Understanding Badging

So, a few weeks ago I attended QuasiCon 2013.  I blogged about the experience here.  Recently, conference organizers asked me to reflect on the experience I had with badging at the conference (something they were testing out).  Since I wrote them a (seriously too long) email musing about the topic, I thought I’d be generous and share my thoughts with you all, dear readers.  I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with, sentiments towards, and questions about badges if any.  Have any of you been awarded a badge for something?  For what and what did you do with it?  If not, what should I do with the several badges I earned at QuasiCon?

So.  Onward!  I really love the idea of adding badging to quasi-con.  QuasiCon is cool because not only do current students and recent grads get a chance to schmooze and talk about libraries, but they also get a chance to experience a new kind of conference that they might not experience otherwise.  This will help them feel comfortable in the future delving in and really participating in any un-conferences they may find themselves attending.  I know that for me, that aspect of quasi-con comprises a lot of the value of attending.  That’s why I really got into tweeting this time around too.  I felt like it was an un-intimidating venue to tweet a conference.  And I got practice learning to listen and tweet relevant things at the same time – no easy task I tell you.  This is good!  So this brings me to badges – by doing a badging system, everyone participating sort of gets to test out in what ways badges are cool and enrich the quasi-con experience as well as the ways in which they are odd or don’t quite work.

There were two kinds of badges at QuasiCon:  badges to earn whilst attending the conference itself, and then badges to earn later.  Someone zipped through what badges there were and I remember trying to tweet them to get them out to people.  Then I realized that they were posted on a website.  But I still think tweeting them was useful – it meant my list was archived in a place I could get to them (I kept not remembering what website to go to to find out more about the badges).

So, I hadn’t ever earned a badge for something before, and thus, I admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to even know I earned a badge, how I would actually retrieve said badge, where I’d put it and finally what I’d actually do with it.  To be honest, I still don’t really know the answers to these questions.  I tweeted up a storm and then realized to get a higher level badge for social media use at the conference I’d need to post on two networks.  So, I went over to Facebook to post something about QuasiCon.  (Apparently, badging works!  It incentivized my publicizing the conference on a platform I otherwise wouldn’t have posted to… just to get that higher level social media badge).

But, how was anyone who awarded the badges to know I did that?

Turns out, you had to submit evidence that you should be awarded a badge.  This makes Mega Social Mediatortotal sense, and of course I just didn’t really read the instructions well enough to realize this at the time.  Luckily, I have since submitted links to some tweets & my Facebook post, so I earned the “Mega Social Mediator” badge (I feel like I should print it, frame it and stick it on my fridge!).  For my previous blog post, I got a “Blog Ambassador” badge.  I’m swimming in badges!

But seriously now, tell me, how does one use a badge?

Now, I know in the material world Blog Ambassador(And aren’t we all living in a material world?  And aren’t we all material girls inside?), if I got a badge for doing a good deed, I could sew it or iron it onto my Girl Scout sash.  But this e-badge… it is a small mystery to me.  It certainly incentivized my participation at the conference – and perhaps this alone is valuable.  But am I missing something?  Should I be concerned if I was so motivated to get an award that I don’t know what to do with?  What does that say about our education system in this country?!  What does that say about ME?!

I’m still intrigued by badging.  The University of Michigan is using badging to help keep staff members motivated to exercise this semester through a program called “MHealthy.”  I must admit, these are absolutely helping me reserve time each week to work out.  So, while I’m a little skeptical about what this all implies about what motivates me, I’m happy that in both cases a badging system has pushed me to engage more and do more.

The always thought-provoking and inspiring Cathy Davidson wrote an excellent piece on badging that you should certainly read if you’ve made it this far.   I really like how she’s laid out what the important features are around badging and why they work.  I’ll leave you with a short quote from her then:

The badge has to not just credentialize or certify learning but should also motivate it. By organizing a set of skills and interests…into an actual, definable, measurable skill capable of assessment and judgment, badges inspire students to greater mastery. A hobby becomes definable as an intellectual, creative asset, something to be tended, improved, honed, perfected, advanced, and innovated. As with a game challenge, attainment becomes the floor not the end point, it becomes a step on a way towards even greater mastery. The badge inspires a certain form of learning by naming it and honoring it.

I think she’s right:  badges become the floor not the end point.  I like that.  And I think it helps me redirect how I’ve been thinking about badging.  Instead of asking “what can I do with this award I just got?”  I can just acknowledge that the badge wasn’t the goal, but rather the experience/skills/tools I gained by getting the badge was the goal.  And those will help me do X, Y, and the ever sought after Z.

What do you think?


3 thoughts on “Understanding Badging

  1. Some librarians have proposed incorporating badges into social media profiles, as an alternate form of “professional development.” I could see them being used in conjunction with something like ALAConnect.

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