Designing A Hive Badge Ecosystem – Structure

This is the first in a series of posts describing the process of designing a Hive digital badge ecosystem that began at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning.

Just about a month ago at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning in Redwood City, Sam Dyson, Director of the Hive Chicago Learning Network representing Hive Global, made a pledge to issue badges that recognize Hive member contributions by summer of 2014.

Around the globe, city-centric Hives bring together organizations with a shared vision for anytime, anywhere learning. Together, they serve young people with educational and career development experiences provided through innovative opportunities that develop 21st century as well as digital media and web literacy skills, which are essential to success in our increasingly connected world.

The Hive Global model is based on three tiers of engagement: Learning Networks, emergent Communities, and groups of local organizations that collaborate to host Learning Events. There are now more than a dozen cities that have taken a step up this engagement ladder, and almost half are now full-fledged networks: NYC, CHI, PGH, TOR, and an emergent SFO.

So then, what should a badge ecosystem for this diverse network of networks look like? How do we recognize activity around a common set of values, while also preserving the unique qualities of local Hives?

Community Badges

To begin with, I took a cue from Chicago STEM Badge Ecosystem #CSTEMBE initiative, a local working group – expanding nationally this summer – supported by the Chicago Hive Fund for Connected Learning. Their goal was to create a set of learning pathways in STEM that bridged the gaps between their many unique organizations: museums, community based organizations, out-of-school time providers, cultural institutions, etc. Each of which had it’s own programs, pipelines, and unique participants.

An inspiration came from Karen Jeffrey of ForAll Systems: if the collaboration could rally behind a single, unifying pedagogical framework that defined essential STEM attributes – core values, skills, and practices – then the badges could easily follow using a Community Badge* model, even if every collaborator hadn’t already designed programs explicitly to that framework in advance.

Community Badges are developed to represent the essential attributes – core values, skills and practices – that represent a community. The criteria for these badges are kept simple, only to provide some definition of what those elements mean and what they might look like in practice. Then, it’s up to the community to interpret and respond to them semi-independently.

Interpretation and response from community members takes the form of Contribution Badges that identify and recognize relevant contributions – participation in activities, creation of artifacts, or peer engagements – that best illustrate the community attributes.  The message being: badge what you already do instead of re-designing your community experience. Community members who then earn the Contribution Badges also work towards earning the Community Badges by design.

Issuing and earning Contribution Badges within or across various community organizations becomes a natural way to build pathways. Community members could choose to issue the Community Badges directly as well, but it is assumed that those badges are earned through the contributions.

Community badges are based on shared community attributes and build pathways through community member contribution opportunities.

Community badges are based on shared community attributes and build pathways through community member contribution opportunities.

Identifying Community Attributes

The Community Badges framework sounds simple in principle, but in practice the main challenge lies in defining those essential community attributes that provide foundation.

For the STEM community, this has been a complex process, awash in national learning frameworks from AAAS 2061, to the 21st Century Learning standards, to NGSS, etc. The #CSTEMBE group was fortunate to catalyze around a popular local, research-driven framework: the Project Exploration Youth Science Matrix.

For Hive Global, this part is actually quite simple: the most significant unifying element of all Hive networks, communities and events is an alignment with Connected Learning – a set of core values, design and learning principles that drives the practice of all Hive educators.

A good starting point for a Hive Badge Ecosystem is therefore a set of Connected-Learning-based Community Badges with supporting Contribution Badges coming from each local instance of Hive Global, be it network, community or event.

In my next post, I will describe the first steps completed in this effort at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning: isolating the most essential Connected Learning attributes and articulating the value of this ecosystem to community members.

*Note: the language, definitions and descriptions used for Community Badges are my own and adapted to be *more consistent* with Mozilla Webmaker speak. However, the concepts are inspired by conversations and meetings with Karen Jeffrey and  #CSTEMBE.

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