Enhancing Aboriginal PD with Open Badge eCredentials

This post explores the potential for developing a micro-credentialing system based on Mozilla Open Badges (* see Footnote 1) for Professional Development in Aboriginal Education (**  see Footnote 2) and increased awareness of Aboriginal Canada in the broader education system.

To some extent, it builds on my earlier post: Why do K12 teachers like Open Badge eCredentials with their PD? But it also applies the principles of Global Education to a better understanding of Aboriginal Canada. The idea is to start with teacher PD but the ultimate goal is to take it to students.

As a current Winnipegger originally from Toronto, these ideas are based on my knowledge of Manitoba and Ontario and the Aboriginal projects I’ve worked on. Aboriginal Education is an important issue here in Canada. According to the Globe and Mail, “Canada’s national newspaper”:

Only 40 per cent of First Nations students living on reserves graduate from high school. They score far below other students on standardized tests. And their numbers are about to explode.

Outcomes for the vastly greater numbers of Aboriginal students in off-reserve schools are somewhat better, but still poor, compared to the rest of the population. Maamaawisiiwin Education Research Centre asks:

What are our children and youth experiencing in the classrooms…? And what is the experience doing to them?

Have we come far enough from the bad old days of residential schools whose wounding impact the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to help heal?

 

Can eCredentialing with Open Badges help bridge gaps in Aboriginal Education, starting with transforming the knowledge, attitudes and capabilities of teachers?

It would be just one element among many others trying to help solve a huge issue, fraught with controversy and past failure. But I believe it could help and I’m beginning to see a willingness to try new ideas in the emerging policies of our new federal government.

 

Educator PD: Early Traction for Open Badges

Why start badging with educators? Well, I like what VIF International Education has to say about it:

We believe that education has the power to change the world. And we see teachers as force multipliers with the potential to reach and affect huge numbers of young minds. So we start with teachers.

And educators seem to really like having their PD recognized with micro-credentials. I’ve blogged previously about PD badging initiatives such as Digital Promise and PD Learning Network. I like the self-directed, evidence-based approach I often see  in educator PD. It’s not just about rewarding attendance at conferences and workshops.

I recently came across this October 2015 EdSurge article, written by the Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) about their global learning initiative: “So You Want to Drive Instruction With Digital Badges? Start With the Teacher.”

This edited excerpt nails the case for inquiry-based, knowledge-building, badge-recognized PD:

What makes the digital badging system different from more traditional forms of professional development are five key features that taken together increase significantly the likelihood that the learning experience for a teacher will lead to results in the classroom for students — which, after all, is the point of professional development. The five features:

  1. Badging requires demonstrating understanding and implementation of a target content or skill.
  2. Badging provides recognition and motivation.
  3. Badging allows for knowledge circulation among teachers.
  4. Badging can be tracked and assessed.
  5. Badging is a scalable enterprise.

 

Global Education for Teachers and Students

Houston’s badging initiative is a partnership with VIF International Education, mentioned above who was one of the winners of the DML Trust Challenge with their proposal “Global Gateway: Building Trust Through Peer Review”.

Their approach:

We support teachers in developing and applying global competence in their classrooms through focused and measurable professional training, flexible resources and peer-to-peer collaborations.

Have a look a this short video explaining the process:

 

Aboriginal Education in Canada – In Transition

Although I’ve been speculating about badges for Aboriginal education for some time, the trigger for this post was a Teacher PD panel at the HEQCO Transitions conference last week. The panel focused a lot on  Aboriginal Education due to participation by John Hodson of Maamaawisiiwin Education Research Centre and Kyle Hill of Teach for Canada.

Here in Canada, Aboriginal Education is getting lots more play recently, due to the December 2015 release of the  Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its acceptance by Justin Trudeau, leader of the new federal government which in its historic 2016 budget allocated $2.6 billion of new funding over the next five years for primary and secondary schooling on reserves.

One common thread is teacher capacity, particularly in terms of knowledge and attitude. This is very important for schools on reserves but also for the more than 80% of Aboriginal kids educated off-reserve (at least in Ontario) – and for the rest of our population to better understand Aboriginal Canada and our relationship to it.

 

Some Ideas for Recognizing Aboriginal PD with Open Badges

These ideas are exploratory and in no way exhaustive. They range from easy to more ambitious. They can be said to have formative, summative and transformative elements in different degrees.

Some of these ideas attempt to transfer VIF’s approach to Global Education to a notion “Inter-Nation” education, between Aboriginal Canada and the rest of our population.

Naturally, these ideas would need to be realistically evaluated in light of the needs and choices of Aboriginal stakeholders, political realities of federal-provincial relations and labour relations with teachers.

