A new dawn for Open Badges

Today it’s been announced that Mozilla will transition development of Open Badges to the IMS Global Learning Consortium, a non-profit that maintains and develops technology standards in education.  Alongside this announcement comes the long-awaited refresh of openbadges.org, the dissolution of the Badge Alliance, and the continued harmonisation with the work of the W3C Open Credentials work.

Having had this news previewed to me a couple of weeks ago, I can’t say it’s a huge surprise. Mozilla, with financial backing from the MacArthur Foundation incubated Open Badges and ensured that it was kept going. However, it’s been the enthusiasm and dedication of the community that has ensured its success.

Although I couldn’t make it to Bologna for the ePIC conference this week, I am at the Mozilla Festival this weekend. Both there, and over the next few months, I’m looking forward to working with the community to ensure that there’s a ‘human’ side to badges, to complement Open Badges as a technological  standard.

This is a new dawn for Open Badges, a new chapter in its successful, history. There’s so many people who have been, and continue to be, part of the story — certainly far too many to list here. But you know who you are, and today, as we celebrate the continued viability of a movement built upon a technical standard, I’m raising a glass to you all.

Image via Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Where I’ll be at MozFest 2016

This weekend it’s the Mozilla Festival, an event that brings together everyone interested in the open web. It’s an event I attended as a volunteer before I joined Mozilla, something I was involved with during my time as a paid contributor, and now I’m back as a community member.

My We Are Open co-op comrades and I are running three sessions over the weekend. Unfortunately, Laura can’t make it, but either Bryan, John, and I will be taking the lead on the following. The idea is that they work in their own right, but we’ve also worked with the organisers to ensure they form a kind of ‘arc’ for those who want to attend all three sessions!

The Thinkasprint: the art of thinking sideways

Saturday, 11:15am-12:45pm
Open Badges, Floor 8 – 801

In this session participants will be taken through a modified version of We Are Open Co-op’s ‘thinkathon’ approach, to help people think about knotty problems in an open, inclusive, and participatory way. The process involves as much drawing as it does thinking and writing, and is solution-oriented.

We use the wealth of experience that participants and facilitators have to take apart a problem and look at it from a different angle. We will go off at tangents and down rabbit holes, but that’s all part of the process!

Our starting point will be whatever issues participants bring to the table after our icebreaker activity, but we have a few ideas up our sleeves, such as Open Badges for employability, digital skills, and ‘passion projects’.

Digital Champions: scaffolding adult digital and web literacies with badges

Saturday, 3:15pm-4:00pm
Open Badges, Floor 1 – 101

This session will help attendees understand the concept of ‘flexible frameworks’, using examples from London Connected Learning Centre and Sussex Downs College. This draws on doteveryone’s Basic Digital Skills Framework and Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. It will be a conversation-led session with visual thoughts captured by Bryan Mathers.


Sunday, 11:00am-11:45am
Open Badges, Floor 8 – 801

Using the starting points of doteveryone’s Basic Digital Skills, Workplace Skills, and Digital Leadership Skills programmes, NCVO’s Skills Lab work, and London CLC’s Digital Champions Curriculum, this workshop will find commonalities, overlaps, and ways forward for badges-based flexible frameworks.

We’ll provide examples of existing programmes, badges and pathways and then work to flesh out, fill gaps and imagine new links and partnerships between established players as well as welcoming new entrants to the digital skills space. This will be a hands-on, practical session.

If you’re coming to MozFest, I hope you’ll join us for at least one session. If not (there’s so much going on!) then please do find us and say hello — I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter and will also keep an eye out on the @WeAreOpenCoop account.

Photo by Mozilla in Europe

Blockcerts are friends of Open Badges

This morning I read the latest news from MIT about their blockchain and badges project. It’s exciting news for those interested in high-stakes credentials such as university degrees. They’ve given this new standard a name: Blockcerts.

Many will think that this puts Blockcerts in competition with Open Badges, but, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Philipp Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation at the MIT Media Lab — and author of the post announcing Blockcerts — was one of the originators of Open Badges when he was at P2PU.

Schmidt writes:

Blockcerts provides a decentralized credentialing system. The Bitcoin blockchain acts as the provider of trust, and credentials are tamper-resistant and verifiable. Blockcerts can be used in the context of academic, professional, and workforce credentialing.


