Open Badges: The game approach

I am so tempted to rail against the idea that “open badges” should be a standardised, inter-changeable set of didactic skill-based competencies run by and for the people who currently credential society. So I will.

It amazes me how fast people jump onto things they barely understand by immediately excluding alternative discussions and approaches other than their own.

There are some high level ‘goals’ being reported as “emerging pathways.”

“Coordinate partners and formalize learning pathways.”

“Create coalitions or strategic councils to champion the endorsement/acceptance/value of badges.”

“Build national frameworks of badges that are based on common criteria, but offer flexibility in local implementation. For example, statewide afterschool networks all have program improvement processes that are similar, but utilize different tools.”

APA: Summit | Reconnect Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from

My intake of breath here is that these things are fully intended to replicate existing systems, and likely to take decades and never reach a consensus. Open Badges to me are potentially useful in using game and media theory towards re-imagining how learning takes place – but no one wants to be a fool in a kings court. Maybe the “Open Badges” movement has plotted its course already, and another supertanker has headed out to sea. It seems a weakness to omit discussion of how people learn, but focus on what they should learn and with what tools, and part of the ongoing dogma with deeply established roots in instructional design and modernism. On this basis, Open Badges will be as inequitable as the current system.

The idea that the existing power vested inside the current social system must endlessly increase its grip on society using new technologies seem dubious to me. After all, this is OPEN badges, right? not Pearson or UCLA Badges. What evidence is there that when everything becomes standardised, then it also becomes equitable? The answer is none, because so far no one agrees on what these standards are, and the lure of competition and valorization of cultural production is never distant. There are many kinds of alliances, and all of them seek the same thing – power.

Take the case of “digital literacy.” OPen badges are likely to be the focus of educational technologists once more and a new attractive way to extend current practice and status. I’d arguable we’re in this ‘place’ now because students still do not receive a quality media education across all sectors from the age of 5. We, therefore, have an ongoing organisational problem which Open Badges won’t solve, especially by being subsumed by it.

If you’ve played any pervasive game, you’ll know how badge systems work with game-mechanics and social structures created . As a result. Why not use this to conceptualise your open badge system? If you don’t then you’ll probably get a badge for attending an EndNote class real soon and never be asked to work on your talent tree.