Using Open Badges at Hamilton

We’re exploring a new way of tracking professional development and learning. The internet has quite profoundly changed the way we learn. Skills and questions are really one Google (or Bing, or Pinterest, or Instructable, or Tweet) search away. Learning happens. Constantly.

But how do you quantify and demonstrate that learning? If you say you know how create a retro loop player on your upright piano using a Raspberry Pi, how might you prove it? And can you incentivize the learning?

These are the questions Open Badges attempt to answer.

What’s an Open Badge?

Open_Badges_-_LogoAn Open Badge is a digital representation of a skill or achievement earned from a creditable organization. Earned badges can be displayed in professional portfolios, Linkedin profiles, and various social networks like Facebook and Google Plus.

Badges contain “meta” data. It’s not just a simple “picture” that you can throw on your website. Instead, it contains certain “proofs” to give the badge actual veracity. Think if it as roughly analogous to “certificates of completion”.

Here’s a basic example. Say Hamilton CSD creates a “Login to Google” badge. If someone has this badge, it means they are capable of logging into Google. The badge would contain the following information:

  1. Issuer (in this case, Hamilton CSD.
  2. Name of the badge
  3. Associated picture of the badge
  4. Description of the badge
  5. Criteria for earning the badge (ie login to Google)
  6. Evidence. Proof that you’ve done this badge. In this case, a system that recorded you demonstrating logging into Google.

Where’s the Value?

For our students, badges often serve as simple extrinsic rewards (Khan Academy uses them to incentivize learning). For adults, badges are a really solid way to demonstrate to employers (future or otherwise) skills they are learning and acquiring. A more real and relevant component to a resume or portfolio.

Using Badges at Hamilton

We’re piloting and exploring correlating badges to CEUs. When a badge is earned in PD, the badge may have an associated CEU. In this regard, it takes the place of a certificate of completion.


Credly and Tracking Badges

We track badges in our system. But we’re also using an external creditor called “Credly”. Credly is completely optional for folks to use. Think of Credly as a “backpack” that collects your badges. You transfer those badges anywhere (your Facebook profile, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), but they’re first stored at Credly.

If you’d like to use Credly, you will need to sign up for an account. It’s free. And again, completely voluntary.

Be Less Helpful

Dan Meyer – my favorite math teacher to follow on the internets – ran an interesting presentation that focuses on a great pedagogical concept:

Be less helpful.

I’m simplifying a bit, but the main idea is to set your students up with the puzzle, and then let them wrestle with it. Don’t give students answers. Rather, get them to ask more and more questions. Then see what they discover.

It might be a coincidence, but Dan fellowshipped with Google. Google recently released this excellent video. I highly recommend viewing. A good end of the week conclusion.

Facebook, Trust Engineers, and 1 Billion People

On August 24 , 1 billion people accessed Facebook on the same day. That’s 1/7 of the world’s population. This bears a moment of contemplation and question: What does it mean when 1/7 of the world logs into the same the site on the same day?

This isn’t a scaremongering post or a melancholy reflection on a desire to become a Luddite. I love Facebook. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to my widely spread family and friends. Back in the day (which for me, was the 90s), I used to write letters (especially when traipsing and living through South America). And while letters are cool in all their nostalgic permanence, my Mom would rather see cute videos of her grandkids making Mickey Mouse pancakes. Most of Facebook is inane. But it serves as really good social glue.

Still, there’s a massive amount of power in the platform.

For Social Scientists, Facebook is the El Dorado. Buried in the gazillions of interactions, posts, reactions, social norms, and data are fascinating correlations and conclusions. Because there’s so much data, questions can find answers like:

  • Who might be a good marriage match? Who might be heading for a divorce?
  • What makes people happy?
  • When is mental health is taking a turn for the worse (before obvious signs).

One conclusion might be to ask can we engineer human behavior through Facebook?

Back in February, Radiolab ran this incredible podcast called “The Trust Engineers“. In their own words:

When we talk online, things can go south fast. But they don’t have to. Today, we meet a group of social engineers who are convinced that tiny changes in wording can make the online world a kinder, gentler place. So long as we agree to be their lab rats.

Ok, yeah, we’re talking about Facebook. Because Facebook, or something like it, is more and more the way we share and like, and gossip and gripe. And because it’s so big, Facebook has a created a laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we’ve never seen. We peek into the work of Arturo Bejar and a team of researchers who are tweaking our online experience, bit by bit, to try to make the world a better place. And along the way we can’t help but wonder whether that’s possible, or even a good idea.

Take a listen. It’s a fascinating podcast.

You have a platform that, in theory, could nudge folk. And nudging 1/7 of the world’s population is a bit mind bending. What kind of society could be created? Who shapes the directions of the nudges (right now, at least in most of the world, democratic governments create such “nudges” when they fit societal goals)?

Questions to ponder as I launch the blue icon.

Feature Image "Facebook Connections" by Michael Coghlan. Creative Commons.

Teacher Academy Visit

A highlight of the year is when Mike Neri invites me to his Teacher Academy Class to talk about technology and education. Given the fact that these kidoes won’t be in the classroom for a 1/2 a decade of so, the talk is usually a bit of exercise in predicting the future and identifying trends – subjects I always find fun. Today I’ll be going over a slightly tweaked version of my 2014 OETC presentation: Will I be Replaced by a Robot.

The Gist

I want explore how the digital revolution and the growth in the capacity of machines to perform larger cognitive tasks will affect the teaching profession. A fear frequently expressed by technology reluctant educators is that technology may displace many of their functions as a teacher. We’ll examine the validity of this fear by viewing past and current trends in technology and how these trends have impacted various careers. We will raise questions about future job opportunities for students as well.

The Presentation


Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

By Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: A fairly concise book that explores the relationship between technological advances and its impact on society, particularly the job market.

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Follow up to Race Against the Machine.

Welcome Robot Overlords. Please Don’t Fire Us?

A variation of the Brynjolfsson and McAfee arguments. Excellent demonstration of Moore’s Law. Also does a pretty solid job of explaining income growth tied to capital.

Coming to an Office Near You

Economist article outlining the impact of technological advances on all jobs.

Fun Follow Up