There was a story going around recently about Phil Lord’s response when asked why his Lego movie had been snubbed for an Oscar. His reply was priceless. “It’s okay” he said. “Made my own” (link).
One of the things that’s so fantastic about this response is the way Lord snubs the authority of the Oscar Nomination’s Committee and says “I don’t need your validation to know I’ve made a movie that’s been a popular success, and I’ve got my own gong to prove it.”
When people make this kind of statement it says some interesting things about our changing attitudes towards authority. It seems to me, people these days are much less dependent on the validation, approval and sanction of authority figures, particularly big organisations. We live in a time when we’re supposed to be more free, or at least there is an expectation that we have a greater right to act autonomously and have our individual voice heard. So when a big organisation pushes it’s weight around and tells us what we need to do, we increasingly feel ill-at-ease.
There has been a trend emerging in education in recent years that feeds into this disquiet. It’s called the Open Badge movement, and it’s based on the idea that anyone can design ‘credits’ that can be awarded for pretty much anything, and distribute them to whomever they choose. One of the first iterations of the Open Badge idea came from Mozilla, the people who developed the Firefox web browser (see here). It was set up as an open source system, meaning people could take all of the background work that Mozilla had done and share it, adapt it and distribute it free of charge. And it’s been really successful, such that there are now big Open Badge communities going on all around the world.
The Open Badge principal is that if you run a work training programme, a book club, a weekend course or a knitting circle, you can set up your own badges which you award to people when they’ve met the required standard…much like the badges you used to get with the Scouts or Guides as a child, only virtual.
Sites like Basno even help you design and organise your badges so that everything looks professional, and you can search through the thousands of badges on offer and sign up for any or all that you fancy. Currently, you can sign up for the Certificate in Screenwriting Badge (which is currently owned by a paltry 16 participants), the 2014 TCS New York City Marathoner Badge (4698 people), or the 9/11 Memorial Supporter Badge (with a whopping 17,546 owners).
You might scoff at this and think it all sounds a bit silly, but think about this: there are more people with a 9/11 Memorial Supporter’s badge than fit into most football grounds at the weekend. There aren’t that many more physios working in the NHS, and there are certainly a lot more people with this badge than attend the average physiotherapy weekend course.
Part of it’s growing popularity stems from the fact that you decide what’s worthy of accreditation. You decide the success criteria. You even get to decide what the badge looks like! And as consumers, it’s possible to imagine a time when our CVs and reflective journals are populated by badges that cover the full range of our interests, not just those ‘approved’ courses offered by crusty old professors.
Soon you may not have to gain the approval of a big university or professional body to validate your idea or interest – just the support of enough people to make it worthwhile. Like much else with the revolution taking place with the Internet – the truth is rapidly becoming that which people collectively validate, not that which is given to us by so called ‘experts.’
How long then before the effects of ideas like Open Badges are being felt by Universities and professional bodies like the CSP or Physiotherapy New Zealand? People have been going outside of universities to learn about their craft for years, but Universities and professional bodies have doggedly held on to the power of accreditation. But for how much longer? How long before people start offering Open Physiotherapy Badges for Stroke Rehab, or even the first Open Badge in Physiotherapy?