Category: Education (page 2 of 56)

Deliberate Practice and Digital Literacies [DMLcentral]

Deliberate Practice and Digital Literacies

My latest post for DMLcentral was published while I was away on holiday this week. It’s entitled Deliberate Practice and Digital Literacies and in it I apply some of the insights from Kathy Sierra’s book Badass: Making Users Awesome.

Read the post

Comments are closed here, but I’ve cross-posted to Medium, so you’re welcome to recommend or reply there, as well as at DMLcentral.

Note: the Medium version of this post has a great ‘fried egg’ image created by Bryan Mathers that’s much better than my attempt in the original article!

A Decentralized System for Education and Assessment

A few months ago I wrote a post for DMLcentral entitled Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing. In it, I was looking at the possibilities of the blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin.

More recently, I’ve been looking at Ethereum, ‘crypto-fuel’ that can create new, autonomous systems and so I asked on Twitter:

I looked further into the website Gordon suggested: A Decentralized System for Education and Assessment. It’s an interesting, if slightly technocratic and techno-solutionist, read. Here’s a flavour:

The long term goal is the foundation of a fair, just, and meritocratic society, in which individuals, regardless of personal factors, have the freedom to learn and grow with each other, judged solely on individual achievements. The society would function on a ruleset unalterable by any malicious centralized power, categorizing the skillsets of each individual and giving others the information necessary to place those individuals within society. This provides the basis for a society based on action and fact, with each individual serving their best role in the larger whole.

I emailed Jared, the guy behind the site asking how I could help (I’d already submitted a pull request to make a minor update to the site). He replied that the work “is still very preliminary” with the two big decisions currently being:

  1. What kind of channel to set up for primary communication
  2. Which platform to build on (Ethereum, Eris Stack, Forking bitcoin or tendermint?, etc)

He’s open to other ideas, too, with the best place to discuss all this on this subreddit. I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to jump into the conversation there.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Bryan Mathers

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape, I attempt to clear up some confusion in the Open Badges landscape about various terms.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the early days of talking about Open Badges, I feel that we conflated several important points: the ability to issue micro credentials, bypassing traditional gatekeepers to learning, and the Open Badges standard itself. What I’ve tried to do in this post is, to some degree, begin to tease these apart. The important innovation is the interoperability and standards-based approach.

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to leave them on the original post.

Click here to read in full on DMLcentral

 

Identifying, scaffolding, and credentialing skills in an ever-changing digital environment [#celt15]

The recording of my keynote at last month’s #celt15 conference in Galway is now available. I had a great time over there talking about digital literacies, Open Badges, learning pathways, and more!

If you don’t see embedded media above and below, you’ll need to click through on these links:

Note: the place the organisers originally posted it requires Flash so I’ve re-uploaded it to YouTube. If you’d like to comment on this, please do so over at their original post!

Setting an Agile School Rhythm [DMLcentral]

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. I’ve been thinking about agile workflows and team productivity a lot recently and, in this post, I attempt to apply it to (formal) education environment. Give it a read and see if you think it works!

Click here to read

Thanks again to Bryan Mathers for the great header image!

Note: I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to reply on the original post.

The Increasing Significance of Social Media in the Learner Journey [FE Week]

The latest issue of FE Week features a supplement from City & Guilds. I’m consulting almost full-time with C&G until September, so I was delighted to be asked to collaborate with Bryan Mathers on this article (as well as the one I shared yesterday!)

Use social media platforms with your eyes wide open

With the exception of perhaps Snapchat, the extended moral panic around social media seems to be coming to an end. It’s therefore a good time to take stock of what the last ten years have brought us in terms of connecting with one another through technology – and how we might be best able to use social media for learning.

Interestingly, although new services pop up on a regular basis, it’s increasingly the case that social media incumbents quickly purchase their emerging competitors. For example, the messaging platforms WhatsApp and Instagram were purchased by Facebook, while Twitter has bought a whole host of smaller companies including TweetDeck and the video livestreaming platform Periscope. With the billions being spent in these deals, it’s worth remembering that there are a whole host of smaller, independent, open source alternatives out there that better respect your privacy (e.g. Telegram and Cryptocat).

