Page 4 of 180

Beyond ‘low-hanging fruit’: why I’m no longer an Open Badges evangelist

TL;DR: Open Badges have hit a tipping point and no longer need my ‘evangelism’. This is to be celebrated. What’s needed now is the dynamic and differentiated use of the technology to effect real change. This is why I’m continuing my work with organisations as an Open Badges strategist and change-maker.

Low-hanging fruit

Almost exactly five years ago, I stumbled across a pilot being carried out as a collaboration between the nascent Mozilla Learning team and P2PU around Open Badges. It’s fair to say that this discovery, made while I was doing some research in my role for Jisc, altered the course of my professional life.

As an educator, I realised immediately the immense power that a web-native, decentralised, alternative accreditation system could have. I carried out more research, talking about Open Badges with anyone who would listen. This led to me being invited to judge the DML Competition that seed-funded the badges ecosystem and, ultimately, to being asked to work for Mozilla.

I’m not going to turn this post into a blow-by-blow account of the last few years. This is a time for looking forward. That’s why I’m happy to say that, as of today, I no longer consider myself merely an Open Badges evangelist, but an Open Badges strategist. I’m interested in working with people and organisations who are looking to implement Open Badges in new and interesting ways.

What do I mean by that? Well, here’s a few examples:

  • Building badge-based ‘playlists’ for learning (with an emphasis on diversity and co-creation)
  • Developing new extensions and ways of using the standard in informal learning contexts
  • Scaffolding participation and activism through badges that ‘nudge’ positive behaviours in individuals and groups

One way of looking at this is to use Ruben Puentadura’s SAMR model, which I cite in my book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies:

SAMR model

There’s some interesting preliminary work I do with clients around ‘Augmentation’ but, as quickly as I’m able, I try to get them to think about the top two tiers of the pyramid.

If you’re an organisation looking for mere ‘Substitution’, then Open Badges ecosystem is now developed enough for you to do this by yourself. It’s never been easier to use one of the many badge issuing platforms to simply digitise your existing credentials. There’s documentation around how to get started all over the web, including the Open Badges 101 course that Bryan Mathers and I have curated during our time working with City & Guilds.

I’d challenge organisations and, in particular, universities, to go beyond what they’ve been able to do for the last few hundred years, and think about how to do true 21st-century credentialing. This is a situation where forward-thinking businesses, charities, non-profits, and institutions are in a strong position to drive not only organisational change, but societal change. The nature of hiring and onboarding, for example, can be entirely changed and revolutionised through a fresh look at how we demonstrate knowledge, skills, and behaviours to others.

Over the next few months, I’m looking to build on my doctoral thesis and the work I’ve done over the last few years, to help clients identify, develop, and credential digital skills. If you think I may be able to help you, then please do get in touch:

Image CC BY Ian Carroll

Weeknote 20/2016

Note: the only feedback I got about last week’s alternative weeknote format was from Aaron Davis (“a bit lengthy”) and my wife (“who wants to know about all that stuff?”). So you’ll be pleased to learn that I’ve returned to the original approach.

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’ll be in London from Monday to Wednesday working with City & Guilds, then planning next steps with on Thursday. I’ve got bits and pieces to do on Friday, before heading to the England vs. Australia match in the evening. After that I’m volunteering to help with Cub camp all Bank Holiday weekend…


The Future of Work: Trends and Toolsets

Last month I wrote a report for a client about the future of work. In my contract is a clause that says that, apart from anything commercially sensitive, my work for them is shared under a Creative Commons license.

I’m therefore sharing a much shorter version of the 23-page report I researched and wrote for them. There was some really interesting stuff I turned up in my research around organisational structure, culture, and retention, but that section was too intertwined with the client’s plans to be able to easily and effectively separate out.  


“Your best practices won’t save you.” (John Cutter)

The main trends around the future of work seem to be broadly twofold:

  1. Empowering individuals and teams to make their own decisions around technology
  2. Democratising the process of deciding what kind of work needs to be done

4 Kinds of Work in the Future

These two mega themes (taken from ‘uber empowered’ quadrant of the above Harvard Business Review digram) can be broken down into four, more practical, sub-themes:

  1. Demise of hierarchies
  2. Re-thinking the location of work
  3. Workplace chat
  4. Mission-based work

The following posts in this series expand and explain each of the above points. The original report made some recommendations for the client. Given I don’t know your context, I’m going to refrain from appending a conclusion to this series.

