Friday, April 27, 2012

Open Badges Anchor Subject

It would seem to me that Scout badges would be a great anchor subject to focus the development effort for creating online learning resources for the OBI. To simplify things I will focus on the adults who have earned scout badges in their youth and would like to bring them forward into the digital world. The nice part of this is I don't have to deal with the under-age privacy issues that could appear within this anchor subject. Yet I have a mature source for badges with well defined assessment and award processes available. The scouts Canada site already has digital copies the badges within their store.

Use Cases
Using scout badges as my anchor subject will also open up all aspects of the OBI learning journey. Within it has the following high level use cases;
  • Wanting to display the scout badge (requiring a displayer service to be implemented)
  • Wanting to earn the scout badge (which will bring assessment into the learning discussion)
  • The ability to issue the scout badges (this would tie the issuing of the digital badge to the assessment. And kick-off the learning around assertion)
The technology
As with most of my current web development I will be using a mobile first strategy. This development / OER creation effort will also include a browser based portal, but the idea of implementing a mobile sash to display my scout  badges seems kinda cool to me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Curriculum Envisioned for the OBI Developer

So I have taken it upon myself to build some learning resources for the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). The idea being that there is going to be a very large number of web developers wanting to deepen their understanding of the OBI. And onboarding all these developers is going to be a lot of work for Mozilla and the Open Badges team. So given my tenured technical background and my experience as an educator and instructional designer I figured the best way to help out is to develop some OER to assist the developers in learning the OBI.

My approach is to utilize an Agile Instructional Design approach and build some OER for the OBI. To start I have envisioned what the subject domain is about, have identified learning themes and the profile(s) of the learners engaging with these learning resources. All this comes in three (well four) posts, they are;
  1. The Open Badges Concept Map which defines the subject area from an introductory perspective.
  2. The Open Badges Learning Themes that will focus the OER module development.
  3. The Open Badges Learner Roles that identify the learner profiles so the resources are developed toward the right target audience.
  4. And the Open Badges Learning Plan which is my commitment to building the learning resources for the OBI.

Open Badges Learning Themes

To complete the envisioning step of Agile Instructional Design is to determine the main themes of learning. These themes are derived from the concept map, which was created from a quick review of the subject domain of open badges. It is for these themes that learning resources will be built. The themes are as follows;
  1. Who or What is the Badge Issuer? What do they need to exist? What technology do they need in place? What code, if any do they need to write to be an issuer?
  2. Who is the Badge Earner? How do they earn a badge? Where do they store their badges? As an earner is there technology i need to know how to use or code?
  3. Who or What is the Badge Displayer? What do they need to exist? What technology do they need in place? What code, if any do they need to write to be an displayer? Can a displayer also be an issuer?
  4. What technology Platform is required? How would I host an issuer, earner or displayer? Could I hack the platform myself? What specific technology skills are required? Would learning the following three technologies be enough to contribute to and utilize the OBI?
It is answering all these questions, are more, that will be the learning themes of the OBI for developers course being built from this initiative. Stay tuned as I move into the planning phase for this courses creation.

Open Badges Concept Map

  • Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) - the OBI is the technology platform which hosts the important aspects of the badges out on the internet. This github wiki page has a really good diagram of the OBI.
  • digital badge - the digital badge is the online equivalent of the traditional badge for achievement. Think girl or boy scout badges. You prove mastery of something, you get a badge.
  • digital backpack - the digital backpack is like the sash for the scout badges. It serves as an online place to store, manage and organize your badges.
  • baking - baking allows every badge to also include information about the badge, beyond the graphical design of the badge. The baking also creates digital integrity "baked" into the badge
  • issued - badges are issued by a group, institution, master, supermentor, online university, learning community, etc. Any organization who has skills and knowledge they want others to possess can issue badges. These organizations / communities should be considered badge issuers.
  • displayed - badges can be displayed separately from the issuer. Online references can be made to badges in a backpack and they displayed. Facebook or LinkedIn can be displayers.
  • earned - badges can be earned by learners. An issuer will create, or be associated with, learning environments and once a learner has demonstrated competencies they can earn badges.
  • asserted - the validity / integrity of badges can be asserted against a badge "authority". The main idea being; is the badge for real? does it link back to a solid set of curriculum? is the issuer valid? did the person really earn this badge? It is these kind of integrity checks that are derived from a badge assertion. More on this later...
  • png files - the graphical images of badges are png files.
  • json metadata - is data about the badge that can be stored as part of the actual badge. This links back to the baking of a badge.
  • node.js - is the software system that open badges has been built
  • mysql - is the database used for open badges
  • github - is the software management and developer community platform for open badges.
If you want a more detailed listing of concepts and keywords associated with open badges I suggest you review this page on the mozilla wiki;


