I have loosely followed and dipped my toes into open badges and digital credentialing. Mainly through the prodding of people like Ian O’Byrne and Doug Belshaw. The idea that we could have some common refrigerator to stick on our accomplishments is appealing. Using open standards means we would be able to move these accomplishments to any refrigerator we wanted. Gold stars for everyone.
Yet these stars need meaning. In the field of credentialing this comes down to criteria and evidence. So I decided to share how I have baked a credentialing system on our analog refrigerator..and the back of the linen closet door.
Every parent struggles with picky eaters. Children seem to find pleasure in expressing their agency by refusing morsels of nutrition. In this example we used a badging system to try and get our older son to eat veggies. The badges consists of several “level up” badges that represent one serving of food. They come together to form a picture of a food group.
In this example the criteria, the condition that must be met, to earn the microbadge is one serving of a food group. The evidence would be a sink of dirty dishes and a compost pile free of vegetables.
As you can see in this example just introducing badges does not lead to a successful assessment system. Even with the goal of a play date (bonus for us kid free time) the veggie column is blank.
This system also does not link back to evidence which are artifacts that demonstrate criteria have been met. You just have to trust us. Yet I am sure we have missed some meals I know I feed my kids more than 1oz of Grain and a 1/2 cup of dairy a day. Like many badging systems they aren’t maintained or links exist beyond firewalls or on 404 pages.
We also used a badging system to help potty train our son. Here there are two types of badges. Small stickers for Number One and big stickers for Number Two. As designers we thought the increased badge size would help with motivation to sit on the potty and that was more an area of struggle.
In this example the criteria, again the condition that must be met, was either peeing (small badge) or pooing (big badge) on the potty. There were multiple sources evidence but the most reliable would be deposited in the porcelain data collector.
We also allowed our son to customize his platform and hoped this would help.
Did either platform lead to the overarching goals: more veggies and saying good bye to diapers after eight long years? The results are mixed. In our first badging platform we as issuers were the weakest link. When we used the Balanced Buddy more frequently it helped ease some vegetable vendettas.
The Potty training board like many assessment systems, lead to misguided motivation. Our son just wanted more stickers. Just give him all the badges. He eventually just decided one day that pooing in the potty made more sense. I have no idea if badging helped in this development. I do know the potty training would have happened regardless.
As I continue to sit on the fence with badges I will bring these lessons with me. Badges will take sustained use and they are no silver bullet to addressing assessment and learning. In fact I still lean more to a presence rather than a portfolio assessment system. If you want to know if someone is qualified as a painter you don’t just look for specific credentials (such as an insurance policy) but you search out her name across the web. Look for customer reviews and also a portfolio. Being good at what you do is only half the story you need to tell the other half and let your audiences tell the third.