After two years working at the EBA (European Badge Alliance) project, taking part in its final conference at the European Parliament in Bruxelles represents a satisfaction for all those who worked to bring this vision to life.
The project of Open Digital Badges – virtual badges created to certify real competences acquired during a mobility experience – comes from a dream, or rather, two.
The first one is making learning mobility part of every young person’s training instead of being an exception in their learning process. The numbers of the Erasmus project are certainly impressive, but still not enough to change the world. And it is about changing the world, it is about a sea change. Andrea Lombardi, as Uniser’s President, is the project leader and opened the conference by asking the participants to do an imagination exercise: “Close your eyes and imagine how your life would be if everybody you know had lived abroad, learned another language and tried to integrate into another country”. Can you perceive the power of learning mobility?
The second dream is making the participants of learning mobility projects more conscious about the competences they develop during their stay abroad. We want to do that through a sort of gamification process, because we do not want Open Digital Badges to become another source of work and stress for the young people experiencing their first stay abroad.
What were we talking about? Oh, yes.
Bruxelles, the European Parliament.
50 participants from 11 different countries took part in the event, which had two objectives. On the one hand, it aimed to train the participants about the usage of the badges; on the other hand, it had a specific political direction: tools for the acknowledgment of competences are currently being revised by the European Union and this is the right moment to show EBA’s results and propose its official use. For this reason, Laimonas Ragauskas (Lithuanian Association of Non-formal Education) and Panagiotis Chatzimichail (Youth for Exchange and Understanding) presented the project’s results and its potential in supporting young people – who are accustomed to constantly switching from online to offline activities and from social network to real life – in becoming more conscious, through virtual badges, about the real competences they developed.
Afterwards, Elisa Briga from EFIL presented the Policy Recommendations, a paper written on the basis of the results achieved in the last two years and addressed to the decision makers. Its purpose is developing the right conditions so that every organization involved in the education field can use the Open Digital Badges for its needs. By using the digital badges, organizations had the opportunity to promote themselves and let people know how they are adapting to an ever-changing and always more demanding context.
The representatives of the Politecnico of Milano showed how they already use digital badges to train their professors and the municipality of Ghent highlighted how versatile the badges are, explaining the way they use them to select employees in the public administration. This let everybody understand that the Open Badges are not a dream anymore, they are a tangible tool.
William O’Keffee, member of the European Commission, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, confirming the positive impression all the participants had, and supporting the idea of creating an open badge system integrated with Europass in order to make it more efficient and complete. O’Keffee’s intents were quite clear when he said: “Europass is a public service which meets the citizens’ needs and the citizens use the digital badges, therefore Europass should be receptive to them.”
The way the MEP Svetoslav Manilov concluded the conference was enlightening: “In terms of legislation, states and civil society can always do better and more, and since Open Badges are an improvement coming from an initiative of the civil society, supporting them will be our concern.”
In the afternoon, in the venue of Mundo J association, there was a training and information session for the insiders. How can we create a badge system? And how can we make best use of the platform Badgecraft.eu?
At the end of the session there was a time in which the members could express their opinions and it could not be otherwise: the name “Open Badges” implies that this tool can – and must – be open to bottom-up incentives and suggestions in order to be constantly improved. Therefore, the public and the users of digital badges had the floor.
Is the final conference the end of the project? No way. In fact, we want to welcome four new organizations to European Badge Alliance: “MilleniuM” Training and Development Institute (Moldavia), Breakthrough Foundation (the Netherlands), Ha Moment (Portugal), Social Action (Lithuania).