Certificates are open badges compliant, which is important, because there is an entire community of open badges issuers that we want to support, and because open badges is becoming an IMS standard.

He’s perhaps let the cat out of the bag with the last sentence. I’ve had conversations over the last few weeks which point to an upcoming Mozilla announcement in this regard.

Any way you look at it, this is a great move for those in the ecosystem. Blockcerts is Open Badges-compliant, and provides a solution for organisations dealing in high-stakes credentialing. I know the BadgeChain group will be pleased!

The thing that attracted me to Open Badges, and which remains my goal, is to explore alternative credentialing. While there’s definitely a need to move high-stakes credentialing into the digital realm, I’m interested in ways in which we can provide a much more holistic view of the learner.

Want to find out more about Open Badges? Check out the OB101 course that Bryan Mathers and I put together!

Weeknote 42/2016

  • Sending out Issue #233 of Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely focused on education, technology, and productivity. It featured links on CC0, broccoli, and ChromeOS alternatives, amongst other things. Many thanks to Makers Academy for sponsorship!
  • Recording and releasing Episode 65 (‘Licensing Educational Content’) of Today In Digital Education, my weekly podcast with co-host Dai Barnes.  This week we discussed Creative Commons Zero and educational licensing (main topic) as well as the Internet of Things, the best jobs for your personality type, and why learning to code shouldn’t be ‘fun’. You can join the community to discuss this episode of TIDE in our Slack channel!
  • Participating in Stoic Week 2016. You can see what I wrote in response to the prompts in the ‘writing’ section at the end of this post or by clicking here.
  • Meeting with Estelle Blanks from the Innovation Super Network and subsequently registering for VentureFest North East. I’m on a bit of a mission to get myself more connected and embedded in the region.
  • Talking with Simon Butt-Bethlendy about all things writing and consulting-related which I’m sure will lead to great things!
  • Catching up with Louise Thomas, now at the Innovation Unit, but who was at the RSA when we did some work with Keri Facer and others around ‘Education for the Apocalypse’.  The slides for the presentation Keri and I did around that at Learning Without Frontiers in 2012 are still available online. I’m hoping to collaborate with Louise on future projects.
  • Planning with my We Are Open comrades for the three sessions we’re running at the Mozilla Festival this year.
  • Offering my services to King Edward VI School, which not only is about 200 metres away from where I live in Morpeth, but also where my children will end up in a few years’ time! They were very keen on Open Badges, so watch this space!
  • Working on Chapter 2 (‘Nutrition’) of my audiobook, #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity. I’ll be releasing it soon, and those who have already bought into the book will get a free update (the price increases with each chapter I add…)
  • Booking the conference room at London Connected Learning Centre for a couple of workshops on Wednesday 7th December. More details soon!
  • Having a mini adventure at Boggle Hole near Robin Hood’s Bay. It was recommended to me as a good family getaway by a couple I met when climbing Helvellyn, and my children’s schools had a teacher training day on Friday. We spent almost exactly 24 hours away from home, from 16:00 on Thursday, to about the same time on Friday. It’s recently had a major refurbishment along a pirate them, and we had a great time! Recommended.
  • Writing:

Next week it’s half-term, so I’ll be working less at the start of the week and spending time with my family. At the end of the week I’ll be at MozFest, and very much looking to catching up with a whole range of people!

3 quick updates

Just a few things to share, briefly:

  1. Workshops — I’m going to be running  at least one workshop on Wednesday 7th December at London Connected Learning Centre. Save the date! More details soon, but the focus will be on digital skills / badges / working open.
  2. Consultancy — One of my clients hasn’t managed to secure the funding to do some work we’d planned before Christmas. That means I’ve got more availability that I expected in the next few weeks. Let me know if I can help! My consultancy site: dynamicskillset.com
  3. Audiobook — I’ve been working on Chapter 2 of #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity. Thanks to those who have given me positive feedback after being an ‘early adopter’ and listening to the first chapter on sleep.

Image by Jungwoo Hong

Weeknote 41/2016

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’ll be doing some more writing, preparing for MozFest, running a thinkathon with my We Are Open colleagues, and catching up with various people. Wondering if I can help you / your organisation? Get in touch!

