Open Badges – Gotta Catch ’em All!
Imagine if every Pokémon you hunt came with a learning scenario customised to your needs. This is precisely what the digital Open Badges by Mozilla.org are about – customised and gamified learning scenarios that different learners complete with different learning outcomes.
The use of Open Badges is spreading rapidly around the world. Open Badges are a visual solution for setting learning objectives, demonstrating and identifying skills and competencies and, ideally, a rewarding way to show the world what you have learned. Hundreds of formal educational institutions around the world have already adopted the badges for use in their courses, but their greatest potential is likely to lie in the building, identification and recognition of learning experiences outside formal education. Open Badges can be designed and issued by an organisation or individual, and the content of the badges can be designed and customised according to learning objectives observed either in collaboration with the learner or separately. Badges earned by learners are conveniently stored in digital Backpacks that allow learners to display their achievements according to the situation and their needs.
Finnish Youth Centres has created Open Badges to support learning among various groups, including trainees, volunteers and youth groups. Instead of using discussions and walks around the area, the orientation of volunteers is organised by having them independently complete a pathway of badges, that includes getting to know the rules and practices of the youth centre, introducing themselves to the centre’s cooperation partners on social media and creating a mind map to illustrate the objectives of our youth work. The final badge in the pathway directs the volunteer to reflect on his or her experiences together with the instructor, at which time the lessons learned and the learner’s related thoughts are recorded as evidence of what was learned.
Open Badges are also extremely effective with youth groups. For example, an international youth exchange group visiting the Hyvärilä youth centre starts with the “culture curious” badge, which encourages the learner to find out what daily life looks like for young people in a different country, to sit next to a stranger at the lunch table and to find hobbies they have in common. When the participants work on earning the Open Badge, they learn intercultural competencies without even noticing it!
Open Badges shift the responsibility for learning to the person it belongs to: the learner. The organisations that issue Open Badges do not define what the young person should learn. Instead, they define the kinds of learning scenarios the young person is placed in. The use of Open Badges also provides the organisation with opportunities for the modelling and gamification of youth education objectives, making them easily approachable to all of the parties involved!
Open Badges give young people encouragement and guidance to engage in meaningful and concrete learning that is easy to review later in reflection sessions. They also provide the learner with a concrete award in the form of an Open Badge, which carries more weight because it comes with the stamp of the issuing organisation. Youth centres have observed that Open Badges are seen as particularly attractive by “digital youths”, for whom earning the badges is comparable to hunting Pokémon, for example. Instead of catching Pokémon on their mobile devices, they accumulate evidence of various skills and learning experiences.