At 4pm today (16th July, 2014) I’ll be giving a talk to the Institutional Web Managers Workshop (IWMW14) in Newcastle. The sessions aren’t being streamed but I’ll see if I can stream to my YouTube channel. The main idea I want to convey is that in a world which is benefiting from being digitally distributed, networked and increasing crowd driven the IWMW audience is in the prime position to support their institutions creating opportunities for learning aligned to this.  In particular, I want to highlight the work George Siemens is proposing around the Personal Knowledge Graph (PKG):

The big shift that needs to be made in education is to shift from knowing content to knowing learners.

What is needed in education is something like a Personal Learner Knowledge Graph (PLKG): a clear profile of what a learner knows – Siemens, G (2104)

There are a number of challenges with this idea including technical and ethical, but having played with ideas that could potentially highlight aspects of a persons latent knowledge capacity the concept excites me. As part of my presentation I’ll be highlighting the ways the latest iteration of ALT’s Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) align to a Personal Knowledge Graph. One of the strongest features of ocTEL, which we completely fluked, was how Open Badges can be used to support the construction of part of a Person Knowledge Graph.

Open Badges in ocTEL

As part of ocTEL the course was broken into weekly topics. Each week there were five types of badges available for that topic (this was based on the BlendKit Course).

  • Check-in: awarded for reading the week’s course material
  • Webinar: awarded for attending or watching the webinar
  • TEL One: awarded for completing each week’s ‘If you only do one thing’ activity
  • TEL Explorer: awarded for completing each week’s ‘TEL Explorer’ activities (there could be more than one)
  • Topic Badge: awarded for completing at least 3 of the above

All the badges with the exception of TEL One and TEL Explorer were automatically awarded by a click of a button, entering an activity code or the system detecting a configured set of requirements. TEL One and Explorer were awarded by the participant providing a url evidencing their activity which was manually reviewed. Other badges were available outside the weekly set for community related activity. These included badges automatically awarded for adding details to a profile, making posts on other sites recorded in ocTEL as part of our data aggregation using FeedWordPress. There were also other badges tutors could individually award people to recognise contributions to the course.

Open Badges = new nodes and edges

Besides badging appearing to be a positive influence in course engagement the badging system used in ocTEL, the BadgeOS Plugin for WordPress, there are several features of our setup you could argue supported the construction and use of Personal Knowledge Graphs:

Situational awareness

As part of the badging system there was an option to display who else had earned the badge. With this there is an opportunity to be aware of who else is active (an example badge page). Given this was available on all badges activity become categorised by level (basic check-in to advanced activity) and topic. In the current configuration we have no made connections between these but would prove an interesting area for further research. Another area for improvement is the profile pictures link you only to the persons general profile page. Whilst this has uses, outlined below, in the case of badges with evidence attached to them this link isn’t exposed.

Who's been awarded

A profile of what knowledge has been gained by an individual is arguably a key aspect of a Personal Knowledge Graph. The badging plugin used combined with the BuddyPress social network plugin integrates achievements into a person’s profile (an example profile here). This provides another entry point for people to make connections. Whilst BuddyPress has the facility for friend/follower relationships we were keen for participants to identify the personal 3rd party spaces they  exist in.

Another aspect of BuddyPress/BadgeOS we only briefly experimented with was the inclusion of badge award in the person’s activity stream. The main mechanism this could have supported is with a friending tie this activity could have been pushed to followers via email.

ocTEL achievment profile

Self-declared activity

One challenge of open or distributed activity is collecting that activity. ocTEL uses the FeedWordPress model to aggregate activity from participant blogs and other networks. Whilst the hashtag provides some means of collecting information from self-organising spaces there will always be issues with data collection. With the TEL One and TEL Explore badges requiring the person to submit a url as evidence that they have completed the activity this issue is partially overcome, the individual becoming the curator of information in their knowledge graph.


The final aspect of badging in ocTEL worth noting is our efforts to move from the ‘digital badging’ natively used in the BadgeOS plugin to instead directly issue Open Badges. This small difference potentially has a big impact. Most notably this means the ocTEL site exposes information about achievements in the interoperable Open Badges specification. The benefit for the user is they can display badges in other systems, on a personal knowledge graph level it means these achievements are machine readable.


This hastily written post hopefully gives you a flavour of how the use of Open Badges, or digital badging in general, could support the construction of part of a Personal Knowledge Graph. There are still a number of questions to be answered like how might Open Badges, a skills and competency definition using something like InLOC, and a Personal Knowledge Graph fit together. My slides for my IWMW14 talk, for what  they are worth, are embedded below and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this area.


Update 18/06/2014: The Open Badges Issuer Add-on is now also available in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Get the Open Badges Issuer Add-on

OpenBadges_Insignia_WeIssue_BannerALT’s Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) is entering it’s final week. ocTEL has been and continues to be an excellent opportunity to explore ways in which we support ALT’s community of members. Last year the work we did in setting up a blog and community aggregations site directly feeding into the development of the ALT conference platform. This year one of the areas we were keen to explore was the digital badging of community contributions. The use of community badging is well-founded and predates the web itself. This area has however gained extra interest by educators in part due to Mozilla Open Badges. Mozilla Open Badges specify a framework for the description and award of badges using a common specification. The main benefit or this approach is interoperability. Recipients of Open Badges can collect badges in one place, manage them into collection and control how they are shared across sites, social networks and personal portfolios. One such place is in a Mozilla Backpack.

