Sweet Water AQUAPONS


The information contained in this project appendix was gathered from the original project proposal that was funded in 2012 and interviews with project leaders through the end of 2014.  This appendix and the overall design principles database from the DPD project does not reflect further evolution of the project or developments after the final interview that took place in 2014. As of the final interview, Sweet Water Aquapons was still developing a badge system and digital badges. Based on this information, we have classified this badge system as a partial (rather than an implemented or suspended) badge system.


Sweet Water AQUAPONS is an online platform where students gain digital badges as they learn the skills needed in aquaponics. The Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) developed AQUAPONS to provide self-directed learning opportunities to future sustainable agriculture practitioners and expand the field of aquaponics by creating a replicable model for urban agriculture education. Aquaponics is a system for food production where plants grow in a hydroponic agriculture system that includes fish and other aquatic animals, whose waste is converted to nutrients the plants can absorb by certain strains of bacteria (DPD Initial Interview).

This document tracks how AQUAPONS integrated badges that are compliant with Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure into their program. This analysis is provided by the badges Design Principles Documentation Project by Indiana University.

Sweet Water Foundation works with educational institutions and other community partners to create educational programs that develop the skills needed to build sustainable community systems of food production: “Our work has evolved as a direct response to fundamentally unsustainable models of food production and consumption.” (Sweet Water Foundation)

AQUAPONS is an online learning platform that grew out of this commitment. SWF describes the program as “an online learning platform for practitioners of aquaponics, [which] allows learners to accrue a series of digital badges that correspond with aquaponics achievements, skills, and proficiencies” (DML Proposal). Sweet Water primarily intends to create a program to be implemented by secondary school teachers and individual students to advance understanding of aquaponics and help lifelong learners develop professional, academic, and personal skills. AQUAPONS presented the challenge and opportunity of figuring out how to use badges to connect after-school and informal science education to school learning.


Through the DML Badges for Lifelong Learning competition, SWF earned a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to implement a system of Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure-compliant digital tokens to recognize achievement through the program. In December 2012, Sweet Water Foundation brought web programming team on board, who spent a good part of the following spring building the system out and adjusting the curricular content to fit in the badge system (DPD Follow-up Interview).

SWF selected the WordPress platform for their public-facing site, aquapons.info, and then proceeded going back and forth between content and tech teams to mutually adjust to each teams work. The prototype rolled out in late spring 2013, and Sweet Water tested the prototype with a group of students over the summer. The tester students were working at the Aquaponics facility, so their daily routine encompassed the activities that constitute the AQUAPONS tasks. In order to test the badge system, they mostly had to better document what they were already doing DPD Follow-up Interview).

In the fall, the AQUPONS program was adopted at two schools as an initial rollout–one in Milwaukee and one in Chicago. Each of the schools already had established a really strong one year-long program just on aquaponics. Content supervisor Jesse Blom said, “It takes a while for the students to get to the level of knowledge to get into the badges” (DPD Follow-up Interview). The Chicago school has an after school aquaponics club in addition to the in-school program.

The schools have been using the AQUAPONS badge system intermittently during the school year. The content of the program and also the level of reading and writing skills necessary to work through the curriculum were both factors feeding into this intermittent use. Demographics of the both school’s student population meant that AQUAPONS was targeting a pretty challenged group. One group in Milwaukee included a number of special education students with a variety of backgrounds and ability levels. Many students in each of the test groups were challenged in working through the activities in the system, many of which require self-documentation long periods of attention and significant self-reflection (DPD Follow-up Interview).

SWF sees much of its role in interacting with schools as supporting teachers and administration. They are now better documenting how the system can be best used without changing how the system works. Two pieces of advice to teachers implementing the current program include that teachers can definitely use the existing system easily to support higher level students. Blom feels it really allows a place and space to learn for someone who can handle the content and writing requirements.. SWF is also encouraging teachers to identify pieces of content that are most applicable to their class and find out where in their own curriculum these pieces are most effective.

In addition, SWF has broadened the focus of the curriculum and badge system to include more adults. Much of what Sweet Water Foundation does day-to-day is to field inquiries from around the world about how to implement aquaponics on various scales. “Across the board, people need to know how to do it, the nuts and bolts of how to practice aquaponics,” says Jesse Blom. The foundation had never been able to provide this audience comprehensive content on these questions, and the badge system has been a way to bring content to this type of conversation. “It has been a really good introductory tool for us to engage with people who are new to this content area” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Additionally, some international partners have used the badge system to document training procedures they are developing around their own aquaponics programs. As a training program, the badge system is “finite…granular… and leveled” and fits well within grant proposals and program design processes among potential partners (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Evolving Practices and Design Principles

What follows is a list of practices as they relate to the general and more specific design principles in each category of practice. The headings name a (a) General Principle, (b) Specific principle, (c) Specific practice. The paragraphs below each heading detail the project’s (a) intended practice, (b) enacted practice, and (c) how that practice relates to the specific and general principles.

