Author: Doug Belshaw (page 1 of 182)

#BelshawBlacksOps16 (Pt.2) has begun. See you in 2017!

As usual, I’m taking December off from social media, personal email, blogging, podcast-recording, and newsletter-writing. You may still see some of my stuff published if I’m doing some work for a client, but that’s it. You can still contact me via my Dynamic Skillset or We Are Open Co-op email addresses, but keep it work-related please.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to my digital hiatus this year. What a year 2016 has been! I think we’re all suffering from mild collective  PTSD. I’ll be spending December resting more, spending more time with my family, and taking the opportunity to think more deeply about things I’ve put on hold for too long.

If you’ve got some potential work for me in early 2017, please do get in touch before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed helping clients with a whole range of things this year — edtech strategy, digital skills/literacies, Open Badges. I guess, in general, I translate things that could be seen as complicated into things that are easier to understand.

One of the best things to have happened this year is that a few of us founded a co-op called We Are Open. That’s been a ray of sunshine in a year of trouble within the wider world. So my joyful thanks to co-founders Bryan, John, and Laura for keeping me sane.

My biggest thank you, however, is reserved for my wonderful wife, who not only has had to come to terms with the ups-and-downs of me being self-employed over the last 18 months, but has stepped up to do the admin and finances for both my consultancy and the co-op. Thank you, Hannah. You’re awesome.

See you all in 2017! If you tend to celebrate them, I hope you enjoy both Christmas and New Year.

Weeknote 47/2016

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’m working from home on Monday morning, and then travelling to London in the afternoon. From there, I’ll be working with Sussex Downs College on Tuesday, then heading to Jersey again on Wednesday to work with Victoria College on Thursday/Friday.

A reminder that #BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.2 begins next week. That means that this is my final weeknote of the year!

Weeknote 46/2016

This week I’ve been:

  • Missing my Kindle Paperwhite, which I left on a flight last week. I was so keen to get home, I left it in the pocket of the seat in front of me. That’s really thrown out my daily reading regime, which has had a knock-on effect on the rest of each day this week. It just goes to show the power of routines!
  • Reading, writing, and thinking about things that aren’t quite ready for public consumption yet.
  • Meeting with various people, including a representative of the Education department in Jersey, Sarah Horrocks from London CLC, Wayne Skipper of Concentric Sky,  my We Are Open colleagues, and Steve Regur from Educators Co-op.
  • Sleeping more than usual. I’m tired. It’s that time of year. I prefer the weather in the UK during British Summer Time, to be honest. I’m looking forward to my December hiatus.
  • Pitching a newsletter to potential sponsors. I’m either retiring, or re-imagining my Thought Shrapnel newsletter in 2017 as I want to focus in on key areas rather than provide one ‘general’ newsletter.
  • Recording and releasing Episode 69 (‘Liar, Liar, Facebook on Fire’) of Today In Digital Education, my weekly podcast with co-host Dai Barnes.  This week we discussed Facebook, the US election, and algorithms (main topic) as well as encrypting your life, Elon Musk, co-operative schools, and Finnish education. You can join the community to discuss this episode of TIDE in our Slack channel!
  • Sending out Issue #237 of Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely focused on education, technology, and productivity. It featured, among other things, taking election results like a Stoic, and competing with yourself. Many thanks to Makers Academy for sponsorship!
  • Setting up a Google Hangout for our Why badges? webinar next Tuesday. It’s We Are Open’s first collaboration with Educators Co-op!
  • Leaving Facebook. I’ve had enough. Again. I’m also looking at moving my personal email to ProtonMail and generally protecting myself in the wake of Trump’s impending control of the NSA.

Next week looks like this: On Monday I’m drafting my monthly posts for DML Central and The Nasstarian, as well as writing posts for the management section of NewCo Shift. Tuesday is ‘co-op day’ for We Are Open, so Laura, John, Bryan, and I will be collaborating all day on projects and plans. We’re also running the webinar mentioned above. Then, on Wednesday, I head to Jersey, visiting a school on the island that afternoon. On Thursday and Friday I’m working on digital strategy stuff with Victoria College.

I’ve got some availability week beginning 12th December for workshops, writing, and coaching. Get in touch if I can help!

We’re running a webinar next week on badges, and you’re invited

Update: you can now view an edited version of the YouTube Live stream via the We Are Open YouTube channel.


When I was over in Los Angeles earlier this year, I met some great people who seemed to share similar interests to our gang at We Are Open Co-op. Lo and behold, it turns out that Steve Regur and Amy McCammon are co-founders of Educators Co-op. We, of course, started planning how we could work together (in accordance with Principle 6), and continued the conversation at the Mozilla Festival a few weeks ago.

