaboration. It might be a gross generalization, and might not hold up over time, but Hive NYC members have focused more on how each organization can use the collective badging system while Hive Chicago are considering flipping the frame, in which badges are not designed around organizations and their programs but, rather, around competencies shared across the Network. For example, rather than different members building their own badges with similar content, in essence rebuilding the wheel, they might collaborate to build one badge around that same content and share accreditation responsibilities. It is an interesting shift and we'll watch how this plays out.
Hive Chicago also differs from New York in another other key way; while there is more previous and current experience with badging systems in NYC (e.g. two of the HASTAC competition winners were from Hive NYC, and none in Hive Chicago), those involved in Chicago are invested in two separate badging technical solutions, both currently under development. How can these two (can we say?) legacy systems interact with the new model - will they collaborate, or must some give way to make room for the others. Again, only time will tell.
The meeting left with perhaps more questions asked than answered (a sign for us of a successful meeting), and a number of clear next steps about how we can approach them together.
Hive NYC Badging Meeting
Last Friday, Global Kids hosted the second meeting for the new Hive NYC Badging System. Around twenty members of our local learning network attended the meeting.
After introducing ourselves (and sharing something we've each learned in recent weeks that we thought worthy of a badge), we had presentations from three Hive members talking about their upcoming plans for badging systems.
The YMCA went first. They talked about their plans to introduce a badging system to encourage and certify healthy physical activities.
The American Museum of American Museum went next, presenting the presentation they gave in the recent HASTAC competition.
Finally, Global Kids released the plans for its badging structure, based on four types of achievement badges and one role badge (see below).
After the presentations, John Walber from Learning Times gave a demonstration of the BadgeStack system, which will be the technical core of the Hive NYC Badging System. Many asked to see more details about the back-end of the system, so a Webinar will be held, open to all within Hive NYC, to give a tour of the backend later in May.
Global Kids' B-FAT (Badge Fast Acting Team)
B-FAT is the small group of senior staff who meet every two weeks to review progress and make key decisions in our GK badge development process. We meet last Thursday and approved what we have been informally calling, for lack of a better term, a GK Badge Design Schemata, which offers a visualization to explain the way badges will be development for the GK badging system. It was well received. It raised questions right away about how this process will formally establish standards across the organization. For example, if you run a program, and define badges youth can earn through the program, you now better make sure your lesson plans over the year actually create opportunities for youth to learn the skills related to those badges.
We designed a system that structures the system into four achievement badges, which may be combined to achieve a role badge. The four achievement badges, as mentioned above, are hard skills, soft skills, knowledge, and participation in a GK program or the badging system. So, for example, youth in a GK gaming program might receive a badge for game design (hard skill), collaboration (soft skill), game design terminology (knowledge), and Being There (they have been to at least 90% of the meetings); these badges, combined with a variety of others, unlocks the mission for the Game Designer role badge. Some of the badges offers their own power-ups, some about the badging system (certifying other Game Designers) and about GK (getting to attend conferences).
We built out the model for three different programs (around three different role badges) and then developed a visualization to show how these collections become different paths, or lens, directing youth through the full collection of GK badge offerings.
This has all come together rather quickly, but the work being done with the GK youth, with the letters of recommendation, and with the other GK advisory, all lends credibility to this approach. Next steps are to work with particular GK programs to develop their own role badges and continue to develop GK-wide badges.
By Barry Joseph
Yesterday we held our second B-FAT meeting (Badge Advisory Team), the small internal group of senior staff that is overseeing and consulting on the GK badging process. It was quite an enlightening meeting. All sorts of interesting issues came to the surface, we affirmed out and refined our badging process, and developed an interesting badging framework we could now test out.
We started off sharing the results of our homework. First some staff “interviewed” their kids and spouses about the games they played and the badge-like features they encountered; we compare and contrasted that with our understanding of how our “badges for learning” plans related to game mechanics.
Next I shared the results of taking a random Letter of Recommendation and then color coding it for every mention of an accomplishment, hard skill, soft skills, knowledge, roll played, or program within which they participated. It was an unexpectedly rich vein. Thirty different mentions were identified. Noticing how well the categories worked, and wondering if every Letter would offer the same balance amongst them, led to lots of interesting conversation. It suggested that working with GK youth leaders to code dozens of other Letters will be a useful entry point for them to engage in developing the GK badges. It also suggested that these categories were more than conceptual - they easily lined up to what we think youth learn in our programs. We were on the right track.