Design Principles for Recognizing Learning

The Sweet Water Foundation hoped to implement a high-value badge system recognizing learning across the many skill areas important to aquaponics. The team hoped that AQUAPONS credentials given to their mostly high school target audience are valued in careers and higher education even outside of urban agriculture specialties.

As they prepared to implement the badge program, Sweet Water staff simplified some elements, namely the number of categories of knowledge they aimed to recognize, in order to preserve what they felt were essential features: the combination of different types of assessment across increasing levels of achievement.

Recognize Diverse Learning > Recognize a wide variety of skills

Intended, enacted, formal.

Aquaponics requires a complex mix of skills from different domains, because the growing systems have so many parts that must function in balance. Initially, the program proposed 9 different content areas that students would achieve badges in.

As the program got closer to enactment, these content areas were folded down to four: Plants, Fish, Water, and Design&Build. As the program finished the 2013-14 school year, a fifth category was added, for Impact. After students become familiar with the basics of the other four areas, they can begin to study the environmental, community, and economic impact of alternative agriculture (AQUAPONS.info).

Use badges to map learning trajectory > Level badges > Level badges to recognize developing expertise

Intended, enacted, formal.

AQUAPONS initially intended to issue OBI-compliant badges at four levels in each content area. These were tentatively named:

  • Level 1: Advanced Beginner
  • Level 2: Competent Performer
  • Level 3: Proficient Performer
  • Level 4: Expert (DML Stage 1 Proposal)

As intended, SWF is implementing a badge system where for each category of knowledge and skills recognized, students can progress through levels of badges from beginner to expert. Because it actually takes a long time to complete even the beginner badges, they are rolling out the lower levels first, and adding on content and badges at the higher levels. In addition, AQUAPONS will offer four levels of an aggregate badge that will automatically be awarded upon achievement of that level of proficiency across all of the subject areas. Sweet Water intends the badges to be prestigious and to represent long-term effort. For example, they imagine achieving the first level aggregate badge would take a student about six months. Recognizing that this is a long process, SWF now intends to award smaller indicators, “activity badges” along the way to one of the main badges.

The names of the badge levels have changed to reflect more of an apprenticeship model: Novice, junior apprentice, senior apprentice, journeymon, and master, where OBI badges are issued at the top four levels. These names are intended to reflect their view of the practice as a skilled trade and therefore adopt names similar to traditional trades. The plan to complete the system is to develop the content, starting with the lower levels and then moving to the upper levels of achievement as more students complete the lower levels. AQUAPONS is aiming to get the junior apprentice level finished across all categories, before dedicating too many resources to the upper levels. Their goal is for 50% of students in a participating class to earn junior apprentice level in a year-long program and after being introduced to the concepts, having students want to explore further, perhaps outside of class.

Seek external backing of credential > Externally valued > Collaboration with formal learning institutions

Intended, not enacted. not formal

As of the beginning of the AQUAPONS project, Sweet Water has a well established local network of partner secondary schools in Milwaukee and Chicago. SWF intends for these schools and future partners to implement the AQUAPONS online component to their in-person learning in order for students to build portfolios and earn badges.

Sweet Water is continuing to work with its existing K-12 school partners. Jesse Blom, director of the Milwaukee program, reports that as the badging program develops, partners are becoming more excited about the possibilities for their students: “This is still a focus area of ours, and we’re still moving in that direction. We’re deep in our work in Milwakuee and Chicago, we were on the school-by-school level, and we’re now starting to work on the district level instead.” As of the beginning of 2014, AQUAPONS was still in its first testing year, and Blom feels they have seen they have quite a bit of work to do (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Among major components of achieving external value remaining, is linking the badges to academic standards and decreasing the barriers of entry for the students. First, to get buy in from students, AQUAPONS must make the system understandable to them, adjusting content to make it more accessible (DPD Follow-up Interview).

A second practice that falls under this general principle follows:

Seek external backing of credential > Externally valued > Build consumption value of credential among employers.

