Another interesting evening discussing Open Badges, and I’ve come to find myself thinking in quite different ways when it comes to what I think they are useful for. There’s a lot of talk about how they can be used to credential all sorts of skills and achievement, and most of the time this is connected to the discussions of how do “we” get employers to recognise them.
Im interested in tokens, symbols, rules and values – and to me, Open Badges is a sort of ‘bit-coin’ connected to cultural production and reproduction. For example: In a game, if I hold a badge for an achievement, someone could ask me to help them earn theirs and I could co-op with them, or simply tell them how to go about it. But games are synthetic worlds, and not subject to the same economic, political and social forces of ‘real life’. In ‘real life’ you can’t easily walk up to experts in the expectation that will a) notice b) help and c) help for free. The idea of “open” badges to me signifies “open social systems” which are based on an input and output market relationship. Even the term ‘earn’ a badge, provides a strong clue about how many people socially construct what they are and in term what they mean.
I see the Open Badge system as a way to re-create some simple ‘game-like’ methods within ‘structuralist’ domains such as Moodle or Drupal. They might, if well designed, allow some application of ‘critical gaming’ such that we provide alternative ways for students to learn about a topic. For example: if we’re teaching about gender, we can create a critical game to immerse the player in a series of events in which they use a range of skills, cognitions and emotions to make sense of — the real world. I am not at all convinced that “open badges” are not conceived as yet another way to create winners and losers though education, especially when institutions are already trying to standardise (real monopolise though narrow consensus and exclusive trade) their implementation.
If open badges are part of a more poststructuralist approach to learning, then as trade-tokens and symbols, these things seem better placed inside closed communities — and indeed when you look at social systems such as Steam, you see that there already exist — in less declarative forms. If they are just another reform to marks and grades, then I seriously doubt they will attain much currency in a system which has already decided who is a winner and loser. That to me isn’t the value of “open badges”, or at least I didn’t think it was.