 

IDEA 1: Recognize in-service workshops

This can be fairly straightforward, merely digital recognition of current practice, but care should be taken in introducing it, to test engagement and take up. Small-scale pilots and proofs of concept may be the way to start, so that assumptions can be tested and adjustments can be made early on.

Micro-credentials awarded should be aligned to familiar PD frameworks and enhanced Aboriginal curriculum frameworks such as:

  • The grade-leveled themes in the Ontario FNMI Toolkit:
    • Aboriginal Peoples and Organizations
    • Culture, Tradition, and Language
    • Cross-Cultural Perspectives
    • Celebration
    • Current and Historical Issues
  • Themes in Manitoba’s Native Studies S1-S4 curriculum:
    • Aboriginal Identity
    • Environmental Harmony
    • Aboriginal Contributions
    • World Issues

 

IDEA 2: Recognize self-directed learning

As with Digital Promise and PD Learning Network, teachers could engage with resources independently, reflecting forward on how their new learning may affect their practice and reflecting backward on its actual impact. They may also develop other evidence of their learning for evaluation when challenging for badges.

This is still not much of a stretch, merely applying a well- tested PD approach to a new domain and different standards. But it should fit in with our PD practices up here.

 

IDEA 3: Recognize new contributions to shared knowledge

My idea here is to adapt the VIF International Global Gateway model, as described by a participating school superintendent:

Participating teachers advance through a series of inquiry-based professional development modules. Teachers are awarded a digital badge for the successful completion of each 10-hour module. To accomplish this, they must complete the following steps: 1) study module content, 2) participate in a focused discussion with peers working on the same module, 3) create an original inquiry-based global lesson plan that incorporates new learning, 4) implement the original lesson plan in the classroom, 5) provide evidence of classroom implementation and 6) reflect on and revise the lesson created.

The final product of every module is a tested, global lesson plan that articulates learning objectives, activities, assessments, and resources for each stage of inquiry. Upon completion, teachers may publish finalized lessons in a resource library where they can be accessed by other educators.

Imagine this global learning model applied to “inter-nation” learning for Aboriginal Canada. It would take a lot more effort to set up, but there is exciting potential here.

 

Benefits: formative, summative, transformative

In her introduction to Making Professional Learning Count, a research report on teacher attitudes to micro-credentials, Karen Cator of Digital Promise had this to say:

How can we clearly articulate existing and emerging competencies and support and recognize the accomplishments of educators as they develop throughout their careers? How can we better connect educators with peers so they can share and more quickly adopt best practices? And, what are ways teachers can be supported while driving their own learning? As an emerging professional learning strategy for educators, micro-credentials show great promise.

Other initiatives have shown that  recognizing the learning of teachers is a great way to seed ideas for recognizing the learning of students.

We also have the Manitoba example of Igniting the Power Within, which also started with professionals, in this case community advisors and counsellors. The project developed and tested curriculum and resources about workplace Essential Skills and RPL. Using a portfolio framework, this richly metaphorical authentically appreciative learning model has been used in Aboriginal communities to recognize and document the skills, knowledge and gifts we all have. It has made an impact on the lives of thousands of people.

Teachers and other professionals who have earned micro-credentials can think of creative ways to transfer their own experience to their students and clients.

In the spirit of appreciative inquiry, this kind of modular recognition can build learning pathways based on small positive steps, starting from where each person is at. This could be a Western teacher unaware of Aboriginal Perspectives or a student unaware of the Western scientific method.

This illustration from a Manitoba curriculum document draws on work from Alaska to describe the similarities and differences between Aboriginal and Western Ways of Knowing.

I see it as a map indicating how to bring communities together to find shared values through connected learning.

I see Open Badges all over it.

 

FOOTNOTE: Mozilla Open Badges*

Open Badges were originally developed to recognize learning anywhere, reaching out to at-risk populations with connected learning and appreciative recognition opportunities, as the Cities of LRNG website states:

There is a disconnect in today’s traditional education system, which leaves many youth disengaged in school and unprepared for the workplace and community. Now more than ever, young people need access, inspiration and guidance.

Here’s a brief intro to Open Badges that may help those new to the topic:

 

FOOTNOTE: Aboriginal**

In Canada, when we say Aboriginal, it’s an inclusive term that means First Nations (mostly treaty-based, on reserve and off), Métis (mixed race, with a distinct culture, recently achieved official status) and Inuit (also incorrectly called Eskimo) populations. People in the US might just say “Native Americans”.
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Open Badges: Connectors for Open Learning

This post continues an exploration of how Open Badges can support Personal Learning in Open Learning Networks. Open Educational Practices, if you will.

