This episode explores verifiable credentials, blockchain identity management, the current badges landscape and some badges history too as we talk to our guest Kerri Lemoie, the Director, Digital Credentials Research & Innovation at Badgr. We LOVED recording this episode, so tell us if you liked listening to it!
Kerri’s Favourite Book
- We make the road by walking by Myles Horton
Tao of WAO S03 E03
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:23] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Laura Hilliger.
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:34] And I’m Doug Belshaw. This podcast season is currently unfunded, but you can support this podcast and other. We are open projects and products at open collective.com/weareopen. Our guest today is an open badges OG from way back a heavy hitting doctor of learning Dr. Kerri Lemoie. Hi Kerri.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:00:55] Good morning. Hello. How are you both?
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:57] Yeah, good. Thank you. I mean, I’ve got Covid, so that’s not so awesome. But yeah, I’m just tired. I think that’s the main thing. But other than that, I’m okay. Are you okay, Laura?
Laura Hilliger: [00:01:08] Yeah, I’m okay. I think I had Covid a couple of weeks ago and I’m better now. So I’m. I’m boosted. So thank goodness for vaccinations.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:17] Yeah. Anyway, we’re going to be talking about misinformation and disinformation and stuff on a future episode. But today we’re going to talk to Kerry about open badges, verifiable credentials, blockchain, all the stuff that she’s been working on for the last ten years and more. But let’s begin, as we often do, with asking Kerri what her favourite book is and why. And this can be a tricky question for some people. So if you want to slip in a second one, a fiction and non-fiction or something like that.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:01:48] Um, yeah. Have trouble choosing favourites of anything you can’t ask me. Favourite food, favourite music, favourite books. I just can’t. But there’s a book that keeps coming back to me that’s work related, so I can talk about that a little bit, which is We Make The Road by Walking, which is a book about the conversation between Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. And um, it’s really sort of re-inspired me in a way because, you know, they’re all about education as activism and about, you know, collective community and how communities can teach each other and learn to fight oppression. And I think that is very close to why I ended up getting into this work in the first place. But I forget it sometimes because I’m very involved in this, uh, you know, skills based hiring initiatives that are adjacent, but not quite exactly the same thing, right? So that’s the book that I’ve been reading. I highly suggest everybody read it. If you’re in our space.
Doug Belshaw: [00:02:44] Can you remember like when because it’s obviously had some kind of transformative effect on you. Can you remember like approximately when you first read it?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:02:52] I actually only read it right before I started grad school in the summer of 2017, right before I started working on my PhD, I was sort of like in between homes and I was in between moving here. I moved from Rhode Island to North Carolina and was sort of in between this space and I had time to read it and I was so enthralled by it that I was like writing so much down. Like I have this notebook where I was like writing everything down. I was in it and I was like, Wow, this is why I do this work. Was it? I just hadn’t realised it.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:19] Yeah. So sorry to interrupt. I was just going to say, was it one of those books where you feel like you’d been waiting a long time to read it? Because it kind of helped coalesce some of the things you were already thinking about, that kind of thing?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:03:30] Yeah. Well, yeah. You know who heard it? Thought of it was. And I need to talk to him. Doug, I don’t know if you remember Damian Evans, who I worked with at Ashbury. And then the original open badges work at Providence Afterschool Alliance. He always said to me, Hey, Kerri, we make the road by walking, like over and over and over. It was like a mantra for him. And I just took it as like, Oh, this is one of the things that Damian says, because he had a lot of those kind of statements and one day I was like, I’m just going to Google what that means. I’m just going to see like, why does he always say this to me? And then found this book was like, Why did nobody tell me about this book? This is incredible. So, you know, my background isn’t in education. I came in as a developer, as an engineer, so I wasn’t really I didn’t know about John Dewey or or any of the the things that we were doing, open badges like the the philosophical side of open badges. Right? I just knew that, like, I innately, um, I don’t know, responded to it and it reflected parts of my life and I understood it in that way. So it’s been interesting anyway to really learn that aspect of it in that side.
Doug Belshaw: [00:04:36] So was open badges the time because we met through the open badges work and you know Laura was at Mozilla at the same time you got to know her mozfest and that kind of stuff was open badges, the kind of segway into the education stuff for you previously. Prior to that, were you working outside of education?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:04:56] Yeah, it was pretty, pretty close. I was working in e-commerce, so I worked at Amazon for about four years. So pretty early on in the early Amazon days, like the books and early music days. And then, you know, so I worked in e-commerce, then I worked for a company called Ensure My trip in Rhode Island. So a lot of e-commerce. And then I decided I needed to switch gears. So I started doing more like freelance web development for nonprofits, which led me to the Providence after school program, which led into open badges, really. So I’d see open badges, though, is really where I found my my niche, I think.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:34] I think that happen for a lot of people and another thing I wanted to ask you was. Just tell people what your PhD was on and how how you ended up with that journey towards it. Because it wasn’t from my understanding, it wasn’t something that, you know, you you kind of. Well, you tell the story like how you came to do your PhD and what it was on.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:05:54] Sure. And one of the reasons related to open badges was that I was a self-taught developer and learned on the job for many years and then had gone to college for a little bit for communications right after high school, um, and then ended up working throughout my 20s and 30s. I’m doing pretty well with web development and then decided I really wanted to finish up my degree, my bachelor’s degree. And so did that just to get it done. And then to the election. The 2016 election happened. And I was just dumbfounded by what happened on the Internet and the role of the Internet played in this and felt some responsibility for this to some extent, because I’ve been working so hard helping to build the Internet. Not that it was my fault or anything the way it went, but then felt like I really want to understand this better and what could I do better to help with this? So I decided to pursue a PhD in media psychology so that I could learn to research this and understand it better. And my focus was on trust and online behaviour and then actually ended up bringing me back to the work we do now in decentralised identity and how do we identify ourselves online and adoption theories. So really my my PhD research became about adoption of Self-sovereign identity, which isn’t quite why I started, but it seemed to make sense. It seemed to fit with the world. I already knew. So.
