Digital Badges in Education

Participants in many activities are graded as to their accomplishments. In traditional education (K-12) courses and post-secondary education, students are assigned grades on assignments and examinations which ends with a final grade in the course. Most students are somewhat motivated to achieve a positive final grade but it seems to be a private reward between the student and instructor.

Digital badges can be utilized to offer a more public way to show accomplishment and can be used to motivate students to work towards a goal, the badge, and attain recognition for their work. I have seen putting stars on a chart motivate young students. I myself was motivated to attain proficiency badges in Cubs and Boy Scouts, and Certificates of Recognition in industry based specialized training in technology courses.

In adult education digital badges can be used to show what an individual has learned and badges can be awarded to define specific skills (Finkelstein, 2013). The Open Badge project (Mozilla Foundation), describes the history and popularity of digital badges worldwide. That people as social beings and desire recognition for their achievements was recognized by Freud in his study of human behavior. Digital badges can be posted to a variety of social media sites from a service like Credly.

Some examples badges for proficiency in using spreadsheets for adult education students:

What if analysis is seen as representing a basic understand of spreadsheet tools and use
Knowing how to make charts and graphs in a format that is readable is a specialized skill
Spreadsheets can be used as a database and being able to search the database requires some practice

Web Conferencing Accounts to Follow on Twitter

Web Conferencing in Education

Account One:

Reimagine Education has articles about innovative ways to teach using technology


Tweet One:

Jenny shares information about education and technology references very interesting ideas nicely related by Julia ( ).

Tweet Two:

Brittany provides links to ways to stop technology being distracting to helping in education


Account Two:

Google For Education provides product information for educators about technology


Tweet One:

Evolution of Google Drive features that support on-line collaboration

Tweet Two:

Rania launched an on-line learning platform that has over 1.5 million adult learners


Account Three:

In exploring the evolving world of web-conferencing tools there is discussion on Twitter that Zoom is worth looking at


Tweet One:

Nathan got high quality images using Zoom for web-conference

Tweet Two:

Dave found Zoom more user friendly than Skype4Business or WebEx/GoToMeeting


Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy knowledge should include information about major historical events in the evolution of digital technology. I think Digital Literacy includes knowledge of hardware as well as software and applications. Literate people should have general knowledge of the various companies in the computer world. To be literate people should know how programming works to understand what digital technology can and can’t do (Rushkoff, 2010). I also think, to be literate, people need to know more than just the basics but use the digital tools at a more intermediate level.

Today most people think of Digital Literacy as related to the use of the Internet, and portable technologies like cell phones. As an educator I was impressed by the description of Digital Literacy by Dowd, 2017, Skills for Today: Digital Literacy & The Importance of the 4Cs in a Global Context. Dowd discusses the 4-C’s of Digital Literacy: Thinking Critically about information found on the World Wide Web, utilizing web tools creatively, communicating in productive ways and collaborating with a sense of social conscience.

Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be programmed: Ten commands for a digital age. New York: OR Books.>

Social Bookmarking in Adult Education

The idea of having a class jointly share and contribute to bookmarking sites of interest for a course does seem to be appealing. That the information is moderated, as provided by the curation features, is of value to keep the amount of material manageable and the focus on task. It seems that many web-based services come-and-go or become commercialized and that is a concern. As such, a plugin for a WordPress class blog would be more under the control of the instructor.

A solution that appeals to me is a plug-in for WordPress, Mycurator, which would allow the kind of curation I would see of value in adult education social bookmarking.

An overview of the Mycurator plugin and evaluation:

Social bookmarking with Mycurator review:

Social bookmarking by the participants in an adult education class on Small Business Entrepreneurship can be useful in allowing sharing information from knowledge and research done by the participants in the class. For example, topics like marketing and small business management are presented by the instructor based on their knowledge. Participants in the class have life experiences, read books, and have found information on these topics through their own experiences and research which can be shared through a class blog with the Mycurator plugin. In addition, assignments to the class to research traditional marketing as opposed to modern marketing can be shared through the class blog. Similarly, there are traditional management ideas and modern management ideas which can be researched and shared.

Using a Blog to Enhance Web-Based Learning

The effective use of blogs in education and the classroom should deal with; the why, what and how of the technology, as indicated by Dr. Beaudin.

Why Blogs are useful in education is because they are readily available, free, and easy to use.

What a Blog can do in education may be summarized as:

  • Sharing materials
  • For discussions
  • To support both individual and group work
  • Blog technology supports multimedia materials to facilitate learning.


How to use Blogs in education is a function of the students/participants being taught.

If one is teaching in the K-12 grades, then there are many specific resources that provide examples and case studies of using Blogs in the classroom.