If you’re not interested in the more technical aspects of edtech, please bear with me. I’m laying the groundwork here to set up a wide array of practical applications in areas such as:

  • K12-PSE transition
  • PSE-career transition
  • Immigrant language training and workforce integration
  • Vocational training
  • Talent management and workforce development
  • Meeting the needs of under-served audiences, such as at-risk youth

I’ll be exploring those in future posts.

Today’s post is part of a series that is inspired by #NRC01PL, Stephen Downes’ Personal Learning MOOC. It picks up on my post from last week, which, among other things, said that Open Badges are becoming machine-readable nodes in open networks.

I believe that Open Badges can play a key role in what Stephen Downes calls the Metaversity:

 

Stephen explains it in his companion video presentation. The metaversity is a modular solution to an issue expressed by Michael Feldstein back in 2005:

“We need a system that is optimized toward slotting in new pieces as they become available, not as an after-thought or an add-on, but as a fundamental characteristic of the system. We need a system that lowers the barrier to innovation of new learning tools.”

So I looked at the pieces in Stephen’s diagram and reflected that Open Badges are pretty modular too. They’re JSON-LD objects, composed of standard fields with links to other information objects and they’re intended to be combined in pathways, stacks and clusters, based on the information they represent.

I decided to make the following diagram of my own as a one-page thinking tool, drawing from the Open Badges Specification, the Badge Alliance 2016 Roadmap, Nate Otto’s March 9 update on the Badge Alliance Standard Working Group, loosely coupled with my own delusions:

Metadata Schematic v02

Apologies for the fine print detail – I’ll eventually make it simpler image to communicate better (you can try “view image” in the meantime). But the having the detail on a single page is helping me think through the following:

 

Knowledge and Learning Resources are diverse

They can be people, content, metadata, and even badges to name a few. This is what I was trying to get at in my last post about the “Internet of Badge Things”.

Learning doesn’t flow in just one direction. Open Educational Practices talk about knowledge ecosystems with feedback/remix loops. The notion that learners bring value to the equation is something that’s most familiar in adult learning and the college system, but it’s more or less true everywhere. So why can’t a badge earner’s evidence become a learning resource, whether they’re curating and remixing somebody else’s work or coming up with something new?

I actually had a similar thought in the 1990’s while leading the Online Group at TVOntario. But I wasn’t able to do much with it, other than code name it Boswell and make a diagram I can no longer find. Maybe now?

 

Open Badges develop most of their value after issue

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the value that can be baked into a badge at issuing time, but  that’s really just potential value (I’m talking the summative side here).

It’s when a badge is shared and recognized that its “mint” value hits reality and becomes exchangeable currency. This will happen in social settings: online communities, badge clearinghouses, job and work portals, and also in peer to peer exchanges, via emails, blockchains, personal open ledgers and other methods we haven’t thought of yet. This isn’t just my thought… my colleague Serge Ravet has been saying it for ages.

I’ll add a connectivist point here: it’s not just the resources and nodes that have value, but the way they’re connected through patterns of use – the network cluster.

 

The Open Badges ecosystem: symmetrical, diverse, emergent

I think that the emerging Open Badges ecosystem is a similar distributed knowledge and learning architecture to the one Stephen describes in his presentation and can indeed supply a lot of the virtual routers and cabling for Stephen’s vision.

It supports Charles Vest’s three key properties of successful networks. It is becoming increasingly:

  • Diverse (supports many objectives)
  • Interwoven (recognizes lifewide activities, networks amplify value)
  • Open (highly permeable, accommodates many minds)

Issuers can be earners, earners can be issuers, and anybody can be an endorser of a kind. Agents, objects and connections can exist at many levels.

This has the makings of an emergent knowledge and innovation ecosystem – the network as a learning thing. There is value in the badge itself and in its relationship to its environment. It’s potentially much more than a top-down credentialing protocol for training and education, though it can certainly do that.

 

An exciting vision

These last few blog posts that are connected to topics in #NRC01PL have been difficult for me to write, but I think it’s because I’m rewiring my thinking as I write, making my way through a few conceptual thresholds. This rewiring promises to make my future badge system planning more robust and flexible.

All this may seem pretty esoteric, but consider the following possibilities as examples:

  • Badges linked to Open Educational Resources (it’s already happening)
  • Badge recommendations, based on badges you’ve already earned
  • Mixing and matching badges from different issuers using common external standards to build your own learning pathways
  • Personal portfolios that are robust learner-owned resource profiles, identifying you as qualified for a particular role.
  • Badges endorsed by employers in your region that automatically move you up the queue in talent pipelines and Applicant Tracking Systems
  • Regional workforce skills surveys based on badge analytics, attracting new investment to a community

I’ll be coming back soon to focus on current examples out there and more immediately practical concerns for Open Badges in early 2016… blame #NRC01PL in the meantime.

