I’ve recently been working on a bid to the MacArthur / HASTAC Digital Media Learning Competition Badges for Lifelong Learning. This is intended to promote the use of badges to acknowledge and reward informal learning and the softer skills that are not captured so well in exams and formal assessment.
I started the proposal specifically for iSpot. We already use badges extensively on iSpot, particularly as part of the reputation system which shows how an individual progresses on their ‘learning journey’ of increasing identification skills. We also use badges for other purposes: we accept experts from partner natural history societies who are given expert badges and affiliation badges, we give badges to OU students and alumni of ‘S159 Neighbourhood Nature’, and there are also ‘social’ badges which reflect activity in posting comments.
There was an international meeting at the OU back in October jointly organised by iSpot and Encyclopedia for Life about citizen science for biodiversity. At that meeting we decided to go for a much broader collaborative bid which would see a coherent set of badges for natural history issued and accepted across eight different projects from around the world:
- Atlas of Living Australia (CSIRO, Australia),
- Encyclopedia of Life (Smithsonian & others, USA)
- iNaturalist (Carnegie Institution, Stanford, USA)
- El Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) (Costa Rica)
- India Biodiversity Portal (consortium in India)
- iSpot (Open University, UK)
- iSpot Southern Africa (South African National Biodiversity Institution, Pretoria, S Africa)
- Mushroom Observer (Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA)
The technology underpinning these badges is the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure. This will allow an individual to earn badges on different sites and then collect and display them wherever they want, for example, on Facebook or LinkedIn. For our project, it means that a user will be able to show all their natural history badges on the profile pages of all the sites they use. More interestingly, there are possibilities for badge exchange: for example, having an expert badge on iSpot will give curator / editor privileges on Encyclopedia of Life, and it may be possible to share reputation or activity badges across sites so you don’t have to start from scratch. There are lots of issues to sort out here – coming up with a coherent set of badges for all the different sites with their different activities won’t be easy. There are also some thorny technical issues although hopefully the Mozilla folk will come up with the answers.
The DML competition has three stages. Our first and second stage proposals have both been successful and we are now in the final stage of the competition. The bad news is that it means delivering a 10 minute ‘pitch’ to a panel of judges; the good news is that I have to go to San Francisco to do it in person!
The winners of the funding competition will be announced at the Digital Media and Learning conference on 1st March – watch this space!
Although if we are successful in this bid the work will be specifically aimed at use in iSpot, I’m sure the ideas and technology could be of much broader use within the OU, for example with light-touch assessment and peer-assessment around OER material such as OpenLearn.