I just realized I told some folks on a phone call that the recent post indicated some of my failures in using badges, but it didn’t really. I would deem it generally a very high success, and will continue to use badges in all my classes. With rare exceptions, students have been pretty enthusiastic (with a couple of “he’s abdicating his grading responsibility” responses in evals). But some mis-steps, spelled out:
1. Thinking it could be a small shift or change in the way we did things. It took time to explain what we were doing, why, and how. But that time was well spent. The failure here was a failure in scaffolding for using the system. It requires some dedicated time, just as any challenges to existing structure do. Now I devote a good part of the first week to using the system.
2. Too many little badges. I started out with a pattern seen on a lot of websites: make the first badges easy. I still have a “how to get a badge” badge. (Actually, it is the “Human” badge–pictured above and fairly easy to get.) But I’ve moved to fewer, more substantial badges. Several reasons for this. First, a more substantial badge is valued differently. It carries more weight. Second, because there is a certain amount of overhead for earning a badge, it makes sense to chunk things a bit larger. Getting that balance right is key, and not easy.
3. Conflated badges. This is the other side of the above. In one course I had a badge for basic blogging, in which you were required to post on a self-hosted blog (not, e.g., Blogger or WordPress.com), because I wanted to know they could get hosting, set up a domain, and install the software. In another course, this wasn’t as essential, but I had to do another “basic blogging” badge. In other words, I ended up with badges that were bound to the course, when I wanted to avoid that. Again, hard to get away from rolling too much in if you are doing substantial badges.
4. Identification issues. This is both technical and a policy issue, but I’ve gone through a number of authentication processes. I’d love to federate with the university’s system, but also want to let others in. I’ve considered Facebook Connect, or OpenID, or something, but just need to settle on something. Because it will aid with the Open Badge Infrastructure, that will probably be Persona (née BrowserID). There is a part of me that would like to see this integrated into Blackboard, and a much, much larger part urging me to resist the dark side.
5. Bad peer reviews. I actually talked a bit about this in the previous post. It’s really hard to get people to post more than a word or two. Need to figure out some way to reward those who do, and encourage the practice. (Yes, extrinsic reward, but how else will they come to understand the intrinsic value of critique?) Maybe a system by which the recipient meta-judges the critique? Perhaps the number of words of critique you type leads to a bank of credit for getting your own critiques and endorsements? I don’t know.
6. Badly written rubrics. I’ve always hated rubrics, thusly I’m bad at writing them. I’ll need to find some great examples to use.
7. End of the semester rush. I also have no deadlines. I like it that way, but I don’t like the mad rush at the end of the semester. I’ll have grades moving forward, and they will be based on maintaining steady progress toward the end of the semester.
There’s a lot wrong in the details of the technical implementation (and even more in terms of the actual code) but these are some of the issues I had at the broader design level.