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Education, gamification and Mozilla ? The Open Badges solution

Studying education in general and more particularly in Mozilla project, I have found a project named Open Badges. To give some origins, Open Badges is a project from Mozilla Drumbeat, powered in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation.

But before presenting Open Badges, I have to present gamification. Gamification? Another marketing « buzzword », will you tell me? In fact, we could say that it's been a while since we talk about gamification. Since the arrival of « serious games ». Wikipedia made a great definition of this term :

Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and not being a distraction, and by taking advantage of humans' psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites.

During a TEDx Boston conference, last year, Seth Priebatsch gave a really great presentation of gamification mechanism :

During this conference, he gives many examples, but only one will be useful to explain Open Badges : school. Indeed, school could be seen as a game: there are levels we have to pass, scores to reach, challenges to complete, even competitions to win, sometimes. School, whether primary, secondary or higher, for small kids or adults, is a great environment for gamification. Imagine a few minutes:

I'm a student, I learn things and fill out controls which verifies my understanding of my knowledge. Instead of traditional sheets, I use a computer, with quizzes or serious game that I have to finish to complete controls and have badges. Here, badges are not like FourSquare, a simple image. This is a set of meta-data, which permit to know when I got my badge, in what conditions, if it has a validity period, etc. All my badges are gathered in my backpack, which allows me to see badges collected, group them and share them with my parents, my friends, my classmates and even my future employers. I do an internship. My manager, which is a very nice guy, prepared a small end-of-course, with some badges. He turned out that during my internship, I showed a great sense of community project management and a talent for web integration. He wants to reward me, and thus the future recruiters can see how I'm unique. So I put this badge in my bag, in the group « Web Skills ».

And if all this were true? And if we could push gamification to simply « plug in » a badge system to a third party website. Basically, an API gamification.

Well this is precisely what is proposed to be Open Badges. An API which permits to design and install badges on a website. User side, a website « backpack » to manage all the badges and share them with whoever I want. In the education field, it may help to highlight profiles with a higher degree of accuracy and on a wider range of diversity. And we can even imagine a third player: the badge integrator, as BadgeStack, which develops badges for educational institutions in the United States.

There are many applications, only limited by our own imagination. So long live Open Badges 🙂

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