Badges, hackerspaces and freedom to learn

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the seriesBadges

Yesterday I gave a small presentation on badges for education. One of the reasons for my current fascination with badges is that they offer a possibility to expand what is viewed as valid and valued learning. Last night, as I was reflecting on the days events, I began to think about how we get from where we are to that place where hybrid learning was valued as equal to time in a chair “formal” learning. Which, of course, leads to the question of how much of what happens in schools is actual learning. This question depends on your view of what learning as actually for. And we know that the current state of primary and secondary school education is very successful at teaching learning for obedience. Others have articulated this more effectively so I’ll leave the point here for now.

But, what if badges carried weight and authority as indicators of learning? And what if this could be integrated into formal educational systems? (Yes, yes, two very but what if’s…but to build the new world we have to dream it first) Imagine a school day for a high school student in that case – she might check in a school (the physical building), attend a calculus class, meet with friends to collaborate on a project for literature class and then head off campus to visit the public library – which is also home to the neighborhood hackerspace – to spend an hour or two in an amateur radio technicians class before connecting online with some students in Chile to teach and learn English and Spanish. During the course of her day she is awarded a badge for her skillful leadership of the collaborative literature project group, reaches a milestone in the radio technicians class and is awarded a mini badge, both of which are added to her academic portfolio. During weekly meetings with her advisor they review her e-portfolio and reflect on the learning that has occurred, plan next steps and identify upcoming challenges. At the end of the term she might receive a B+ in Calculus, an A in her lit collab, an amateur radio technicians badge and an advanced Spanish badge for her work with the English/Spanish co-tutoring project.

And it’s easy enough to transpose elements of this scenario to a multitude of contexts to begin to see the power of surfacing learning and then being able to validate it. The question is, how do we get from where we are now to there? As a colleague just said – look at times when things actually shifted, usually times of crisis. It’s not hard to look around and see crisis emerging. So how do we prepare and lay the groundwork for a systemic change that would lead to more freedom to learn? Are we where we should be to play mid-wife(s) to the emergence of a new way?

Not discussed but needing connection to this post: mentors, apprenticeship, crafts, center for media studies(buffalo), george s. counts – Create a Library “Tech Shop”