The upshot is that we’re going to get started on our co-operative journey  by running an introductory webinar on Open Badges next Tuesday at 4pm UTC. The link to point people towards is http://weareopen.coop/webinars. I’ll be facilitating the conversation which will begin with the Bluffer’s Guide to Open Badges slide deck we used at MozFest.

We’ve set a low-bar target of 10 participants for this initial collaboration, but are, of course, expecting more will turn up. Future webinars will move from discussing the basics of badges to more advanced topics, including including how to join our co-operatives, scaffolding digital skills, and more!

Click here to sign up for the webinar

PS This is the perfect link to forward to your colleagues with whom you’ve been wanting to have that conversation about badges. Why not come along together?

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 (Part 2)

In a little over two weeks it will be December. For those who have followed my work for a year or more, you know what that means: I go ‘dark’. No personal email, blogging, or newsletter from me for the entire month.

I’ll still be working, so remain available via my consultancy, Dynamic Skillset, as well as via my We Are Open co-op email address. You may see the occasional article that clients have paid me to write popping up via various channels, too. The important thing is that I step out of the stream for a while, going more ‘read-only’.


While I’ve got your attention, I’d like to give you a quick heads-up that things will be changing with my weekly newsletter. I’ve enjoyed putting together Thought Shrapnel during the last few years, but Issue #239, going out on 27th November 2016 will be the last in its current format.

Why? Well, I’ve currently got over 1,500 subscribers and have attracted sponsorship over the last 18 months, but list growth has plateaued and I’m itching to do something different. If you’re subscribed my newsletter, don’t worry, I’ll let you know what’s coming next. It might involve several ‘pop-up’ newsletters; I’m not quite sure yet.

Also, given how out-of-touch I’ve felt with such a large part of the world after the results of the EU referendum and US election, I may do something fairly dramatic with my use of social networking. I’m unlikely to quit anything completely, but I can envisage unfollowing everyone I currently follow on Twitter and starting again in that regard. We’ll see.

The great thing about disconnecting for a while — over and above spending more time with family and avoiding showing my grumpy side — is that it provides the time to reflect on my current ‘ways of being’ in digital spaces. I always contemplate not coming back at all after my time away but, when I do return, feel that I tend to use technology more intentionally.

Anyway, I’ll be around for the next couple of weeks. Let me know if you need anything before then!

Image by Rodion Kutsaev

Weeknote 45/2016

This week I’ve been:

Next week, I’ll be mostly at home, writing. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with!

Emailhello@nulldynamicskillset.com

Image CC BY David Blaikie

Utopia, pedagogy, and G-Suite for Education

This week, I’ve been over in Jersey helping a school with their educational technology. In particular, I’ve been doing some training on G-Suite for Education (as Google now call what used to be ‘Google Apps’). The main focus has been Google Classroom but, as this is basically a front-end for the rest of G-Suite, we spilled out into other areas.

A bit of history

I first used G-Suite for Education back when I was a classroom teacher. We didn’t have it rolled out across the school but, back then, and in the school I was in, I was left to just get on with it. So I can remember being administrator, sorting out student accounts, forgotten passwords, and the like. The thing that impressed me, though, was the level of collaboration it encouraged and engendered.

Then, when I became Director of E-Learning of a new 3,000 student, nine site Academy in 2010, I rolled out G-Suite for Education for all 500 members of staff. It worked like a dream, especially given some of the friction there was harmonising different MIS and VLE configurations. The thing that I valued most back then was the ability to instantly communicate between sites by using a tool which has now morphed into ‘Hangouts’.

At that time, I was a bit of a pioneer in the use of Google’s educational tools, which is why Tom Barrett and I, along with some others in our network, were ‘Lead Learners’ at the first UK Google Teacher Academy. That’s grown and grown in the intervening period, while I’ve been working in Higher Education, at Mozilla, and consulting.

Back to the future

Fast forward to the present, and we’re in a very different educational technology landscape. Where once there seemed to be new, exciting services popping up every week, the post-2008 economic crash landscape is dominated by large shiny silos. The dominant players are Google, Microsoft, and Apple — although the latter’s offering seems less all-encompassing than the other two.

I have to say that I’m a bit biased in favour of Google’s tools. I’m not a big fan of their business model, although that’s a moot point in education given that students and staff don’t see adverts. It’s a much more ‘webby’ experience than other platforms I’ve used.

