Tag: comments

Badges: talking at cross purposes?

Over the weekend I had a discussion with Dave Cormier in the comments section of my DMLcentral post Gaining Some Perspective on Badges for Lifelong Learning. I wanted to capture it here and add a couple of additional comments.

Dead Parrot Sketch

Dave seems to have taken issue with the ‘over-simplification’ of badges. I think he’s arguing that (informal?) education is too complex a problem for badges to be the solution.

The more I think about it, the more I think we were talking at cross-purposes. He was (again, I think) talking about explaining complexity whereas I was talking about solutions towards solving complex problems. I may be wrong.

Additionally, I have read precisely zero articles or books on complexity and chaos theory. Dave probably has read lots.

I’d love to know what you make of it.


Hi Doug,

Thanks for the foil. Everything i see here, however nicely argue and layer out, still leads to the same thing. Someone has to agree on what the targets are.

In the ‘automatic/skill’ sections, they are only automatic in time, at some point, someone had to create an artifice that separates the world into things that ‘can be reached’

In the application/Community section, the rewards are going to be as much about sociality and power than they will be about ‘recognition’. The problem with the badge in this case, is that it divorces the ‘reward’ from the context of power and sociality.

I don’t see how any of your practical applications allow us to apply badges to complexity. Given this… we move things towards simple knowledge. This is not the direction I”m hoping to go in… how about you? Do you see a way that badges can support complexity?


Hi Dave, thanks for the comment.

In response:

1. For something to be credentialised there has to be a ‘thing’ to be credentialised. That can be a target set by anyone – but yes, there needs to be a target. Otherwise there’d be no point in the credential, right?

2. I find the ‘X will be Y’ part of your position problematic. As I’ve argued above, I see badges as an emergent ecosystem. I agree there’s going to be issues around power and control. But then, *every* system has those issues. Don’t they?

3. I believe that the ‘answer’ (if there is one) to complexity is simplicity. It’s something tangential to badges, as far as I see them, but to assume that complex problems require complex answers needs a bit more explanation/evidence to my mind.

I’d love to discuss this synchronously sometime. 🙂


Hey Doug,

1. Credentialing requires a thing to be credentialised. Maybe not… at least not rings in terms of small pieces of knowing. I’m not purposefully trying to split hairs here, but I feel comfortable with someone who knows how to do something saying “that person over there can now do this thing”. That’s how mentorship and apprenticeship tends to work. We went down the DACUM road, for instance, to try and break that into pieces that could be ‘things to be credentials’. Many colleges have moved away from this because it kinda misses the point of knowing things. I see badges as a potential return to the DACUM view of the world.

2. Badges may or may not be part of an ’emerging ecosystem’ whatever that might mean, but no, not every system has the same issue. Some systems try to leave things IN their context so they can be understood as part of a whole. Others are designed to REMOVE them from context. I think that’s pretty different.

3. I don’t know what “simplicity is the answer to complexity” could possibly mean… so i’m assuming we don’t mean the same thing when we say complexity. If answering the question “how do I raise my child to be a good person” (in my mind, a very important, and obviously complex question) has a simple answer I’d love to hear it.

I imagine the ‘parenting badges’ that would be the response to that, and I imagine them forcing ‘parenting types’ and ‘parenting stages’ and ‘child types’ and ‘child stages’ on the world.


Hi Dave,

1. So the person over there who can now do this thing gets the Dave Cormier seal of approval. That may or may not be a badge. I don’t know.

2. I’m unsure of your point here – especially given that there’s an evidence layer to badges? Isn’t that the context right there?

3. I’m guessing you haven’t got a parenting manual. Certainly my two didn’t come with one. So I’m approaching them with love. A simple answer to complex behaviours. Working OK so far…

I’m definitely *not* of the opinion that badges are the answer to everything. Nor do I believe that badges should replace the existing qualifications/credentials/awards we’ve got. What it *does* provide, however, is an alternative that we all get to shape.

And I can’t see how that’s a bad thing. 🙂


Well… a little rhetorical bantering and heart string tugging.

On twitter… you say “i’m falling into the either or camp”

Whether i am or not is not relevant to the discussion here. It’s a nice rhetorical move, but it doesn’t change the discussion. I have concerns about badges and the oversimplification of knowledge and attainment particularly as it decontextualizes power, social-ness and privilege.

