ePortfolio LMS Open Badges

A Cure Against OBesity: The One Pixel #OpenBadges , #OpenPassport and #xAPI

While my experience with competency-based education initially led me to think that we should only get badges for “serious stuff” like the demonstration of a mastery, or possibly a competency (although this could lead to fragmented learning and assessment, and that will be the subject of another post), I have changed my position some time ago. I believe that it is perfectly adequate to deliver a badge for less”serious stuff,” like attending a conference.

A conference’s badge could be given to all the participants without any distinction, there could also be special badges for speakers and organisers. Badges for speakers and organisers could be delivered by the participants. In fact, rather than new badges created specifically for one event, they could be endorsement badges, i.e. endorsing a badge already owned by the authors and organisers.

There are other interesting benefits in delivering badges at a conference; one service that will be built on top of the Open Badge Passport is the ability for someone holding a certain badge to communicate with all the other holders of the same badge. Open Badges will behave like mailing lists. This will provide an easy way for the holders of the same badge (or same pattern in a collection ) to establish conversations without having to disclose any personal identifier. Of course, it will be easy to opt-out at the time the badge is collected in the passport — and to opt-in later.

Should everything be badged?

Carpet Baddging

Since I realised that Open Badges are statements of trust, to those querying whether having too many badges might be a problem, my response is: who would complain for receiving too many tokens of trust? 

Yet, while I changed my position regarding the quality and quantity of badges (sometimes the change in quantity can lead to the emergence of new qualities) I am still not satisfied with the fact that Open Badges are being delivered for almost anything, like visiting a website or answering correctly to a multiple choice question.

It is now so easy to issue badges that we can witness “Carpet Badging,” a term coined by Kyle Bowen (@kyledbowen) in 2013! The issue Kyle raised was about the importance of metadata. While there is certainly an issue with badly defined or poor metadata, may be the problem lays elsewhere. May be poor medata is a sign that Open Badges were not the right answer in the first place?

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Open Badges Quality Standards

Over 2 Millions Types of #OpenBadges ! Don’t you think that’s wonderful?

(I should probably add the subtitle: And less than 10 types of ePortfolios!)

One of Badge Europe‘s intellectual outputs (yuck! I can’t use this “concept” without cringing!) is a discussion paper on quality and Open Badges.

Intellectual Output: a term contributed to the Newspeak Dictionary edited by the European Commission, to replace deliverable, a perfectly decent and understandable term, as if any deliverable did not involve some kind of intellectual effort, implying therefore that the work produced by previous European projects could be partly the result of machines, automata or idiots — I won’t comment on the last one!

This discussion paper on quality and Open Badges should raise a number of interesting issues that I addressed in a previous post (ePortfolios & Open Badges at the Service of Learning eQuality) which refers to a presentation I made last year at a meeting of the Fédération Interuniversitaire de l’Enseignement à Distance (FIED).

One of the problems I have with frameworks such as “quality in eLearning” is that they tend to convey the message that it is possible to have such a thing as “good eLearning” on top of poor or archaic models. They do not use quality as a transformative force, but rather as a normative model, and extension of the old model, stifling innovation and creativity.

In the discussion paper, one of the risks is the mechanistic application of traditional quality models to the Open Badge ecosystem. And if there is something we do not need it is any kind of “quality framework” that would curb or smother the innovation born out of Open Badges. If Open Badges are not used to transform education, social inclusion and employment, then who cares for their “quality?” read more »

ePortfolio Identity Open Badges

#OpenBadges best friends to #ePortfolio practitioners best foes to ePortfolio platforms?

Kate Coleman’s (@kateycoleman) has opened a discussion on “ePortfolios and OpenBadges – friends or foes?” (link). Here is my attempted response to her question.

Open Badges best friends to ePortfolio practitioners and best foes to ePortfolio platforms? Let’s face it: the ePortfolio platforms of today are not that different from those that existed 10 years ago and many ePortfolios do not use any dedicated ePortfolio platform. If ePortfolio platforms want to keep up with innovation they will have to do much better than adding a layer of Open Badges; they might want to reinvent themselves from Open Badges.

Open Badges will facilitate the building of rich, trustworthy ePortfolios. We will be able to create truly “open ePortfolios” — one should note that there is a significant difference between using an “open source” eportfolio system and creating “open eportfolios.” With Open Badges, ePortfolios won’t be simply “open” they will also be “distributed” and “shared” and it is these qualities that will contribute to making them “trustworthy.”

Eventually we could describe the difference between Open Badges and ePortfolios as the difference between identity as self-narrative (ePortfolios) and identity through others (Open Badges).

In a presentation I gave in 2009 on “ePortfolio, the engine for learning communities” I presented ePortfolios as “the threads of the social fabric constructing our identity.”

Due to the siloed nature of current ePortfolios, this didn’t happen. With Open Badges, things are slightly different: no more silos and many threads, the threads of Open Badges feeding our interwoven networks of trust.

If I had to revise the 2009 presentation, it would be:

Open Badges: the substance from which are made the threads of the social fabric constructing our identities

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” does (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 use them!), 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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