1. Demise of Hierarchies

After predictions of its demise, the traditional office structure is crumbling. Only 38 percent of companies in a recent survey say they are ‘functionally organized’. For large companies with more than 50,000 employees, that number shrinks to 24 percent. (Bloomberg)

Holocratic Organization

(image taken from this post)

The buzzterm at the moment is around holacracy, an approach in which “authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy”. This governance model has been adopted by Zappos, Precision Nutrition, and (until recently) Medium.

Self-organising is taken to its extreme, or logical conclusion, with Valve, the company best known for the Half-Life game series and ‘Steam’ store. Their handbook for new employees explains that they hire people rather than roles, meaning people are “hired to constantly be looking around for the most valuable work [they] could be doing.” Hiring, firing, and new projects are all managed via a completely flat structure.

Metaphors are important in organisational structure, and many futurists use the idea of the network to explain their ideas. Esko Kilpi, for example, states that “the architecture of work is not the structure of a firm, but the structure of the network. The organization is not a given hierarchy, but an ongoing process of responsive organizing.” In a post examining why employees become disengaged, Stowe Boyd coins the term ‘circumvising’ to explain the shift from ‘supervising’ to a form of work where, “instead of a manager you report up to and who directs the work of those below, the social context…will constrain and support the worker from all around.”

2. Rethinking the Location of Work

Skills for Success in a disruptive world of work

(image taken from this post by Tanmay Vora)

We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. (Winston Churchill)

One trend of recent years that is universally slated in both the popular press and by futurists is that of open-plan offices. According to Stowe Boyd,

More than 40% of the respondents to a recent Berkeley survey reported that workplace acoustics make it harder for them to do their job, while other factors, like lighting, air quality, seating, etc, were rated as making it easier to work.

The assumption is that open-plan offices enable more serendipitous connections to take place. However, this is often at the expense of ‘deep work’ as noted by Cal Newport in his recent book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. It often leads to more introverted employees using headphones in order to concentrate and feel more comfortable.

Home working solves some of these problems and, indeed, many organisations have a ‘remote working’ policy, meaning some (or all) of their employees are based from wherever they happen to live. This, of course, requires a certain type of worker, with particular expectations around flexibility, availability, and digital skills. Implementing this kind of policy without training and explicit expectation-setting (for both office-based and remote workers) can lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and anxiety.

3. Workplace chat

Slack colours

So this is one megatrend: the widespread adoption of tools based on the chat design metaphor across the board in personal and work life. Chat is the new normal for communication, displacing both email and social collaboration tools. (Stowe Boyd)

The hot new technology that everyone is talking about is Slack, a ‘workplace chat’ tool with APIs meaning it integrates with everything. It is already a billion-dollar business, and this is for at least two reasons. The first is a desire for employees in most organisations to get out of their inbox. Another is that it supports the move away from a static org chart and is more responsive to the true power dynamic within organisations.

There have been many posts about the relative merits of workplace chat apps. Most futurists believe that adopting such tools is not a panacea to current workplace problems, but rather a way to demonstrate in a concrete way how teams can interact in a different way. For example, the theory of social crowding suggests that workplace chat is at its most effective when used by small teams of less than 10. This ensures that those who are doing the chatting are also the ones doing the work.

4. Mission-based work

Life cycle of a brand

Today, all companies need a constitution. No company should operate on implicit cultural rules that are based in a shadowy way on oligarchic myths. (Stowe Boyd)

Often cited as a something particularly important to ‘Millennials’ (those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000), futurists see mission-based work as key to ensuring employee fulfilment at any age. Loyalty these days is often to the job rather than to the organisation — so long as the job matches the ‘mission’ that the employee feels is central to their existence.

Graduates are queuing up to work for brands who match their outlook on life, often foregoing higher salaries elsewhere to do so. Recent research from Gallup included a survey of almost 50,000 business units which showed that employee engagement is a key indicator of business success. This is an important trend to consider.