Intended, not enacted. not formal

Aquaponics is an interdisciplinary field, and many of the skills used by its practitioners are also used in other careers: “Many of the learning areas in aquaponics are directly ​portable ​to other academic disciplines or career paths. For example, a badge in Water could be translated to municipal water management, or a badge in Plants could be translated to a career in horticulture and landscaping” (DPD Interview). SWF hopes students who gain skills through the program are able to present AQUAPONS badges to demonstrate their subject area experience to future collaborators, schools, or employers.

The value of AQUAPONS-recognized achievements is growing as Sweet Water builds the program and partnerships surrounding it. AQUAPONS staff point to a couple examples of what they are trying to enable, from Milwaukee: “Last year, one of our grads got a job in the food industry — got him to know the food sciences. Another student we’re working with this year got a scholarship to college in natural resources: fisheries: (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Recognize educator learning > Educators earn the same badges as students

Intended, not enacted. not formal

AQUAPONS intended to issue the same badges to both students and educators involved with the program. At first, Sweet Water’s staff AQUAPONS administrators will issue badges to students and educators who apply for them, but with greater experience in the program, they plan to let participating teachers eventually earn the ability to recognize their students learning through the website themselves and award badges.

Sweet Water’s plans to recognize educator learning has solidified since their initial proposal. They still intend to offer teachers the same badges as students, with teachers earning the ability to award badges to their students after achieving high levels themselves, though the exact requirements remained to be developed as of November 2012. SWF has clarified that its own staff will issue top-level badges themselves to both teachers and students even after teachers become qualified to award the lower-tier badges.

As enacted, teachers are so busy, AQUAPONS is not having any teachers go through the program themselves. Documentation of learning and uploading evidence is a “pretty intensive process.” Likely Instead one idea they have talked about is awarding honorary badges to teachers instead (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Promote discovery > Discover learning opportunities & Discover learners > Online discovery

Intended, not enacted. not formal

AQUAPONS hopes to eventually make it easy for people to use badges to discover learning opportunities and to discover the skills developed by participants in the system. As of early 2014, they are investigating a social networking site on Ning to allow learners to connect with each other more deeply. These features are in their early stages.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

Through building a portfolio enhanced by rich media such as video, photography, and blogs, students engage in a self-reflective process where they touch on all aspects of learning – from changes in behavior and building confidence to grappling with specific aspects of the four content areas.

Sweet Water AQUAPONS has decided to scale back their initial intentions and “simplify a really complex system” so that “someone can jump right into the learning process” (DPD Interview). The project wants to encourage peer assessment and self assessment, and is working toward embedding those practices in the process of earning a badge. Peer assessment and collaboration will “enhance the interactions between different learners and learning institutions,” and “transform the learners’ consciousness” of who is learning with them and how people learn aquaponics skills.

Enhance validity with expert judgment > Use human experts > AQUAPONS staff evaluate badges

Intended, enacted, formal.

AQUAPONS intended for Sweet Water Foundation staff, having developed expertise from practicing aquaponics in an urban farm installation, to have an important role in approving badges. As enacted and formalized, these experts’ role in the system is strong. Eventually, some of the lower level assessment will be undertaken by trained participating teachers, but for now, AQUAPONS staff do most of the final approvals (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Align assessments to standards: create measurable learning objectives > Internal standards > Activities exemplify specific outcomes and criteria

Intended, enacted, formal.


Figure 1. The 9 initial content areas of the intended AQUAPONS curriculum.

Sweet Water Foundation has identified specific outcomes desired of a student’s learning in each content area and has tailored activities so that the work completed exemplifies the outcomes. The AQUAPONS proposal identified nine content areas, illustrating the complex systemic thinking required of aquaponics practitioners.

The project has decided to simplify the badging and earning process. The nine aquaponics knowledge categories have been whittled down to four: Fish, Plants, Water, and Design and Construction (DPD Interview, Milwaukee Renaissance). While activities are not aligned to external standards, the project is working on standardization to their own definitions of these areas. Jesse Blom reflected, “I think we like the way we structured it: kind of plug-and-play. Depending on the context, you can pull in certain elements of the curriculum.” (DPD Follow-up Interview)

There remains a future intent to create a new user type for participating instructors so that they can organize their own class and award their own students badges. This would be especially for teachers SWF knows are very familiar with the content areas from Sweet Water’s internal standards. Until then, the final badge approvals are done by AQUAPONS staff.