1. Yes. a dave cormier seal of approval (assuming a community thought i knew anything) would be just fine. I don’t think that’s ‘badge’ as you have defined it here. Badge, as I understand your interpretation, is an ‘agreed upon standard’ by some standard agreeing upon group.

2. No. an ‘evidence layer’ is not what i mean by context. Context is the space in which the learning/knowledge/thingy was negotiated. Not the ‘things that the standards group decided was evidence’.

3. Love is a very nice sentiment… but all it means is that i have to move to a different example. How about the world energy issues or something else. Do you comune with love to decide whether it makes sense for you child to have a cupcake… or do you think about the balance between their wanting it and enjoying it and the sugar it contains.

I have in no way suggested that they aren’t an interesting option we should try. You have read that on to me. I have said that in your commentary you haven’t addressed complexity. You have responded by saying ‘complexity doesn’t exist, your jus tasking the question wrong’.

If that is your position… cool. But is it really? Do you really think the world is a simple place where simple answers to questions like poverty, overpopulation, education i the third world will actually work?

I got asked recently “how do we go about training 500 million new people in the next 9 years?’ Complex problem. Simple solution?


Hmmm… this is exactly the kind of thing I want to avoid. :-/

“I have concerns about badges and the oversimplification of knowledge and attainment particularly as it decontextualizes power, social-ness and privilege.”

If you say that ‘X means Y’ and I disagree, then we’re falling into opposing camps. Neither of us can point to any evidence. Because there isn’t any. Yet.

“I have said that in your commentary you haven’t addressed complexity. You have responded by saying ‘complexity doesn’t exist, your jus tasking the question wrong’.”

Where/when did I say ‘complexity doesn’t exist’? I’m fairly sure I said that the way to approach complex problems is to try to apply simple solutions. That’s vastly different.

And the answer to your question about training 500 million people in the next 9 years? One person at a time. Not as facetious as it sounds. 😉



Re: x means y. There is always and never evidence. I have described how i think it moves towards the simplification of knowledge. Badges are not exactly ‘new’ in concept just because they’ve been branded differently.

re: complexity – if you are saying that ‘there are simple answers’ then we aren’t using the word ‘complexity’ the same way. If you say ‘apply simple solutions’ you are changing the meaning of complexity. Something that is complex, like a weather pattern, doesn’t have a simple explanation. If you say it does, we’re having two separate conversations.

Saying it has a ‘simple solution’ is saying it is not ‘complexity’.

If it’s not facetious, i don’t know what it is. 1 at a time isn’t not a scaling solution for India’s education problem.


I’m not quite sure how we got from alternative forms of credentialing to weather patterns, but hey.

You’ve subtlely shifted from ‘solving problems’ to ‘explaining them’. They’re two different beasts. I can go to umbrellatoday.com to solve my immediate problem of whether to take an umbrella to work with me or not. I don’t need to explain how weather systems work to do so. It’s a simple solution to a (potentially) complex problem.

I don’t think India’s education problem has much, if anything, to do with badges directly. If you’re saying that it’s an example of a complex problem then, yes, I’d say that you/they/whoever are looking at it in the wrong way.

I’m out. Perhaps we could follow this up with blog posts? 🙂

Have YOU got any comments on our discussion? I’d love to hear them!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Dunechaser

PS The exchange inspired Terry Wassall to write this post.

Blogging: 5 things I’ve learned in 5 years.

5 Years

I realised at the weekend that it’s been about 5 years since I started blogging properly, having got into my groove sometime in November 2005. Back then, as a classroom teacher, I wrote at teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk about education and educational technology. What got me started was reading and commenting on the high-quality blogs of a small number of international educators, the dilution of which I lamented a few years later.

In the past 5 years I’ve gone from History teacher to E-Learning Staff Tutor to Director of E-Learning to working at JISC infoNet. I’ve also cultivated increasing amounts of stubble, as this video of me as a 24 year-old demonstrates! Hopefully, as I’ve read, learned and understood more about the world, my style of writing has improved. Well, one can hope.

