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.

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