Learning about Badging #blendedlearning #srl14

I attended the MacArthur Foundation gathering to hear about badging.

badgesmozillaThe gathering was entitled “Summit to Reconnect Learning” and was held in Redwood City, Ca. I thought I knew about badging – I mean I’ve been on FourSquare for quite awhile and have earned lots of badges there!  What I’ve learned from interacting with a variety of people at this gathering is that badging is simple and complex. One of the speakers suggested that badging is where email was in 1965 – and that badging will become broadly adopted similar to email. Pathways of badging is one area to understand. Another area is how badging intersects with competency based education. And then, how badging fits with gaming systems that causes informal learning to occur.

The work that has already be done with badging appears to have started with Mozilla’s grant competition for digital badging in 2011. Since then, Mozilla and others have created a common vocabulary and concept papers that are open for anyone to use.

Throughout the gathering, there has been a combination of plenary talks, panel discussions and guided group discussions. The most productive time for me were the focused table top conversations that challenged us to identify how we may implement badging in our respective institutions and organizations. The other table top group that developed was one around badging for teacher professional development. It is interesting to think about how receiving badges for teacher professional development. I wonder about badging for professional development and how badging may fit into teacher education programs, credential renewal and ongoing professional development that allow teachers to move across a salary scale.

One of the more exciting projects shared was Chicago Summer of Learning which used a badging system for young people throughout the city in summer 2013. The case study here provides a nice snapshot of the program. There are people here from all major cities and are talking about how badging can extend learning for all ages of people beyond the school day – on school campuses, in libraries and in museums. One developing example is the Beyond the Bell program in LA Unified School District which is hoping to link schools, libraries and museums in the summer of 2014.

The excitement about badging was palpable among the attendees. This excitement has been helped with the active Twitter feed, the illustrator who has kept visual notes of the proceedings and the overall organization of the event.








Helpful Links to Learn More:

Schools, #BlendedLearning Road Trip and Digital Learning Day #dld

Happy Digital Learning Day! As part of this week, I’ve been writing about blended learning. There are excellent resources available for implementing blended learning. The Christensen Institute has done an excellent job of defining and profiling different blended learning schools across the U.S. The Getting Smart team, with Digital Learning Now and the Learning Accelerator have provided a very useful Blended Learning Implementation Guide (now in v2). 

My colleague, Allison Powell from iNACOL, and myself are spending this week visiting blended learning schools in California. I even got a little creative and created a blended learning roadmap for our blended learning road trip via Google maps that I will continue to add to. We are in the process of developing a blended learning roadmap that can be used by schools and teachers across the field in implementing blended learning.

We have visited three schools in two days and will be visiting another five in the next two days. We’ll write more about our observations later. However, it occurs to me that as we look at blended learning implementations, it is important to consider the type of school that is implementing blended learning. There is a difference between implementing a blended learning program in an established traditional school, a new charter school or an established private school. There is also a difference in how a blended learning program looks at an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. Some how, we need to make these distinctions as we continue to discuss the implementation of blended learning across the field.  

We know from past experiences in the implementation of ed tech initiatives, such as 1-to1 devices, that it takes time in an established school to implement, sustain and move a program across an entire school. And it takes time to show results on state assessments and to provide the needed professional development so that all teachers understand and implement the innovation. I am often reminded of Everett Roger’s Theory of Diffusion of Innovations and what causes an innovation to become accepted throughout an organization. Overall, helping teachers to transform their teaching and transform their classroom into a more student-centered classroom where students have more control of their learning is often the greatest challenge. Historically in the U.S. we have taught teachers that they are the dispensers of information and the sage on the stage and the keepers of the knowledge to be dispensed to their students on  a daily basis. A true blended learning implementation shifts the paradigm and the pedagogy of teaching to something much different than most teachers are used to. Although leadership, technology and other elements are important, the teacher is the key element in any successful and ongoing blended learning implementation.

When I walk into a classroom that has implemented 1-to-1 devices or blended learning, there is a different feeling in the classroom that is often difficult to capture and articulate. Students are engaged in learning in a way that did not exist in just the print world. When a classroom is organized to allow students to have more ownership of their learning, teachers have more time to spend with students individually and to better personalize the learning experience when formative student data is easily available. 

I look forward to sharing further observations of blended learning programs as we complete our California Blended Learning Road Trip. As I shared in my blogpost earlier this week, blended learning is messy. However, with many educators and researchers across the U.S. and the world writing about what blended learning looks like, and how it impacts student learning, it will become easier to understand…and for all schools to implement. 


