Gamification and Digital Badges

ALA Annual is almost here. I’m happy to report that I will be presenting on a panel titled What you need to know about gamifying your library with a lot of talented people. I will also be co-moderating a session on digital badges called Achievement unlocked: Motivating and assessing user learning with digital badges with Nicole Pagowsky and Young Lee. As a big fan of playing video games and having fun, I’m really happy to see so much interest in the idea of game-based learning in the library world, and also in the world of education.

Many people have been throwing the word “gamification” around which basically is defined as using game design elements or game based mechanics in a non-game context. The term itself elicits a variety of responses in people, from excitement and curiosity to confusion or eye-rolling at “just another fad”–you get the point. Additionally, some game developers have ambivalence towards this term. It’s not enough to just assign badges or points to some mindless activity, you must make your engagement with the user meaningful for gamification to be effective. Also, some people make games for a living and find the term gamification to be a sleazy, shallow marketing term to sell products that aren’t necessarily well designed.  For further reading, check out Gabe Zichermann’s article, Gamification has issues, but they aren’t the ones everyone focuses on, for a thoughtful break down of the arguments against gamification.

The reason why I’m even mentioning all this is because a few of the panelists on the gamification panel will also be talking about digital badges. Mozilla sums up badges as “an online representation of a skill you’ve earned.” People can earn badges by completing tasks online or in person, and display them in a social space so others can see what they’ve earned. Digital badges tend to get thrown into the mix of gamifying stuff, but that can be misleading because it doesn’t automatically turn your activities into a game. It’s just a small piece of the larger part of the engagement process that you are undertaking with your target audience. For example, Mozilla recently rolled out their Open Badges project, with plans to incorporate them into a web literacy standard which aims to teach people how to create web content. People can earn badges as they complete projects that teach them html and css. Pretty neat right?

If you are interested in the nitty gritty details of how libraries are using digital badges, the instructional design, how to get the tech set up, or have a project you want to share, you should come to the digital badge session on Sunday, June 30, 2013 – 9:15am to 10:00am in Room S102d. We’re looking forward to hearing from others who are working on digital badge systems or just want to learn more about it.

As a proponent of active learning, I highly suggest you check out the Open Badges tutorial on Earning Your First Badge, and set up an account on the Mozilla Backpack which serves as the display board for all the digital badges you will end up earning. Hint: you could earn a badge at the session, come and find out how! If you can’t make it to ALA or to the digital badge session, you can follow the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #ALABadge.

Want to learn more about libraries and games? Check out:

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4 thoughts on “Gamification and Digital Badges

  1. Cat Librarian: I am intrigued by your interests in cycling and digital badges. I am working on a badge hierarchy that tries to encourage cycling — starting here in LA (USC, where I am located). Please email me if you are interested in communicating about this — I would be elated to get your ideas, especially given your current –errr — revolutionary library conference.

    • Hi Otto! Thanks for your interest. That sounds like a pretty cool idea. I’ll be in touch to hear more about your project. It sounds like it combines 2 things I’m really interested in.

  2. Nice work, Cat Librarian!
    I’m moving to my final term now, here in Brazil at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina and i saw your work on the slide show.

    Nice job!! Fell free to add me at facebook.com! We can talk more about gamification, cool?

    Cya!

  3. Pingback: Gamification and Digital Badges | cat lady librarian | Flexibility Enables Learning

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