I have been hearing about badges for showing learning progress for years, but I don't think they have yet to make significant inroads in education.They are often included in discussions of lifelong learning, MOOCs and alternative education. It is not surprising that they are part of discussion on the gamification of courses and education.

When I first heard about them at a conference, they were compared to the badges in Boy and Girl Scouting. You earn badges by mastering a specific set of skills. But the better comparison is to video gaming where they have long been used as a way to mark achievement. Called a badge or trophy, badge, stamp, medal or challenge, in many games they mark the achievement of a "meta-goal" that is outside the confines of the game environment and architecture. You may "unlock" an achievement, but that guarantee winning the game or even future achievement.

In education, or more accurately "learning," badges are being seen as one way to open up new pathways for learning. For MOOCs and other lifelong learning opportunities, badges are a way for learner who are not necessarily going to college to show achievement, competence and progress.

This year the MacArthur Foundation showcased winners of its Badges for Lifelong Learning competition who had been awarded $2 million worth of development grants last year.

This summer the city of Chicago announced that badging would be a key component of its Summer of Learning program, which is being called the largest citywide learning campaign in the country.

The Mozilla Foundation has been developing and testing its Open Badges Infrastructure for about two years. We know the Mozilla Foundation more as the maker of the Firefox web browser, but their efforts are often pointed to as something that could have a big impact on the acceptance of digital badging. They have focused a lot of their efforts at K-12 education because educators at that level have proved to be open to badging.

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) administered the MacArthur competition which focused on digital badges which was cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation. Almost a hundred competitors entered and they were given resources for the development of badge-related content by Intel, Microsoft, NASA, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the 4-H Council, among others.

Employers are interested in badges as a way to rate potential employees and a way to mark professional learning/development for active employees.

As with MOOCs, the key to badge success will be the acceptance of a standardized, certified badge system by employers and schools as a credentials for advancement.

We're not there yet, but Dr. Bernard Bull blogged this month about an online master’s degree in educational technology that is built around competency-based digital badges. He writes about the degree that:

"As of August 2014, Concordia University Wisconsin is offering the first (to the best of my knowledge). That means that you earn your master’s degree along with a series of digital badges, each of which represent new knowledge and skill that you are developing as you work through the courses and program. This also means that you are gaining new micro-credentials (digital badges) even before you finish a full course. These are credentials that you can display online as evidence of your growing competence and perhaps your qualification for a new position for your current employer, or evidence of your skill for that future dream job."

The Internet Is a Series of YouTubes

tubesThe Internet may seem like "a series of tubes"* to you if have discovered that there is a YouTube EDU, a YouTube for Schools, YouTube for Teachers and even a School of YouTube. So many tubes.

YouTube EDU is a sub-section of YouTube that contains educational content.

YouTube for Schools is a network setting used most often in K-12 schoools that, when implemented, allows a school to access the educational content on YouTube EDU while limiting access to non-educational content on is a how-to site that shows you how to use YouTube in the classroom.

YouTube for Schools brings the power of video to classrooms for free with some filtering available. Learn more here. It gives that selective access a broad set of educational videos on YouTube EDU and to select the specific videos that are accessible from within your school network. 

If you don't have a Google Account for your school, you can sign up for free here, but DO NOT sign up for YouTube for Schools using your personal account.

tubeThe School of YouTube is a new venture that YouTube says is part of their desire to make you "listen, laugh and give."  It opens this week.

Plenty of people use YouTube videos to learn as part of their Personal Learning Network. I just used a video to fix the carburetor on my lawn mower. You may have found a video on how to use a program or how set up hardware. This informal learning is a larger part of our learning experience than ever before.

The School of YouTube (like the ALS ice bucket challenge) is an attempt to raise funds in a new way. YouTube says that the school's curriculum is "uncomplicated, comes without annoying classmates and has only one easy assignment. And that assignment is that when you are done watching a
video, you must donate money to Comic Relief. Money raised from donations will go towards helping give kids an education across some of the world’s poorest countries."

The videos will feature some of YouTube’s most popular stars learning or teaching something new every day. According to a video that YouTube has released, the YouTube stars will perform a variety of tasks from figure skating to salsa dancing, baking a cake to landing a plane. The lessons will be uploaded on YouTube from September 8-12.

"A series of tubes" is a phrase used by then-United States Senator Ted Stevens to describe the Internet. It was part of his opposing network neutrality on June 28, 2006. The phrase took on a life and was widely ridiculed, especially because Stevens headed the committee charged with regulating the Internet.