Open Badges

#OpenBadges: Beyond Spray and Pray!

The current Open Badge process looks very much like spray and pray: badges issuers spray badges then pray that they will be collected —in many instances less than 20% of earners push them to their backpack. Badges earners spray (some of) their badges on the web then pray to get some kind of feedback or value. Badge designers, issuers and earners pray that badge consumers will be able to make sense of the (pretty) pictures embedding the metadata.

If we had to describe Open Badges as a market, it would be qualified as a supply-led market, not a demand-led one. A supply-led market is dominated by producers pushing goods to consumers, enticing them to buy through marketing campaigns. It is what the #BadgeTheWorld and @BadgeEurope could become, and will not!

What would a demand-led Open Badge market look like? What would the benefits be in moving from a model where badges are primarily pushed onto people, to one where badges are pulled from them, with their active participation?

There are two ways to think in terms of demand-led: one of them is to invite the potential clients to tell suppliers what kind of goods and services they would like to receive. This might look like demand-led, while it is just a patronising version of supplier-led. Another model is based on the emergence of the prosumer, a term coined by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave (1980): as society moves toward the Post-Industrial Age, so will the number of pure consumers decline. They will be replaced by “prosumers,” people who produce many of their own goods and services (Philip Kotler source). The read-write web, the fablabs, the webmakers, the regain of interest in cooperatives, are evidence of the emergence of the prosumer. We just don’t want to be adjusted to the market, we want to decide how the market should be. It is for the market to adapt to us and not the other way around.

How could Open Badges relate to prosumers? The most obvious response is: make everybody a badge issuer, earner and consumer. From a technical point of view, this could be solved in a matter of weeks, not even months. We just need someone with the right technical skills to glue together the existing pieces of the puzzle. But the main problem is not technical. The problem is in the mindset and the type of market we have created, supplier-led.

One of the main problems with the current supplier-led Open Badge market is that the onus on the exploitation of badges is left to the badge holder (and the badge consumer): you earned all these beautiful badges designed by us, so now, try to get something out of them! Not only do we force-feed people with badges, but on top of that, they are required to spend time creating pretty layouts in social media in order to create meaning out of badges with many different shapes and colours while we have not made the effort to elicit what could be the elements of a visual grammar of badges.

To address this issue, my suggestion is to start from the following hypothesis: imagine that badges had no pictures (or are all the same) and that once accepted it was not possible to add them to any social media (let’s say that a Web virus systematically erases all the badges displayed on all the public spaces). Would Open Badges still have any value without the pretty pictures publicly displayed? Yes, if we applied to Open Badge data the same recipes we are already applying successfully to open data.

Let us invite innovators to imagine the new kind of services that could be built from the opening of Open Badge data. The services could be related to education, employment, in particular self-employment, but also social activities and social entrepreneurship, knowledge and service exchange, etc. So, instead of today’s spray and pray, lets create the conditions for the emergence of the Badge prosumer. Let us direct our prayers to the innovators inviting them to imagine things that never were.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

Badge Europe is currently collecting use cases: you are welcome to add your own (link).

Think out of the box, think out of the badge!


Open Badges

No #OpenBadges, please, don’t spoil my pleasure!

During the planning meeting of #badgetheworld panel at SXSWedu, Dame Kate Coleman (@kateycoleman) mentioned the case of a person (let’s call him Tom) who refused to collect the “programmer badges” he earned, responding that programming was a pleasure and he did not want to have his pleasure spoiled by badges. Then I went to my backlog of mails and discovered a message from Niel, an Irish colleague, pointing to a post with the title: We need more stinkin’ badges (or, how to increase student participation without using grades as a reward) (link). As the author explains, the title comes from a quote that has been used in at least three different movies (most famously in Blazing Saddles in 1974) where the lawmen are asked for their badges, to which they respond, “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

My very first reaction when I heard the story of someone refusing to have his pleasure spoiled by badges was: this guy deserves a badge! We should even create a badge for all the Toms of the world! Later, when I read the post on Badges? We need no stinkin’ badges! I thought, we need to create a badge to celebrate all those who will have the guts to say Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges! Both badges would complete my collection of reflective rebel’s badges.

My guess is that the people who issued the badges refused by Tom would agree with the author of We need more stinkin’ badges when he writes: “Badges are a reward, and doesn’t everyone want something to show for the work they did?”

There are many good reasons to refuse rewards or any form of external incentive. Grades, rewards, awards, praise create an asymmetrical situation where one of the parties is (tries to be) in control of the other. The student motivated by grades is not different from the drug addict in search of a fix. The author goes on lamenting the fact that unfortunately, some students are not motivated by grades (read, they don’t want to buy my poison).

Contrary to the author, I would say: “fortunately, some students are not motivated by grades,” when it is based on the refusal to be controlled like pets (“good dog, here is a piece of sugar”) or crack addicts. The fortunate ones are the strongest and most brilliant. They are in a position to treat grades with disdain. Unfortunately, there are also all those who are the victims of the deleterious effects of grades, rewards, awards and praise.