In the case of ocTEL the creation and award of digital badges, particularly within a community context, has been made very easy thanks to the BadgeOS™ plugin for WordPress. BadgeOS has a number of methods which trigger the awarding or badges including reviewed submissions as well as the completion of a defined set of steps.

One issue for us has been that to issue Open Badges with BadgeOS requires integration with the badge awarding and display site Credly. Sites like Credly are very useful parts of the badge ecosystem but the feeling we had was that if we were going to issue Open Badges we would take on the commitment of hosting the badge data ourselves rather than relying on a 3rd party. BadgeOS, regardless of whether you turn on Credly integration, still provides an excellent framework for creating and awarding digital badges. Even better is BadgeOS is open source and is actively encouraging developers to extend and enhance the plugins core functionality. If you look at the BadgeOS Developer Resources there is a number of ways this can be achieved.

With this in mind, with the support of ALT, I has decided to make my own contribution to BadgeOS  with the development of the Open Badges Issuer Add-on. This add-on achieves two things:

  • Badges designed and awarded using BadgeOS are now exposed as Open Badges compliant Assertion - Assertions are the DNA of Open Badges. They are data files which describe the badge and identify who it has been awarded to. Behind the scene the add-on is using the BadgeOS created data turning it into the required object recognised as an Open Badge. Critically this data existing in the host site. For example, one of my ocTEL badges exists here and is shown below in a formatted view.

Open Badges Assertion

  • The creation of an interface for the user to add badges awarded using BadgeOS to the Mozilla Backpack - this is technically made a lot easier as the add-on uses the existing Issuer API which provides most of the code to get the job done.

The rollout of this plugin in ocTEL is complete as detailed in ‘ocTEL digital badges are now Open Badges: How to add them to your Mozilla Backpack’. I’ve also submitted the plugin as a recognised BadgeOS add-on. The add-on will also shortly be appearing in the official WordPress Plugin Directory. Hopefully this add-on will make it easier for others to issue Open Badges through their WordPress powered site.

Like all projects this development greatly benefits for your feedback, which may include coding suggestions or improved functionality, so we appreciate your feedback.

Download the Open Badges Issuer Add-on for BadgeOS

A repost from the ocTEL course blog outlining the way we setup the BadgeOS plugin for WordPress to issue badges as part of the course. This post follows on from an earlier post, 'ocTEL and the Open Badges Assertion', which highlights some progress towards directly issuing Open Badges using BadgeOS ... more to follow on this development.

Moira Maley recently wrote to us asking for some details on how the ocTEL course is configured to issue badges. As others might benefit from this and with Moira's permission here are her questions and my responses. ...continue reading

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This was a post I prepared for another site. It got lost in the pending queue so is out of date (you can still register for ocTEL until the end of June), but I thought worth capturing this post here for future reference.

Last year ALT ran an 11 week long open course in technology enhanced learning (ocTEL). ocTEL is back! And you can still register for this year’s iteration of the course which starts on 28th April 2014 and runs for 7 weeks. The ‘course’ introduces various aspects of TEL from pedagogy, resource discovery to evaluation and management. Participating in an ocTEL feedback session at altc2013 it was interesting to reflect on the mindset people bring to these types of 'courses'. The word 'course' itself also reinforces the idea that if you don't finish then you have somehow failed. At altc2013 Stephen Downes was kind enough to drop in to the ALT-C Live studio and talk about MOOCs with Seb Schmoller. As part of this Stephen explained that the conception of ‘a course’ can be misleading. Stephen has subsequently written up more about what he means in this post. Changing people's perception can be challenging and you can read more about how ocTEL is ‘the open course you cannot fail’ in a post by ALT’s Chief Executive Maren Deepwell.

Our approach to ocTEL is not just changing in approach and content and behind the scenes the platform we use is also evolving to include more social features, integration of accreditation options using digital badges and enhanced course activity aggregation.

The development arch

ocTEL was a successful exploration in the Association hosting this type of event and an opportunity to explore ways for supporting distributed communities. Some of these experiments have already been built upon. For example, the ‘course reader’ which aggregates, displays and redistributes community activity was subsequently also used as part of the altc2013 conference platform. This cycle of development continues with the conference platform being used to improve the course platform. The main change has been the inclusion of a social network site plugin BuddyPress.

BuddyPress has been  used within an educational context for a number of years meaning there is already a rich vein of reported uses and supplementary plugins. One of these is BadgeOS which integrates with BuddyPress to provide the functionality for various forms of accreditation and recognition using digital badges. As well as accrediting activities set by the tutor, BadgeOS also has the option we are keen to explore where participants can nominate or award badges to each other. Another feature of BuddyPress we think might be useful for the course is the  ability for tutors and students to create their own groups. Whilst group forming can be very challenging within open courses particularly given the distributed,  chaotic nature and reduced situational awareness, we are interested to see how these work as it may help us find a solution for supporting ALT’s other communities.