Blended Learning (and Teaching) is Messy #blendedlearning

This post from Jill Thompson reminded me I had been wanting to write on this topic for awhile. She points out that there is a difference between technology integration and blended learning. I couldn’t agree more. This is why I have hopefully helped to clarify it with this “Continuum from Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning.” In addition this presentation entitled “Blended Learning, How do you know it when you see it?” was by my colleague, Allison Powell and myself which may help clarify blended learning a bit more. It is difficult to just talk about blended learning without also observing it.

iNACOL has produced two documents recently to help clarify what blended learning is for the field. The first is “Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education“. This document points out that in order to really personalize learning, it has to be a blended teaching approach. It would be very difficult for a teacher nowadays to personalize learning, but not also be a blended teacher. A blended learning teacher not only uses the technology to enhance student learning, but also transforms in their teaching pedagogy and curriculum design in a way that causes more student involvement and engagement in their learning.

The second document is the “A Roadmap for Implementation of Blended Learning at the School Level”  that was completed in collaboration with the New York Public Schools, iLEARN NYC initiative.  This was written  after observing, interacting and interviewing teachers and administrators in blended learning schools throughout New York City.  Many school administrators may especially appreciate the rubric and observation tools found at the end of the document.  The purpose is really to identify how blended learning looks at the school and classroom level. This Blackboard Collaborate recorded webinar , “A Day in the Life of a Blended Learning Teacher” also further clarifies blended learning from a teacher perspective.

iNACOL is now in the process of refining this roadmap so that it is more national in scope and may provide guidance for blended learning schools throughout the U.S. and the world about the implementation, monitoring and sustainability of blended learning programs.

We Will Never Forget. Thanks to Holocaust Survivors.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Why should that matter to me, a non-Jewish  guy?

I am often reminded of the poem used by many students I coached in National History Day many years ago as part of various projects about the Holocaust.

First They Came for the Jews
by Martin Niemöller

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.”

I learned about the power and courage of many Holocaust survivors because of the research of various students as part of the National History Day program many years ago.  In addition, my daughter participated in the program. She and her partner learned about Raoul Wallenberg when they were sophomores in high school in 2008.  They created a documentary that described how Raoul Wallenberg rescued Jewish people from Budapest, Hungary which can be seen on YouTube: “Standing in the Face of Madness: Raoul Wallenberg’s Fight to Save the Jews“.  During that project and many other projects like it, students viewed Holocaust Survivor stories compiled by the Shoah Foundation at USC and searched for survivors they could interview in person.

One person my daughter and her partner found was Lola Kristof who lived in San Francisco. Lola was rescued by Wallenberg in Budapest in 1944 or 1945. She and her husband, who was also a Holocaust survivor, eventually moved to San Francisco. Lola’s story was part of a display at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center in the fall. Lola’s daughter tracked down my daughter and invited us to view the exhibit. Although  my daughter was not able to visit, I decided that visiting the exhibit was important. In visiting with Lola’s daughter, Patricia Kristof Loy, at the exhibit, I learned that her mother never got around to being recorded by the Shoah Foundation. However, she was recorded by two 16-year-old girls as part of a History Day Project. It turns out, that the video interview about being rescued by Raoul Wallenberg was the only time that Lola allowed her story to be recorded. And the resulting video is now kept as a memory for Lola’s offspring (Lola passed away several years ago). Here is a picture of Lola Kristof as she looked during the interview in 2008.

Photo Nov 23, 12 10 11 PM

I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. many times, but the personal interview with Lola Kristof and other survivors like her are reasons for me to remember today; and to never forget the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who sadly perished during the Holocaust and World War II. In hopes that history will not repeat itself and that we will speak out against injustices against any people.



Here I am with Patricia Kristof Loy in 2013 visiting the exhibit in San Francisco.

Photo Nov 23, 11 57 11 AM


Holiday Challenges, Beliefs and Yes, it Does Matter!

The consistent focus of my blog has always been on education and the importance of educating all students. Many things affect a student’s decision to stay in school  – academics, life circumstances, family beliefs, individual beliefs, how they are treated and many other factors. The lessons learned in school – regardless of the type of school one attends – determine future college and career success. It is from this perspective that I write this.

blacksantaA series of news articles caught my attention recently and made me cringe.

First I read about how Aisha Harris lightheartedly suggested that Santa Claus should be a penguin because then there would be a more diverse representation of Santa Claus.  Others responded to her commentary with several outlandish statements. Perhaps the best recent commentary to describe this is from Kathleen Parker. I have to admit, this caused me to talk with my friends from many races and cultures and ask them what color Santa Claus was when they grew up. I learned that Santa Claus (and yes, even Jesus Christ) transcends color and religion…as it should.

