Can we have an #IndieWeb webmentions credentialing system? #OpenBadges

Many have come to know me as an inquisitive skeptic when is comes to badging. Yes I believe we need to remediate assessment. Yet I know the introduction of measure changes learning, and always felt we used a huge system for what boils down to a dichotomous measure. You either earn a badge or you don’t. It is a checkbox with a bit of metadata.

Over the past few weeks I have discussed this in the #IndieWeb channels with Aaron Parecki and Tantek Çelik if we could use webmentions as a credentialing tool. When you think about it an #openbadges boils down to two permalinks: the task, with criteria and evidence; and the learner artifact with evidence of learning.

In this example the teacher would put a target url to a task that has mark up for criteria and evidence such as

They then enter in the url to the student work.

You add a badge image and indicate if it is awarded. The webmention would be sent to the students post and to the class website. The hcard of the teacher and the organization would act as endorsement.

other option for credential

In this example, a bit easier technically as only website gets parsed. The teacher adds in the url to the learner evidence and outs the criteria and evidence for the credential in the body of the post.

Then some kind of ledger or validator like my Bridgy page (above) or (below) would create a permanent record outside of both both the class website and the source of learner evidence.

What do people think? Can we do it? Should a badge just be two permalinks and not a gigantic protocol with quasi-open stewardship of the standards?

Hey #literacies #lra18 #engchat #nctechat Recruiting Experts for @scsu Pop Up Podcasts in June

I love using expert panels in my online classes. So much more rewarding than a narrated slidedeck.

So this year I am changing it up.

I will do a Pecha Flickr for every topic to start the week.

Then I hope to offer a 15-20 minute panel of experts. If you like doing popup podcasts here are the topics and dates:

  • Week of 5/24 Emergent Literacy, Phonemic Awareness, Concepts About Print
  • Week of 5/31 Phonics
  • Week of 6/7 Running Records
  • Week of 6/14 Writing and Vocabulary Instruction
  • Week of 6/21 Comprehension  and Dialogical Reading

If you want to join the show, either ping me on Twitter, drop an email, or better yet write about on your blog and drop a link below my comment box to create a webmention.

Opening Up Digital Teaching and Learning II

Last night’s #edtechchat revolved around the kind of learning that must go into #edtech before students even sit with a machine. It boils down to Make. Hack. Play. Learn, regardless of the medium or mode. Yet  I also know we need a critical focus on building ethical tech and modeling these values for our students.


Together… flickr photo by Photo Cup 2014 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

I believe we need to focus on attitudes and not just the  computational thinking that empowers the use of technology.

I believe as public school teachers and public university professors we have a responsibility to work in the open and share our efforts back to the Commons.

I believe a pad and a pencil is the most useful piece of #edtech equipment we can give to any child.

Identity not Content

So much of the talk revolved around content creation. I am not usually worried about most of the crap that kids make at school. My focus is on the crap that happens that makes the child. Too often this pile of stink is being algorithmically served up to children. See the first generation of the web built the tools we use as they were doing their identity work as young children and adults. Today this identity work is being sold back to our children hidden behind social feeds.

Their brains (yours too) are under attack from daily notifications scientifically designed and  tested to act like drugs.

As educators we have a responsibility to seize back the web for our our children.

For me that starts with privacy by empowering folks to own their data and their identity by having their own domain.


Identity flickr photo by Michelle Hyacinth shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Digital Teaching and Learning II

During the #edtechchat I shared a course shell I made that day using CSS Grid (tt was my first time trying CSS Grid instead of a Bootstrap website so I may have made a few errors).

After words folks were asking about my recent #indieweb efforts and I threw out an idea of teaching a free mini-course this summer. By the time I woke up I had ten requests for the class.

So I needed to switch it up. Instead I decided to open up my Digital Teaching and Learning II class that I will be offering this summer from July 13-August 18th. Most of my classes are taught openly (students always have the option of publishing privately) and through RSS so why not step it up for a high level graduate class?

(Below are notes that are subject to change often)

Goals of class

  • Be fun and worry free.
  • Create a GitHub Account and build the world’s simplest website by learning to fork, or remix, a repo.
  • Create a website of your own with both long format blog posts and short posts such as replies, bookmarks, and status updates.
  • Post critical reflections on current trends in #edtech
  • Build an online course of an existing unit or class you teach using HTML and CSS Grid (you don’t need to know anything. What can’t be learned can be copy/pasted and if you copy and paste enough you edventually learn).
  • Utilize web standards like microformats and protocols to create a network of scholars free of silos.
  • Design a learning pathway to meet your needs.


How will this work?

Everyone will choose a hosting package and start up a website with a blog. If you already have a website and blog, that is awesome. 60% of the classwork is done. If your website is on a platform like, medium, blogger, weebly, or edublgoger we will work with you to migrate it to your own space. If you are already running from your domain even better. 75% of the classwork is already complete. Then we will help you add #indieweb technologies.