As I am interested in adult education I researched and found these concepts of how to use a Blog:


  1. Adults are practical
  2. Adults are goal oriented
  3. Adults are self-paced
  4. Adults have life experience and prior knowledge
  5. Adults learn by doing

From my experience, adults like young people need to have success in their learning endeavors and interacting with adults through a Blog supports a quick and convenient way for an instructor to provide positive and encouraging reinforcement.


One concern I have in looking at several Blogs is that Blogs, and websites in general, can be poorly designed. They can contain too much material, be too busy, and generally set up so that it is not easy for users to find what they want in a reasonable period of time.

My favorite Blog engine is WordPress as the “dot-com” version is free, it can be downloaded and installed on a paid for shared domain host site, there are many free themes, the code can be easily customized with HTML, CSS, and PHP modifications, it is not easily broken and can be fixed if it is. It is also the most popular Blog engine in the world.

Evidence-Based Learning Course Summary

In the course, Psychology 3850-NA, Evidence-Based Learning, Dr. Jesse Martin facilitated the class in a very different way that other courses I have taken at university. I did individual research and writing of ten 500-word blog posts, reviewed 40 other course participant posts and in the classroom I presented on alternate weeks my recent post and participated in half hour discussions of other people’s research in small groups of about 8 people for discussions. There were no lectures as such.

The complement of individual and group work extends the view of Evidence-Based Learning topics and shows how others conduct research and what their life experiences have taught them.

I did appreciate the references provided by Dr. Martin to his own research and writing on Evidence-Based Learning as there are many insightful writings about learning and education from a Psychologist’s perspective.

To me, one unexpected advantage to enhance my learning, was the diversity of interests of people participating in the class. There was such a wide range of people’s interest from a chemistry major to education to counseling majors, and many others, and hearing their perspectives on Evidence-Based Learning was very informative.

Relative to my own blog posts I had a chance to research and reflect on my own teaching experiences and even had a chance to test what we were learning by allowing students in a class I taught to explore, in neighboring groups, learning of a topic through discussion and sharing and testing. As a “topic based” set of blog posts I looked at the advantages computer technology and what software can bring to the learning environment. Graphically representing information with using Mind Mapping, utilizing various programs to produce high quality materials of different types and organizing and finding information with OneNote, which also nicely supports collaboration, are useful in learning and education.

Regarding research on Evidence-Based Learning I was surprised that I found a great deal of opinions and anecdotal information on the internet and in scientific literature but a conspicuous absence of solid scientific research into the subject. There is a clear need for more scientific research for finding evidence about what influences learning and constitutes effective learning.

As distinct from lecture based instruction, in this course it seems we were participating in a Socratic discussion where, “participants seek and gain deeper understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue rather than memorizing information that has been provided for them”, ( Our discussions were not a debate but an evolution of a concept through the shared experience and knowledge of the group.

I would certainly recommend this class to undergraduate students in any discipline.

Thank you, John Walkey  B.A., B.Ed.

The Secret Gem

Communication is a critical component of education. With the advent of the Internet, a global network of networks, the way we communicate has changed dramatically. Instead of working exclusively in a classroom, teachers and students can connect, work on project, share information, and learn on flexible schedules that fit the student’s own personal schedules. The secret gem that supports this is OneNote. I say “secret” because most people who have computers already have the program and don’t even know they have it never mind how useful it is. It runs on all operating systems and will even work on a cell phone. It is also available free of charge so there are no barriers to access. You can run it on a $35 Raspberry Pi.

OneNote is a program for taking notes, gathering and storing information, and sharing the notebooks in a convenient place. OneNote makes it easy to find information in your notes and it will even search for words in audio and video files. OneNote has optical character recognition built-in so it will convert handwritten text and text in pictures to editable text. Since OneNote stores information as a database you never have to save it as it saves automatically. The program supports storing many types of data (text, pictures, sound and videos) and supports many different input technologies such as keyboard, pen/tablet, voice, and video.

A useful add-in for OneNote is the Class Notebook (2014). One year after its introduction the Class Notebooks the use has exploded with over 400,000 teachers and 3.5 million students being added to Class Notebooks. Teachers, students, and schools have been creating amazing content with Class Notebooks, changing the nature of the classroom with new interaction, feedback and collaboration models that were not possible with other software programs.

An example of the utility is that “Interactive Content” can be related where the teacher and students can place text, pictures, and videos in a lesson which can be seen, reviewed, and annotated. This can be used for presenting information as well as for taking quizzes which provides a convenient way to provide feedback to the teacher and to the students. Notebooks can be both public for all users and private where the teacher can help students having problems.

The interface has three environments:

  1. Collaboration Space: where everyone can share (teacher and all students),
  2. Content Library: the teacher adds information for all students
  3. Student’s Notebook: where just the teacher and individual student work.