Align assessments to standards: create measurable learning objectives > Common Core State Standards > Activities exemplify specific outcomes and criteria

Intended, not enacted. not formal

AQUAPONS intended to “support the requirements of Common Core learning (Sweet Water Foundation). As enacted, the badges are mapped to Sweet Water’s own understanding of the concepts involved in the many related disciplines necessary to aquaponics

Use leveled badge systems > Competency levels > leveled assessments for leveled badges

Intended, enacted, formal.

Activities and assessments are intended to grow more demanding and cover more content as students progress through the program.

The AQUAPONS team has refined their thinking on leveled assessments and affirmed that they wish to perform the assessments for the higher level badges themselves, rather than delegating that task to local teachers. In order to calibrate the levels, Sweet Water team members will begin creating portfolios to see what effort it takes to earn a badge (DPD Interview).

The system intended for users at lower levels to be able to be assessed by teachers and peers who had achieved higher badge levels, but found a mismatch in user motivations:

The issue we get into as we get into the higher levels, is our badge earners are not necessarily in the same “mode” as our entry level learners Our entry level learners are hungry for content; our higher level learners are really producing things, really into creating dialogue and sharing the information that they have. They’re not necessarily as motivated to earn a badge. This is definitely the case at the two highest levels. The idea as an organization is that our journeymen are the people we can send as ambassadors (DPD Follow-up interview).

In order to support the activities their more advanced users seemed to desire, AQUAPONS staff created a Ning-based social networking site, to be a great place for sharing knowledge in a more casual atmosphere than portfolio-development and evidence uploading.

Use performance assessments in relevant contexts > Performance-based, peer and self-assessments

Intended, enacted, formal.

Most AQUAPONS badges are based on project performance based achievements. These are each assessed by multiple parties, often starting with a self-assessment, and ending with Sweet Water Foundation staff. AQUAPONS intended to eventually implement a variety of peer assessments, but the program started with SWF staff approving requests for badges. This also requires students to self-assess their accomplishments, as they upload evidence to apply for badges. The badges will be earned through formal scoring of written assessments, photo and video projects, and in-person demonstrations of proficiency.

Besides levels, the combination of assessors is another distinguishing feature of the AQUAPONS badge system. SWF imagines students will spend significant effort self-evaluating as they package evidence for their portfolios. AQUAPONS wants to include peer assessment from the start, requiring that students assess another’s work as part of the requirements to earn one of the main badges (DPD Initial Interview).

Self-assessment is worked into each of the AQUAPONS badges as one of the requirements.

Peer review is something not something SWF was able integrate into the prototype. It wasn’t really apparent to see how the technology could be structured to establish peer review and to enable peer feedback is one of the reasons why AQUAPONS is adding on the Ning site to their infrastructure (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Use e-portfolios > Local to community > Assessment of community e-portfolios

Intended, enacted, formal.

AQUAPONS requires students to work with a functional aquaponics installation, and most of the work they do is hands-on with face-to-face instruction by their trained participating teacher. However, the assessment for badges is designed to occur through an online portfolio system. Students will upload written reflections, reflective video explanations, design sketches, data logs, photography, and other evidence of physical activities.

As implemented, documentation sits on the badge page, rather than a larger portfolio page. Only the learner and the instructor know where to look. Each of learners has a small public profile page, but it’s not intended to be a big public repository of their work (DPD Follow-up Interview). They can share with the public manually when desired.

Use e-portfolios > Foster discussion around artifacts > Use portfolios to discuss content

Intended, not enacted, not formal

Encouraging social learning and interaction between AQUAPONS participants has been a goal from the very beginning. The Sweet Water Foundation considers sharing knowledge an important facet of aquaponics practice. To this end, staff were looking for how to best encourage sharing from the beginning. In addition to the material initially planned for inclusion in portfolios, SWF was encouraging their high school students to track their day-to-day learning and experiences through Tumblr blogs.

In building the evidence-uploading system, it was difficult to enable social features. In response, AQUAPONS is switching those components of the system over to a Ning site, which is designed from the ground up to be more of an environment for sharing (DPD Follow-up Interview). This site is a casual sharing site, not yet having the connection to the artifacts uploaded for badge review, but that discussion and sharing of knowledge is important enough to the AQUAPONS system, that the DPD Project is recording it as part of the formal practices despite the connection not quite existing as of early 2014 when we last interviewed the project.

