In October 2014, Wikimedia Sverige (WMSE) started issuing Open Badges to evaluate their effectiveness for recognizing contributions from the Wikipedia Education Program in Sweden. The Wikipediapedagog 2014 pilot badge was created to motivate students who edit Wikipedia as part of their coursework and acknowledge their skills and contributions — as well as reward the educators who make this work part of their curriculum.
In the Wikipedia Education Program in Sweden, we often talk to educators about the benefits of editing Wikipedia with their students. We show them how they can acquire key skills like critical thinking, media and information literacy. We also tell them that Wikipedia provides both a participatory and networked context for learning, which is one of the unique features of Wikipedia and is crucial for an effective education system. We believe that editing Wikipedia is a learning process, and this means that the learning experience has value and should be recognized.
These digital badges include metadata about the issuing organization and the badge qualification criteria, along with links to the each badge holder’s achievements. The system makes use of Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure, where badges become portable credentials, allowing their holders to manage and display them on sites and in contexts that matter to them, with all of the original information intact.
Badges for educators
There are several benefits for Wikimedia Sverige to issue badges to educators involved with Wikipedia in education.
Badges are a promising way of accrediting educators, acknowledging their skills and achievements, and breaking down a fairly extensive pedagogical process into manageable milestones and specific tasks. They also give educators the freedom to design assignments and assessments according to their syllabi and students. The educator has the pedagogical knowledge to bring their curriculum and Wikipedia together, and that is key to successfully integrating education with Wikipedia editing.
Visual representations of key tasks will help teachers better understand what designing Wikipedia assignments for students is all about. This is an important aspect of using badges, since presenting educators with very dense information about how they can implement learning with Wikipedia, however accurate, can be a barrier to success. Displaying the individual badges in a systematic design like this one can offer a comprehensive overview of the process.
The graphic created for educators shows how the three badges each correlate to a task: syllabus design, topic inventory, and peer feedback. The overall objective of these three key tasks is to encourage educators to really engage with Wikipedia content, as well as with open culture, and to understand its usefulness as a pedagogical tool. In our experience, teachers who engage with content are more successful with their assignments and in supporting their students. In our efforts to communicate and scale, badges are a best practice.
We have found it useful to convert identified tasks like these three into criteria for earning each badge. The educator earns the badge by presenting the issuer, in this case WMSE, with a piece of evidence, preferably a URL linking to specific contributions or course pages, for each criteria. That process would look like this:
- The Wikipedia assignment is designed within an established syllabus, including a plan for instruction.
- A topic inventory of Wikipedia content relevant to the course topic is carried out, either individually by the educator or together with the students as a joint in-class activity.
- Wikipedia is used as a tool for discussion and feedback, either in educator-student interactions or peer-to-peer reviewing.
Combined together, these criteria make up the steps taken towards completing the process of assigning students to edit Wikipedia, and their completion qualifies the educator for the main badge of “Wikipediapedagog 2014”, a merit with the following description:
- “The earner of this badge has the skills required to use Wikipedia as a pedagogical tool, and has demonstrated this by joining pedagogical skills and subject matter knowledge with media and information literacy.”
Badges for students
The badge graphic for students resembles the one used for educators above. However, instead of representing tasks, these three badges visualize the skills and knowledge needed when composing and editing a Wikipedia article. Badges are awarded as recognition of students’ mastery of these skills. Connecting the skills to the criteria would look like this:
- The student communicates their knowledge in a neutral point of view and in accordance with the encyclopedic genre.
- The student uses reliable sources to reference their work with appropriate forms of citation.
- The student demonstrates media and information literacy by producing media content and promoting free knowledge.
These three skills and criteria are subcomponents of the Wikipedia student badge, a merit that is still in need of a catchy name and described as follows:
- “The earner of this badge has actively participated in creating and sharing free knowledge, by successfully contributing to Wikipedia as part of a classroom assignment.”
Apart from the pedagogical and motivational aspects of Open Badges mentioned above, there are also some essential technical issues to consider. Since issuing badges is not currently supported in MediaWiki, we searched for an appropriate third-party platform to start issuing badges for the pilot project. The best option we found was learningbadges.eu, which worked fine initially, but the site went down, preventing us from issuing all the badges we had planned. Anyone interested in the technical development can join the conversation about OpenBadges on MediaWiki.
Another aspect to consider is how to find and identify candidates. Since our launch in October, six educators have been awarded the Wikipediapedagog 2014 badge, and we have issued seven corresponding badges for teachers working on Swedish Wikimini. For 2015, we will introduce educators to the “MyCourse” feature in the Wikipedia Education Program Extension and hopefully we will be able to use it to elicit evidence for both educator and student badges. Additionally, we will look into setting up a feature on our website for educators and students to claim their badges by submitting relevant pieces of evidence, which we anticipate will open up for a diverse engagement beyond our activities and current networks.
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