From an educational point of view, taking advantage of convenient initiative technology that supports Science of Learning concepts and provides a way of studying and learning on any device, anywhere, at any time is worthy of incorporating into education. In that OneNote provides a collaborative environment for a repository of educational information which can be collaborated on and feedback can be provided and obtained quickly will facilitate learning.

Teaching Software

What makes computers useful is the programs they run. Computer software has evolved since the microcomputer became popular, in both the features of the programs and the simplified user interface. To be able to take advantage of the computer as a tool people need to learn a variety of programs.

Software can be classified into categories such as:

Program Type Use
Word processor Sophisticated Electronic typewriter
Spreadsheet Performing calculations and making graphs
Database Inventory systems and searching large data
Browser Search World Wide Web
Email Electronic messages
Presentations Build slide shows
Graphics Painting pictures, editing video
Application Custom purposes from accounting to specific purposes
Educational Information and management of materials
Utility Many – for example, anti-virus

Computers have evolved from number crunchers to word crunchers to information processors, to communication technology, and may indeed be able to actually think for themselves. How people use the software, at a variety of skill levels, to allow the technology tool help people learn and in their individual education?

Many people see a computer as a magic box that has a mind of its own. Most technology only knows how to say yes or no, albeit very quickly. In order for people to utilize technology effectively they need to take charge of the computer and tell the computer what to do. In the book, Program or be Programmed, Rushkoff (2010), points out that we need to drive the technology. That you don’t need to know how an engine works to drive a car is certainly shortsighted. We do need to know something about how the engine works or the car won’t be running for long. Similarly, we need to know how computers work and are programmed so we can tell them what to do.

Based on observation, and my own experience, I have found that I can get a handle on a new program if I am given instruction on the basics of what the program does and where various options are. I want to see the power of the program relative to my needs. With having an overview of the program then learning will occur and skills will develop largely as a function of trial and error to a certain degree of proficiency. To go further, in my experience, what the student / learner needs is to solve problems they have using the computer program. The best growth I have had in learning computer software is by taking on problems to solve with the software.

Many programs require knowledge of a particular subject matter. For example, if someone wanted to know how to use a computer aided drafting program, it would be advantageous to know something about drafting. Some programs are more intuitive, such as word processing and spreadsheets and other programs are more complicated.

In society today people are assumed to have knowledge of using the World Wide Web and email. These have become a standard way to access information and to communicate. For a majority of people this is an absolute minimum set of programs, most people need to know many more programs.

The evolution of software and user interfaces provides much more efficient and user friendly ways of accessing information. In the book Being Digital, Negroponte (1995), introduces the concept of the universal bit. The idea is that information could exist in a variety of analog and digital forms and then be converted to another form. In the converted form information may be more conveniently accessed and shared. Touch computing has become commonplace and supports handwriting analysis optical character recognition; speech to text and text to speech allows us to talk to the computer, have words converted to text, or have the computer talk to us. Keyboards have become a way to edit information as opposed to being the primary input technology. Analyzing images and video and interpreting information into data is evolving at a rapid pace in science and technology.

The hardware has shrunk in size making it more convenient to transport and use. Innovations such as Google Glass illustrates how research is looking at making computers work to fit how humans work as opposed to the initial development of technology where people had to be trained to learn how computers work. People and students need to learn more about maximizing the use of technology and the programs available today (Schank, 1997).

Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. OR Books.

Negroponte N. (1995). Being Digital. Alfred A. Knopf Publisher.

Schank, R., (1997). Virtual Learning. A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce. McGraw-Hill.

Metacognition with Mind Mapping

Metacognition is thinking about thinking. The technique of mind mapping can be utilized to make metacognition more functional by providing a way of organizing thinking.

Mind mapping was invented by Tony Buzan (2010) and is based on a graphic representation of information we would like to have available to us. That our sense of vision triumphs over all other senses for humans has been well-established (Medina, 2008). If we take a topic and represent it as a series of related facts we can gain a mental image of how the information is interrelated. We can explain and understand a large amount of information if it is properly organized. If information is properly organized then metacognition will be enhanced.

Mind Maps can be used for note-taking, studying, assessing information, research, and prioritizing what we want to work on (Sweet, et. al., 2017)

Historically, gold and diamonds were very valuable. Partly because of their scarcity but also because of their unique properties; gold is very slow to oxidize and gives up electrons freely, and diamonds are very hard. Today, based on physical space, information is the most valuable commodity on the planet. Nicholas Negroponte, in the book Being Digital (1995), points out that we can put the collective intelligence of all mankind on a single CD. This CD would be very valuable, more than gold or diamonds. However, in our busy world we often feel overloaded by information and mind mapping makes us the manager of knowledge giving us a tool to manage how the brain works by organizing the information effectively.