AQUAPONS notes that with the badge system itself, and the instructor-learner relationship there is a lot of back-and-forth. Instructor has space to comment on the submissions (either in rejection or acceptance). There is already limited dialogue there, but they are aiming for an expanded dialogue as they move the technology platform forward (DPD Follow-up Interview)

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

Sweet Water AQUAPONS seeks to bring students into the world of urban agriculture, offering them many skills and experience that could potentially translate to a career. They serve students of all varieties, engaged and disengaged, and encourage them to participate in collaborative activities. Another facet of the program is that, as part of the badge-earning process, they encourage students to participate in self-reflection. This, they have found, motivates students to engage more deeply in the learning process.

While it will take some time for evidence of this badge program’s motivational effects to be measured, the AQUAPONS team feels that their badge program will supply an important piece to the motivational aims of their education mission: “[It] is a perfect venue for us to take that documentation [of learning] and gear it towards tangible results, and that result is a badge. And then also motivate these learners to continue to document their learning and achieve badges along the way” (DPD Interview). In order to encourage learners to persist through a program that requires such a significant time commitment, SWF hopes to implement small activity badges along the way to the main badges.

Build outside value for badges > Real-life application of knowledge > Professional development

Intended, enacted, formal

Sweet Water aims to motivate students to learn about aquaponics by helping ensure the credential will have value to external employers. SWF is reaching out to partner organizations in education and business and publicizing the portability of students’ acquired skills to related disciplines.

SWF continues its efforts to partner with career and educational institutions to show students the possible career outcomes of their aquaponics experience. Staff feels that this is less of a motivation for our high school learners. “Just learning about something cool and having a web interface for the cool content are motivations for high school learners. For some of the higher level learners, this is a real motivator, especially for people who are trying to find employment in this particular area (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Director Emmanuel Pratt reflects that, “One of the reasons we’ve distilled Aquaponics in a straightforward way is so any teacher or student realizes they can jump in” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Many of the students who participate could be deemed as at-risk students, but through the program they can learn a wide range of skills that are usable in many contexts. In addition, students developing relationships through the program can potentially access value of Sweet Water staff’s efforts to build institutional relationships and identify opportunities and partners who value the skills developed.

Engage with the community > Involvement in local community > Connection to the city

Intended, enacted, formal.

Sweet Water Foundation cultivates active relationships with many community and government organizations in Chicago and Milwaukee. These relationships occasionally turn into opportunities for AQUAPONS participants to become involved. From the beginning, SWF staff wanted to emphasize how aquaponics is a connected discipline that can bring together practitioners of many fields and specialties. As enacted, SWF’s relationships allow for opportunities for students to become more involved including tours at the Shedd Aquarium to talk about water filtration, internships at an architecture firm, and connections with Chicago’s City of Learning initiative. Additionally Chicago’s mayor’s office has an initiative to increase tourism that may open further opportunities. Emmanuel Pratt says, “The real value that I’m seeing and experiencing is in the connectivity of the ecosystem” (DPD Follow-up Interview)

Provide incentives > New activities> Connect badge earners to opportunities

Intended, enacted, not formalized.

Connecting learners to new opportunities was part of the design of the system all along. From Sweet Water’s initial proposal: “Participants who earn badges will increase their capacity to serve as “AQUAPON Associates,” who hold increasing responsibilities in maintaining, and eventually, designing and building aquaponics systems. As the students and teachers continue to earn badges, they are intended to gain access to volunteer and work opportunities at the Sweet Water physical site, including serving as a tour guide, educational aide, or farm assistant.

As enacted, SWF has opened a number of new activities to students but has yet to formalize what opportunities are available. Nevertheless, the myriad possibilities that arise out of Sweet Water’s developing operations and external relationships could motivate students to participate in the badge program.

Utilize different types of assessment > Peer > Sharing knowledge

Intended, not enacted. not formal

The portfolio-based badge system was initially designed to motivate learners to share their accomplishments and gain social recognition for good work. AQUAPONS intended to use the ability to share work on the portfolio and receive peer feedback as a motivator to upload material. Showcasing others work as part of lessons can help this process: For example, “A high school Chemistry teacher…can demonstrate cause-effect relationships to her students through visual tools, and share her results on SWF’s social collaboration learning platform. Video footage of the teacher explaining her system, along with photographs of the system and a written summary of her successes are uploaded to her profile on the SWF web platform” (DPD Interview).

