Page 2 of 184

Join us in London on February 15th for BADGE BOOTCAMP!

Update: We’ve cancelled this workshop as we didn’t get enough sign-ups to make it viable. We’ll be launching something with the same name on the same day — stay tuned!

In yesterday’s webinar, my colleagues and I at We Are Open Co-op announced a live, in-person Open Badges workshop. We’re holding it in London on February 15th.


Early-bird tickets are now available and likely to sell pretty quickly, as we’re limiting them to ensure quality of interaction.

We’ll be covering:

  • What are Open Badges – and where did they come from?
  • How people are using badges in many different sectors
  • When it’s a good badges are a great idea – and
  • Why badges are the answer to lots of different problems
  • Who to connect to in the Open Badges community, and where

More details, including ticket prices, are on the Eventbrite page. I’d love to see you there! If you’ve got questions, ask them in the comments below, or tweet @dajbelshaw / @WeAreOpenCoop

Weeknote 02/2017

This week I’ve been:

  • Inundated with requests to run workshops, deliver keynotes, and become a critical friend to projects. From London, to Rome, Toronto, Belfast, and a place I’d never previously heard of in Germany, it would seem that everyone’s back to work and wants my services.
  • Putting together proposals for the above. Pricing is hard, especially when the client only sees the delivery and not the preparation.
  • Getting back into rhythms, including sending out the latest issue of Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter. I was delighted when so many people kindly bought me a coffee in recognition for the value they get from it. Dai Barnes and I also recorded the first episode of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast of 2017.
  • Trying to take it a bit easier, partly because I’m still getting up-to-speed after Christmas and my digital hiatus, but also because I’m travelling on and off for the next few weeks.
  • Helping a client through our ongoing relationship where I provide critical friend services. I find these conversations extremely valuable, and it seems my clients do, too.
  • Finalising the details of the I HAVE A DREAM ABOUT BADGES webinar we’re running with Educators Co-op next Monday at 16:00 UTC. Details can be found on We Are Open’s webinars page.
  • Following Nigel Slater’s spiced lentil soup recipe, which actually turned out quite well. Along with practising the piano most days, I’m trying to cook at least once a week this year.
  • Celebrating my grandmother’s 93rd birthday and my daughter’s 6th birthday. They were quite… different in the energy levels required, shall we say!
  • Making minor tweaks to my Dynamic Skillset website.
  • Planning an upcoming ‘Badge Bootcamp’ workshop that We Are Open is running in London on February 15th. We’re not officially launching this until Monday, so I can neither confirm nor deny that clicking here will help you get one of the Early Bird tickets.
  • Trying to retain my Zen-like calm when dealing with PayPal, who have placed obscure, Kafka-esque restrictions on our co-op account in recent weeks, for no apparent reason. We’ve finally got it sorted. Hopefully.
  • Creating a ‘what is a co-op?’ page for our We Are Open website. I need to update the placeholder kitten images, but you can see what I’ve done.
  • Re-drafting the script for Chapter 3 of #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity. I actually wrote the original back at the end of November, but Google Keep lost it due to a syncing conflict. Suffice to say, I am now no longer using Google Keep.
  • Writing:

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

If you’ve got something that you think we might be can help with, please do get in touch! Email addresses below:

Image CC0 Christoffer Engström

Weeknote 01/2017

I had a great hiatus and have begun the year fully refreshed and ready to get on with stuff. December is an important month for me each year, as it not only features my birthday and Christmas, but my self-imposed absence from usual routines means I get to reflect more deeply on who I am and what I stand for. I’ll write more about what that means in practice (if I don’t, nudge me!)

Anyway, this week has been a four-day week due to the public holiday in England on Monday. I’ve been:

  • Re-connecting with people, both on Twitter and in our Slack channel. It’s been good to be away, but it’s also great to be back among familiar faces.
  • Sending out Issue #240 of Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter. I’d considered changing the frequency of this, but I settled on just changing the layout and format a bit. It includes links to posts I wrote on other people’s sites during December.
  • Selling lots of stuff on eBay, as I transition away from proprietary, locked-down stuff. Gone is my Chromebook Pixel (eBay), my Mac Mini (eBay), Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (to my son), and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (to my wife). In their place I’m using a OnePlus One (as it has an unlocked bootloader), a bq Cervantes Touch Light (Linux-based, accepts SD card to store my DRM-stripped Kindle purchases), and my trusty Lenovo X220 Thinkpad until I decide which Linux laptop to get next…
  • Putting together Badge News, a brand new, bi-weekly newsletter from We Are Open Co-op. It’s made possible thanks to some foundational sponsorship and includes the latest updates on the Open Badges specification, featured articles from the community, and details of upcoming events. The first issue went out today!
  • Collaborating and planning with Educators Co-op for an upcoming webinar on badge platform/website design (16:00 UTC, January 16th).
  • Testing out and finalising an automated Open Badges course that Laura Hilliger and I  started after the We Are Open Co-op meetup in December. More on that soon — we don’t want to launch it at the same time as Badge News, as that would just confuse people. We’re also discussing the possibility of sponsorship for this, too.
  • Attending the first community call of the Open Recognition Alliance.
  • Discussing potential work with a UK government department. More on that soon, hopefully.
  • Finalising plans for trips to Jersey, London (I’m at BETT on the Friday afternoon and Saturday), and Geneva over the next month. I’m hopefully heading to Canada towards the end of April, too.
  • Changing the avatar I use online, as I do at the start of every year. You can see it on my Twitter account or start here page if you’re interested. Whereas the one I used in 2016 was ‘business Doug’, this one is ‘on top of a mountain Doug’.  I also took the opportunity to update my description of what I do: “help people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology”.
  • Writing:

Next week I’m at home for my grandmother’s and daughter’s birthdays. I’ve got plenty of stuff to get set up for this year, and from the week after I’m travelling every week for a few weeks.

I’m very much looking forward to this year! April will mark two years of my becoming a consultant, and 1st May will be the first anniversary of We Are Open Co-op. If you’ve got something that you think we might be can help with, please do get in touch! Email addresses below:

Image CC0 Neslihan Gunaydin

#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 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!

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.


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.