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I’m looking forward to participating and speaking at the Digital Badge Summit in June, with badge community luminaries such as Nate Otto, Doug Belshaw, Serge Ravet, Dan Hickey, James Willis and Eric Rousselle… that’s just naming a few!

There’ll be something for everybody: K12, Higher Ed, PD… Nate Otto and I will be curating a “Hot Topics” thread.

I’ll also be sticking around with Eric Rousselle and his colleague Nilü for the ISTE conference afterward to help introduce Open Badge Factory to the US K12 community, along with an exciting new offering for the Canadian K12 community. More on that later.

 

Personal Learning Ecosystems as an “Internet of Badge Things”

This post is a change of pace for Littoraly. It begins to question the notion of Open Badges as scalable micro-credentials. How modular are they? Are they like lego blocks or are they fractal and chaotic? How far can we push the notion of modularity?

It’s part environmental scan and part thought experiment. I had wanted to explore this anyway, and the fact that #NRC01PL, Stephen Downes’ Personal Learning MOOC is now actively developing the notions of connectivism, emergence and recognition gives me a perfect opportunity.

The point of the post is the Draft Ecosystem Scaling Chart towards the bottom, but it takes me a while to set it up. You may want to cut to the chase and then loop back. But the video alone is worth the price of admission.

 

Nano, micro… let’s call the whole whole thing soft

Open Badges are often called micro-credentials and I think there are maybe three reasons for this:

  1. Avoiding the word “badge” when first introducing them to adult audiences who may label them as trivial
  2. Making them appear as less than a full credential to credentialing bodies and institutions concerned about devaluing their credentialing mojo
  3. Introducing the notion of modular credentials that can be sequenced, clustered and transformed into Milestone badges (also known as “meta-badges”: badges whose criteria involve the earning of tributary badges)

Today’s post begins to explore the boundaries of the third reason. It goes from nano through micro to giga. But Stephen argues that  learning is not as neatly compartmentalized and nestable as many may think.

 

The MOOC Ecosystem

I’ve structured the post around Stephen Downes’ Fantastic Voyage exploration of the MOOC Ecosystem, introduced this week as part of the MOOC. It’s based on a talk he gave in Glasgow last year. Stephen zooms up and down from sub-microscopic to global perspectives, which I found quite inspiring:

Some Quick Notes about the MOOC Ecosystem Model

Stephen makes most of these points at the end, but I’ll get them out of  the way now:

  • Connectivism is based on the notion of neural networks.
    Learning happens via “neuro-plasticity”, where connections are made and reinforced with activities. The value is in the patterns of active connections.
  • Zooming up increases complexity
    What is perceived as a node at one level can also be a network of networks
  • Complexity: not just in number, but also  interdependence, interactivity
    It looks like chaos, but in fact it’s just the complex result of simple interactions at different levels.Each level has some degree of both independence and interdependence with peer, sub- and super-nodes and networks.
  • Cognition is bi-directional: Emergence <–>Recognition
    I have some trouble following the distinction Stephen makes with his “video image of Richard Nixon” example, but here’s what I understand:

    • Emergence means patterns and sub-networks being perceived as objects
    • Recognition means objects as perceived activating patterns of learning and behaviour
      … I think.

  • “Levels” are meshed and entwined
    It’s not a neat set of concentric circles or hierarchical hub-spoke system; boundaries are blurred; layers intersect
    (This makes me think of my dim notions of quantum mechanics.)

 

My (Very) Emergent Thoughts About Scaling Open Badges

Open Badges are becoming machine-readable nodes in trust networks

In moving from version 1 to version 1.1, Open Badges moved from JSON to JSON-LD. LD stands for Linked Data, which enables structured searches, not just crawling unstructured text. JSON-LD enables new descriptive properties to be added to Open Badges that can be mapped to external vocabularies and frameworks.

Geo-location is one example that has been implemented, various competency frameworks should come soon, third-party endorsement is in the works for v2.0, scheduled to come out later this year. In the meantime, according to a recent community call, the Open Badge Network project in Europe is working on an Open Badge extension for competency alignment using InLOC linked data, a JSON-LD framework designed by Jisc to support the sharing of learning information.

And if work with the W3C’s Verifiable Claims Working Group continues to go well, Open Badges will become “payment grade” verifiable claims, linked to owner identities rather than the online service that issued them.

 

There is a Drive Toward Open Badge Ecosystems

So, imagine if there were millions of Open Badges (there already are) whose various properties were discoverable by both humans and machines, whose aggregation and deconstruction could scale through algorithmic protocols, supplemented by other locally relevant, possibly unstructured information as necessary.