Practically implementing the tools to allow this sharing has been a challenge. Lots of sharing happens in physical spaces as well as outside of the portfolio system, like through email (DPD Follow-up Interview). Baseline piece was to have some content available for people on the new aquapons.info website, and the next stage planned is to figure out how to integrate “knowledge sharing practices” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Emmanuel Pratt reports that this process is encountering some “structural issues, some institutional issues” and so far the website, in a “non-dynamic” state is falling a little flat at accommodating the rich interaction they had hoped for. This remains important to them for possible future enactment (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Use different types of assessment > Self > Self-reflection

Intended, enacted, formal.

While processing and uploading evidence of their accomplishments, students will be encouraged to reflect on their work and engage more deeply with the material.

One important factor in designing the portfolio-based badge system was to facilitate and motivate self-reflection and deepening learning. The AQUAPONS team likes to share one particularly poignant example: “I worked with a group of students from the Milwaukee schools. One of them rarely said a word; I saw this student four hours a week for twelve weeks and probably hear him say about twelve words in that span of time. On the last day, we were doing video reflections. During the video reflection, as soon as this guy was on camera and we were asking him to reflect on his learning, he was probably the most eloquent of all the students. That’s learning that he had internalized, but had not come out in the general course of things. When asked to reflect, his learning was not only exposed to others, but also realized to himself.” Self-reflection is required by the assignments, but the AQUAPONS team’s promotion of reflective processes through badges and sharing great stories from portfolios should motivate learning through reflection.

Emmanuel Pratt feels this is an essential component of the system: “It is absolutely critical; the conversation is critical, ”widening circles of conversations is critical. He feels self-reflection makes the AQUAPONS learning experience a better process over all. In a short amount of time, by using the photos and the videos, the youth “look up and see how much they’ve learned, how quickly, without us forcing their hands.” Just through conversations, it’s happening.

Design Principles for Studying Learning

Like most of the DML2012 projects, the AQUAPONS proposal did not include a specific plan for systematically studying learning or evaluating their program. Designing practices to study the learning emerging from the badge system came after the initial design phase. Though there was no initial push to design research practices, the usefulness of the data emerging from the badge program became clear, particularly in order to help AQUAPONS’ relationships with its partners.

Study badge impact >Research OF badges >Using Research and Evaluation to Reflect on Practices.

Not intended, enacted, not formalized.

Though they had not initially intended any formal research practices, even before issuing their first badge Sweet Water realized the value data from the badges would be useful in addressing pain points in their conversations with partners. For example, while cooperating teachers are intimately acquainted with their students’ learning, the school principals are a step removed and have trouble quickly grasping the type of work students are doing. With badges, AQUAPONS can present data about what students are learning across the varied field of aquaponics. This can communicate the value of the program and legitimize the activities. (DPD Initial Interview)

AQUAPONS data will be part of one study with a PhD sociology student. Sweet Water reports this researcher is evaluating the effectiveness of the badge system itself and that there are universities who are interested in “where this is going to go, across many different fields…Pedagogically, almost like the city, people want to see hard data sets, immediate results, the conversation about jobs. Nobody wants to get into the thick of it, they just want the high level data sets” (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Even without expensive large data analysis, Sweet Water staff have found that anecdotes are great at showing the value they are creating, that showing precedents is great: “It’s easier for us to let the story tell itself. Having this journaling process where we show how learning happens is absolutely essential” to collecting these valued anecdotes. 


Blom, J., & Pratt, E. (2014, January 28). DPD Follow-up Interview.

Blom, J., Pratt, E., & Bullen, G. (2014, January 28). DPD Initial Interview.

Recognizing Principles Assessing Principles Motivating Principles Studying Principles
Specific principles: Specific principles: Specific principles:

Loves open education, Open Badges, free culture, Progress of the Useful Arts and Sciences, people-powered politics, and local food production. Coordinator for the badges Design Principles Documentation Project at Indiana University.

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Mozilla Open Badges
Digital Badges are web-enabled credentials of learning or accomplishment. -Erin Knight, director of the Badge Alliance
Badges contain detailed claims about learning, links to actual evidence of learning, and they're shareable over the web. -Dan Hickey, DPD Project Lead Investigator
To me, digital badges represent the bridge between formal learning & informal structures. -Alex Halavais, DML research competition winner
Open Badges can help people tell a verifiable story about their accomplishments. -Nate Otto, DPD Project coordinator
Regardless of where you start, it’s more than likely you’ll end up somewhere other than your intended destination. That’s okay. Systems are living things, and your badge system needs to be flexible. You must embrace a bit of chaos in its design. -Carla Casilli, Director of Design + Practice at the Badge Alliance