We played with a slogan or title for the program: Show What You Know, or SWYK! As in, “Oh, that’s SWYK” or “That’s SO SWYK”. The acronym is an odd one, so we played with SWAG for awhile: Show What you are Articulating to the General public? Showing What you Acquired through Global Kids? It just didn’t have the same flow. We’ll see…
We then moved on and spent the rest of our time with the third between-meeting task: building out from scratch a Google doc spreadsheet. Each tab in the sheet was one of the learning categories. We originally began with: knowledge, hard skills, roles, and soft skills. Activities was then added as well. It soon became clear that the list of knowledge areas was virtually endless - we tackle so many different topics in our programs - and could be allowed to grow over time. Yet, at the same time, we recognized we had created earlier in the year a group of 18 overarching topics that could shape the year’s programming (such as Structural Oppressions, Poverty, Globalization, Women’s Rights, etc.) and that this offered an excellent list from which to begin.
Hard skills, roles, and soft skills were fairly easy to identify. Hard skill - public speaking. Role - facilitator. Soft skill - develop supportive relationships with peers. “Activities,” however, posed a challenge. We realized that activities like “speaking to a public official” is not the learning itself, but the evidence of the learning. “Activities” were either evidence to be submitted for a badge, or the descriptions of a mission to earn a badge, e.g. “To earn your public advocate badge, speak to a public official about an issue of concern.” It felt right to remove it but, by doing so, we realized we were still losing something important - anything directly about being in a GK program, such as attending 10 sessions in a row, or completing the entire program. The same was true for the badging system - we needed a way to recognize the first time posting a comment within the system, and other desired activities within the badging system. So we removed “activities” and replaced it with “Participation.” That left us with the following badge categories:
This led us to discuss a wide-range of issues. Should some roles be leveled, e.g. Junior and Senior Peer Educator? How would adding levels increase work for both youth and staff? Other questions were raised as well, regarding how a badging system might affect our practices. Will badges draw attention to skill differentiation and, if so, will that support more effective collaboration or skill inequity? Will seeing others with harder to achieve badges cause “badge envy” and make a youth de-value their own achievements? Will youth get distracted by the final badge and not appreciate the process it takes to get there? Something these issues had in common is that badging was forcing us to deal in a concrete way with underlying educational issues and tensions that have otherwise remained under the surface. It is not new that some youth achieve at different rates within our program, or that they bring different skills to the table. Each trainer has their own individual practice for dealing with this when it becomes a problem, but usually these issues remain invisible. Badges will bring these issues to the surface in both a visible and measurable way.
Our next step was to figure out how they all fit together. Some badging systems develop themes, and then organize their badges by themes. We thought this would be a good place to start. After many years, we have developed a set of organizational Outcomes and Indicators. I had presumed this would be a valuable tool to suggest a structure to our badging system. To my surprise, I could not have been more wrong.
We wrote the five outcomes on the board and considered if they could each be applied as a distinct category of badges, summarizing them as:
However, when we tried to figure out which badges would go under which of the Outcomes, it was not always clear. We ended up getting into semantics that said more about the Outcome process than the badging system, and it just wasn’t useful. We tried to make columns, with the Outcomes at the top, each with it’s own set of badging types (knowledge, skills, etc.). It just wasn’t working, not the Outcomes or organizing them into separate themes. Debating whether a particular skill belonged in any particular theme just didn’t seem that useful, if it could be avoided.
Meanwhile, we were recognizing that the “role” badges were different from the others. They could cut across the themes, building a unique path to a particular role. So we decided to flip around the X/Y axis, remove some constraint and see what we got:
In this image, you can see the Role is now at the top, but not in a way that organizes the other badge categories. Rather, each “type of learning” badge category - which it turns out were much easier to define that the “type of content” badge categories - is simply listed in an endless vertical line, one line next to another: the knowledge badges, the hard skills badges, etc. Each badge has value in and of itself. But Roles are constructed across these badges and categories, perhaps with alternative routes to the same role. This felt like it was all coming together. This could work for the entire organization (Global Leader) and for particular programs (Game Designer). It was constrained and clearly defined, yet could easily grow and expand with the programs over time. We decided to play with distinguishing amongst Role Badges and Achievement Badges (all of the others).