Further reading

I put together an epic Google Doc of links and images to help with my research for the original report. You can access that here.

Banner image CC BY-NC-SA Daniel Foster

Questions? Ask in the comments and I’ll go into more detail about any of the above.

If you’d like my help in a consultative capacity, please get in touch:

Developing my offer: what I’m planning for the next few months

Time horizons are funny things. For example, I don’t know about you, but I like to plan a few months ahead. However, there’s a couple of times of year when this feels more difficult. The most obvious of these is Christmas; in December I still find it hard to make plans for January of the next year!

Another of these times is thinking about beyond the ‘summer holidays’ This is partly because I’ve been conditioned all my life to think in terms of the academic year. This year, we’re planning to go away as a family for a good chunk of the summer, but as a consultant I obviously need to think about business continuity and paid work that I’m going to be coming back to afterwards.

Hence this post! I like to think out loud and show my work.

Since setting up by myself, as well as shorter-term work for other clients, I’ve had a steady stream of work with City & Guilds. That’s tapered off from initially working on a full-time basis with them, down to two days at the moment. It’s been great and, as all good teachers do, I’ve greatly enjoyed making myself progressively redundant. So from the end of August I’ll be working with City & Guilds on a per-project basis.

This, of course, means I’m looking for ways to make myself useful to other organisations. I’ve got a few things scheduled but, right now, lots more availability from September onwards than I’ve had previously. Given that so far all of my consultancy work has been ‘inbound’ (i.e. people and organisations have approached me, instead of me approaching them) I’m thinking about ways of packaging up what I do in ways that make immediate sense to people.

One such way that I’ve highlighted before is an approach developed by Bryan Mathers and the good people at wapisasa: the Thinkathon.

Ordinarily, Thinkathons last from 10am until about 4pm, with a break for lunch. The facilitators will have done some preparation beforehand, then on the day they meet with three or four people from the organisation who has requested the Thinkathon. Afterwards, the facilitators package up what was captured during the day into actionable next steps.

The great thing about Thinkathons is that they’re simultaneously ‘off-the-shelf’ (i.e. they’re a fixed price, you know the format of the day, and there’s an output) and bespoke (i.e. what we discuss and sort out is entirely dependent on your organisation and context). They’re also a great way to provide value in a ‘bounded’ way. The Thinkathon by itself could be all that’s needed, or it lead to further work. It’s up to the organisation.

Rocket (CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers)As I’ve mentioned before, we’re currently revving-up, a co-operative consortium of limited companies including mine and those controlled by John Bevan, Laura Hilliger, and Bryan Mathers. The deal is that anything we do individually goes through our respective businesses, but anything we do that requires more than one of us goes through the co-op. That means Thinkathons are something you should approach the co-op about:

For the avoidance of doubt, the things you’re likely to hire me individually for as Dynamic Skillset are things relating to education, technology, and productivity. For example:

  • Digital skills/literacies keynotes, workshops, and curriculum development
  • Open Badges keynotes, workshops, and system design
  • Productivity and workflow analysis, coaching, and report-writing
  • Critical Friend services
  • Analysis (desk research and in-person) around use of technology in learning and training contexts.
  • Desk research, synthesis, and report-writing relating to anything I tend to talk about here or elsewhere.

In terms of, it’s a case of ‘watch this space’ to some extent as our first planning meeting is next week). However, as our name indicates, we’re interested in all elements of openness, including Open Badges, but also helping organisations work more openly and transparently.

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesThere’s plenty of other things I want to start offering as well as the above. One of these is a short email-based course based on my ebook The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. This would be a paid addition to the ebook, which (in line with my ‘OpenBeta’ approach) will decrease in price next month to ‘pay what you want’. Do let me know if you’d be willing to be a guinea pig for that. I’d like to do some testing before it goes live for everyone.

Another thing I’d like to offer is the kind of five-day sprint as outlined in the recent book from Google Ventures entitled Sprint: how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. This would be an a large undertaking for an organisation, but likely to be hugely valuable. I’d be willing to do this at a 50% for my first one, in return for detailed feedback.