Despite well-founded concerns around corporate and government surveillance when using social media platforms, there are nevertheless a number of unique opportunities that they provide. We should use these platforms with our eyes open, and encourage learners to do likewise. The following three advantages of social media presuppose teaching in a way that includes social media as part of the everyday learner journey.

1. Access to expertise

With the best will in the world, we as educators cannot be experts in everything we teach. One thing that social networks have brought us is the ability to follow the everyday work and contact people who, in previous generations, would have been inaccessible. Students can follow debates that public intellectuals and experts in a particular field are having today. This can lend a vibrancy and freshness to learning that textbooks and other ‘static’ media cannot provide.

This expertise can also be tailored. There are countless examples of experts leading and participating in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). What’s more, many of these experts, particularly in the field of education, are incredibly generous with their time, interacting with both teachers and students around the world. Social media has truly democratised access to expertise.

2. Developing professional networks

The equivalent of the ‘little black book’ from days past can now been seen as the professional networks built by an individual. Professional social networking is often seen as the preserve of sites such as LinkedIn but, increasingly, we’re seeing this as more than merely a graphical front end on an email database. There are other, more nimble ways of communicating. For example, ‘tweetchats’ around a hashtag are a way to bring together people interested in the same topic for a short and intense period of time. The best known of these are #edchat (global) and #ukedchat (UK-specific) but there a whole host of these listed in this blog post. Some are subject/stage-specific.

Professional networks are important for teachers, but they’re extremely important for learners looking for their first job, or those attempting to move into their next job. In a time of funding pressures and a focus on employability, introducing learners to professional networks is an increasingly-important role for teachers. Learning is about both what you know and who you know, providing the opportunity to translate knowledge and skills into action.

3. Teacher automation

While a phrase such as ‘teacher automation’ sounds somewhat dystopian, one thing that technology is particularly good at is freeing humans from repetitive, routine tasks. For example, Sian Bayne and teachers on Edinburgh University’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC created a ‘bot’ that was programmed to respond to very particular queries posed by students. Using the hashtag #edcmooc the bot responded in an ‘if this then that’ way to queries such as ‘When is the first assignment due?’

One of the biggest reasons teachers give for leaving the profession is administrative workload. If we can help mitigate that through the appropriate use of technology, then we should. Semi-autonomous agents (i.e. ‘bots’) provide one way in which we can shift our focus from routine and repetitive tasks towards thinking about learning in new ways.

Conclusion

From a ‘slightly odd’ thing to do ten years ago, social media has become one of the primary ways in which we interact with friends, family, peers, colleagues, and learners. The networks we use to communicate all have benefits and drawbacks, inbuilt biases and tendencies. However, the question is not whether we should use these platforms, but how.

The most forward-thinking organisations and institutions are thinking about the ways social media can simultaneously improve the learner journey, reduce teacher workload, and drive down costs. Doing so takes a change in mindset and having to learn new things, but as educators that’s exactly what we should be modelling to learners.

Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

The Increasing Significance of Technology in Further Education [FE Week]

The latest issue of FE Week features a supplement from City & Guilds. I’m currently spending pretty much all my time consulting with them at the moment, so I was delighted to be asked to collaborate with Bryan Mathers on this article as well as another (which I’ll post tomorrow).

Can you adapt to a changing landscape?

It goes without saying that this is a time of unprecedented change in Further Education. This is perhaps most evident in changes around funding but, in addition, an increasing drive towards data-informed decision making means the whole landscape is changing. At times such as these, it’s easy to feel powerless and it’s tempting to fall back on what we know – the tried and tested. However, as Darwin pointed out:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Change is part of life. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes slowly. On some occasions it’s imposed, and at other times it happens organically. However change happens, we should be ready for it and use it to our advantage. In other words, depending on our stance towards it, the uncertainty that change provides can be viewed as either a problem or as an opportunity.