We already see some examples of different issuers and earners displaying badges to earn and badges earned, such as:

  • Open Badge Passport Gallery
    Public badges of earners are discoverable by issuer country, issuer name, badge name, and earner
  • Open Badge Academy
    Displays badges that can be earned and badge assertions that have been endorsed by others online
  • LinkedIn
    414m members, building a business graph of the world. Site searches by country can find badge issuers and badge assertions
  • (please comment to suggest others)

Then we have what Stephen would call Federated Search:

My colleague Serge Ravet envisions trust networks growing up around Open Badges that could scale and he sees Open Personal Ledgers as helping make that possible:

 

The lack of “standardization” echoes fuzzy neural networks

Although initiatives such as Connecting Credentials and IMS Global’s Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE) are trying to find  common ground for exchanging information about skills and learning, people are people and context is context. What’s “grit” for one community is “resilience” for another; what’s level 6 in one framework is level 4 in another; what’s relevant evidence in one context is perceived as opaque or infantile in another. Bits and pieces from different systems are borrowed, mashed up and transformed into new things.

This calls to mind Downes’ Two Dogmas of Educationism which Stephen introduces at 19m00s above (relabeling Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism – intersting that Quine’s holism gets into quantum logic):

  1. Reductionism is False
  2. No Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

Every level is a complex network and functions on its own and has an impact on other peer sub and super networks:

I confess that I need to go through this philosophical stuff a few times more in order to really get what he’s on about. Basically, I take it to mean that things aren’t as simple and modular as many might suppose. A diversity of methods for learning via emergence and recognition will be required, which would include structured and non-structured information.

But I like the word recognition. That’s probably because I like the phrase Recognition of Learning…and not just prior learning, but also emergent learning.

 

Open Badges have the potential to support emergent learning and innovation ecosystems

Imagine you’re a global services company with half a million employees around the world, scattered over countries, regions, occupations and lines of business. How can you possibly foster learning and innovation across your operation?

One global services company I know is considering Open Badges. The example I was given was to imagine a small shop in Kuala Lumpur  coming up with an innovation, whether it be a cool new method or piece of technology. One way for them to spread the innovations is to offer a badge offering to teach it. This advertises the innovation, provides a method for disseminating it along with a way to track its spread, as earners display their badge instances.

What you start to have here is an Internet of Badge Things. Which is a great segue to the real point of this post:

 

Draft Ecosystem Scaling Chart

This is a rough first attempt to track the potential scalability of Open Badges against Stephen’s levels of MOOCs and education in general.

I’m not totally happy with how I’ve matched levels, and I’m already thinking I may need to separate issuer/earner/consumer functions in future versions. But I hope readers will recognize enough here to to come up with a few emergent ideas of their own.

NB: Stephen starts at 2000, goes up to the planetary level, then back down to the sub-microscopic level. I’ve chosen to simplify by starting small and going big.

 Size  Stephen:
Level of Complexity
Don: Open Badges Applicability
0.000002 Bit

Change in the neuron

 Learner in the moment
0.00002 Synapse

1-1 connection between neurons

Learning activities (e.g. xAPI)

Evidence artefacts

“Bits of Trust”
(see @szerge)

0.0002 Neural Network

Your personal knowledge, based on connections ; neuroplasticity

Learning Record Stores

Curated collections of evidence

Personal Open Ledger
(see @szerge)

0.002 Touch

Haptics

Badge Issuers

Badge Classes (what the badge is about)

Badge design: gestalt, semiotics

0.02 Language and Text

Words, images, patterns that have meaning

Badge criteria, evidence, other fields in a badge class

Badge image

0.2 Interfaces

Connection between your hand or eye and an object device or tool

Assessments, badge applications
2 You (and a Friend)

Personal Learning Network: you connecting to others, your social media, resources

Don: my arbitrary median level

Single badges

Formative badges

Badge Assertions (baked badges awarded to individuals)

20 Linked Data

Personal Graph

Don: I have trouble separating this level from above and below

Badge collections

Summative badges

Milestone Badges

200 Dunbar’s number
(really 150)Level where:

  • a village becomes a town,
  • a collaborative group with a common identity and shared purpose becomes
    a cooperative network with communication, interaction, negotiation, cooperation

Don: beyond which a “Learning Tribe” becomes a “Learning Movement”

Badge pathways – prescriptive or descriptive

Badge Passports

Nested Milestone Badges

Badge systems

2,000 Size of the first MOOC

“Small town”; network (don’t know everybody)

Synchronous event – webinar

Don: “Online town hall”

Badge gallery, badge group

Self-awarded badges

Shared badge systems

“Chains of Trust” (@szerge)

20,000 Series of first MOOCs

Don: “Small town circuit”

Community of Practice

Exchange comments, resources, etc.