And finally (although I’ve got plenty more ideas in my notebook) I’m wondering if it might be worthwhile to build an extremely lightweight badging platform. I’ve had this idea with the codename ‘Self-Badger’ which would provide a much-needed antidote to some of the unimaginative approaches to Open Badges I’ve seen recently. I’ll may need some funding for that, however…

In terms of upcoming speaking engagements, I was supposed to be in South Africa this week speaking about badges and blockchain at the Groningen Declaration conference. However, having withdrawn from the BadgeChain group I felt that my presence there would have been somewhat disingenuous. Instead, I’m planning to use my Badge Summit keynote next month in Aurora, Colorado to ask some hard questions about all of this.

So, if you think I can help you and your organisation, get in touch! I respond to emails sent to within 24 hours, and I have a discounted rate for charities, non-profits, and educational institutions.

Images CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers (originally developed for the Community Alignment model)

Doug is a very creative, motivated and talented individual, who inspires others around him to think from different angles and to challenge constructively. — Patrick Bellis (Deputy Director, Jisc group customer services)

Always quick with a witty riposte—usually in animated gif form—or willing to dive into a philosophical conversation, Doug excels at his work. — Carla Casilli (Consultant & former Mozilla colleague)

Doug’s deep expertise in digital technologies for learning, productivity, change and teamwork together with his ability to coach and challenge, has really helped us develop as an education organisation. — Sarah Horrocks (Director, London CLC)

📰 Weeknote 19/2016

Inspired by the newsletters of Dan HonChristian Payne, and Warren Ellis I’ve tried something different for this week’s update. I’ve even used an emoji in the title of this post to be down with the kids. 😉

Don’t like it? Prefer it? Let me know!


(image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers)


I’m sitting at the table in the kitchen/diner drinking camomile tea and listening to BBC 6 Music playing one of the tracks from Radiohead’s new album. I read a great post this morning about the how the band take their time to develop songs, meaning that fans hear iterations over the course of years, if not decades. The emotional resonance of songs changes of time with repeated listening, maturity, and life events we experience. The equivalent for me would be tracks by Massive Attack, Oasis, and Jamiroquai – although just in terms of the album versions, not with demos turning into songs performed live, turning into tracks on an album.

I’m very much enjoying listening to BBC 6 Music. We made the decision to get out the DAB digital radio we had stowed away since we moved house a couple of years ago. As Lauren Laverne (one of the DJs) mentioned in a post this morning, while we live in an age of information abundance, sometimes it’s good not to know, and not to choose what’s coming next. I particularly enjoyed her mention of “playing charity-shop roulette” with her reading material.

I’ve now been off alcohol and coffee for over a week, and I have to say it feels good. Of course, this has coincided with May bringing much better weather to my corner of the UK. I appreciate stability in life as it allows me to choose where to mix things up a bit, both in terms of the things I do physically (e.g. going up mountains) and the places I go mentally (i.e. new ideas).

I’ve got a couple of meetings today, but I try to take it easy one day between Monday and Friday each week. That’s usually a Friday but, because of the Thinking Digital conference I’m down in London at the end of this week. So this day will be all about going out for lunch with my wife, enjoying the sunshine, catching up with the ‘unread newsletters’ email folder, and editing the 50th episode of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), the weekly podcast I record with Dai Barnes.

The Sage, Gateshead


I’m on the train on the way to the Thinking Digital conference (#TDC16). I went to the conference dinner last night and serendipitously sat next to a guy from the Co-op Digital team. We started off talking about, a new co-operative consortium that I and a few friends / ex-Mozillians have set up recently but quickly moved onto to discussing all sorts of other things, including philosophy, shared connections, and so on.

The great thing about this conference in particular is that it gets me out of my filter bubble, but in a way that still remains directly relevant to what I do. The venue is The Sage in Gateshead, a beautiful building both inside and out. The acoustics are amazing, and the room with the main stage is wonderfully intimate. I bought an early bird ticket as soon as they were released last year.