Particularly during times of change, technology is often presented as a panacea, a cure-all to the problems we’re facing. For example, there are possibly hundreds of solutions promising to ‘fix’ your issues around:

  • student retainment
  • efficiency savings
  • learner attainment

However, by itself, technology rarely provides a holistic solution or way forward. Rather, it is people and culture that drive change within organisations. Human agency remains key.

Technology is useful. There are certain affordances it provides that can greatly help us. These technologies are often those that we consider commonplace. For example, we (and especially students) take for granted the use of free instant messaging apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram – or video conferencing tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime. As the author and educator Clay Shirky states, “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

We don’t have to jump on the latest shiny technology, trying to retro-fit it into learning and teaching practices. Doing so is rarely beneficial. Instead, we should use increasingly-mature technologies to streamline and/or extend the core mission of educational organisations. One such example of this might be Open Badges. This is a global, interoperable system that allows for the trusted issue, exchange, and display of digital credentials.

Adaptability

There are many FE colleges – particularly in the North-East of England and Scotland – who have begun experimenting with Open Badges. The technology itself includes a built-in audit trail making verification easier, but the crucial difference between those using badges successfully and those not at all is organisational culture and people’s mindsets. Those places set up to embrace change understand that colleagues require at least two things to be successful when integrating any new technology:

1. Space to breathe – can colleagues ‘play’ with technologies without fear of an impact on their workload or professional identity?
2. License to innovate – will colleagues be sanctioned for stepping outside the status quo?

One of the most valuable things that educators can be given is time to reflect on their practice. For example, thinking about ways in which Open Badges can be used in a local context often acts as a ‘trojan horse’ for much wider professional conversations. At City & Guilds we’re using Open Badges as a conversation starter to think about the way we issue qualifications and credentials beyond 2015. All of us are faced with a changing landscape, and we can choose to spot opportunities as well as identify problems.

There’s no doubt that, whether it’s learning analytics, big data, badges, communications technologies, or something else, there will always be technological determinists as well as doom-mongers. Happily, the future is not fixed, it’s wide open. We can choose to adopt a playful, yet professional, stance towards technology – recognising it as a strand of equal weight with culture and people.

Images CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

Claim your Kanban 101 badge!

Kanban 101 badgeYesterday, in HOWTO: Trello Kanban I showed how to use Trello for a Kanban-style workflow. It’s already proved to be one of the most popular posts I’ve written this year, and was picked up by the Trello team!

To me, the logical next step is to issue an Open Badge for getting started with a Trello-based Kanban system. That’s why I’ve created the Kanban 101 badge.

It’s deliberately low-bar. All you have to do is:

  • Set up a Trello account
  • Create a new board with (at least) three lists: To do, Doing, and Done
  • Add cards for new actions
  • Share a screenshot or link to their board being used in practice

If you get stuck, you can always watch the screencast I recorded yesterday!


Not received an Open Badge before? There’s more about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) here. Once you’ve earned the Kanban 101 badge you’ll be given the option to ‘push’ it to the Mozilla backpack:

Kanban badge acceptance

I’m using p2pu.org to issue badges as they’ve got a really nice traffic light-based flow for reviewing evidence.

Claim your Kanban 101 badge now!

(note that this is in no way affiliated with Trello, I’m just a fan!)

Web Literacy: what happens beyond peak centralisation and software with shareholders?

There’s no TIDE podcast this week, so I thought I’d record a blog post today. Here’s the abstract:

We’re at peak centralisation of our data in online services, with data as the new oil. It’s a time of ‘frictionless sharing’, but also a time when we’re increasingly having decisions made on our behalf by algorithms. Education is now subject to a land grab by ‘software with shareholders’ looking to profit from collecting, mining, packaging, and selling learner data. This article explores some of the issues at stake, as well as pointing towards the seeds of a potential solution.

The Code Acts in Education blog I mention in the introduction to this piece can be found here and Ben Williamson is @BenPatrickWill on Twitter.

