Hello World!

Hello world! is a message well known to the apprentice programmer and webmaster: it is the typical output one tries to get when learning a new programming language or checking whether a system is operating correctly.

Such is the case: after many years of (extremely) irregular postings to my blog, I have installed an instance of WordPress and configured it in such a way that all my posting will go seamlessly to my different Twitter and Facebook accounts. This message is a means to test whether I have done a good job when configuring WordPress!

Hello world! is also meant to convey another, less technical, message: I have made the decision to keep a regular journal on learning technologies and identities. Why do I believe that the frequency of my postings will be less stochastic than in the past? Open Badges is the answer!

Open Badges is a truly open community, where every contribution, from the most humble to the most challenging, is welcomed, nurtured and reviewed with consideration by a community supported by the Mozilla Foundation. Being part of the Open Badges community gives one the sense of contributing to a global co-design exercise. Thousands of initial practitioners have delivered hundreds of thousands of badges, and their experience is directly fed-back into the design circuit. Open Badges is truly a learning technology, in the sense that the technology is the result of a learning process, a community learning process.

This is a very different experience from the one I had within the ePortfolio community. For example, when in 2010 I wrote the 10 ePortfolio challenges, the text generated some polite interest but no actual commitment. Conversely, after I wrote Open Badges vs Tin Can, within a few weeks two communities that had never worked together before (ADL/SCORM and Open Badges) joined their efforts to write a series of use cases and are now working on the specifications for a demonstrator.

Does it mean that the ePortfolio community might be less open and committed to innovation than the Open Badges community? Certainly not. If you have attended one of the many events convened by the ePortfolio community  (and if you join us at ePIC 2014!)  you will have experienced first hand the sense of openness and capacity to generate and embrace innovation. The impact of the presence of Open Badges at ePIC 2012 and 2013 are testimonies to the openness towards new ideas, initiatives and technologies of the ePortfolio community.

The ePortfolio has always been as open to innovation as the Open Badges community is today. If there is a difference to be found in the ability to innovate, it might be the technical object around which those communities emerged that needs more studying:

  • an Open Badge is a concrete, simple and well defined object. Its ecosystem (the Open Badges Infrastructure) is a well defined trust architecture, so the reader of a badge can trust its content (the relationship between the issuer, the recipient, the criteria and the evidence).
  • an ePortfolio is an abstract, complex objects with multiple definitions. It is a process and an object. There is no well defined ecosystem for ePortfolios and unfortunately no trust architecture. There is no real interoperability across ePortfolio platforms and even less with other information systems.

From the point of view of the genesis of technological objects (c.f. G. Simondon) Open Badges are more concrete than ePortfolios: while they contain many of the elements of an ePortfolio — like a micro-chip contains many of the elements of a mainframe computer — they are more  articulate and synergistic to act as self-regulated entities in relation to their environment. And we, learners, teachers, employers, parents, citizens who are constitutive of that environment, can influence the mutations of the Open Badges’ DNA.

The world of technologies might be the place where Lamarck will take his revenge over Darwin: the law of technological evolution might not be the survival of the fittest (1).

  1. if you are interested in exploring further the idea of the genesis of technical objects, you should be interested by Simondon, Bioart, and the Milieus of Biotechnology by Robert Mitchell (Duke University, United States of America) link

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