Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Badges ... Good, Bad, Ugly?

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the badges movement, here's an Education Week article by Katie Ash  "Digital Badges".

Here article reports some points raised by skeptics.  I found one of those mentioned to be particularly noteworthy, in that she reports that Henry Jenkins (USC) thinks that badges "run the risk of contributing to the "gamification" of education.  Further, she says:

"[Gamification] is a system which does not trust the power of intrinsic motivation and feels the need to add a layer of extrinsic motivation," says Jenkins, who was interviewed by email. "Some forms of gamification rely so heavily on points schemes that there is far less effort to make the activities meaningful in and of themselves."

Already, many students are caught up in such a conception of education, he says, with high-achieving students focusing more on receiving high grades—or a multitude of badges—than the learning itself.

"I worry that badges can become just another points system … [that] undercuts the motivational structures," he says.

And when it comes to informal learning, part of what makes such learning unique, he says, is precisely the lack of hierarchical structure and formalization that badges threaten to impose.

"Too quick a move towards badges runs the risk of destroying the complex but fragile ecosystem within which participatory learning thrives," Jenkins says. Providing adult validation for student achievements through digital badges in places where that validation did not previously play a role could turn some students off, he says.

"There is a value in helping these youths find ways to value what they are doing as intellectual pursuits, and there is a value in seeking to validate these experiences and help them learn how to mobilize that knowledge as they learn to work through the formal structures that exert power over their lives," says Jenkins. "But making badges too central to the process may alienate them before they have a chance to exert ownership over the knowledge they are acquiring."
I was surprised by such a broad-brushed statement in asserting that "gamification" is a system which does not trust the power of intrinsic motivation and feels the need to add a layer of extrinsic motivation.  My sense is that you'd have a hard time finding any ten people that would agree on a single description of "gamification" as any kind of codified system.

Since I don't yet have any direct experience with badges, I'm very curious to hear/read what is happening with this movement and what early adopters and researchers are reporting.

How about you?  Do you have any direct experience with and/or opinions about the badge movement?

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