At the moment I’m listening to Seth Godin’s Startup School which is a free podcast series released in 2012. You can search for it on any podcast client. Each episode is 15 minutes to 30 minutes long and contains such great advice from recordings made during a face-to-face summit Seth held that cost a lot of money. It’s worth even just listening to the first one about the important difference between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur. But the whole thing is exceptional and will bear repeated listens. I’m getting a lot out of it.

Thinking Digital badge


I was up at 05:15 this morning to head to London. Arriving at the train station in Morpeth, the 06:37 train was cancelled. The train afterwards was massively delayed, so I went home instead of standing on the platform for over an hour. Right now, I’m sitting waiting at Newcastle station for the delayed 08:59 train to London. Delays like these is why working from home is so awesome.

The Thinking Digital conference yesterday was great. I met some really interesting people and the talks, while not uniformly amazing, were so varied that I was hooked even if the presenter got in the way of the content. There was everything from how IBM manage to provide real-time data from Wimbledon, through to the ways technology has helped us identify the ways the microbiome in our human gut can affect our mental health!

I skipped the after-party as I had to get home to watch Sunderland thrash Everton 3-0 to stay in the Premier League. It was a magnificent performance and I accurately the score before the game started! I’m not a betting man, and there’s only my family to back me up, so you’ll just have to trust me on that…

Today it’s going to be a glorious 24°C in London, if the BBC weather forecast can be believed. That’s probably another thing the Tories want to cut along with the 11,000 recipes that BBC Food provide. It comes to something when the worst thing about the country you live in is your government. Needless to say I, and no-one that I know, voted for them.

Avocado on toast


I’m sitting at a table in Ask For Janice a wonderful café / bar around the corner from my client’s offices (City & Guilds). As usual I’ve had the avocado on toast with spiced ricotta and pomegranate molasses. It’s amazing!

I’m working on some hush-hush stuff with City & Guilds at the moment (to be revealed soon!) as well as helping them with upcoming events. One of these is the Festival of Skills for which City & Guilds are the headline partner. It’s going to be a bit an Open Badges extravaganza! Bryan Mathers and I will be doing all sorts of stuff, including building on our OB101 course.

I’ve now moved onto an extremely chocolatey brownie. Well, if I’m not having coffee or alcohol this month, I’m not avoiding sugar, too!

Now in the newly-refurbished lounge at Kings Cross reclining while typing this into my Chromebook Pixel. I’m listening to the Stone Roses as their new track All For One came out today. I hope there’s a new album! I’m amazed a reunion has happened given the animosity of the split, and the biting follow-ups (e.g. the lyrics to Ian Brown’s Corpses In Their Mouths). I don’t care what The Guardian say about the track, it’s exciting!

This afternoon, from about 4pm onwards, I kind of fell down BetaList. It’s literally just a list of new startups or services that are currently in ‘beta’. But because I haven’t visited the site for ages I went about 20 pages deep. There’s so much cool stuff in there! I found Selfism, GretaScript, EverSeller, and Hippo (to name but a few).

I’ve just had to fire off an email to a client informing them that, no, I can’t really do an all-day workshop in a basement room with no natural light. Given that they’ll probably use fluorescent tubes down there, the energy will be low both in terms of lighting and human participation. Also, I’m likely to get a migraine. I’ve asked if, at the very least, they can book some break-out rooms for short periods of time.

Next week

On Monday I’m heading to London to spend part of the afternoon with NCUB, then staying down to work with City & Guilds from Tuesday to Thursday. On Friday I’ll be in Cambridge. So away all week with no ‘Doug day’. The week after I’ll be away for four days as well. Oh well, this is a busy time of the year…

A walkthrough of 9Sharp, a new platform for personal branding [SPONSOR]

I met Safwan Hak, founder of 9Sharp when chairing a panel at BETT earlier this year. As part of the session, I asked the panellists, “who inspires you?”

Safwan, by his own admission, struggled to answer the question. However, a few days later this post popped up on my radar. It ends like this:

Doug, it took me 3 days and your question was “the name of someone who inspires me?” I don’t have a name of one person but I have their job title:


Read the post, it’s great. I was very impressed with Safwan, and we kept in touch afterwards. When it came to me asking for sponsors for Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter, 9Sharp grabbed three months’ worth!