“After market” badge metadata

Communities of diverse badges

Communities around specific badges and badge types (badges as hubs and rallying points)

Badges as knowledge objects

200,000 The first big xMOOC: Artificial Intelligence

Learning analytics

The quantified self

Data points to provide learners with a dashboard

Indexed badge systems as knowledge patterns (Credmos)
2,000,000 The Early MOOCisphere

Collections and Systems

Learning record stores, learning results to generate an interactive reactive, even predictive system

Badge regions

Federated Backpacks

Badge repositories (Badgepedias, a “smart” Backpack)

“Networks of Trust” (@szerge)

20,000,000 National MOOC Strategy

National Repositories

Open online learning

Badge nations

Googling a badge (W3C)

200,000,000 Overall impact of MOOC on culture and pedagogy

Open Resource Network

e.g. Directory of Open Access Journals

Badge cultures, badge economies
Multi-country movementsBadgechains, aggregated ledgers

OR:

LinkedIn

2,000,000,000 MOOC world

Knowledge becomes a network

“Badge planet”,
“Internet of Badge Things”Badges as learning agents

 

Final thoughts

I don’t think I’ve nailed this yet; this is me thinking or learning out loud. I’m still pondering how connectivism affects the notion of badge scalability.

For one thing, I’m still struggling with constructivist modularity vs. connectivist emergence and recognition. As an example, trades have skill sets that are in National Occupational Analyses (NOAs) such as this NOA for Cooks. It’s pretty analytical, but wouldn’t you want to feel confident that you had covered the bases? But maybe it doesn’t cover all the bases, because it’s not holistic enough. Is there a better way of doing this? I do know that my chef friend says that a good test of a cook is how well he/she slices a tomato – that combines several pieces of skill and knowledge into one seemingly simple capability. I think I would fail, but I blame my tools – oops, sharpening knives is one of the skills.

Open Badges do a useful job of filling gaps in our current education and training systems. And I think they can provide useful data points in holistic recognition recognition systems, which is a point I made in my last post.

But all in all, I’m feeling pleased about having joined this mini-MOOC, if only as a way to test my evolving ideas about how Open Badges can recognize learning.

Recognizing Self-Directed Learners with Open Badge eCredentials

This post is a response to a post on cogdogblog where Alan Levine was questioning the value of Open Badges as a credential system: Seeking Evidence of Badge Evidence. Although the post was mostly about the crappy evidence practices of many badge issuers and the need for evidence (I say sometimes yes, sometimes no), one of Alan’s thoughts struck me all the more when it was endorsed by Stephen Downes in OLDaily:

“being badged is a passive act, even with blockchain secure authority, it is done to you. As important is what you do yourself, in active tense, to demonstrate your own evidence. Get badged, yes, that’s one part of showing what you have done. But get out there, get a domain, and show the world what you can do. That is evidence.”

Alan’s post has sparked an interesting series of comments that will culminate in Alan joining a Badge Alliance Community Call on Wednesday March 9 at 12pm ET. This is my contribution ahead of time.

My post is also doing double duty as an assignment for #NRC01PL, the Personal Learning cMOOC now underway led by Stephen Downes and linked to NRC’s multi-year Learning and Performance Support Systems initiative.

At this point, the MOOC is about to move on from blasting the poor LMS for its preoccupations with highly-controlled instructional design, over-reliance on content delivery with tied assessment, and limited options for deeper learning through practice, experience and reflection. Interesting not just for its timing, Donald Clark’s latest blog post hits a lot of these points but also talks about the benefits of the LMS, helping make the case for Phil Hill’s Minivan of Education.

As a new blogger but longtime user of Slideshare, my post builds on a presentation about PLEs that I delivered at ePIC 2015 on behalf of MSF Canada with Dominique Giguère of Currents Group:

The key slide (39) is here – my idealized vision for a badged humanitarian career:personal-learning-environments-for-humanitarian-learning-and-development-39-638

The point I want to make in this post is that sometimes even self-directed learners need to be recognized in order to build their professional identity and achieve their goals. And it doesn’t always have to mean bowing down to The Man, whether that be an employer or your nearest institution.I think this is important in the context of #NRC01PL, MOOCs in general and Open Educational Practices as a mindset. As eLearning Provocateur put it so succinctly in a post about 70:20:10 (Personal Learning applied to the workplace),

I’m an advocate of informalising the learning, and formalising the assessment. eCredentials have an important part to play in the latter.

I should emphasize here that my interest goes way beyond higher education and well into the workplace. And while blogs can be a great way to learn out loud, hone your wits in public and build a connected body of work in certain fields, I don’t think a blog can do it all for everybody, and it may be wholly inappropriate to some recognition contexts.

How many blogging industrial welders do you know, for example?