Open Badges Learner Roles

One of the early steps within Agile Instructional Design is to identify the learner roles. Identifying the learner roles is about audience and context. Identifying the audience for learning is very important, for they will dictate the literacy levels, the breadth of knowing, the audience determines the appropriate stories and anchors. It is also important to identify the roles from all sides of the learning engagement; learner, facilitator, teacher, peer, subject mater expert, etc. And giving the roles human names, descriptions, and avatars will help learners to connect to the roles and the stories they participate. Context also has a big influence over stories and anchors. Is it professional development or graduate level academics? Is it in an urban surrounding or rural? Is the learning building on previous learning?

The outcomes for this task are the user role descriptions. These could be cards or full pages describing each role with details of breadth of knowledge, background, role within the learning experience. For this iteration of building curriculum for Open Badges I will focus on two roles;

Educational Technologist - Grace Jones
Grace has a masters of education technology and an undergraduate degree in biology. She is an experienced education technologist who is very proficient with open source technologies. She has over 12 years experience working in both academic and professional development settings. Her preferred development environment is working on LAMP based servers using PhP as her primary development language. She has an intermediate understanding of the MVC pattern, and is just getting started with HTML5 and CSS3. She considers herself a beginner JavaScript programmer, and has begun learning Node.js in preparation for implementing three badges based projects for different clients. Currently she has two primary jobs; one as programmer for the Instructional Development Office of a large University and the other is an independent consultancy where she contracts as an instructional designer and solutions developer.

Independent Learner - Mandeep Rhandawa
Mandeep is a geologist by training and profession. He possesses two undergrad degrees; one in geology and the other in soils engineering. Mandeep is a tinkerer, he enjoys playing around with and hacking the web. Mandeep has no formal programming background, though he has developed a beginner proficiency with hacking the web through taking a couple of free online courses and hacking a lot of code. On his free time he has explored many subjects and completed many online learning activities. He is prone to engage in different free and online learning activities. he is a member of five different communities of practice within varying subject domains. The idea of earning badges to legitimize his online learning appeals to him, he would like to hack the OBI to create a full backpack and to provide badges support to the communities he is a member.

Please note, both these user role characters are fictional. Any similarity to real people is purely accidental.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Open Badges Learning Plan

I've started my journey into Mozilla's Open Badges initiative. I'm doing this because it fits so well with my beliefs and values around open education, assessment and accreditation. It really seems like the logical next step for me and my desire to assist in opening learning for everyone; outside of the traditional institutions. Don't get me wrong, I believe people can learn amazing things at traditional institutions and people should continue to engage traditional institutions. I just also believe people should be able to get as much recognition and accreditation from their learning outside of the traditional institutions. What I really value most about the open badges initiative is that they are wanting to offer an infrastructure (and I believe the infrastructure is key) that is open to everyone and doesn't end up focusing its efforts on higher education institutions (OER based or otherwise). In Mozilla's description of their open badges initiative it is also key that they support all areas of learning. It is this that I value most.
...They can support learning that happens in new ways and new spaces beyond the traditional classroom. These include online courses, after-school programs, work and life experiences. By providing a more complete picture of learners' skills and competencies, badges can signal achievement to a variety of communities and institutions including potential employers, educational organizations and social groups... ~
My Approach
I will create curriculum for, and deepen my understanding of, Mozilla Open Badges by using my Agile Instructional Design (AID) methodology. I will focus on building OER for open badges from both the perspective of an education technologist and an independent learner. I will build this first set of resources as AID sprints with two iterations; the first focused on the edtech and the second on the learner.

