Monday, November 12, 2012

Don't Need No Badges...

Where is this badge thing at, anyway?

There was a fine post at Gettinng Smart, Why A Badge Is Better Than an A+, which got me all excited about the people behind For a moment, until a snarky but wise tweet somewhere reminded me that all badges are not created equal.

Thus have I been sniffing around Mozilla Badges again, looking to see what progress they've made this year. It's looking good.

Have you earned a badge? You can earn one quickly at Or someplace like CodeSchool, where I earned the free TryGIT badge.

The important part of Mozilla Badges is that it's not just a pretty picture. There's data actually embedded in the badge graphic (the PNG format allows this). That data tells you where to get the public assertion that you earned the right to display your badge proudly.

For mine, the assertion looks like this. OK, it doesn't look that pretty. What it is is a well-formed JSON structure in Mozilla's approved format.

How would you display your pretty badges on your page? All you need now is the BadgeWidgethack. (This may get folded into Mozilla).

Of course there's lots of technicalities to building and baking badges. (A 'baked' badge has the data added to the graphic.) Explore yourself! There's even a badge to be earned: Open Badges 101 at P2PU.

 If you want to get into badge philosophy, there's a blog for that:

BadgeStack and BadgeStackProject are built on OBI, too. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Loadouts' in Digital

I just searched the word "loadout". What would you expect to find?

I'm working with someone in the oilfield services business. Things related to trucking companies, right? Maybe the military. Definitely a logistics thing. Loading. On-loading. Off-loading. Lift. Maybe even air-lift, sea-lift. Containerized transport? Shipping? Rail?

Nope. None of these things hit the first 2 1/2 pages of Google results.

Loadout probably means something to you that it doesn't at all to me. At least if you came here as a some-time gamer. Loadout is--at least on the web--the uniform, gear, weapons, etc. with which you equip your character in a game like Halo or Call of Duty.

And the change continues...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Almost There

Long ago--long before this blog, before in fact most readers would have heard of the Net--I had this dream: Learning could be accomplished on a computer.

The dream was actually much more than that. The dream was that computing could change school, could change learning. Could change the basic relationships between students, teachers, and the state; between publishers and teacher trainers and certifiers; even with the People who pay the bill.

Unimagined advances in tech have since arrived. Retina displays? Full screen, high def video via the net? Personal blog, video, book publishing? None of that was in the vision. But the changing of school was.

In 2012, school still hasn't changed. Students have changed, with the games and tools they are growing up with. Teachers have. Publishers have. Even legislatures are digital. School--the teaching, the learning, the assessing is still analog. And still very hierarchical and '1950's-ish-institution-driven.

Yet yesterday I had the hope that we might finally be at that last real barrier to systemic flip. It's possible. Pray, summon the Force, tune yourself to the cosmic field,...maybe we can make this last bridge.

Universities have already committed down the path. They don't all like it; a survey recently showed most professors don't embrace it at all. Yet online classes have proved their tenure; blended classes in the academy are almost the norm. What remains is to connect this model to the average K-12 school.

Yesterday morn it still looked a long slog. I have hope today that the students can save us. I have hope that we can give them just enough power that they can drive their own paths into digital and blended learning. Hope that the walls between classrooms might blur a little; that teachers can become focused on learners not delivery; that quietly occupying a seat will no longer be the main activity of a student.

I've advocated for the last link to this for two years now; worked on little else the past six months. I truly hope and pray I'm not overly-optimistic with this post. But maybe, could actually be time...

Monday, July 02, 2012

Startup Weekend Columbus

Last weekend was an amazing experience: Startup Weekend Columbus. You've heard of them, maybe even heard of the Startup Bus. A hundred-some strangers get together Friday night, pitch a bunch of ideas, choose some, and then for the next 54 hours work them into reality.

I did pitch an idea--national support for credit flex--but bombed the pitch entirely. Somehow made it out to be about dropouts. (Which it is for me, but that's entirely beside the point). A winning idea got 12 votes; my pitch got one--mine.