On CC0

There’s a lot to unpack in this post by Alan Levine about his attempts to license (or un-license) his photographs with Creative Commons Zero (CC0). The way I think about these things is:

  • Standard copyright: “All Rights Reserved” — I do the innovation, you do the consumption.
  • Creative Commons licenses: “Some Rights Reserved” — I have created this thing, and you can use it under the following conditions.
  • CC0/Public Domain: “No Rights Reserved” — I have created this thing, and you can do whatever you like with it.

I’m not precious about my work. I donated my doctoral thesis to the public domain under a CC0 license (lobbying Durham University to ensure it was stored under the same conditions in their repository). My blog has, for the last five years at least, been CC0 — although I’d forgotten to add that fact to my latest blog theme until writing this post.

For me, the CC0 decision is a no-brainer. I’m working to make the world a better place through whatever talents and skills that I’ve got. While I want my family to live comfortably, I’m not trying to accumulate wealth. That’s not what drives me. So I definitely feel what Alan says that he’s “given up trying to be an attribution cop”.

I care about the commons, but want to shift the Overton window all the way over to a free sharing economy, rather stay fixated on copyright. To me, things like Creative Commons licenses are necessary to water down and mollify the existing extremely-litigious copyright industry. If I’ve got complete control over my work (as I do) then I’ll dedicate it to the public domain.

An aside: if you’re theory of change involves obligation, then you’re better off using the CC BY-SA license. Why? It means whoever uses your work not only has to cite you as the original author, but they must release their own work into the commons.


The thing is that despite this all being couched in legal language (which I’m very grateful to Creative Commons for doing) I’m never, in reality, going to have the time or inclination to be able to chase down anyone who doesn’t subsequently release a derivative work under an open license.

In my experience, reducing the barriers to people using your work means that it gets spread far and wide. Not only that, but the further it’s spread, the greater your real-world insurance policy that people won’t claim your work as their own. After all, the more people who have seen your work, the greater likelihood someone will cry ‘foul’ when someone tries to pass it off as their own.

RSS Feed and CC0 license at dougbelshaw.com/blog

So I’ll continue with my policy of licensing my work under the CC0 license. Not only does it mark out my work as belonging to a community that believes in the commons, but it’s a great conversation starter for people who might be commons-curious…

Image via CC0.press (just because you don’t have to attribute doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t!)

I’ve just released Chapter 1 of my new audiobook on productivity

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve written and recorded Chapter 1 of my new audiobook on productivity. Ostensibly, it’s a second version of my book from six years ago: #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity.

As usual, I’m using my OpenBeta publishing model, meaning that this product will get more expensive as I add more content. The earlier you buy into the process, the cheaper it is! If you buy Chapter 1 now, I’ll send you every iteration until it’s finished.

Chapter 1 is concerned with what I deem to be the most important of the three ‘pillars’ of productivity: Sleep. As I say in the introduction to the chapter, it’s a funny place to start as it’s literally the opposite of ‘getting things done’. However, that’s why it’s so important — as you’ll see!

Buy now for £1

(click the button to see the proposed chapter listing)

Need a sample? Here’s a two-minute intro:

Note: I’ll email existing backers and keep posting here when each new chapter is available. The ‘canonical’ page for this audiobook, however, is here. That will always be up-to-date!

Why It’s Time to Let Go of ‘Meritocracy’ [DML Central]

My latest post for DML Central was published yesterday. Entitled Why It’s Time to Let Go of ‘Meritocracy’, it’s an attempt to explain why a belief in something most people see as unproblematic can actually lead to unforeseen issues.

A sample:

Building an education system around ‘meritocracy’ as it is commonly used post-Thatcher may be a function of those in power being so privileged that they are not in a position to see their own privilege. Those who have never witnessed people having to work three jobs to keep their family afloat may not understand why parents can’t do more to coach their children through an entrance examination.

Click here to read the post in full.

I’ve closed comments here so that you can add yours to the original post. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts!

3 things we need for the next big frontier in Open Badges and digital credentials

Just less than a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Why the future remains bright for Open Badges. There had been some turmoil in the ecosystem, and the ‘horses’ looked like they were getting spooked. I used Gartner’s hype cycle as a ‘convenient hypocrisy’ to explain that, at that point in time, the badges community was on the downwards slope towards the Trough of Disillusionment.

