There’s an interview with Derek Sivers somewhere in which he’s asked about the best way to get started with minimalism. His interviewer finds his response unexpected: go out and buy loads of stuff, he suggests, and feel the need to declutter. That’s the heart of minimalism.
I feel the same about learning. Somehow, I managed to spend 28 years of my life in formal education, from entering school as a four year-old, to graduating from an Ed.D. at the age of 32. I learned a lot, but I wouldn’t say that most of it suited the way I learn best.
No, I’m not talking about vacuous ‘learning styles’, I’m talking about the assumption that everything can be broken down into a sequence that should be learned by people in the same order. I just think, for me at least, learning doesn’t work like that.
Instead, I seem to learn best through frustration. So long as I’m motivated enough to care, when I find something annoying or confusing, something kicks in to make me want to figure it out. Thank goodness for the internet!
Sometimes there’s a perfect YouTube video to watch or article to read, but more often than not it’s a random post on a forum somewhere, or a Reddit comment, or social media post in the middle of a thread.
Is this ‘optimal’? Does it ‘scale’? Probably not. But, for me, people who package things up in ways that are too step-by-step are being a bit disingenuous. After all, I bet they didn’t learn this stuff that way themselves.
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 Badgesstrategist and change-maker.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you fast-forward to about 3:04 you’ll hear the artist RJD2 talk about his approach to song writing being influenced by studying Mathematics in college. Fascinatingly, he talks about music in spatial terms – suggesting that, like me, he may be mildly synaesthetic. RJD2 imagines music as being like a game of Tetris where you can dictate the shape of any of the pieces.
As an educator, I find this intriguing. If we imagine the falling tetris blocks to be the things that learners have to assimilate, then it’s easy to see how problematic it can be to neither being in control of their ‘shape’ nor the speed at which they come at you.
What if we handed that over to learners? And what if each block was a badge along a learning pathway?
In this post, I want to dive deeper into learning pathways, dividing these types of pathways into broadly two groups. There are those kinds of pathways that are descriptive and those that are prescriptive. Neither of these labels is pejorative, as each could be appropriate given a particular context. This way of looking at learning pathways has often come up in conversations around OpenBadges:
My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Scaffolding Web Literacy Through Learning Pathways, I discuss the difference between training and learning, as well as ways in which we can scaffold the development of web literacy.
Never mind the day job, what’s your project? What dent are you trying to make in the universe? How are you making the world a better place?
Here’s Vinay Gupta’s about page with one of the clearest meta-level lifelong goals I’ve seen:
I am trying to keep you alive.
There are lots of threats which governments are either ignoring or causing. I am filling in the gaps.
I’m currently reading his blog post archive. It’s such a rich seam that I’m only a couple of years through. I really like the way Vinay rabbitholes on something but then zooms back out to see the bigger picture.
Deep reexamination of my field of projects, figuring out what stays and what goes, what prospers and what should be killed.
I’m feeling very close to the end of this round of work on household infrastructure and called back towards the state level infrastructure stuff.
I like the idea of seeing oneself as a (networked) one man think tank. However I tend to over-rotate on a single piece of a larger jigsaw puzzle, missing how all the parts fit together. Perhaps I need to sort out my information aesthetics:
I’ve been doing a broad “read the highlights” strategy now for about 10 years, with occasional binges of hundreds-of-pages-a-day web scraping. In theory this social software stuff ought to make that process less time consuming. Instead, what happens is that it becomes more rewarding, producing greater connectedness with the high-level good-stuff in other fields, because of the prefiltering and information percolation functions, resulting in greater and greater rewards for maintaining a hyper-extended awareness of the network feeds.
And the task can’t be effectively farmed, because no two people have identical information aesthetics. Nobody knows that I have a puzzle that requires… XYZ to fit the pieces together – and if I could express XYZ, I’d already have XYZ, and there would be no issue.
At some level, there’s no substitute for reading the stream yourself, and that gets to be overloading. A task that plausibly can’t be collectivized, and probably can’t be mechanized without implying a Strong-AI system.
That, to me, implies that this kind of feed-monitoring, world-modelling function will become a profession. It probably won’t be called Blogger, but I think it’s clear that far-sighted organizations would have people in the Crow’s Nest, looking all over the world, looking at the future, modeling.
I’d need to get in that Crow’s Nest more often. Thankfully, Vinay’s got some thoughts on how to do that:
If you want to change the world, get serious, get educated, and get to work. Pick a problem, whether it’s water quality or organic agriculture, and get good and educated. A lot you can get online – start with TED talks for an overview, then progress to UN reports and similar documents. It might take a year or two to master the language and get a sense of what’s going on in the field because, well, it’s a hobby – you’re doing this in the time you might be fishing.
I’m really interested in the work being done around learning pathways at the moment, especially by the team being led by my colleague Chloe Varelidi. I think I’m going to start paying more attention to that. It might not change the world on the level that Vinay’s aiming at, but if it improves the way people learn it’s got to be a good thing. 🙂