 UPDATE: Alan Levine has found two… see comment

Open Badges Don’t Have to Suck

Yes, many badges do suck – cue the military metaphors:

tumblr_mn3w88qrl01qfzgweo1_500

Carpet Badging @kyledbowen CC BY-SA

 

But that’s like saying WordPress sucks because so many people use it poorly, or for things you hate. Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap. Focus on the 10%.

An Open Badge is a tool for recognizing and communicating learning. Like any tool it can be used poorly, imperfectly or, as I like to say, “in the spirit of continuous improvement.”

 

Badge Earners Aren’t Passive

I’m not even sure that passive is the right word. I think what Alan and Stephen mean is dependent, as in not independent or self-directed; what Serge Ravet referred to in his comment to Alan’s post as an asymmetrical power relationship where:

“authorities” (have) the “right to trust” while the average punter has only the right to beg to be trusted by an “authority.”

(I love it when Serge talks Cockney.)

It’s not passive because badges are owned by the earner. Yes, a badge “victim” may be sent a badge for being randomly awesome, for showing up at a conference, or for completing some algorithmic idiocy (you logged in!).

But he/she can refuse the badge – that’s at least passive-aggressive. And they can decide to actively share the badge to further their goals if the badge has transferable meaning for them and the audience they are sharing with, such as employers. And then there are other ways to earn and use badges that I go into below.

Attaching a label to a person that the person has no control over – that’s passive.

 

My Premises

Open Badges are more than Digital Badges

Like many, I make a big distinction between Open Badges and Digital Badges, although the former is technically a subset of the latter, and I’ll cite Doug Belshaw again here:

For me, Open Badge = eCredential = micro-credential = modular credential = a technically portable, potentially socially transferable statement of learning or achievement.

When I say digital badges I generally mean the kind that are not technically portable or socially transferable. They can have localized merit, but are not the focus here. The problem is when badge issuers mindlessly use Open Badges for digital badge purposes, i.e. issue Open Badges with no thought to how they could have transferable value and how to make that happen.

 

People want to be recognized in different ways at different times

There are times when even self-directed learners need to have their learning and capabilities formally or semi-formally assessed and recognized for specific purposes, such as a mid-careerist transitioning to back to education or to a new occupation, or a skilled immigrant transitioning to a new workforce.

The phrase Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL, also PLAR or PLA) will likely leave behind most of the university sector (colleges support it), but the notion behind it is what first brought me to Open Badges via ePortfolios: recognizing what someone knows and can do, based on assessing authentic evidence that can be selected from lifewide learning (formal, nonformal, informal/experiential) and has been curated, annotated and aligned for a particular purpose(s).

It’s an important set of processes and values for adult learning. It’s all about fairness: recognizing learning, no matter where it was gained.

AAEEBL will tell you that you can also have formative portfolios FOR emergent learning, but I’m speaking here mostly about summative portfolios OF past learning that are designed for recognition for a specific reason: academic credit, admission, professional registration, hiring, promotion, etc. These are increasingly known as “Targeted Evidence Packages” to avoid the word “portfolio”, which has baggage in some circles as being synonymous with sprawling life stories in loose-leaf binders (or piled up in a blog, or scattered across the Internet).

I’d  call them micro-portfolios, because their curated content is typically a subset of a larger portfolio that can have many ongoing purposes, including learning: front display case vs. back workshop.

 

Assessing Self-Directed Learners

Assessment is not just about tests

Up here in Canada, we’ve done a lot of work improving and clarifying our RPL practices, especially for regulated professions. One reason for this is to make things fairer for immigrants and refugees. A lot of it is about getting away from high stakes exams as the weapon of choice and thinking about more authentic and fairer ways to assess capabilities.

According to this 2012 guideline for assessing skilled immigrants from the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA), there are five main kinds of assessment, each with pros and cons, which are often used together in varying combinations:

  1. Self-Assessments
    Typically formative, can be self-directed or interpretive, i.e. shared with others
  2. Written Examinations
    Criterion referenced (simple cut score) or norm-referenced (Bell curved)
  3. Oral Questioning
    Formal/informal, structured/unstructured. Can even be a collaboratively structured “professional conversation”, an interesting practice which I’m going to follow up on later.
  4. Demonstrations and Observations
    Workplace assessments over time and event-based simulations, such as the medical Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  5. Portfolios and ePortfolios
    Portfolios FOR learning and/or Portfolios OF learning (Formative and/or Summative)

I don’t know about you, but I could drive an Open Badges recognition truck through all this – or is that a B-2?