Right now, I think we’re coming out of that trough. We’re beginning to see people and organisations looking beyond individual badges towards connected credentials. There’s also renewed interest in badges as creating local ecosystems of value. Not only is LRNG continuing to expand, but the RSA is actively exploring ways in which badges could connect learning experiences across towns and cities.

For me, the key thing about the web is identity-at-a-distance. When I’m in front of you, in person, then the ‘three-dimensionality’ of my existence isn’t in question. There’s something about the bandwidth of in-person communication that is reassuring. We don’t get that when projecting a digital image of ourselves.

As an educator, I think the great thing about Open Badges is that they are packaged-up ‘chunks’ of identity that can be put together like Lego bricks to tell the story of who a person is, and what they can do. The trouble is that we’re used to thinking in silos, so people’s (understandable) immediate reaction is “can I put my badges on LinkedIn/Facebook/somewhere else I already have an account”. While the short answer is, of course, “YES!” there’s a longer, more nuanced answer.

This longer answer pertains to a problem, which like invasive advertising as a business model, seems almost intractable on the web. How do we demonstrate the holistic, yet multi-faceted nature of our identities in online spaces?

I helped set up, but then withdrew from, a group of people looking at ways in which we could use blockchain technology with badges. The trouble is, as Audrey Watters so eloquently pointed out in The ideology of the blockchain, that the prevailing logic when both technologies are used together is be to double-down on high-stakes testing. I’d rather find a way that recognises and fits human flourishing, rather than reductively retro-fitting our experiences to suit The Machine.

3 things we need to move forward

As I often mention during my presentations, the problem with linking to a particular venture-capital backed social profile (even if it’s LinkedIn) is that it shows a very two-dimensional version of who you are.

1. Progression pathways

What we need is a platform (ideally, decentralised and built upon interoperable standards) that allows individuals to display the badges they have, the ones they want, and — through an online dashboard — a constellation map of paths they can follow to employment or levelling-up their skills.

I’m not mentioning particular vendors in this post, but I feel that there are several platforms that are moving towards this model.

2. Granular permissions

Something else which would help on the identity front is the separation of badge display from badge evidence store. In the same way that YouTube allows you granular permissions over who has access to your videos, so platforms should allow you to make your badges public, but, if required, restrict access to linked evidence.

The only examples of this I’ve seen are people taking this into their own hands, by ensuring that the web address for the evidence going into the badge is under their own control. For example, if you put evidence in Google Docs, you can make that URL be entirely private, shared with specific people, publicly accessible, or fully searchable.

3. Long-term storage

We’re at the stage now where there are large enough vendors within the badges ecosystem to be ensure the long-term survival of digital credentials based on an open metadata standard. However, individual vendors come and go, and some ‘pivot’ towards and away from particular platforms.

For individuals, organisations, and institutions to be confident of establishing their long-term identity through badges, it’s important that the demise or pivot of a particular vendor does not unduly effect them.

The best way to do this that I’ve come up with is for there to be a non-profit explicitly focused on ‘deep-freeze’ storage of digital credentials, based on a sustainable business model. I know that there were conversations with the Internet Archive when I was at Mozilla, and there’s definitely a business opportunity using Amazon Glacier or similar.

Next steps

I often talk about solutions that ‘raise all of the ships in the harbour’. It’s relatively straightforward to build a platform that extracts the most amount of money out of customers. That’s a very short-term play. Open Badges is an open metadata standard that connects everyone together.

These three suggestions will allow the Open Badges ecosystem become an even more flourishing marketplace of digital credentials. For employers, it means they are not forced to use chunky ‘proxies’ such as degrees or high school diplomas when they’re looking for a particular combination of skillsets/mindsets. Educational institutions can return to being places of learning rather than examination factories. And, perhaps most importantly, individuals can show what they know and can do, in a flexible, holistic, market-responsive way.

New to Open Badges? Bryan Mathers and I put together this community course to help you get up-to-speed with the basics.

I consult on identifying, developing, and credentialing digital skills as Dynamic Skillset, which is a part of We Are Open co-op. I’m looking to partner with organisations looking to use Open Badges as the ‘glue’ to build learner identity on the web. With my We Are Open colleagues, we’ve already got one City Council exploring this, and we’d like to talk to more forward-thinking people.

Get in touch: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com / doug@nullweareopen.coop