GitHub, Is that scary?

Not really. I was afraid at first but remixing on GitHub is a lot like copying a Google Doc. Especially when you will be using really small HTML files like we will. In fact we will do most of the learning in Glitch which will allow us all to contribute and remix each other’s work. Luckily Glitch and GitHub do a great job of talking.

My school just uses G Suite so can I still take this class?

Sure, and if you want to hone your Google Classroom, GDoc, or any other skills you can build a personal pathway towards that in You will just share your learning and any materials you make on your website. Open is an attitude and we can still plant the seeds in our children using any tool.

I don’t know any HTML can I still participate?

Yes, you do not need any specialized knowledge. Students enrolled in this class never dealt with anything beyond the WYSIWYG editor in Digtial Teaching and Learnign I. Nobody will be light years ahead.

We will always start with templates. Learning HTML is like learning a sonnett. Once you know the pattern it’s easy to follow. You will be able to build your website without really having to change any of the html tags.

If you are a website guru I welcome you as well as I am learnign as I go. Developers and engineers can really benefit from hanging from regular folks to see how instruction is different from documentation.

Can I take the class for credit?

Yes this is a graduate level course. It is your responsibility to check with your current insitution to make sure the credits would transfer. Students participating in the course for credit will have extra responsibilities around documenting their learnign and developing a personal learning pathway.

When can I learn more?

I will be designing the course materials throughout May and early June. You will be able to see a finished product sometime after that. However I will be documenting each step of the way so if you follow me across the web it will be hard not to learn more.


Control not Disruption as My #IndieWeb Goal

I hate disruption. The word, not the noun. Disruption occurs everywhere but it is rarely a goal we should strive for in education. We band it about like many cliches in edtech: personalized learning, blockchain, badges, and Web 2.0.

Yet nothing gets disrupted in schools. The term disruption evolved in business circles. Venture Capitlist define disruption as, “hockey stick growth to make our portfolio the new incumbent by destroying an old incumbent.” Some pigs are mroe equal than others as the man said.

When it comes to the web we need control not more disruption.

I came to this conclusion when discussing how new silos emerge that dictate how edtech softward works. Specs now get locked behind member organization who will also sell you the chance to demonstrate compliance.

We can’t sell ourselves out of this problem. Many folks smarter in the #indieweb community have already tried. Entreprenuers find the edtech sector crazy hard. Long sales cycles, institutional players, multiple unions. It ain’t easy.

Instead we need to focus on control. Professors need to control their courses and not lock them down in the LMS. Students should control their own data on their own domain. We do not need disruption we need empowerment.

Long term these are my #indieweb goals:

  • Help rethink what counts as research in higher education. We need to focus on communities and not chasing citations.
  • Convince faculty that they need to get course work down to the smallest bits of html possible. Honestly we all teach the same classes. Let’s make these openly licensed and remixable as possible,
  • Contribute to efforts to standardize markup around online courses. I asked the OER18 crowds. I could find no efforts since 2013. Instead everyone focused on Learning Tols Interoperability which is a standard you can not contribute to without paying massive membership dues. This should be hard. Learning hasn’t evolved much. Goals, Objectives, Materials, Activities, Criteria, Evidence. Shouldn’t be too hard to agree on mark up.
  • Help spec out and possibly build the decentralized headless LMS that’s stuck in my head. We are close with Micropub and Microsub.
  • Think about badging or credentialing in a much more lightweight way than the OBI specification. In the end a badge is a few permalinks. I think we can do this with webmentions
  • Secure grants to focus on machine learning. I am scared, not of roboscoring and the machines, but of the models getting locked behind silos and IP. If we don’t control our content now we will lose the future of learning analytics
  • Have fun.


Featured image: “disruptions” flickr photo by pargee shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Time to Replace the M in Stem with Manufacturing

Tens of thousands of jobs go unfilled as pathways to the middle class get cut off. We need to get serious about high end manufacturing.

Airbus in the UK

Airbus in the UK flickr photo by bisgovuk shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Yes the study of advanced mathematics is critical and explicit biases have left scars across all STEM fields.

Yet we can not let STEM, STEAM, STREAM or whatever you call it, water down content knowledge.

So many STEM conversations boil down to PBL or design based thinking with little regard to actual knowledge.


XAVI IN VIEW flickr photo by rafeejewell shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Thinking in mathematical complexities and using numeracy to drive thinking and learning is essential across every field.

Mathematics is transforming high-end manufacturing just as it is science, technology and engineering.

Thus STEM advocates are correct all students deserve access to advanced mathematics trainings, and we need to see and use math in action.

math is scary

math is scary flickr photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

In this process we can not subjugate manufacturing ,rather we need to elevate our vocational programs to an equal playing field with science, technology, and engineering.