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Meet me in St. Louis, Louis…   Public Domain

For example:

  1. Self-Assessments
    a) Declarations of interest and belief, such as Serge Ravet’s example of Je suis Charlie. These can begin to get at soft skills, but can obviously be gamed.
    b) Self-issued, self-regulated badges, aligned to clear standards, linked to examinable evidence, based on models such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in several professions and program review in academic institutions. Use for both continuous improvement and evaluation by others. Evidence and badge issue can be evaluated and endorsed after issue by standards bodies and other stakeholders, which adds value over time. Currency maintained by a stream of continuing evidence, with or without additional external recognition. I recently suggested this as a model to an impoverished professional body seeking sustainable ways to improve its CPD.
  2. Written Examinations
    a) Career Readiness badges.
    Employers already test for literacy, numeracy and document use for front line candidates. NOCTI’s Job Ready and College Ready Assessment badges can save time and money for candidates and employers and reduce the waste of lost assessments that could be transferred from the immediate hiring or admissions context (testing, re-testing…)
    b) Language testing
    MSF Brussels’ evolving competency model includes the leveled Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This and other language frameworks are testable and displayable and can be used for  recruiting in the workplace or for HE admissions.
    c) Health and Safety compliance testing – not a biggie for most of the audience reading this post, but useful for candidates who need them to be recruited or retained. And for the employer.
  3. Oral Questioning
    a) DeakinDigital’s video interview as triangulation for their portfolio assessment (see below)
    b) Language testing, perhaps for Canada’s Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for immigrants. When is PBLA going to make the transition to ePortfolio anyway?
    c) Audio/video recordings could be supporting evidence for  “professional conversations” badges, or even asynchronous behavioural interviews.
  4. Demonstrations and Observations
    a) The best example I have at the moment is Lipscomb University’s OSCE for Business Leaders (my term – maybe it should be OSLE), where leadership-related soft skills are evaluated in workplace simulations within a controlled environment.
    b) Vocational Training. There is huge potential for more authentic, modular, progressive, experience and practice-based alternatives to the dysfunctional national Red Seal apprenticeship system in Canada, with its isolated and often disruptive formal learning semesters, opaque experiential timecard logbook and multiple choice exam as a final hoop capstone. The logbook could be a beautiful digital thing made of many badges with linked evidence. But there are barriers… sadly, few of them related to learner needs. The Manufacturing Institute in the US is working on this, but I also advise keeping an eye on City & Guilds in the UK. Their TecBac is a good start.
  5. Portfolios and ePortfolios
    DeakinDigital formally badges Masters level Recognition of Professional Practice, based mostly on ePortfolios (Targeted Evidence Packages), supplemented by other assessment as needed (known as triangulation in RPL parlance). It’s my fond hope that MSF will support something like this for its leadership pipeline.

 

Blogs are not enough

Alan Levine and Stephen Downes both say that the evidence of their capabilities is in their output. Well, they’re blogging rock stars with thousands of followers who appear to blog as easily as they breathe. They’ve built their credibility through their output over time and that gets them work and speaking engagements in the post-secondary edtech community. They have huge social capital. They don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

But what if they were going through a career transition and needed to re-establish themselves in another community that doesn’t know them and doesn’t have the time to read all their blog posts? That’s essentially what happens to immigrants, for example. (Think about all those Americans fleeing to Cape Breton if Trump Wins.) What if they were BAs just graduating?

And not all of us are bloggers. I’m a recently hatched blogger and I’m finding that it takes significant effort to maintain the channel.

Also, blogs aren’t equally useful across sectors, however great a fit they are for the post-secondary edtech community. The industrial welder is just an extreme example.

Personal learning implies personal evidence that’s appropriate to context. It takes a ton of effort to assemble an ePortfolio or a blog. It takes a ton of effort to evaluate one, which is a key barrier to their acceptance. Trustable proxies like Open Badges can help. They can include direct evidence or BE indirect evidence nuggets (more RPL parlance), with trust. More on that in future posts.

 

Open Badges can help structure and reinforce blogs and ePortfolios

If we’re talking about past learning, I see a person’s body of work and the sum of their experience as similar to a swampy archaelogical site or an unexploited mine. For ongoing work and learning, maybe an abundant wetland estuary.

It requires investigation, cooperation with others, triage, channeling, sifting, extraction,  refinement, construction and packaging before you can develop transferable value from the raw materials that different audiences will recognize in environments where you want to build your social capital.

So I say that Open Badges can be like structural supports for a person’s body of work, like gabions for an embankment or corduroy roads in a wetland. Signposts, like localized GIS markers or 3D beacons helping you map and leverage your assets.

These hardened pieces of validated (and ideally aligned) evidence can support other kinds of evidence to tell your learning story.

So I’m going to be asking Stephen for a badge if I complete this MOOC. But I want a good one that I can use somewhere else…hmm, maybe at DeakinDigital?