Alas, the (too many) badges based on the (false) assumption that they can create motivation are nothing more than glorified digital gold stars. And we certainly don’t need no stinkin’ digital gold star!

So, if Open Badges should not be used for extrinsic motivation, what could they be used for? How about exploring intrinsic motivation? What would badges solely based on intrinsic motivation look like? How about moving from a model where badges are primarily pushed to people, mainly by institutions, to a model where they are pulled from people, not just designed and issued for them, but designed and issued with and by them?

On motivation and badges, read @timothyfcook “A Badge Won’t Make Me Care” (link) and “Unpacking Badges for Lifelong Learning” (link)

Open Badges

Why the #OpenBadges infrastructure is not, and should not be “learner-centred”

To those who still believe that Open Badges are learner/earner centred, just have a look at one of the slides of a presentation Nate Otto and I gave at OpenEd 2014. I’ll repeat it ad nauseam until we have fixed this issue, but the current Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) is 100% centred on the issuer. As the vast majority of issuers are organisations the truth is that Open Badges are organisation-centred. Anybody pretending that Open Badges are learner-centred tells a fallacy, unless their idea of centredness  is that of a firing squad — the only difference being that the person at that centre doesn’t have the option to put the bullet in their backpack!

Is this Learner-Centred????? (I= issuer, E= Earner)

Is the the current issuer-centredness a defect that could be corrected by making the Open Badge Infrastructure more earner-centred? Is it the centre we should aim for? Or should we aim for multiple centres or no centre at all?

While there is no technical reason for keeping apart the functions associated to issuing and earning badges (even in the mercantile world of eBay, everybody is a buyer and a seller) it would be very interesting to look back and understand why, in the world of education, it was decided that there shall be issuers, there shall be earners, there shall be consumers, but they shall not mix. Maybe the answer is in the question: the world of education is an asymmetrical world, where power is unevenly distributed, it should not therefore come as a surprise that technologies embody those existing power structures.

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Open Badges

Endorsement: an #OpenBadges paradigm shift, thanks to @ottonomy

Thanks to Nate Otto (@ottonomy) an extension for endorsement of Open Badges is currently under review (link). I would like to explain why this ‘extension’ is much more than a simple add-on to an existing specification but a breakthrough, an invitation to a paradigm shift (yes, nothing less Nate!)

The proposed extension is the outcome of the discussions (link) in the Badge Alliance Endorsement Working Group (link) lead by Deb Everhart (@ariadne4444). A collaborative document was produced to capture our work (link).

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#JeSuisCharlie #OpenBadges

JeSuisCharlieI have lost friends whose irreverent cartoons contributed to forging my character and political views. Cabu and Wolinski were among the heros of my teenage years. Nothing was sacred to them, nothing but life! Their murder, the murder of an entire editorial board by bigots acting on behalf of a criminal organisation has transformed some of my  favourite cartoonists and economist (Bernard Maris) into another kind of heros: heros of democracy and free speech.

#JeSuisCharlie has been a tremendous response to those murders (17, including police force and simple citizens). My contribution to this movement is the creation of a different kind of Open Badge to state one’s commitment to democracy and free speech.

Je suis Charlie can be claimed using the link below:

Accreditation Assessment Competency Open Badges Recognition Standards Trust

#OpenBadges for Key Competencies

This post is an extract of a position paper, Key Competency Badges, a reflection based on the work done in the TRANSIt project in relation to the acquisition of key competencies.

How to combine Open Badges with key competencies? To what result? One way to approach this question is to recognise that key competencies are just one particular group of competencies, so what is good for the recognition of competencies in general, is likely to be just as good for key competencies. As there are already plenty of Open Badges used to recognise a large range of competencies, then it is just a matter of extending current practice.

What is implied with this approach is that Key Competency Open Badges will need key competency standards similar to the UK key skill 2000 introduced above. While it might seem unproblematic to define standards related to the mastery of mathematics and foreign languages, things might get more complicated with digital competencies and even more with the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship and social and civic competencies. For example, the French authorities decided to remove ‘entrepreneurship’ from the European key competency labelled “sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.” The French version is “autonomie et initiative” [5] (autonomy and initiative).

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ePortfolio Open Badges Personal Data Store

Open Passport: Reinventing the ePortfolio from Open Badges?

There are two possible approaches to connecting Open Badges with ePortfolios: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation looks at Open Badges as a nice add-on to ePortfolios. This can be done by adding a plug-in to an existing piece of software. It is what “Moodle as issuer, Mahara as displayer” (link).

Accommodation requires much more than adding a simple plug-in, it should be about rethinking ePortfolios in light of what we have learned from Open Badges. We should start by asking questions such as: what can we do with Open Badges that was not possible with current ePortfolios? How should ePortfolios change in order to use the full power of Open Badges.


