I've had a little more time to think about it, and I've decided that I have a terrible badge allergy. Go to Mozilla's Open Badges site. The first thing you'll see is an image that says LEVEL UP. shudder. But then go ahead and read the white paper. It offers these nice little vignettes about folks who have pursued their interests outside of traditional educational/credentialing institutions but would now want those experiences to count. And let's be clear. That's what this is about: making things count, commodifying life and passion in the context of a marketplace of education and expertise. However, it is painfully obvious how quickly that gets reversed, how quickly we shift from pursuing something because we are interested in it (and then retrospectively looking for a reward) to pursuing something strictly for the reward.
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That's what this is about: making things count, commodifying life and passion in the context of a marketplace of education and expertise. However, it is painfully obvious how quickly that gets reversed, how quickly we shift from pursuing something because we are interested in it (and then retrospectively looking for a reward) to pursuing something strictly for the reward.
I'm trying to imagine my kids' lives (ages 10 and 12) in badge-world. We already live in what I consider a college-crazy community where parents of 12-year olds wonder whether keeping their kid in travel soccer is the best way to get a college scholarship or if they should switch to golf or oboe or fill-in-the-blank. Imagine a world where every potential after-school activity is commodified as a badge. The first thing parents ask is "which badge is most valuable for getting my kid into college or a good job?" Then it's all about the badges. My kids can just give up on ever having a single moment of joy in their lives. Even if they were going to enjoy something, how can they when they've already committed to this transactional experience instead?
When we look at all the free, DIY learning that is out there now, it's free precisely because it hasn't been commodified. You can download stuff from MIT's Open Courseware because that kind of learning has no commerical value. If you want to get a badge though, that's going to cost. All the big textbook publishers and educational technology companies will just jump right on badges. All those Sylvan learning type companies will be selling badges. Edutainment video games and such will come with badges and thus be more expensive.
Badges won't make learning cheaper. We'll be spending more money on education than ever, and we won't get any better results because the motives for learning will still be all wrong.
Extrinsic rewards like badges might be good incentives for certain kinds of rote behaviors or to get someone to try something new. But, as I understand it, they have a negative impact on creative, problem-solving activites (i.e. the kinds of things we really need our students to learn to do). These are the things you have to want to do for some intrinsic reason, not to get some badge.
bryanalexander on 2011-09-16I'm still gathering my thoughts. A few stabs:
1) MIT's OCW is seeking corporate endorsements in order to survive. Is that commodified?
2) "We already live in what I consider a college-crazy community" - doesn't seem to be the main people these badges are after.