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At this year's Mozilla festival
I was at this year’s Mozilla festival in London. It’s a gathering of prominent names in the digital world to come together and discuss ideas, show off their digital innovations and test new tools to create web content.
It was created with the idea to encourage people to interact with and develop the web rather than just consume it. It is basically a building full of (mostly) beardy technophiles drinking gallons of complimentary coffee, discussing how to improve and protect the internet for us all.
I was there with some young carers champions to do some interviews with people at the festival for Makewaves, the safe social networking site for young carers, and to provide support for the sessions about badges which young people can earn through makewaves to show off their skills and knowledge.
Badges, games and ‘space wrangling'
I was fortunate to attend this event under the behest of a ‘space wrangler’, Alison from DigitalMe. The festival has a very laid-back leadership style and it is left up to the people that lead on each of the eight overall topics covered in the event to ‘wrangle’ their own space to run all the sessions.
One of the eight topics, or ‘tracks’ covered in the event was ‘Open Badges’. Open badges are a form of accreditation that can reward or punish anyone for anything. They can be created by people, teachers, charities or organisations to give recognition for things that others have done, be they a good thing or a bad thing. Above is a photo of a Young Carer Champion interviewing a child about all the badges she’s earned on the Makewaves platform.
For example, Makewaves recently started using open badges to reward children and young people for learning skills and attending events. It is a great way to use gamification to encourage young people to learn and develop and to get the skills they will need in the world of employment.
There are of course other, grander uses for open badges as well. Tasked with no less than saving the (digital) world, one of the more useful tools was the idea to use open badges to reward or punish corporations. Companies that exhibit or promote good behaviour can receive a badge as a reward, companies that don’t can receive a negative badge which can then be used to give clout to campaigning groups.
Badges could be endorsed by leading charities and organisations, so companies would be proud to earn them and display them prominently. Throw in some friendly competition through the gamification element and you have yourself a seriously successful campaigning tool.
Welcome to the world of tomorrow
Many of the people at the festival were showing off very important and exciting new inventions, such as a simple app builder for android mobile devices or an intuitive way to teach programming languages to children. Others were discussing serious and important topics like how we can create a universal declaration of digital rights, persuade companies to give us ownership of our own data online or how to get more children interested in science.
Here is a photo of us interviewing someone about ‘Connecting Your City’, one of the event topics. She had just finished running a session about the psychology of the web and how to encourage people to build digital teaching networks around the world.
Despite how serious the event was and how knowledgeable all the people were, the atmosphere was fun and friendly. Everyone at the festival was very welcoming and inclusive, even in spite of my vastly inferior knowledge (I don’t even know how to insert a .rar file into the header of a Jpeg image. I know! I’m terrible).
This made working with young carers to interview people at the festival all the more easy and exciting. Everyone had something interesting to talk about but none more so than “Super Awesome Sylvia”, someone who at just 11 years old invented a simple watercolour painting robot, won her states' science fair and got to meet president Obama in the White House.