For example, while there have been calls for some time now to make better use of metadata in ePortfolios (or even simply usethem!), the beauty of Open Badges is that they are a pure set of metadata (an Open Badge is a picture into which metadata are ‘baked’). How could we use the information contained in Open Badges to generate ePortfolios out of them? Conversely, what would we need in an ePortfolio that we would like to find in Open Badges, for example the narrative that led to the attribution of a Badge. Could a collection of Badges allow the automatic creation of meta-narratives?

These are some of the questions the Badge Europe! initiative has decided to explore. And to give a name to this new kind of ePortfolio, we call it the Open Badges Passport, or Open Passport for short.

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Assessment ePortfolio Learning Technologies Open Badges

ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix

July 2nd saw the first public presentation of  the ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix, one of the outcomes of the Europortfolio initiative ( This post reports some of the ideas that were presented during this webinar.

Why a Maturity Matrix?

A growing number of individuals and organisations are exploiting or planning to explore the benefits of ePortfolios and, more recently, Open Badges. What are the successful indicators of such an implementation? How does one implementation compare to another? What possible steps can be taken in order to improve current practices and technology?

While a number of reference documents have been published, in particular the very comprehensive guidelines from  JISC and the Australian ePortfolio Initiative, notwithstanding previous attempts at creating an ePortfolio maturity matrix, there is not yet a consensus, within the learning professional community, on what could constitute a maturity model of ePortfolios and Open Badges implementation.

The maturity model underpinning the ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix aims at being inclusive, i.e. recognising what people and organisations are doing today, while providing a framework for future improvement, so that learning practitioners will be able to state: “this is where we are today, that is where we want to be next year.” The main function of the Maturity Matrix is to provide a tool to facilitate the dialogue with practitioners, leaders in education and decision makers. If you are an innovator and feel lonely in your institution, you can use the Matrix to engage in a dialogue with your colleagues, learning community and community of practice. If you are an education manager, you can use the Matrix to review and/or plan the changes required to support effective ePortfolio and Open Badge practice.

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ePortfolio Open Badges Trust

From ePortfolio to Open Badges – on the Individuation of Technical Objects


In 2004, during the second international ePortfolio conference (La Rochelle, France) a group of participants agreed to launch a campaign on the theme ePortfolio for all! Their objective was “by 2010, every citizen will have an ePortfolio!” 10 years later, despite a growing number of ePortfolio initiatives worldwide, we are still very far from achieving this goal.

This text is an attempt at exploring why the global adoption of Open Badges is likely to succeed and how it might feedback into ePortfolio technologies and practices. For that purpose, in the perspective of the genesis of technological objects, I draw a parallel with the evolution of computer technology from the early generation of computers to the advent of integrated circuits and computer chips (CPU, central processing units). The emergence of Open Badges will be analysed as a result of the evolution of ePortfolios, their concrétisation (reification). ePortfolios are more abstract, Open badges more concrete as the result of an individuation process.

While the genesis of technological objects and the process of individuation has been described with talent by philosophers like Gilbert Simondon and Bernard Stiegler, this post simply aims at inviting the members of the ePortfolio community to reflect on their practices and the possible futures for ePortfolio technologies.

On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects

In Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, 1958) Gilbert Simondon describes the concrétisation of technical objects as the ability of objects to become more autonomous, self-regulated, in relation to the associated milieu in which they operate. This process has a corollary, abstraction, which is when an object becomes more dependent on its associated milieu, as is the case with a number of genetically modified organisms — e.g. induced sterility in order to control the crop market, regulations, etc.

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Assessment ePortfolio interoperability Learning Technologies LMS Open Badges Uncategorized

What have I learned from Moodle and Mahara?

I am currently working on a project ( the objective of which is to help secondary education teachers in developing the competencies they need to support the acquisition of key competencies of their pupils as defined by the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning Framework published by the European Commission. The course we are developing will be adapted to the different national contexts of the project partners.

The Key Competences framework comprises 8 key competencies:

  • Communication in the mother tongue
  • Communication in foreign languages
  • Mathematical, science and technology competencies
  • Digital competency
  • Learning to learn
  • Social and civic competencies
  • Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
  • Cultural awareness and expression

I will detail in another post my criticism of this framework (which is like the wedding of the carp and the rabbit) but for now I will simply indicate that there is a much better and more properly structured framework developed by the Scottish government. It is called Curriculum for Excellence.

The Four Capacities —  the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

The most obvious difference between the European and Scottish frameworks is the implicit vision of the individual: one is fragmented, the other holistic. The European Framework lists a set of skills, a kind of micro-curriculum organised in a series of subjects/disciplines — most of them are already taught in the current curricula. It is also extremely tame: one of the goal is not to create entrepreneurs, but simply to have a “sense of initiative and entrepreneurship!” While the European framework seems to be oblivious to the identity construction process, the Scottish framework clearly states that its goal is to produce successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. The skills are a means to achieving that high level goal, which means that teachers and communities are encouraged to develop their own curriculum (examples). The European Framework lists a minimal set of skills for the learners, the Curriculum for Excellence sets a global context for the reinvention and the co-creation of many curricula with all the members of learning community.

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