Next, I read about the opinions of another popular TV personality and there it was again. One person’s opinion on race … and sexual orientation.

Then, I remembered another news article from a few months back about the new Miss America. Which caused me to remember the Oak Creek church shootings from the previous year.

I wonder if these types of conversations pop up at this time because of the increased stress during the holidays? I suppose a conversation about the color of Santa Claus or Jesus Christ or about a person’s religion or sexual orientation does have more impact in December.

I really thought that we as Americans, we as people, we as loving and caring human beings had moved beyond being critical of others because of their race or religion or sexual orientation. No one gains from this conversation – it just incites furor and anger. And it has a negative impact on students – and their beliefs in education and their futures.

When people are critical of others because of race, religion or sexual orientation, it does nothing to improve our society, America, nor American education. Does the color of my skin, or my religion, or my sexual orientation cause you to look at me differently? Should the color of your skin or your religion or your sexual orientation cause me to look at you differently?

I really hesitated to enter into this sensitive, often emotionally charged conversation about race and religion and sexual orientation. But as I have learned from history, if you say or do nothing, nothing will happen. So, I stand with everyone who believes in equality and diversity and life and hope. I believe in the dignity of each human life and that each individual, with the right support system, can be happy and successful, and contributes to a strong and diverse America.

I hope the conversation will change in the New Year, and that a year from now, we as Americans will be having more important conversations – like how to build relationships with one another, and with students so they stay in school, how to transcend race, religion and sexual orientation to appreciate the value of each person, how to better personalize learning to increase high school graduation rates,  how to reduce the number of young people going to prison — and how these conversations and successes have contributed to a strong and diverse America.

California eLearning Symposium #elearns

I had seen the tweets within other people’s blogposts so I wondered how to insert Tweets into my blog. I just figured out how to do this, so thought I would create this first blogpost about my learning at the California eLearning Strategies Symposium.

The depth of conversation in California about online and blended learning has increased. Much of my learning now occurs in the tweets I send out and retweet from others during a conference.  Here they are…a few selected tweets and retweets …. going backwards:

Digital Learning Day in February, will you be there?

Reflections from #iNACOL13

The iNACOL Symposium ended two weeks ago, but the excitement, energy, the learning, the sharing and collaboration continues. The total attendees were 2424 and represented educators, thought leaders, administrators, teachers, companies, organizations, and individuals who are passionate about blended and online learning. For me, it is always meeting people that I have not had a chance to meet before, hearing about how people are making an impact on education, and realizing how important it is for all of us to be unified in our voices. The symposium reaffirmed the common beliefs that I think we all share: that we want to impact education in new and more efficient ways so more students graduate from high school career and/or college ready. To do this, it will take all educators – traditional, blended, online – to accomplish this.

Reading the various reflections that others have written affirms the importance of the annual iNACOL Symposium as a catalyst for change.

On YouTube, an interview of Michael Horn with Rose Fernandez.

Through the symposium online community,  individuals continue to interact, collaborate and share their thoughts. I found some specific blog reflections that I have highlighted below.

  • David from Just Popped in My Head shared the importance of modularizing professional development – especially when using blended and online learning approaches.
  • The Getting Smart team produced several blogposts that highlighted the conference. Their reflection post pretty much summarized the key aspects of the symposium including blended schools and tools, digital development, teachers and tech, higher, deepear, further, faster learning.
  • George Rislov discussed seeing the future at the iNACOL Symposium.
  • Melanie Malski wrote, “passion is contagious, brilliance is inspiring, and commiserating with co-workers is refreshing.”
  • Stacy Hawthorne shared that iNACOL13 was a GPS for Learning.
  • The Hot Lunch Tray blog shared a wonderful “brain dump” of all of the things she learned at the symposium including how to foster online rapport with students, how to roll out a blended learning program, and online communities of collaboration.
  • Margo Flowers shared the importance of photos and shared this slide from the game based learning session where she posted the definition of “FAIL” = First Attempt In Learning.

Various articles appeared in different publications such as this one from EdWeek entitled, “District Officials Eye Blended Learning, With Cautionary Lessons in Mind”.

More images of the Symposium can be found on the iNACOL Facebook page or the Twitter Stream (#inacol13). And use Tagboard to see more tweets and pictures from Instagram with the hashtag #inacol13.

I look forward to seeing everyone at iNACOL14, which will be November 4-7, 2014 in Palm Springs, California.


Rob’s Tweets

Flickr Photos




Christmas Tree Union Station Washington DC

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