The following video is a demo of 9Sharp as it currently stands in May 2016. It’s come a long way since Safwan first showed me in January. It’s very slick and seems more focused on the kind of profile I want to show the world. As I say in the screencast, if you’ve ever found LinkedIn a little stifling, this might be a good option for you.

(can’t see anything? click here)


00:00 – Why Safwan built 9Sharp (audio only)
02:20 – Demo of what 9Sharp looks like
05:05 – Premium plans, advertising, custom domains
06:55 – Editing your 9Sharp profile
08:00 – Automatic translation
09:20 – Discussion of main audiences
10:45 – List of social integrations
12:50 – Where the name ‘9Sharp’ comes from
13:45 – What’s on the roadmap?
15:45 – How to get started with 9Sharp (and suggest new features!)

Check out my brief 9Sharp profile I created in double-quick time!


Weak signals

Classic economic theory states that the market can solve pretty much everything through a process of signalling:

In the job market, potential employees seek to sell their services to employers for some wage, or price. Generally, employers are willing to pay higher wages to employ better workers. While the individual may know his or her own level of ability, the hiring firm is not (usually) able to observe such an intangible trait—thus there is an asymmetry of information between the two parties. Education credentials can be used as a signal to the firm, indicating a certain level of ability that the individual may possess; thereby narrowing the informational gap. This is beneficial to both parties as long as the signal indicates a desirable attribute—a signal such as a criminal record may not be so desirable.


As a consultant, I add value by providing knowledge and skills to an organisation for exactly the amount of time they need me. I’m a surgical knife hired to do difficult, precise jobs. Sometimes, of course, clients know they need something but aren’t sure what that is. I can help in those cases as well, saving them the time and money of ‘going round the houses’ or choosing the shiniest option.

In 2016, I’m going have more availability from September onwards. Get in touch if you need a doctor (of education) in the house to help untangle, think through, or generally assist with things related to education, technology, or productivity. I’m good at being a critical friend and like to take a holistic view of educational technology & not just toolsets, but mindsets and skillsets, too.

I’m interested in one-off speaking engagements and workshops but I’d really like to get my teeth into a medium-term project that allows me to get alongside people in an organisation and effect tangible change. That might involve Open Badges or digital skills/literacies, but it equally could be around productivity and workflow.

Excitingly, a bunch of us (friends / ex-Mozillians) have set up a co-operative, through which we can work together to assist your organisation. We’re great at helping with both the ‘known unknowns’ and the ‘unknown unknowns’ – which we often discover while running thinkathons.

Let’s have a chat. The first 30-minute conversation is free, and I’ve/we’ve got reduced rates for charities, non-profits, and educational institutions.

Weeknote 18/2016

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’m doing some critical friend work from home, some research for London CLC, attending the Thinking Digital Conference, and then working with City & Guilds in London on Thursday and Friday.

Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

Notes and comments on ‘Digital Badges in Education’: Part I: Trends and Issues

Digital Badges in EducationLast month, a new book came out entitled Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases. At over £30, it’s the most expensive book I’ve purchased for a while, but thought it would provide some useful insights. And no, there’s no chapter from me in it: I seem to remember a call for contributions going out last year but I don’t work for free / less than my minimum day rate.

Over my blog I’ve been making notes on each chapter as I read it. So far I’ve completed Part I: Trends and Issues. As you’d expect from an edited collection, it ranges from the average to the excellent. One curious omission is an introduction from the editors.

The links below reference the titles of each chapter in Part I of the book. However, when you click through, you’ll notice that I’ve given my blog posts a different name. These, of course, are my own notes, highlights, and (in some cases) criticisms of the authors’ work.

