#Openbadges + #Blockchains = #BitofTrust ?

One aspect of the question regarding a possible relationship between blockchains and Open Badges is to wonder whether the blockchain should be treated as some kind of add-on to the existing Open Badge structure/standard, or should Open Badges be integrated within a blockchain?

A starting point for an informed answer to this question is to do a simple test: take an Open Badge generated by one issuing platform and try to import it into another issuing/hosting platform. I have done this experiment recently, taking only a very small sample, and the results were rather… (un)conclusive — BTW, one suggestion for the Standards Working group would be to run a real life interoperability test (not just through a formal proof) across all platforms and publish the results.

Interoperability is a classical problem to which the ePortfolio community was confronted some years ago and to which no convincing answer was ever provided — the IMS-Global ePortfolio and Leap2A specifications (2 specifications for interoperability is already one too many!!!) are only used by a handful of ePortfolio platforms — notwithstanding that there are many ePortfolios that do not use any ePortfolio platform at all! Moreover, when we organised plugfests during previous ePIC conferences, we had to admit that 3 platforms using the same technical specification (IMS ePortfolio at the time) had problems understanding each other: exporting one ePortfolio from one platform then importing it to another did not always work properly…

One could have imagined that with a structure much simpler than ePortfolios, the problem of interoperability would have disappeared. It has not. And now that we have allowed extensions to the specification, the order of magnitude for potential interoperability problems has increased geometrically, not just arithmetically. Yet, the possibility to extend the specification, even by one single issuing platform, willing to gain a competitive advantage, with a better or innovative service, should probably be allowed. We certainly do not want a “one-size-fits-all” issuing platform. Innovation must go on!

Are blockchains the solution to Open Badges interoperability?

Continue reading

#OpenBadges #Taxonomies and Shopping Lists

Kerri Lemoie (@kayaelle) has taken the ambitious task to lead the Open Badge community in exploring further the field of taxonomies. I was not able to attend the last conference call, but I took some time to go through the Etherpad of the meeting and here are my latest thoughts on the matter.

In Over 2 Millions Types of #OpenBadges ! Don’t you think that’s wonderful? I explored the typology of Open Badges and the idea of a taxonomy to conclude the inanity of any attempt at enumerating the different types of Open Badges. In a later post, The Celestial Emporium of #OpenBadges Taxonomies I concluded that, considering that a taxonomy would need to be finite to have any practical value, it is very likely that such a taxonomy would provide an over-simplified representation of the world, an illusion of understanding — as if the mere fact of naming things increased our understanding.

After exploring critically the concept of taxonomy, in this post I’ll try to explore a more practical approach. After all, if people feel the need for taxonomies, it might be interesting to know what the actual needs are and what are the possible solutions to satisfy those needs.

Taxonomy, Typology or shopping list?

In the discussion on taxonomies, we need to take into account that there is a difference between a typology and a taxonomy:

The etymology of both words gives clues to their differences. In Greek, táxos means an order, onom- means name, so the word “taxonomy” means naming genus or species. “Typo-” means a type of organism and -logy means a study. Nelson Orringer · University of Connecticut (source)

Moreover, proper taxonomies must respect some basic principles: Continue reading

What relationship between #OpenBadges and competencies?

Recent posts by Timothy Freeman Cook (@timothyfcook) explored (here and there) the relationship between Open Badges and competencies.  I would like to build on Timothy’s ideas.

I have rearranged in a table the initial elements of what Timothy calls “the atomic elements of learning”:

 Atom  Equivalent Definition  Learner’s perspective
Competencies Standards Definition of learning one ought to acquire What should I learn?
Pathways Courses Relationships between learnings In what order should I learn?
 Badges Credentials Proof of a learning accomplishment Did I learn it? 
 Resources Opportunities Something one can use for a learning experience  How can I learn it?

For Timothy:

The more I sketch and dwell on it, the more I am convinced that the concept of the pathway is actually something that should apply, separately, to each of the 3 elements.  […]

The 3 primary elements are:

  1. Competency
  2. Credential
  3. Resource

and each of these can be expressed on a graph with a linear or non-learner ordering or nested relationships. […] A competency graph is a prerequisite structure.

While later in the post is the following definition: “[the] competency graph is a map” I would like to explore now this idea of mapping and graphs.

What are the frameworks of learning?

Good competency standards are designed by performing a functional analysis, i.e. the analysis of all the activities contributing to achieving the purpose/mission of a sector (e.g. automotive, hotel & catering industry) or domain (e.g. management, administration, sales, engineering). The functional analysis is a mapping exercise, just like explorers drew maps of unchartered territories. Functional analysis takes into account all the activities, from the most basic (e.g. feed-in a copy machine) to the most complex (managing finance). The outcome is a competency framework.

Unfortunately, very few competency standards are built this way. Most of them are the result of task analysis leading to a fragmented representation of the territory. Moreover there is often a confusion between competencyqualification and training frameworks.

When a competency framework is produced, there is not yet an indication that a certain competency is at level 1 or 8 (there are 8 levels in the European Qualification Framework, link) nor that one competency must be acquired before another. The attribution of levels to the different competencies is based on the spectrum of routine/unpredictable tasks, basic/complex required knowledge, the degree of responsibility for oneself and others, etc. The result is a qualification framework. The organisation of competencies through prerequisites leads to a training framework.

Continue reading

The Celestial Emporium of #OpenBadges Taxonomies


In a previous post (Over 2 millions of badge types…) I explored the typology of Open Badges and the idea of a taxonomy to conclude to the inanity of any attempt at enumerating the different types of Open Badges.

Recently, while discussing with a colleague the ideas developed in this previous post, she reminded me of the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, a fictitious taxonomy of animals described by Jorge Luis Borges in his 1942 essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” Borges used this taxonomy to illustrate the arbitrariness and cultural specificity of any attempt at categorising the world.