My Learning Plan
The first task within AID is the envisioning step. This step focuses on developing an introductory understanding of the subject and creating the beginnings of a curriculum map. This is how I will fulfill the tasks within the AID envisioning step.
  1. Curriculum Plan
    Here I will create a concept map of the open badges domain. This will also include a list of the keywords found within the domain. I will gather this by quickly reviewing all the Mozilla artifacts I can find on open badges and perform a few Internet searches to try and discover any gaps.
  2. Learning Themes
    I will build upon the concept map by identifying the learning themes. One of the themes that immediately jumps to mind is the focus on issuing, storing and displaying the badge. Rather than the assessment of earning the badge. 
  3. Learner Roles
    There are two roles within this iteration; they are the edtech and the learner. I will elaborate on the roles in a subsequent post.
Feel free to follow along (or even join in) with my learning. I'll be as open as the technology will allow and contributing will assist us both in deepening our understanding of open badges.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our Hackasaurus Kitchen Table

Over the last week I have been preparing for a hackasaurus kitchen table event with my two boys, Lucas and Kai. My two boys are six and five, respectively. And spend a huge amount of time outside, they are not what I would consider tech savvy. This comes as no surprise as their Mom and I don't encourage technology use. They are two rural boys with way too much energy and we would them rather be outside, creating and building things. We believe there will be plenty of time to develop technology skills when they are a little older and their brains have developed into free thinking creativity machines. All this said, I still strongly believe they should develop an understanding of how Mom and Dads information appliance works.

I will often sit with Lucas and Kai and "do research" as they like to call it. This usually means choosing a subject like bats, eagles, cars, trains, etc... We usually search the web and do a little reading and then download and print a bunch of pictures related to the subject. I always insist in also downloading coloring pages of the chosen subject. Once everything is printed they settle into their art station and color the pages, cut out the photos and make 5 1/2 x 8 picture books. We then sit together and review the books, and again talk about the subject. All a pedagogically sound and age appropriate way to learn new things.

So given my ongoing curiosity about using the internet as a learning tool I have been spending some time developing an understanding of what Mozilla is up to in regards to web making and supporting online education. One of their main themes is hackasaurus, where they are teaching youth to hack the web. Good hacking, in the traditional sense of hacking. Recently they put out a call to beta test their kitchen table event. I thought what a great way to learn more about what Mozilla is up too and start deepening my kids understanding of how the web works. Kai often asks, "Why is the computer so full of information?", my response is usually to grab the network cable or point toward the wireless router and say its connected to millions of other computers and collectively they hold A LOT of information. He smiles, nods, and gives me a look of disbelief.

When I first became aware of this kitchen table event I started reading about it and understood it was more focused on the youth cohort (teenagers), though the event idea doesn't implicitly say so. Given my educational background I figured it would be a good idea to create some scaffolding for the younger kids (K3) to assist any other parents who may be considering the same thing. I built some scaffolding and published it to the Mozilla wiki. What I believe is most important is to find subjects that the kids are currently (as in right now, today!) really jazzed about. Right now Lucas and Kai are jazzed about snails. So we took some photos and hacked web sites about snails. These are the two sites we created from our hacking;
Both Lucas and Kai were so engaged, this kitchen table event was a great thing. I do believe it was important to have the K3 scaffolding, find a topic they are really excited about, and for the learning to be about the topic not about hacking the web. The hacking the web still got into their brains, and will develop further as we participate in more of the hackasaurus events. Thanks Mozilla team!