Guiding and scouting activities began in England in 1907 and Finland became one of the first scouting countries already in 1910. This is the biggest youth movement in the world and it aims to actively support the growth of children and youth by taking into account their individual qualities. Doing things together in a comprehensive way is the core idea for the Finnish Scouts and their activities. There are 65,000 scouts in Finland and over 45 million worldwide. A great number of volunteers also work for the Scouts.
Anna von Zansen, eLearning Manager for the Finnish Scouts, tells how the scouts can’t always introduce all of the skills they learn from scouting in school or work for example. Obviously, young people learn skills and gain knowledge during their free time but this can remain invisible to teachers and employers. Certificates are given to those who complete training sessions and it’s possible to write the name and length of the task to a CV after completing a position of trust. Learning however doesn’t end there as people learn new skills, knowledge and attitudes in scouting that are beneficial in working life. “One challenge was how to tell about these skills and learning without using scouting slang so that non-scouters would also understand what a volunteer learns in a scouting camp”, Anna explains about the challenges.
Internationally, the Scouts and the EU had made specifications regarding skills and competencies and the Finnish Scouts started to work more closely regarding the specifications in 2015. Due to this, they organised a competition in the social media and outlined some Open Badges; the first Open Badge was designed together with Sivis Study Centre. As more operators took part in the project, they needed a clear vision on what was being done in the Scouts with Open Badges and why.
For creating, issuing and managing Open Badges the Finnish Scouts use Open Badge Factory. The peer assessment feature of Badge Applications was developed to answer the needs of the scouts in 2016. They used this feature for the first time in the Roihu 2016 camp, where over 16,000 people took part in. Anna also describes Open Badge Passport, platform for receiving and saving Open Badges, easier to use than the Mozilla Backpack.
Anna von Zansen, eLearning Manager, Finnish Scouts
Anna, who has also acted as the chairman of the Scout’s Open Badge team, tells that the focus group for Open Badges are K-15 scouts who can benefit from badges for example when applying for a job or as a part of their education.
“The idea is to issue badges firstly based on learning and skills that would otherwise go unnoticed and secondly from skills and learning that are beneficial in the working life. We aim to create the kind of badges that are truly needed.”
The fact that the concept of Open Badges is still quite new to a lot of people has been a little challenging and requires effective communications and engaging people. Applying for badges can’t also be too difficult. “A badge based on youth’s self-assessment is our most popular badge.”
Present and Future
The designing process of their own Open Badge ecosystem has started nicely and the Finnish Scouts already have a great number of badges to be applied for. The feedback from badge earners has also been enthusiastic but informing everyone about Open Badges has to continue actively.
“Our next step is to ask the district operators to take part in the designing process and we will try to expand the knowledge regarding Open Badges further”, Anna ends.