Open Thinkering


Month: July 2023

Weeknote 30/2023

Collage of photos from Boulder, Colorado

I’ve spent most of this week in Boulder, Colorado at The Badge Summit. It was great. Not only was the event full of interesting people and sessions, but we had a couple of (well-behaved) house parties at our Airbnb. I shared the house with Julie, Kerri, and Laura.

This was my fourth time in Colorado, and I love how sporty the place is compared to other places I’ve been in the US. It took me a while for my body to acclimatise to the timezone, heat (mid-thirties degrees C), and elevation (over a mile above sea level); so long, in fact, that by the time that my watch was telling me I was no longer ‘stressed’ it was time to go home! I did manage to sneak in a quick hike and a couple of short runs, though.

I was involved in four sessions at the summit, all related to Open Recognition:

  • Pre-event unconference where we helped people unused to the format to get into three groups to discuss things of interest to them.
  • Badgesplaining session (slides) with Laura right before the keynote. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen: a 10 minute talk right before a longer presentation.
  • Conversation with Sheryl Grant about the history and theoretical underpinnings of Open Badges.
  • Post-event unconference where Laura and I helped Justin and Krystal figure out how to set up a 501(c) nonprofit to help further the Open Recognition in the US.

Despite my best preparations and precautions, I always find coming back to the UK hard when flying forward through timezones. I went to the gym this morning (Saturday) and was weak.

Today, I’ve been packing as we leave for Center Parcs in The Netherlands tomorrow. We’re then in Devon the following week, and then my son and I are walking the second half of The Pennine Way. I did the first part from north to south, but my wife and daughter are dropping us off so we’ll be doing the second part from south to north. I’m thankful that my sister can look after our rucksacks as she doesn’t live too far away from Edale.

My daughter’s toe is slowly improving, although it still looks pretty bad. We’re hopefully picking up some crutches tomorrow so she can move about, but she’ll be unable to do a lot of the holiday activities we had planned. My son successfully completed his lifeguard training after doing a course from Monday to Friday. So that’s two trained lifeguards in the family — although I never was actually employed as one after doing a course at uni 22 years ago!

I’m not planning to take my laptop away with me, so the chances are that I’ll do a compilation weeknote on my return from walking with my son. I’ll take plenty of photos!

Weeknote 29/2023

View over Boulder from a trail

I’m in Boulder, Colorado after quite an eventful week. On Monday, we sold our house and had an offer accepted on the house we’ve been after. Our daughter sliced open her toe during a school trip to the beach and it was bad enough that we had to make two trips over Wednesday and Thursday to two different hospitals.

On Thursday, I finished off most of my WAO work, and then on Friday packed for my trip over here. I flew on Saturday and, crossing timezones going west meant that I ended up having a 23-hour day. At least I got a bit of a nap on the flight and got to do some reading and play on my Steam Deck!

It’s my fourth visit to Colorado, which is a state I really enjoy visiting. Boulder itself is magnificent and this time around we’re staying (thanks to Participate) closer to the downtown area. This morning I walked up to Panorama Point and took the photo which accompanies this post, among others. Then this afternoon, a few of us went to Boulder Falls which was refreshing given the heat!

Tomorrow sees the beginning of The Badge Summit at The University of Colorado, Boulder. I’m helping with the unconference, then doing a short ‘Badgesplaining’ session about Open Recognition with Laura right before the keynote. On Tuesday I’m in conversation with Sheryl Grant about the history of badges, etc.

There’s another session on Wednesday about creating an organisation in the US to further Open Recognition, then I’ve got the afternoon and Thursday morning before heading home. I’ll fly overnight and arrive home on Friday late afternoon after a connecting flight via London Heathrow. Then, I’ve got a day to do some packing, and then heading on holiday in the Netherlands and Devon, and doing the second half of The Pennine Way with my son.

The Unseen Threads of Open Recognition


This is my second post this week on threads, although this has nothing to do with Meta or the Fediverse.

Instead, as I head to The Badge Summit in Colorado, I want to reflect even more on the differences between microcredentials and Open Recognition. Both are usually based on the Open Badges standard, but the emphasis is quite different.

Perhaps it’s easiest to explain the difference by using a metaphor. Open Recognition is like a detailed tapestry which tells a nuanced story of an individuals lifelong (and lifewide) journey. It’s not just woven with one type of thread, but represents a holistic view of knowledge, skills, experiences, talents, and aspirations.

This tapestry, as Serge Ravet has pointed out, also requires threads from other people. That’s because recognition is reflexive; it tells you more than just about the individual in question.

Microcredentials can form part of this tapestry, but for the purpose of this metaphor I’m going to contrast them more as a string of beads. Each bead is beautifully-poished and carefully-threaded. It stands for something immediately recognisable (and potentially tradeable) in the wider world.

It’s great that microcredentials exist. I think that they have the potential of helping democratise access to higher education, provide just-in-time learning, and enable a more diverse pipeline into decent jobs.

But life isn’t just about work, it’s about human flourishing. Some of that can happen with the jobs that we do, but much of it happens elsewhere. Open Recognition is the acknowledgement of talents, skills, and aspirations that extend beyond formal credentialing.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, Open Recognition denotes the rights of individuals, communities, and territories to ascribe their own labels and definitions to their educational journeys. The frameworks for Open Recognition may be emergent and/or implicit, much like the threads in a tapestry, resulting in a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of a person’s learning journey.

I’m heading to The Badge Summit, as I did last year, determined to help people understand the holistic power of Open Recognition. I’m joined in this endeavour by comrades who will also be peppering the event with their own related sessions. Don Presant has created a timetable for those interested in attending them.

To be honest, it feels a lot like the early days of Open Badges, trying to explain why something that feels so obviously necessary and awesome is valuable. I think this is partly because Open Badges, since they’ve been stewarded by 1EdTech (formely IMS Global Learning Consortium) have been captured by a neoliberal attempt to turn universities as mere training grounds for large employers. But that’s a whole other blog post…

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash