In 'Still a Badge Skeptic' (http://hastac.org/blogs/mres/2012/02/27/still-badge-skeptic) Mitch Resnick, Professor at MIT outlines his concerns about badges:
"The problem, for me, lies in the role of badges as motivators. In many cases, educators are proposing badge systems in order to motivate students. It’s easy to understand why educators are doing this: most students get excited and engaged by badges. But towards what end? And for how long?"
I agree with Mitch's concerns.
At the moment I'm reading Clay Shirky's 'Cognitive Surplus'. Here's a quotation from a great section about motivation:
"Deci's experiment suggested that extrinsic motivations aren't always the most effective ones and that increasing extrinsic motivations can actually decrease intrinsic ones. He concluded that an extrinsic motivation like being paid can crowd out an intrinsic one like enjoying something for its own sake."
Shirky goes on to cite another study where the implicit contract between parents and daycare workers was broken. Fines for late arrival were imposed on the test group of parents whilst the control group remained unchanged.
The result of imposing fines for late arrival? Parents in the test group were *more* likely to arrive late (and therefore be fined) than before. And then, when the fines were removed, the behaviour – the increased number of late arrivals – remained. The implicit contract had been broken; the extrinsic motivator crowded out the intrinsic motivator.
To my mind, the focus of Open Badges is not motivation. They're about accrediting the types of things that just don't get accredited or signalling a learning journey. Yes, badges *can* be used as extrinsic motivators, but I'd argue that's not their best use.
So I'd agree with Mitch that we need to be careful when it comes to motivation around badges. We need to ensure that the focus is upon learning, pedagogy and creating a holistic picture of the individual. If it's just about finding another way to extrinsically motivate learners then we've failed.