Jan 18

What’s in a badge? A guest post by Bob Harrison

Bob has been involved with digital leaders for many years and has supported the DLN and what we are trying to achieve from the outset. His original post can be found here, but I wanted to make sure that our readers have access to it as badges are a hot topic of conversation at the moment. You can follow Bob on twitter @bobharrisonnet

Badges mean lots of things to lots of people but Tim Riches, the man behind DigitalMe,  sums up their meaning:

“They have the power to motivate learners to produce work they are proud of and provide meaningful recognition for their achievements”.

I met Tim at the recent Whole Education conference in Leeds and he filled me in on his journey so far.

Co-founder of the successful Radiowaves project, he is committed to supporting learners to make the transition “from content consumers to creators”. One of the first sets of Mozilla Open Badges is being developed out of the successful DigitalMe project Supporter to Reporter (S2R), a sports website created by young people.To earn ‘S2R Medals’, learners progress from bronze to gold in  three areas of learning: journalistic skills, live event production then coaching others.


Supporter to Reporter badges


The scheme gained Mozilla’ support through winning the international DigitalLearning and Media Competition 2012 funded by the US MacArthur Foundation.

Participants will complete a series of challenges to unlock S2R Medals. Tasks range from writing a blog to conducting interviews and even managing a sports reporting team at a live event. 

Once issued with a badge the learner chooses where to display it: on their school website, Facebook page or job sites such as Linkedin.

But why do we need badges? What is wrong with what we have now and how will these badges relate to formal qualifications and the National Curriculum?

“For us the key difference between badges and traditional assessment and accreditation is purpose. Rather than learning about creating media they are responding to a real-life challenge. That brings whole new set of challenges and risks for the learner.  They work in teams to produce work which is seen and assessed by their peers. This leads to deeper engagement and motivation which promote the development of a broader set of skills. 

That doesn’t mean to say the programme isn’t complementary to the existing curriculum.  Research, planning and interviewing can all be mapped to speaking and listening, for example. We’re working with a group of teachers from ten schools and with leading academics to work out ways to mainstream the project within schools”.

Well known blogger, former teacher and JISC researcher Doug Belshaw is now heading up the Open Badges team in the UK for Mozilla. 

Doug feels the answer lies in the way data is so accessible and “we need a way to recognise learning wherever it takes place and then accredit it “says Doug. “CV’s do not to give us the full story and the great thing about open badges is the data is embedded in the badge and builds as the learner progresses”.

Doug and Tim spoke recently at a conference in Scotland about their exciting plans for the future “Are open badges the future for skills accreditation?”


For more information on S2R Medals go to 


or follow @_s2r

For more information on Mozilla Open Badges go to:


or follow #openbadges on twitter

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