The more I get back into using G-Suite for Education the more I appreciate that Google doesn’t prescribe a certain pedagogy. The approach seems to be that, while particular apps like Classroom allow you to do some things in a certain way, there’s always other ways of achieving the same result. It’s also extensible: there’s loads of apps that you can add via the Marketplace.

So what?

OK, so that’s all very well and good, but what has that got to do with you, dear reader? Why should you care about my experiences and views on Google’s education offerings?

Well, a couple of things, I suppose. First, in relation to my 7 approaches to educational technology integration post, I feel like there’s some really easy ways to move staff up the SAMR model towards the ‘transformational’ type of technology use we want to see. One thing I’ve been focusing on recently, is explaining the mental models behind technologies. In other words, rather than telling people where to click, I’m explaining the concepts behind what it is there doing, as well as situations in which it might be helpful. How they teach is up to them; I’m providing them with skillsets and mindsets to give them more options.

Second, I feel like there’s a huge opportunity to integrate Open Badges with G-Suite for Education. It seems pretty straightforward to build upon Google’s platform to provide the email addresses of who should be issued a badge, as well as the environment in which badge issuing would be triggered.

I’m thinking through a badging system for one of my clients at the moment, built upon the usual things I emphasise: non-linear pathways, individual choice, and an element of surprise. In that regard, I’m planning on starting with something like a ‘Classroom Convert’ badge that recognises that staff are developing mindsets around the use of Google Classroom, as well as skillsets.

There are, of course, ways in which staff can go ‘full Google’ and become (as I am) a Google Certified Teacher, and so on. That’s not what this is. My aim in any badge system is to encourage particular types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Whatever system I come up with will be co-designed and go beyond just the use of G-Suite for Education. As the TPACK model emphasises, the system will have a more holistic focus: integrating the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge required for purposeful educational technology integration.

Utopia

Ideally, I’d like an approach where students can use something like Unhosted apps to bring their own data store to the applications they choose to use when collaborating with their teachers and fellow students. I’d like to see them have a domain of their own, and learn enough code to have real agency in online digital spaces.

While I’ve got that in mind, I’m also a pragmatist. The tools Google provides through G-Suite for Education, while not world-changing, do move the Overton Window in terms of what’s possible in technology integration. Even just working collaboratively on a single Google Doc is pretty mindblowing to people who haven’t done this before.

7 approaches to educational technology integration

I’m working with Victoria College, a school in Jersey, at the moment. They’re new to digital strategy, so I’ve been sharing some models that can be useful when thinking in this regard.

1. The OODA loop

OODA loop

Much more generally applicable than just to educational technology integration, and pioneered in the military, the OODA loop is useful when thinking about where to get started.

What I particularly like is that it starts with observation, and places great emphasis on context and feedback.

2. The SOLO taxonomy

SOLO taxonomy

SOLO stands for Structure of Observed Learning Outcome and focuses on five levels of understanding, from ‘pre-structural’ through to ‘extended abstract’. I reference this model in my book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, which is where the above diagram comes from.

The idea is that competence is scaffolded and goes from understanding some aspects, through to the relation between them, and finally, applying that knowledge to a new domain.

3. The SAMR model

SAMR model

Although I’ve seen some recent pushback, I still think that the SAMR model is a useful frame to use for educational technology integration. The idea is that we move beyond technology that merely substitutes for previous analogue examples.

What I like about this model is that it takes minimal explanation, and can serve as an aspirational goal for both individual educators, and whole establishments. This is another diagram from my book.

4. The TPACK framework

TPACK framework

TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. At its heart, it’s a Venn diagram, showing the overlap between technology, pedagogy, and content, but, again, I like the use of ‘context’ wrapping around the whole thing.

This framework is useful when explaining the importance of technology as an integrated part of a wider institutional/organisational strategy. The overlaps between each circle are also handy for identifying different streams of work.

5. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle

Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

While I think we can agree that Kolb’s ‘learning styles’ theory was off-the-mark, his experiential learning cycle is definitely worth exploring further in terms of educational technology integration.

As with other models, there’s a balance between doing and reflection, but — and this is where there’s a clear link to the SOLO taxonomy — Kolb’s emphasises the importance of ‘abstract conceptualisation’.

6. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

ZPD

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a very simple approach to scaffolding learning. It sits between what the learner current cannot do and what they can do unaided. In other words, the ZPD is where maximal learning is happening.

Again, this is a simple approach which most educators should already know about. My father used to talk about it all the time when I was younger and he was doing his postgraduate studies! It’s useful for thinking about scaffolding staff/student digital skills.

