Monday, 30 September 2013

Museums as Employers and Digital Badges

The Museum as a Learning Provider

I have been researching how digital badges can be used in museums for the Open Badges MOOC that I have been taking part in. Much of what I have found has been focussed on learners who visit museums for either formal or informal learning experiences. The results of my findings will be entered in a later blog. However, in this blog I wanted to concentrate on awarding digital badges to those employed in the museums world.

Digital Badges for Museum Training

At the moment museums are only just dipping their toes into the whole world of digital badges and when it comes to providing (or acknowledging) badges for their staff then I can find only three organisations that have taken some steps in this direction.

Museums and Mobile Learning

The Museums and Mobile conferences explore how mobile devices can be used within museum environments to develop learning amongst museum visitors. During the March 2013 online conference 

Part of the announcement for the March 2013 online conference was that participants were able to earn digital badges. The badges on offer were divided into two parts. These were for those who participated in the conference and one for those who delivered a presentation.

For participants the badges were:

This badge was awarded for taking part in the conference

This badge was awarded for those who attended the conference and posted at least ten tweets with the #museumsmobile hashtag

For Presenters the badge was:

This badge was awarded for those who delivered a session during the conference

Interestingly, the next online conference (which is happening on October 15th)  does not feature digital badges. 

Museums & Mobile

Museum Computer Network

In 2011 the Museum Computer Network launched a series of surveys and focus groups to see what their members wanted from the organisation. There was a lot of interest in training and skills development through their website. The result are the MCN Pro Workshops. The workshops will focus on how technology can be used by museum professionals. 


Digital badges are to be offered for participating in the workshops. The badges for taking part in these workshops are:

To earn these badges, individuals have to attend and participate in a workshop. These is a different badge for each workshop.

This badge is awarded to those who present and deliver a workshop

This badge is for effectively moderating a workshop

This badge is awarded to those who attend and participate in a workshop

This badge is for those who attended a workshop and posted at least ten tweets using the hashtag #MCNPro

This badge is awarded for those who share a project for evaluation during a workkshop

This badge acknowledges individuals who can show that they actively participated in a workshop

This badge is awarded to those who have organised a workshop

The Center for the Future of Museums

The Center for the Future of Museums is part of the American Alliance of Museums. It was set up to explore how museums can change to meet the changing needs of the industry and those who visit them.

Earlier this year the Center for the Future of Museums teamed up with Learning Times to create a pilot project which will explore how digital badges could be used to assist in the training of museum staff. They put out a call for volunteers to test this badging system by choosing and completing a number of learning assignments which may include to quote from the website:

» Reading forecasting reports from CFM and other sources

» Consuming other futures content from popular literature, film or video

» Generating original materials such as trends-analysis and scenarios

» Creating personalized systems for scanning, organizing and sharing information across social media platforms

Each assignment will be assessed by a combination of standardized testing and the submission of work products. 

I managed to become a volunteer for this project (which started just a few weeks ago). I hope that it will allow me to develop both my museums career and also to learn more about digital badges can help with the continuing professional development of museum professionals.

To find out more about this pilot project there is information here

Monday, 16 September 2013

Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials. Challenge 1

The first 'challenge' for this new MOOC on Open Badges is for participants to describe the educational 'ecosystem' in which they have experience  and where we feel that badges might make a difference.

Museums, Art Galleries and Heritage Sites as Learning 'Ecosystems'

The 'ecosystem' of museum and heritage learning is a very difficult one to pin down. These are public spaces which offers learning experiences to families, tourists, hobby groups, children and adults with additional needs and those in formal education from toddlers in pre-school through to post-graduate students from the local university (and don't ask which group behaves better).

It is less common for an individual to visit a museum by themselves. Most visitors are part of some group (whether that is a small family group or part of a larger formal/informal learning group. This makes learning in museums open to a social aspect that may be absent from other learning ecosystems. Groups can discuss and make suppositions about what they are experiencing and can draw on their own experiences whilst learning.

Museum of the Moving Image.
Copyright Jurgen Fauth under Creative Commons Licence

Along with the social side of museum learning, there is also the emphasis on what people are actually learning from. In the case of art galleries it is of course works of art (paintings, sculpture, video installations) that provide the learning opportunities. In museums it is usually the objects on display (and perhaps the building in which the objects are displayed) that do the same job. So the learning comes from 'reading' a painting or an object - another kind of literacy alongside the usual reading and writing and the more recent digital literacies.

There are plenty of online resources on what museum learning actually is. This page is a good start for anybody new to the theory of museum learning. I have also written a blog on museum learning and Connected Learning here

Many museums have staff whose job is to provide learning experiences for visitors. This might include talks, workshops, art and craft sessions, drama, outreach sessions. This has also began to expand into the world of online learning. Indeed, several museums are now offering MOOCs through Coursera and FutureLearn.

Digital Badges in Museums and Heritage Sites

Digital badges are already beginning to make small and limited inroads into museums. Most recently, during the Chicago Summer of Learning, young participants were able to earn digital badges from lots of learning organisations across greater Chicago. Several museums and heritage centres participated including the Chicago Children's Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago History Museum.

I would have loved to have included some images of the badges here but the website has nothing that suggests that I am allowed to do so under any Creative Commons (or any other open) licence. If anybody knows different then please let me know.

I believe that digital badges issued by museums (or museum clusters) could have a positive impact on both museums as learning providers, job seekers (either now or in the future) and for potential employers.

Museums can and do give people skills and knowledge that are transferable into the jobs marketplace. There is, at the moment, no real way for people to show these new skills publicly. Badges could provide the answer.

Here's an example of where this could have worked in a "before badges" time. In 2004 the Museum of London ran a digital storytelling project called "London Voices". People from across London took part in training sessions about writing, storyboarding, film-making and film-editing. All of their digital stories were put on the Museum of London website.

Just think of the skills and knowledge that the participants picked up during those training sessions. Digital badges could be a way of ensuring that everybody who took part had a record of their achievements, especially as the 'Voices of London' webpages have been taken down.

What's next for me and the MOOC?

So this what I will be exploring during this MOOC. I hope to learn more about Open Badges but will also be finding ways in which the heritage sector can play it's part. I would love to hear comments from the Museums and Heritage Group that I set up on Coursesite. If you haven't joined the group and you are interested in how museums can jump on the Open Badges train then hop aboard.