We left the meeting excited with the progress. The homework before the next meeting: flesh and further test out our badging framework by creating a clearer visualization - composed of Role Badges and Achievement Badges, along with Power-ups and Missions. Then create three different use cases, mapped atop the visualization, based on three of the Letter of Recommendations.
By Joliz Cedeño
The MacArthur Foundation highlighted the badge system work Global Kids is developing in their recent Spotlight post. Read the excerpt below. For the full article you can visit Spotlight.
Along the lines of badge exploration, Global Kids is developing a new badge system for New York City and Chicago members of the Hive Learning Network, a group of civic and cultural institutions that encourage young people to explore their interests in virtual and physical spaces.
By Barry Joseph
This past friday, Global Kids was thrilled to host the first meeting for the new Hive NYC Badging System. Two dozen members of our local learning network had expressed interest in learning more about the system, amongst which 22 participants came from sixteen of the organizations:
American Museum of Natural History, Bank Street College, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Common Sense Media, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, DCTV, DreamYard, Girls Write Now, Global Kids, MOUSE, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the Moving Image, Museum for African Art, New York Hall of Science, New York Public Library, Parsons The New School for Design, People's Production House, The Lamp, THE POINT CDC, Wildlife Conservation Society, WNYC's Radio Rookies, WorldUP, and YMCA of Greater New York.
In short, we talked about the current interest behind “badging systems” as a form of alternative assessment and youth engagement, explored the nature of our current grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and then discussed next steps and the various roles each organization could play. Many left with a great sense of potential and excitement for the impact this will have on youth across our city.
We started the meeting, and introduced badges, by doing a go-around asking everyone to do one of the following: “Please share something you learned growing up that has since helped you in your life but you didn’t know you possessed at the time” “Please share something you knew you possessed but had no way to demonstrate to those in ‘authority.’” Everyone had something to share, and it would have been easy to go another round. We then asked everyone to imagine how their lives might have been different if they had fully appreciated their hidden abilities, or been able to share those abilities with people who counted.
That, in many ways, is what we hope badging systems can offer to youth served by our programs: a deeper understanding of their abilities and a new way to leverage that knowledge to reach for their dreams.
I was also struck by the graph we shared at the start of the meeting. In response to the question, “How would you describe your organization's current relationship with digital badging systems?”, we received the following responses from the participating organizations:
We were pleased that the concept had attracted such a wide diversity of experience with badging systems. But what surprised us the most is that experience did not necessarily match with expertise. With most any other topic - say Social Media, or Global Literacy - those who are more engaged with the topic tend to know more, separating the “experts” from the “newbies.” That was not always the case at the meeting.
One organization that had previously offered digital badges minimized their past experience, unable to rely on it to guide them towards something more robust.
One organization that had never run one but had proposed one to the HASTAC competition still had no confidence that what they had described was even valid (as other than a rejection, they had received no other feedback).
One organization who was interested in learning how to develop their own badges for the first time had come to the meeting to learn best practices. Without minimizing the expertise that certainly filled the room, across the board if was hard not to respond, “There are no best practices, as of yet. Whether you’ve previously built a badging system, described one in a proposal, or are totally new to the process, we all get to work together to develop best practices.” And that level of collaboration, working towards the high bar set by the HASTAC competition within which many Hive members so recently competed, is one of the key things this new grant will allow us to support. How exciting to get to work together with such creative individuals and powerful organizations to develop and implement such nascent practices.
After the meeting, we spoke with one academic about the research opportunities available within this emerging badging system and the practices which support and surround it. How are we forming our badge design principles? How can that process, led by practitioners, be informed by evidence-based research produced in Universities? How do we use badges to build a learning pathway for youth to navigate learning throughout our city? How will the system developed in New York differ from the one being developed for Hive Chicago? There is so much for us all to learn.
Below you will find some of the material produced for or about the meeting and its next steps. (Some are already available and some will be added when they become available.)
By Barry Joseph
We recently produced this one-page recent history of badges for learning, to support our efforts to develop a badging system for the Hive Learning Network. We thought it might be of interest to others as well.
