Open Thinkering


Tag: presentation

A welcome corrective to narratives around the ‘future of work’

I ran a session at the Learning Technologies 2022 conference today entitled Verifiable credentials: get ready for the next generation of badges and digital credentials. It went really well and I got good feedback, even if a corporate audience isn’t one I’m used to addressing these days.

You’ll notice if you click through the above link to my slides that the first slide is basically this image with a link to the Verso website:

Screenshot of the Verso books website showing the results of a search for 'automation'

This was a last-minute addition and a response to the keynote panel session running prior to it. The panel featured someone from McKinsey, someone promoting their book, and a researcher into the future of work. I’ve no bone of contention with them, but the framing seemed to be that there are some kind of ‘inevitable’ trends happening. This was evident by a question from the audience about the widely-reported threat of a recession — to which the reply from the stage was that this would only slow down what’s already happening.

To be clear, we co-create the future. Things happen because we collectively cause them to happen.

I’ve read four of the books in that screenshot:

They’re all excellent and thought-provoking. I want to read the other two shown on there, and I’d also perhaps throw 24/7: Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary into the mix. Yes, they’re written from a reasonably-radical left-of-centre perspective, but given most of our ‘news’ and business ‘thought leadership’ is extremely right-leaning, it’s a welcome corrective.

Open Badges is now on the plateau of productivity

Image aCC BY-SA Jeremy Kemp

Today I presented on a topic I’ve been presenting on for around 11 years now: Open Badges. I must have given 200 presentations on the subject, to audiences that number fewer than 10 to the several hundreds.

Over that time, the specification has changed, as have adoption rates, which have gone through the roof. Last year, I reflected in an article for the WAO blog that good things happen slowly, bad things happen fast. It’s taken a decade, as I predicted, for badges to be a no-brainer when it comes to recognising and credentialing knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

We’re no longer in the stage of “imagine a world…” but rather “here’s what’s happening, let’s talk about how this could be useful to you”. In other words, in the language of the Gartner hype cycle (to which I allude in the above post), we’re in the stage of ‘plateau of productivity’.

I recorded this Loom video to ensure I had the timing right for the 45 minute slot I’ve got. While I’m pretty good with timing, I use a lot of slides, and it’s been a couple of years since I presented in person!

I’ll also be throwing in a couple if interactive bits, so I need to ensure I don’t get stuck in the weeds with the inevitable questions about Blockchain / web3. My plan, as you can see in the recording below, is to point to v3.0 of the specification and talk about why decentralised identifiers (DiDs) are more exciting than blockchain, which I consider a back office technology.

So, without further ado, here’s a run-through of my presentation for FERS.

Next week I’ve been asked to speak at Het Nationale Bibliotheekcongres (the Dutch National Library conference) which is taking place in Assen, Eindhoven, and Amersfoort. I’ll be running a session fusing my badges work with digital literacies stuff in the service of discussing digital citizenship. Given than I’m only supposed to be talking for 15-20 mins before participants have 25-30 mins to do something, it’s going to be tight…

My takeaways from Stephen Downes’ talk on personal learning

In general, I have great intentions to watch recorded presentations. However, in reality, just like the number of philosophy books I get around to reading in a given year, I can count the number I sit down to watch on the fingers of one hand.

I’ve been meaning to watch Stephen Downes’ talk on personal learning since he gave it at the at the Canada MoodleMoot back in February. Since I’m talking with him this afternoon about Project MoodleNet, that served as a prompt to get around to watching it.

(as an aside, it’s a blessing to be able to play YouTube videos at 1.5 or double speed — presentations, by their nature aren’t as information-dense as text!)

Groups vs Networks

Downes has been talking about groups vs networks since before 2006. In fact, I often reference this:

Groups vs Networks
CC BY-NC Stephen Downes

The presentation builds on this, and references a tool/environment he’s built called gRSShopper.

Groups vs Networks

Downes doesn’t link any of this to politics, but to my mind this is the difference between authoritarianism and left libertarianism. As such, I think it’s a wider thing than just an approach to learning. It’s an approach to society. My experience is that some people want paternalism as it provides a comfort blanket of security.

Personalized vs Personal

There’s plenty of differences between the two approaches. In his discussion of the following slide, Downes talks about the difference between a ‘custom’ car and a customised car, or an off-the-self suit versus one that’s tailored for you.

Personalized vs Personal

My position on all of this is very similar to Downes. However, I don’t think we can dismiss the other view quite so easily. There has to be an element of summative assessment and comparison for society to function — at least the way we currently structure it…

Personal Learning Environments

Downes’ custom-build system, gRSShopper, is built with him (the learner) in the middle. It’s a PLE, a Personal Learning Environment:

gRSShopper workflow

All of this is based on APIs that pull data from various systems, allow him to manipulate it in various ways, and then publish outputs in different formats.

Note that all of this, of course, depends upon open APIs, data, and resources. It’s a future I’d like to see, but depends upon improving the average technical knowledge and skills of a global population. At the same time, centralised data-harvesting services such Facebook are pointing in the opposite direction, and dumbing things down.

Personal Learning Record

So gRSShopper creates what Downes calls a Personal Learning Record, complete with ‘personal graph’ that is private to the learner. This is all very much in keeping with the GDPR.

Data aggregation and analytics

The real value in all of this comes in being able to aggregate learning data from across platforms to provide insights, much as Exist does with your personal and health data.

Analytics and Big Data

Downes made comments about pulling resources and data between systems, about embedding social networks within the PLE, and browser plugins/extensions to make life easier for learners. I particularly liked his mention of not just using OERs as you learn, but creating them through the process of learning.


I’m looking forward to our conversation this afternoon, as I’m hoping it will either validate, or force me to rethink the current approach to Project MoodleNet.

Main image CC0 Marvin Meyer