First Forays into Open Badges

Badges I have been following with interest discussions around Open Badges, however it was C.A Philbin and Martin Waller’s blog posts that inspired me to get going with trying out Badges with my students

So, for the past week I’ve been introducing Open Badges to my Year 7 classes and thought I’d share my experiences.

I really wanted the students to get involved in deciding what badges should be awarded. The questions we used for discussion were:

  • What have you already got badges for?
  • Why do those organisations give you badges?
  • What badges could we have in ICT?

The discussions surrounding those 3 questions were quite enlightening, as shy students who had not said a word during the previous 2 week’s lessons, shared their achievements outside school and as the penny dropped that these were badges outside ICT competencies – teamwork, creativity, volunteering etc, the enthusiasm of the class noticeably increased.

The students are going to come up with the criteria for awarding the badges – we briefly discussed the need for them to be challenging yet achievable.

They will also design the badges themselves. We are undertaking a Graphic Design project and so, getting the students to design their own badges. This serves a few purposes, not least because it kicks off learning about the principles of good design (essential for other projects such as web and games design), but further involves the pupils which in turn, I hope, encourages them to earn their badges and those designed by their peers.

Giving the students some ownership over the badges they can earn and what their badges will look like is important. As an adult I know that if I am involved and I think my opinions count, then I am overall more likely to feel part of the group. I want my classes to be inclusive places of learning and so far, I am learning as much (if not more) than my students. I’m very happy with that.

Week 2: Pupils have been working in small groups on their badge designs and have come up with some impressive ideas!

Martin’s pupils have also been coming up with their own ideas and criteria – very cool!

You might also be interested to know that my pupils are particularly keen on the idea of having physical badges as well as the ‘virtual’ ones. After some discussion on Twitter (it seems Martin is having the same discussion with his class), stickers might be the way forward. I’ll keep you updated!

Update: 9th November

Having decided upon one final design for their badges (after getting feedback from the rest of the class), students have been working on the awarding criteria, learning how to use Adobe Fireworks and transferring their paper designs into a graphic design.

Awarding Criteria
The awarding criteria took some discussion, as students worked to communicate what they wanted people to do to get their badge in a simple, easy to follow way. Again, this was a great exercise as they really had to think about how we could monitor progress. For example, how do you decide when someone has ‘listened carefully every lesson’. They were all in agreement that their badges should be a challenge to achieve, with some teams coming up with a levelling system, so you could achieve different levels of their badges along the way to keep up motivation.  We tried to make it very simple – how will you know that it’s time for you to collect your badge / how will I know when a badge needs to be awarded.

Students also decided that the easiest way to monitor the badges was to have a chart, where they could monitor their progress and know when it was time to receive their badge (this also makes it much easier for me to monitor!).

Again, the fact that the students, with some guidance initially from me, then from their peers, came up with the criteria themselves has been important for their sense of ownership over their badges and I’m really impressed with the way they have developed an abstract concept into, in most cases, easy to follow bullet points – another great skill.

Graphic Design
It was then time to get going with the design of the actual badges. Rather than jump straight into the badges, we spent half a lesson designed an Angry Bird with Fireworks first, using this image as a guide, as the Angry Bird has been constructed from a series of basic shapes, manipulated using the software’s tools. This was both a great deal of fun and helped the students to consider what techniques they now knew that they could use when designing their badge.

The main techniques we covered were: creating shapes and changing their properties, using the sub-select and free-form tools to manipulate shapes, adding straight and curved lines, adding text, using the attach to path and punch-path tools.

The students will spend another lesson designing their badges, and so far I’m really impressed with the graphics I’ve seen and how they are solving issues they encounter along the way, often working together to solve a problem rather than waiting for me to be free.

This entire project is helping students to think creatively, work together to solve problems and I am very much looking forward to getting their badges finished and used in the classroom (I already have a few I need to award!). So the next update should be sharing their final designs!

Image by Semonuxe





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