In 2007, Eva Baker, the President of AERA, gave the Presidential Address at their annual conference, entitled “The End(s) of Testing.” After exploring a wide range of problems with the current use of assessments within schools, she focused on her key recommendation: the development of Merit badge-like “Qualifications” that certify accomplishments, not through standardized tests, but as “an integrated experience with performance requirements.” Such a system would apply to learning both in and out of school and support youth to develop and pursue passionate interests. Baker envisioned youth assembling their Qualifications to show to their families, to colleges, to employers, and to themselves. Ultimately, Baker believed “the path of Qualifications shifts attention from schoolwork to usable and compelling skills, from school life to real life.
In came the alternative assessment and games & learning academics, like James Paul Gee, who combined the two. They recognized that Baker’s “qualifications” closely resembled, using the parlance of the digital age, the “achievements” within digital games. They were inspired to transfer these powerful in-game learning tools into the real world. They combined “achievements” with “qualifications” to create “digital badging systems.”
Work in this area remained largely under the radar until 2011, until the release of the White Paper, “An Open Badge System Framework,” authored by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation. The paper provided some much needed definitions and an overall framework. Badges are explained as “a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest,” and the paper provides as examples uses by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, PADI diving instruction, and the more recently popular geo-locative games, like Foursquare.
The report asserts that badges “have been successfully used to set goals, motivate behaviors,represent achievements and communicate success in many contexts” and proposes that when learning happens across various contexts and experiences, “badges can have a significant impact, and can be used to motivate learning, signify community and signal achievement.” The report also makes clear that the value of badges comes less from its visual representation than from the context around how and why it was conferred. The stronger the connection between the two, the more effective the badging system will be. “Badges are conversation starters,” the report explains, “and the information linked to or 'behind' each badge serves as justification and even validation of the badge.” For example, a badge should include information about how it was earned, who issued it, the date of issue, and, ideally, a link back to some form of artifact relating to the work behind the badge.
In September, 2011, the HASTAC launched the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, to fund $2m worth of new badging systems. The rest is history.
This morning the Hive NYC Network came to Global Kids Headquarters for the launch of the public development of the Hive NYC Badge System. Check out the photos below!
This week, GK spent a productive day visiting The Epstein Middle School School in Atlanta, where the school has implemented a badging system beginning with their sixth grade. Global Kids, along with staff at Epstein, custom designed a badging system to support the development of independent learning skills amongst the student body, funded by the Covenant Foundation.
The system is based on the recognition that learning in the 21st Century takes place not just in classrooms, but after school and through informal uses of digital media. To develop life-long learning skills, youth need to recognize how they are learning valuable skills across these venues and how to strategically navigate these sites of learning. Badge systems are designed to provide scaffolding, motivation, and recognition.
(Youth who are working on badges at Epstein can receive a power-up to miss certain classes to work on their next badge. They must wear this tag on the right to identify themselves.)
The Epstein Badging System includes a number of elements, including the badges themselves, digital transcripts, a badge management system, a badge submission process, committees, learning rubrics, back-end infrastructure, and digital portfolios.
Yesterday, Barry and I, along with the school’s Instructional Coordinator, taught one of the sixth grade classes how to use Voicethread, the tool where they will be creating digital portfolios. They learned to create slides, upload and take images, and comment through text and audio. Afterwards, we spent time working with staff on the back end infrastructure to ensure that the badge management system was working properly.
We also had the chance to meet with two groups of students to conduct focus groups. The first group of students had chosen to earn badges, while the second group had not. Much was learned from chatting with the amazingly eloquent students and a full report will be put together with key findings. One of the highlights was that badges were a motivating factor for students in the school who were not generally the “honors” students; earning badges has given this group the opportunity to have their abilities recognized by their community. Many of the youth who chose to earn badges were pursuing interest-driven projects outside of their schoolwork obligations. They were also able to describe the difference between grades and badges as a form of achievement.
For the group of youth who have chosen not to pursue badges, all of them cited that they lacked the time to do so, with competing priorities of extracurricular activities and heavy homework loads. Interestingly enough, for this group, the connection between the activities they were already involved with and the badges they could earn were not entirely clear to them. For example, if they played a team sport, they did not make the connection that they could, in fact, earn the Collaboration badge.
We ended the day with a workshop for the faculty, where Barry gave a “big picture” on badges, including the history of digital badges and the recentDigital Media & Learning: Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition. Teachers asked questions about badges, many of which were around issues of credibility and credentialing, and were excited to be part of such an important and new innovation.
To view the full Flickr set, click here.
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