Mind mapping takes advantage of images and associations between information. We need to gain awareness and control of our thinking, remembering, attention, perception, and learning. The basic idea of a mind map is to start with an image in the center which is the main idea. Then, radiate out with curved lines main ideas much like chapter ideas. We would connect to these second-level ideas and single words or pictures. The process continues to third and fourth levels or more adding related associative information.

Consider that a Scientist is, by definition, one who follows an experimental method to work on what-if questions. The problem would be at the center of a mind map and the associated steps are the tools and the data that would follow at various levels.

How memory works has long been a concern and area of research (Lashley, 1937). The Moser scientists won a Nobel Prize (2014) for being the first to hypothesized that animals have an abstract map of space inside their brain. Grid cells have been identified to show that this is true. Mind Maps area the organizational tool for the human map in our brain. Mind Mapping with metacognitive reflections would enhance memory and learning.

Buzan T.,(2010). The Mind Mao Book. Harlow, United Kingdom.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Sweet, C., Blythe, H., & Carpenter, R. (2017). Mind mapping: A technique for metacognition. Teaching with Metacognition, 1-4.

Negroponte N. (1995). Being Digital. Alfred A. Knopf Publisher.

Lashley K., (1937).Functional Determinants of Cerebral Localization. Arch Neurpsych.38(2):371–387.

Moser M. and Moser E. (2014). Nature, Vol. 514, Pages: 154–157.

Stories to Help Students Learn

Educators can take advantage of the fact that humans are predisposed to remembering stories. Knowledge, in the evolution of the human species, was passed on through stories. A story is different than a narrative in that a story tends to be more personal, and include a character that has problems towards achieving a goal (Mar, 2004). We are, in our ongoing thinking processes, telling ourselves stories about the events that make up our lives in the past, present, and future. Stories can be engaging at the personal, emotional, and social level.

Stories are not new to the classroom and the evidence-based value of stories has been validated by research. McNett (2016), identifies four broad types of story-based instruction. Case based stories have a fixed problem and solution; narrative based stories have a linear set of events; scenario-based stories involve a variety of solutions; and problem-based stories leave the learner to develop their own parameters and conclusions.

McNett (2016), provides six methods for teaching with stories which can be incorporated into the classroom. Each teacher would have to do extra work to develop stories with clear-cut goals and associated objectives and try different methods based on various students in various subjects. Learning objectives can be related to the different methods of storytelling as well as the specific stories. Story are valuable by being entertaining, engaging, personalizing, as well as valuable in the association, communication, and transference of knowledge.

Some disciplines, such as medicine and law, currently use storytelling by way of describing case studies to illustrate facts and concepts. Stories told as case studies can serve as examples of how things work in a variety of disciplines.

Stories that involve actions have been shown by neuroscience to have a physical correlate. Mirror neurons in the pre-frontal cortex, are known to fire not just when we do something but also fire when we see another person perform the action (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004).

In a presentation if you can tell a story and put the student in the story or create a story that allows themselves to put themselves in the autobiographical information, that story will have an emotional content that makes the memory more permanent (Rabin, et. al, 2010).

Another storytelling technique which may be useful is to have the students be the storytellers (Pio and Haigh, 2007). Students would have to develop a story based on learning objectives that illustrates a goal or moral for the activity. A variation of students as storytellers may simply be to have the student relay personal experiences associated with a particular lesson. This can also be useful in small group sessions.

Of course adding drama and theatrics to presentations makes them more memorable. Utilizing voice changes in costumes draws attention to elements of the story. Adults perceive incongruities which may also be used to add to how indelible presentation was.

Using stories to make a point can be extremely valuable as a teaching tool. As Ian Whishaw once said, “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story”. The important point is to make the story interesting, provide information in a desired direction, and add emotion to seal the learning.

Mar, R. A. 2004. The Neuropsychology of Narrative: Story Comprehension, Story Production and Their Interrelation.Neuropsychologia 42: 1414–34.

McNett, G., (2016) Using Stories to Facilitate Learning, College Teaching, 64:4, 184-193.

Rizzolatti, G. & L. Craighero. 2004. “The Mirror-Neuron System.” Annual Review of Neuroscience 27: 169–92.

Rabin, J. S., A. Gilboa, D. T. Stuss, R. A. Mar, & R. S. Rosenbaum. 2010. Common and Unique Correlates of Autobiographical Memory and Theory of Mind. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 22 (6): 1095–1111.

Pio, E., & N. Haigh. 2007. “Towards a Pedagogy of Inspirational Parables.” Education C Training 49 (2): 77–90.