Taken from an ancient (fictitious) Chinese encyclopaedia, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge divides all animals into 14 categories:

  1. Those that belong to the emperor
  2. Embalmed ones
  3. Those that are trained
  4. Suckling pigs
  5. Mermaids (or Sirens)
  6. Fabulous ones
  7. Stray dogs
  8. Those that are included in this classification
  9. Those that tremble as if they were mad
  10. Innumerable ones
  11. Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
  12. Et cetera
  13. Those that have just broken the flower vase
  14. Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

Reading this taxonomy I wondered how it could be translated into the realm of Open Badges. The result is Open Badge Taxonomy #1.

Open Badge Taxonomy #1 (directly inspired by The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge):

  1. Those issued by someone with more than 5,000 Linkedin connections
  2. The revoked ones
  3. Those related to formal training
  4. Those that have never been issued
  5. Marine-related ones
  6. Those earned by only 10 people in the whole world
  7. Those that were erased from the backpack at Christmas time
  8. Those included in this classification
  9. Those with an animated PNG
  10. Those that cannot be counted
  11. Those which picture has been hand drawn
  12. Et cetera
  13. Those that cannot be uploaded in the Backpack
  14. Those that, at a distance, resemble nothing special

After this first attempt, I wondered whether I could create more of them, let’s say “the behaviourist Open Badge taxonomy,”  and “the constructivist Open Badge taxonomy.” The combination of both gave Taxonomy #2.

Open Badge Taxonomy #2 (the behaviourist-constructivist Open Badge Taxonomy):

  • Those issued by those who believe in the need for controlling others
    • Those issued by those who believe that studying pigeons provides an insight into the human mind
      • Those issued by those who believe in behaviourist theories
        • Those issued by those who believe in the need for doggy biscuits and praise for motivating learners
      • Those issued by those who believe in gamification
      • Those issued by those who think that Open Badges are more ‘chic’ than gold stars
    • Those issued by those who believe that Open Badges should be ‘quality assured’
  • Those issued by those who believe in the need to empower others
    • Those issued by those who believe that only idiots can believe that studying pigeons can provide any insight into the human mind
      • Those issued by those who like to ridicule behaviourist beliefs

Although rather self-indulgent, this taxonomy is perfectly operational to organise the knowledge on Open Badges. Looking at power relationships is a-priori not less valid than any other classification. In the opinion of the author of this post, differentiating between the different ‘types’ of Open Badges, trust vs. distrust, is probably the only valuable taxonomy, if one is needed. Continue reading

Over 2 Millions Types of #OpenBadges ! Don’t you think that’s wonderful?

(I should probably add the subtitle: And less than 10 types of ePortfolios!)

One of Badge Europe‘s intellectual outputs (yuck! I can’t use this “concept” without cringing!) is a discussion paper on quality and Open Badges.

Intellectual Output: a term contributed to the Newspeak Dictionary edited by the European Commission, to replace deliverable, a perfectly decent and understandable term, as if any deliverable did not involve some kind of intellectual effort, implying therefore that the work produced by previous European projects could be partly the result of machines, automata or idiots — I won’t comment on the last one!

This discussion paper on quality and Open Badges should raise a number of interesting issues that I addressed in a previous post (ePortfolios & Open Badges at the Service of Learning eQuality) which refers to a presentation I made last year at a meeting of the Fédération Interuniversitaire de l’Enseignement à Distance (FIED).

One of the problems I have with frameworks such as “quality in eLearning” is that they tend to convey the message that it is possible to have such a thing as “good eLearning” on top of poor or archaic models. They do not use quality as a transformative force, but rather as a normative model, and extension of the old model, stifling innovation and creativity.

In the discussion paper, one of the risks is the mechanistic application of traditional quality models to the Open Badge ecosystem. And if there is something we do not need it is any kind of “quality framework” that would curb or smother the innovation born out of Open Badges. If Open Badges are not used to transform education, social inclusion and employment, then who cares for their “quality?”

Continue reading

#OpenBadges for Key Competencies

This post is an extract of a position paper, Key Competency Badges, a reflection based on the work done in the TRANSIt project in relation to the acquisition of key competencies.

How to combine Open Badges with key competencies? To what result? One way to approach this question is to recognise that key competencies are just one particular group of competencies, so what is good for the recognition of competencies in general, is likely to be just as good for key competencies. As there are already plenty of Open Badges used to recognise a large range of competencies, then it is just a matter of extending current practice.

What is implied with this approach is that Key Competency Open Badges will need key competency standards similar to the UK key skill 2000 introduced above. While it might seem unproblematic to define standards related to the mastery of mathematics and foreign languages, things might get more complicated with digital competencies and even more with the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship and social and civic competencies. For example, the French authorities decided to remove ‘entrepreneurship’ from the European key competency labelled “sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.” The French version is “autonomie et initiative” [5] (autonomy and initiative).

Continue reading

Recognition and Accreditation of Competencies in 2030: How Different?

Wednesday 16 October 2013, I was invited to give a keynote address at a conference[1] in Warsaw celebrating the publication of 300 competency standards[2] at the initiative of the Department of Labour Market from the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Participants included the State Secretary from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, representatives of social partners such as the Polish Craft Association, the Polish Chamber of Commerce, different employer associations and trade unions.

It was interesting to witness how much has been achieved 6 years after the publication of 200 qualification standards and my first visit to Warsaw when on the 18 December 2007 I was invited to give a keynote at a conference entitled National Occupational Standards as a Tool for Employment and Education Policy. The brief for this year’s keynote was to invite the participants to explore the potential of those newly published competency standards to support, recognise and accredit learning.

What follows is the abstract of my presentation[3].

Continue reading