The last area of innovation continues the work funded through the MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) which explored the effectiveness of the course reader to attribute a person’s contributions made in multiple networks. Whilst collecting data from 3rd party sites is possible across a range of platforms the identity of who made the post can be less clear cut. Sometimes this is deliberate the person choosing  to write under a nom de plume, but this can also be a result of restrictions on usernames placed by the site. In ocTEL our interest in this area is not to lift the veil on those who prefer to be anonymous, but instead  correctly attribute contributions to the original author. One of the reason for doing this is if using course activity to accredit someone’s learning, evidence of this activity may existing across different channels.

As part of the MRI grant we analysed data from the first iteration of ocTEL which showed given the data sources we targeted an authorship reconciliation of around 50%. As part of the research we identified areas where we could easily improve the procedure used to match authors to an existing course database. Consequently we’ll be incorporating these in the next version of ocTEL.

All these developments are going to be made available under an open source license so why not register for the course and experience the new ocTEL. Also, similar to last year, we’ll be taking the opportunity to develop the platform during the course. One of the developments at towards the top of the list is creating more data export options. These will include on the personal level ‘midata’ export as well as general data feeds.

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No where in the raging discussion around MOOCs is there anyone talking about sharing the infrastructural/architectural work they’ve done freely with others – Jim Groom in Integrating FeedWordPress with BuddyPress

I wouldn’t say it was a raging discussion, more of a good old fashioned edtech geekout with myself, Alan Levine, Tom Woodward, and latterly joined by Boone (not forgetting a mysterious silhouetted champion of open access ;), talking about the use of WordPress as a connectivist aggregation tool. The chat came about as I’m at the start of the next run of ocTEL, which has given me reams to write about but no time, and Alan and Tom are plotting their next course. We got together via a hangout, the recording is here and embedded below, to swap notes on WordPress as a tool to support open courses. We didn’t give much notice but it was nice to see people like Greg Mcverry were watching along and, underlining the fact that open=opportunity, one of the BuddyPress lead developers, WrodPress guru’s and around cool guy Boone Gorges dropped in for some very useful input and advice.  We chatted for over an hour which leaves the 6-7minute long video sweet spot in the dust, but Martin Lugton has kindly watched the video and pulled out some screen notes.

We might try again next Friday for another get together so watch your scope around 4pm GMT Friday to see if we pull something together. Leave a comment if there is anything you’d like us to talk about or would like a ping.


Mobile - TTRSS themeAfter my last post on ‘Thieving Feedly’, which got a lovely follow up on The Digital River, I mentioned that I’d uninstalled the Feedly Android app. That left a hole in my feed consumption ways which I think I’ve now filled. Below is a screenshot of how I’m now consuming my feeds. Those from the Google Reader good old days might recognise it. Yep if you can’t replace Google Reader then the best solution for me is to recreate it and this post outlines how I did it.

...continue reading


Mike Caulfield has posted an interesting reflection:

Identity is now maintained on our phones. ... Our portal is our app screen. Our network isn’t Facebook or Google or Twitter. It’s the phone address book that is the union of those three imports. And on the phone we stop dreaming about “If only there was a service that integrated functions of Twitter, Gmail, and Snapchat!” Because there is a service that integrates that — your phone’s notifications screen ...continue reading


One of the themes I expect to see for 2010 is more collaborative real-time interaction web applications.

was my bold prediction at the beginning of 2010 (who would want to be a futurologist ;). Mike Caulfield recently highlighted how the WebRTC specification, which permits real-time communication (audio, video, chat, screen interaction) in your browser with a bit of JavaScript and opens the opportunity for educators to more easily breakaway from learning designs created to fit traditional webinar platforms. As Mike highlights: ...continue reading


Last week I was at the MOOC Research Initiative Conference in Texas. The organisers (George Siemens, Amy Collier, Tanya Joosten and others) should stand up and take a bow for a fantastic event. I’m still digesting my thoughts from the event which was full of extremes and at times completely surreal. I leave Arlington with memories of going from being baked at 28C to –10C icestorms; memories of trekking down the freeway with some of the best minds in EdTech trying to make it back to our hotel, spending time with people I’ve long respected including a couple of hours in the company of Martin Weller and Jim Groom the result of which was: ...continue reading

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A recent thought I’ve been pondering is the default closed approach to education. It’s interesting to reflect how the physical structure of the classroom with walls and doors gets replicated online with firewalls and logins. I can appreciate that in part this is needed to create a closed environment where the student feels safe and secure, but it is also has other factors like license to share copyrighted work or terms of license for learning platforms. It’s ironic that the ‘MOOC as a Service’ (MaaS/xMaaS) offering for Coursera, et al., whilst are open to register still default to a closed mode*, studying in their place under their terms. Even FutureLearn which is designed on social learning principles seems to only consider social in the system. ...continue reading