7. The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own work, the product of the years of work that went into my doctoral thesis. It’s a synthesis of what came out of a meta-analysis of digital literacy approaches and frameworks.

There’s eight skillsets (the top row) and eight mindsets (bottom row). In my book and TEDx talk, I explain the importance of co-creating definitions of digital literacies, and placing emphasis on context. In terms of educational technology integration, I think the ‘mindsets’ are often skipped over.


I’m well aware that there are other approaches out there, and no doubt some I’ve never heard of. That being said, these are the models I currently find most helpful when working with clients. What have I missed?

Image by Paolo Carrolo

Open Badges, BlockCerts, and high-stakes credentialing

I was in a conversation this morning with some people seemingly from the four corners of the earth, who were exploring Open Badges, blockchain technologies, and other developments with a view to building a new platform. My introduction to the group came through Vinay Gupta, who’s not only a extremely clear thinker, but a great connector, too.

Now that badges are what Clay Shirky would call technologically “boring enough to be socially interesting”, people naturally want to think about them in relation to the next big thing. For many people, that ‘next big thing’ is blockchain.

There’s a whole series of rabbitholes to go down if you interested in blockchain-related technologies. In fact, doing so is as fascinating from a learning-about-neolibertarianism angle as it is about new technologies. However, for the purposes of this (education-related) post, it’s enough to say that blockchain is a ‘supply-side’ technology, that allows vendors, platforms, and intermediaries a way of verifying ownership or that ‘something’ happened at a particular time. You should, of course, read the outcome of Audrey Watters’ research project.

MIT have recently launched BlockCerts, which I discussed on this blog recently as being friends of Open Badges. That’s the great thing about open specifications: they play nicely with one another. However, just to clarify my position on this (and it is just an opinion), the thing that blockchain-based credentials are good for is in high stakes situations. I’d be happy for my doctoral certificate, for example, to be on the blockchain. That seems like a good use case.

Where I don’t think that blockchain-based credentials are a good idea are for the more holistic (‘weird and wonderful’) credentials that I might want to earn. These show different facets of who I am, rather than putting everything in the academic, high-stakes bucket. In fact, this is the reason I became interested in badges in the first place.

At a time when major employers are saying that they’re more interested in what people can do rather than their high-stakes credentials, it seems strange that we’re doubling down on the digital equivalent of degree certificates.

Would I use and recommend BlockCerts in my work with clients? Absolutely! But only if what was required involved either zero trust between the parties involved in the ecosystem, or high-stakes credentials. For everything else, the verifiable, evidence-based claims of the Open Badges metadata standard work just fine.

Weeknote 44/2016

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #235 of Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely focused on education, technology, and productivity. It featured, among other things, monsters of edtech, legacy ports, and daybook journaling. Many thanks to Makers Academy for sponsorship!
  • Recording and releasing Episode 67 (‘Working open’) of Today In Digital Education, my weekly podcast with co-host Dai Barnes.  This week we discussed working ‘open’ (main topic) as well as our experiences of the 2016 Mozilla Festival, my new writing, the new MacBook Pro, the inevitability of being hacked, hypernormalisation, and working remotely. You can join the community to discuss this episode of TIDE in our Slack channel!
  • Recovering from a combination of MozFest and the clocks going back to GMT. I have to say that the period between now and Christmas is my least favourite of the year. This year it’s worse because we haven’t taken our usual holiday in Malta/Gozo to get some sunshine.
  • Cancelling my gym membership after they hiked the price up 50%. It’s not so much that the actual price is so high in comparison with other gyms, it’s just the lack of investment means I don’t think it’s necessarily good value. I guess it’s a protest. My wife has joined a different gym, I’m just going to do weights at home and run more (as I found the problem was actually around raising my heart rate too high, not running per se)
  •  Composing a batch of NewCo Shift GSD posts which will be published over the next week or so.
  • Researching, recording, editing, and releasing Chapter 2 of #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity. This update was all about nutrition which I’ve mostly got nailed, although the day before recording I actually managed to eat three egg custards in a row…
  • Debriefing MozFest with my We Are Open co-operators, Bryan Mathers and John Bevan.
  • Running (with Bryan) a Thinkathon for Sunderland City Council around some plans they’ve got to build a consortium to design and deliver a badge-based skills passport.
  • Writing:

Next week I’m working from home on Monday, attending VentureFest on Tuesday, travelling on Wednesday, and then working with Victoria College in Jersey on Thursday/Friday.

Image CC BY-NC Jeff Wallace

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