Part I: Trends and Issues

  1. History and Context of Open Digital Badges by Sheryl L. Grant
  2. Badges and Competencies: New Currency for Professional Credentials by Anne Derryberry, Deborah Everhart, and Erin Knight
  3. The Case for Rigor in Open Badges by Richard E. West and Daniel L. Randall
  4. Competency-Based Education and the Relationship to Digital Badges by Rhonda D. Blackburn, Stella C.S. Porto, and Jacklyn J. Thompson
  5. Good Badges, Evil Badges? The Impact of Badge Design on Learning from Games by Melissa L. Biles and Jan L. Plass
  6. The Impact of Badges on Motivation to Learn by Samuel Abramovich and Peter S. Wardrip
  7. What Video Games Can Teach Us About Badges and Pathways by Lucas Blair
  8. Instructional Design Considerations for Digital Badges by Chris Gamrat, Brett Bixler and Victoria Raish
  9. Badging as Micro-Credentialing in Formal Education and Informal Education by Kyle Peck, Kyle Bowen, Emily Rimland and Jamie Oberdick
  10. Digital Badges, Learning at Scale, and Big Data by Barton K. Pursel, Chris Stubbs, Gi Woong Choi, and Phil Tietjen
  11. In the Eye of the Beholder: The Value of Digital Badges by Zane L. Berge and Lin Y. Muilenburg

I hope you find this useful! I’ll work on Part II next week.

3 reasons you need a critical friend


If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my adult life, it’s that you can be considered a good conversationalist merely by being a good listener. That’s the thing: people want to be heard, to tell their story, to let what’s inside them out.

That’s great, but there’s at least one stage further than that: being good at asking questions. Socrates was great at it. This ‘Socratic approach’ not only stimulates debate, but thought and reflection. Knowing someone who can challenge you in a thoughtful, kind, and meaningful way is a hugely valuable resource on which to draw.

I’ve been prompted into writing about this as I’ve recently taken on what is now my fifth client for whom I am a ‘critical friend’. In none of these cases have I sought out this work, but instead have been approached by each client as someone who they think can help them. This could be a short term thing or, more often, is longer-term, and organised in a more ad-hoc, semi-structured way.

Thinking through what kind of things I talk about with my clients, there’s three broad areas where I’ve been able to help.

1. Motivation and encouragement

We’ve all been there: we know what we need to do in our professional lives, but we just can’t seem to traction. I’ve worked with those who would describe themselves as self-starters, yet have found value in helping me give shape to their plans.

Working with Doug is both a real pleasure and a kick up the backside! (Zoe Ross)

Doug is a very creative, motivated and talented individual, who inspires others around him to think from different angles and to challenge constructively. (Patrick Bellis)

2. Insight and analysis

Sometimes what you need is a person you trust to provide some objectivity on particular problems or struggles you’re having. These could be monumental professional struggles, or they could be #firstworldproblems. Either way, through discussion a way forward usually develops – either at the time, or reflecting on the conversation, by email.

Working with Doug has been one of the highlights of my career. His insights make anything I’m working on better. (Laura Hilliger)

The thing that Doug provided for me, above all, was insight. Through his incisive questioning and our subsequent discussions, Doug was able to help me to discover for myself, the very best way forward for my business and for me personally. He’s incredibly easy to work with and a thoroughly nice guy to boot. I’d highly recommend using his strengths to get the best out of yours. (Greg Perry)

3. Connection and inspiration

It’s easy to think that you’re slaving away, ploughing your own lonely furrow. In fact, there’s many people around the world with similar hopes and dreams as you. Learning from and/or connecting with them can be exciting, liberating, and confirm that what you’re doing is worthwhile.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Doug as a consultant, trainer, coach and all round wise and inspiring critical friend. (Sarah Horrocks)

As a freelancer, I am often alone with my own work. Being able to spend time talking things through with Doug was not only practical, but a catalyst for developing my ideas to help others. (Eylan Ezekiel)

Next steps

As I mentioned above, this is the first time I’ve offered this as a discrete (and discreet, if necessary!) service. I’m keen to help people, spending time to aid them in realising their hopes and dreams.

If you think I can help you, please do get in touch. The first 30 minutes we spend together is free, and I can tailor follow-up sessions to suit you, your time, and your budget. I reply to every email within 24 hours.


Note: some of the above quotations are taken from clients, and some from others who have been kind enough to recommend me on LinkedIn.

Thanks to Eylan Ezekiel for feedback on this post, and John Johnston for drastically reducing the filesize of the gif!