The team I ended up on was an amazing piece of serendipity. Actually, it's rather unbelievable. It was a team to address childhood literacy, and in a way that makes much more sense than most. it was a team to get kids to challenge each other to read books.

TechCrunch covered the weekend. I'm in that lonngg line waiting to pitch. Maybe one of the other teams will make it rich and I'll be sorry that serendipity intervened.

For now, though, I'm just amazed. Amazed because 3rd grade literacy has become for me the second pillar of breaking the back of the dropout crisis. (Well, school-wise, the first pillar). Myself I've long been focused on compelling Middle School and High school content as critical to keeping students in. But if they can't read, or if they read poorly, all the videos, games, and interactives in the world won't help them to make the transition from student to fully-engaged adult.

I've just recently come to see how that is the central issue of K-6 education, and to stumble upon an amazing visionary leader with a great idea for taking this on, many such events could I have gone to never expecting the complimentary vision to mine?!!

A word about the serendipity of the rest of the team, too. Again, you could go to a hundred such events aiming to target K-6 children...and you might get the software and the business plan. If you were really lucky, you might get a few sketches out of the event. Our intrepid leader actually found a passionate drawer of children's characters and scenes! How fortuitous is that?! And one with the professional time to pull it off. What an astounding stroke of luck.

About the team leader, the visionary who saw this solution. She's an elementary principal. She sees this as something totally missing from the set of tools out there. She came prepared--lots of research. And on Saturday she charged out into the community to ask them, to get their take.

Not one in a hundred teachers would have the desire and guts to venture into a high-speed startup event; far fewer commit to an entire weekend with pitch-men, hackers, and designers. And for one with the responsibilities of principal-ship on her shoulders as well,...rather gutsy and tenacious.

You'll almost certainly see this project launch, and I believe you'll see it thriving with a child near you. And I believe it will be one of those rare education apps that really does change the world.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Civil War By Numbers

We might have covered this before. I thought just now it was cool, fresh, HTML5. A look under the hood, though, says it just comes with cool javascripts. Worth throwing out to you, though. As we mark 150 years since that deadly war. (In late June of 1862 Lee and McClellan were battling around Richmond. ) Anybody got anything on that other anniversary, the War of 1812?

The Wayward Blogger

I guess I should pay more attention to this blog. We are seeing low, but steady traffic, so might be time to ramp it up again. It's not that I'm not writing. I write much on policy. But that mostly doesn't belong here. And I don't get to search for online resources the way I did. Maybe part of it is frustration with the Flash universe. Apple not allowing it on IOS. <$99 tablet devices not expecting the power to run it. No real agreement on standardizing Active Script. And, in a final nail, no one really supporting on-the-fly generation of ActiveScript, which seems to me critical to making dynamic games that really rock, assess, are affordable (ie free) and have smart feed back. Tons of great stuff has been created in the past decade. It lies out there, mostly forgotten. Certainly not cared for. And not well integrated or indexed. There are better ways. Too, for writing, Twitter seems to be the medium at hand. I tweet more in a policy/ed-tech venue, and that's where I'm reading. It's not yet crossing back here. In fact, though, Twitter would make more sense for much of the purpose of this blog. 140 Characters would adequately describe many of the resources and apps this was meant to show off. None of the above, though, really captures why I've strayed from here. It's really just frustration with (and better ideas for) the ecosystem of small history interactive. So my time these days focuses on creating a more friendly world for finding, assigning, using, reviewing, creating small learning interactives of all kinds. Plus trying to find funding. Always a challenge. And getting old.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Thanks to a pre-schooler I have yet to meet, I've now discovered AudioBoo. Not sure how or where it will be used, but here is a short Boo for me to test. Don't bother listening; it's mostly the sound of AVG Full Scan running my laptop fan "High".

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SmArtHistory on Khan!
Interesting. Our old friends at SmArtHistory, the fantastic Art tutors, have move lock, stock, and barrel to KhanAcademy!