Let’s focus on STEM as an economic engine as well as a mindset and replace math with manufacturing.

Big Impact with Big Data Part Two

This is the second post in the series describing my keynote at the Big Data Smart Knowledge Forum held at Tianjin University of Technology October 13th. You can find the first here.

In the second half of my keynote I want to share some applications for big data that I see. As I noted earlier I am not a data scientist yet. I have worked myself about halfway through this course sequence and find myself improving my R skills. I have the statistical skills to handle factor analysis, logistic regression. This make R easier for me. I know nothing (yet) of tensorflow, Hadoop, and Python.

The machine learning… That’s your job. That’s what I mean by interdisciplinary.


My first foray into Big Data traces back to my PhD work at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut. In conjunction with Clemson University we conducted a formative design research experiment exploring how students locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information when reading on the web.

This also provided me with my first chance to code, beyond HTML mark up, since I quit coding BASIC in 6th grade. We built a simulated closed internet and a fake social network to assess students online research and comprehension abilities. I spent countless hours doing instructional design, iterating on items, and coding XML files.

What my colleagues found should startle you. Even after controlling for prior knowledge and reading ability their were differences in online reading ability based on race and economics. Once again we were recreating the inequities of the past.

If you look at the result you would see these differences across all the subset of skills. Look at evaluation in particular. Nobody challenges what they read and write online? Anyone want to take a guess? Think about it. How do we teach students? With text books and at the end of each chapter there are questions. Do you know how you answer the first question? By finding the first bold word in the chapter.

There are no bold words in life. We set students up for failure and create reward systems for the quick answer. We need what Ian O’Bryne calls healthy skeptics. We can not simply accept what our elders say as true. Authority is not a constant it ebbs and flows like most variables.

The ORCA study used a large sample but we could apply these tools to Big Data. What if we built web plug ins that scaffolded understanding? The log files could shine great light on methods best to teach folks how we read, write, and participate on the web.

Mozilla Thimble

I am a contributor to Mozilla, the good people behind then open source browser Firefox. We developed a tool to teach coding called Thimble. It is a web based editor that shows you your changes in real time.
My role was to test out early versions with my students and provide feedback on design. I also helped to write curriculum used by thousands across the globe.

I wanted to show you some of the insights I have drawn from the web analytics but Google is currently blocked in China due to the seating of the next Congress. Trust me, many people across the globe use Thimble to learn code.

Yet we can do so much more. We need help with those who have the expertise to design the learning analytics. We have so much data.

In the United States we have a saying, “finding a needle in the haystack.” This means looking for a sewing needle in a pile or grass or hay. As Bryan Matthers illustrates adding more needles to the haystack does not make finding the needle any easier.

I wonder can we build predictive code coaches using Web analytics-how many times the tutorial is clicked or Regression analysis by understanding predictive pathways students take. Smart tutors can help us teach students how to code.

Social Network Analysis

I also find social network analysis as a another interesting Big Data field. I have taught and taken many MOOCs. In fact I love them. Due to MOOCS I can say unlike Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates I haven’t dropped out of just one ivy league college. I have quit them all.

We must remember the M for massively in MOOC never meant size. When David Cormier coined the term MOOC he meant for the word massively to modify open. It had nothing to do with ten or ten thousand participants. Instead MOOCs were meant to make learning open and visible.

We turn to Social Network Analysis to understand these learning connections. Search is now social. Learning has always been social but its now amplified. When I need the answer to a question I don’t go to Baidu or Google. I go to my networks and ask the experts who reside within my nodes.

Open Badges

We can also apply Big Data to open badges. Open badges represent a new way to credential learning. Instead of handing out paper diplomas we can now connect the criteria for learning with the evidence students create on their journey. Meta data lives behind each badge and we can use this to uncover new pathways for learning.

Hundreds of thousands of badges have been issued since open badges began in 2011.

Bots, Badges, and AI.

I am bullish on chatbots. I believe they can complete many of the low hanging assessment tasks that take up so much of my time. For example, in my current classes I have created a pathway called “Academic Blogger.” One of the badges wants students to use headers and images in their posts. A machine should identify this work and free up my time to provide more holistic writing advice to students.

I believe the stream is the future of online education. We can mix in smart tutor bots that can provide help when students need it. Take Thimble again as an example. Why can’t students ask a chat bot about how to change some bit of their CSS?

Brining it Home

Overall I think advances in Big Data and Learning analytics can help us make our cities be our campus and not just the classroom. For too long we have had the shackles of the Carnegie hour thrust upon us as if time in the class equates learning.

Open Badges, Big Data and bots can create new partnerships between the private and public sector. Dual enrollment classes could pop up between universities and secondary schools. Students could get credit for activities they conduct as volunteers or at the public library.

Big Data has the potential for us to recognize what great thinkers have always known. Learning happens anytime and anywhere.