The following are the things that I think anyone with a blog would do well to heed. I’d be interested in your take. 😀

1. Comment count != quality

The quality of a blog post has almost nothing to do with the number of comments you get – and everything to do with the zeitgeist, the way you phrase questions and how you structure your blog.

2. How to get more readers

To get more people visiting your blog, go and comment on other people’s and autotweet your blog posts via Twitter. This works up to a point, after which you can either keep it real or become a cynical marketing machine. I prefer content over style. Most of the time. 😉

3. WordPress and Bluehost rock

I’ve tried lots of different blogging platforms and webhosts, but have found WordPress to consistently do what I want of it and Bluehost [affiliate link] to be cheap, feature-filled and rock-solid.

4. Have an ‘ideas garden’

I’ve blatantly appropriated this term from someone who used it in conversation with me a while ago. Sorry if that was you – I try to credit the sources of ideas I share as well as images I use. An ideas garden is simply a collection of draft blog posts that you come back to, adding pictures, further ideas, etc. until they form whole posts. It can also stop you ranting when you’re in a bad mood. :-p

5. Digital footprint

I used to have a link to my curriculum vitae on my blog but, in fact, the whole thing is a digital portfolio, with my last three positions secured to a great extent because of my online presence. SEO is important, as is attempting to control the first page of Google search results (so that they’re all positive): my digital footprint is more important to me than my credit score. Fact.

Image CC BY Michael Ruiz

User outcomes: bona fides.

Some small but important updates:

  • Reader outcomes: things you may be looking for gives quick access from the sidebar.
  • Contributor outcomes: new guest post policy should lead to other, relevant voices.
  • Commenter outcomes: new comments policy deals with terms of engagement.

I’m going to start appending my Top 10 Links I Shared This Week posts to my Weeknotes. The latter should hit the site or your RSS reader/inbox on Saturday morning (GMT). 🙂

Feedback: why you read this blog.

A week ago I asked for some feedback, some reasons why you read this blog. The results were very interesting and the comments kind. 🙂

Feedback from blog survey

Some highlights from the Other category were ‘because I’m scared not to’, ‘satisfy idle curiosity’, ‘steal ideas’, and even ‘to snigger at your self-indulgent posts and share them with others’! :-p

Many people left wonderful feedback – thanks very much for that. I’m not going to share it all here, but this in particular made me smile:

“Are some edu bloggers more interested in exposure than impact?”
Its interesting that you comment on this because it is the exact reason why I like your blog so much, the fact that you want to help comes across very clearly in most of what you write and infact inspired me to start a blog, again more for myself but definitely not for recognition. I absolutely loved the piece on ‘cc’ and your attitude towards sharing good practice. Put quite simply www.dougbelshaw.com/blog is a place to read about good practice and it has definitely helped me.

This person (it was all anonymous so I don’t know who wrote this) has hit the nail on the head. I blog not only for myself as a creative outlet, but to:

  • Help and inspire others
  • Get people thinking
  • Share good practice

Thanks for all your comments in 2009 and I look forward to continuing the conversation in 2010! 😀

Give your students a voice with VoiceThread

Sometimes it’s hard to get the views of everyone in a class. When you’ve 25-30 students in front of you, it’s easy to miss the views and ideas of the quieter members of your class.

That’s why VoiceThread is so good. You put some type of stimulus material – a picture or video, for example – on the website and then invite your students to give their opinions on it. I’ve been using it with my GCSE History students for them to be able to practice analysing historical sources. The great thing is that each user can annotate pictures and videos to illustrate their point. They can also use a microphone or webcam to record their thoughts, too!

Follow the guide below to get started with VoiceThread and click here to see one in action!

Be notified of follow-up comments

Because it’s all about The Conversation (apparently)

Notify of comments

You can now be automatically notified if someone posts a follow-up comment to what you’ve said on a blog post at dougbelshaw.com. Just tick the ‘Notify me of followup comments via email’ box underneath the comment area. You know it makes sense. 🙂

I’ve added this to my Plugins Used page.

Comments now working again…


The comment facility wasn’t working properly – thanks to Paul Lewis for pointing that out (rather belatedly, may I add…) I’ve now sorted it out, so feel free to add your thoughts on my inane ramblings! 🙂