Comments (once you’ve listened!) much appreciated. I’ve still got time to re-work this… 🙂

(no audio? click here!)

References

Belshaw, D.A.J. (2014a). Software with shareholders (or, the menace of private public spaces). Doug Belshaw’s blog. 23 April 2014. http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2014/04/23/software-with-shareholders.

Belshaw, D.A.J. (2014b). Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society. DMLcentral. 23 October 2014. http://dmlcentral.net/blog/doug-belshaw/curate-or-be-curated-why-our-information-environment-crucial-flourishing-democracy.

Dixon-Thayer, D. (2015). Mozilla View on Zero-Rating. Open Policy & Advocacy Blog. Mozilla. 5 May 2015. https://blog.mozilla.org/netpolicy/2015/05/05/mozilla-view-on-zero-rating.

Flew, T. (2008). New Media: An Introduction (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Gillula, J. & Malcolm, J. (2015). Internet.org Is Not Neutral, Not Secure, and Not the Internet. Deeplinks Blog. Electronic Frontier Foundation. 18 May 2015. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/05/internetorg-not-neutral-not-secure-and-not-internet.

Kramer, A.D.I., Guillory, J.E., Hancock, J.T. (2014) Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United Sates of America. 111(24).

McNeal, G.S. (2014). Facebook Manipulated User News Feeds To Create Emotional Responses. Forbes. 28 June 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2014/06/28/facebook-manipulated-user-news-feeds-to-create-emotional-contagion

Mozilla. (2015). Web Literacy Map v1.1. https://teach.mozilla.org/teach-like-mozilla/web-literacy

Thorp, J. (2012). Big Data Is Not the New Oil. Harvard Business Review. 30 November 2012. https://hbr.org/2012/11/data-humans-and-the-new-oil.

Image CC BY-NC Graham Chastney

An exciting week for Open Badges

Earlier this week, IMS Global announced “an initiative to establish Digital Badges as common currency for K-20 and corporate education.” By ‘digital badges’, the post makes clear, they mean Open Badges. Along with the W3C work around OpenCreds and new platforms popping up everywhere it’s exciting times!

You’d be forgiven for needing some definition of terms here. Erin Knight’s post on the significance of the IMS Global announcement is also helpful.

  • Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI)– a method to issue, exchange, and display metadata-infused digital credentials based on open technologies and platforms.
  • IMS Global – the leading international educational technology standards body.
  • K-20 – kindergarten through to graduate degree (in other words, the totality of formal education)
  • OpenCreds – a W3C initiative to standardise the exchange and storage of digital credentials. Open Badges is being fast-tracked as an example of this.
  • W3C – the World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards body for the web.

The recent explosion of interest in badges is fascinating. Back in 2011 the rhetoric of the nascent Open Badges community was around badges replacing university degrees. This hasn’t happened – much as MOOCs haven’t replaced university courses. Instead of either/or it’s and/and/and. This is the way innovation works.

The initial grant-funding for badges was mainly in the US and has largely come to an end. What we’re seeing now is real organic growth. We’re in the situation where incumbents realise the power of badges. Either through fear of losing market share or through a genuine desire to innovate, they’re working on ways to use badges to support their offer.

We’ll see a lot of interesting work over the next couple of years. There will be some high-value, nuanced, learner-centric badge pathways that come out of this. On the other hand, there may be some organisations that go out of existence. I’m currently working with City & Guilds, an 800-pound gorilla in the world of apprenticeships and work-based learning. They’re exploring badges – as is every awarding and credentialing body I can think of.

Whatever happens, it’s not only a time of disruption to the market, but a time of huge opportunity to learners. Never before have we had an globally-interoperable way of credentialing knowledge, skills, and behaviours that removes the need for traditional gatekeepers.

If you’re interested in getting started with Open Badges, you might be interested in:

Do get in touch if I can help!


* BadgeCub is an extremely straightforward but experimental service that should probably just be used for testing. The ‘assertions’ will disappear after a while so it’s not a long-term solution!

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