Laura Hilliger: [00:07:22] I always find it fascinating when we talk to guests. A lot of our guests are from the old days of EdTech or I don’t even know what the what do we call ourselves? OG Interneters or something.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:07:35] We’re like the hamster dancers.
Laura Hilliger: [00:07:36] I guess. Like, we know, you know, we could probably chase a lot of the original Internet memes, but I always find it really fascinating how how people come to this philosophical work that we do, the kind of knowledge work that we do today and the advocacy and activism that we do today. Because I feel like there’s a new generation of people who are starting to look at educational technology, and they’re they’re building it off the back of something that’s been going on for 20 years. And when we all got into it, there were a lot of us who were builders and makers and creators that took a look at the philosophy of what we were doing and took a step back and said, Oh, hold on, We are you know, we’re actually going to be building a world that influences other worlds. So how do we do that better? How do we do that in the right way? And I think that it’s interesting that you say something about the 2016 election and how flabbergasted that was. But you sounded flabbergasted about what happened and how that led you to to your PhD subject, because I think a lot of us who have been around on the Internet for a long time have had those sort of touch points where we’ve seen even even those of us who have been working in advocacy or activism or the I don’t know, the the good part of the Internet for so long, when we step back and see where the world has gone, it really is hard not to sort of question what not that it’s our fault, but what what could we have done better and how can we make sure that that we actually influence technology in a better way for the future?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:09:16] Huh? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It has been interesting seeing I’m sure we’ll get into this a little bit. The new initiatives coming on now that have they don’t necessarily realise it, but they’re building upon open badges or open badges, sort of lay this foundation for all of this digital credential work. And it’s still a part of it. It’s just people don’t really understand the foundational aspects of it that you’re talking about.
Doug Belshaw: [00:09:42] Yeah, for sure. And why don’t we talk about what you’re working on at at Badger? What badger is for those people who don’t know, it obviously connected with you having your own platform back in the day, one of the first platforms, I think what you’re doing there, like open badges like maybe what it is and, and how it links to the new work that you’re doing that we talked about, oh, before Christmas, wasn’t it? It was the International Council of Badges and Credentials did like a keynote panel so people can go back and look at that in more detail. But just a kind of a brief overview about what you’re doing, what open badges are the link between verifiable credentials, that kind of stuff. And I know that you could take a long time to describe that, but just high level stuff would be great.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:10:29] Sure. And you know, interrupt me if you need more clarification as I go. So what are open badges? Open badges are a form of digital credential that were intended to recognise learning and achievements that happen anywhere at any time. And they were the first of this type and they were basically a set of metadata properties that can describe an achievement. And historically they have used these images and that are related to them and they’ve been around for, I guess we’re going on 11 years now. And I got involved early on with the digital media and learning competition with the Providence Afterschool Alliance, and we did a badging program, developed Drupal Drupal application, It was for after school program for high school students and they were doing things like web development and building bikes, and they were using these badges for after school credit towards graduation and also to get into colleges later. Um, and what we ended up doing after building out the system for Damian Evans and launched a platform called Achiever, which was a badge issuing platform. And so we did that for a few years and then we stepped aside from that in about 2015 and started doing, you know, consulting and other things on the side.
Doug Belshaw: [00:11:48] For me it was the perfect example of a platform which was too early to market, you know, as in like it was definitely something that people needed, but they didn’t know that they needed it yet, you know, that kind of thing.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:12:02] It was too a little too early. And investors that we spoke to couldn’t really wrap their heads around how they could make money off of it and and think that actually badge issuing platforms to this day still struggle with this. I mean unless you have some other kind of um I mean the other issue is at the time cradley and had other businesses to support the badging aspect of it. And even Badger, where I’m at now, they have consulting and other services that support the badging, although badging is much more profitable now like it is, it is now hit a point where people are badging and and the model of Badger, which is another badge issuing platform, they are working with clients who pay subscriptions based, you know, and they they are issuing badges from their excuse me. And um, so my role at Badger is I am the director of digital credentials, Research and Innovation. So I think ahead for them and I have been thinking about verifiable credentials, which ties into my my PhD research. So verifiable credentials are based on the concept of Self-sovereign identity, where we get to control our identities. And sort of what that means is a lot of times right now we we have services that we use, right? Gmail or Facebook or Google. And sometimes we use these accounts to log in to other services or we have emails from, you know, our employers or the schools we go to. But what happens is that we don’t control those identities. First of all, email addresses are not identities, they’re just email addresses. Um, and we don’t control those. We basically are giving them or they’re rented to us and they can go in at any time. But where Self-sovereign identity comes into play is it says, Hey, you can create these identifiers yourself and you can decide whether or not they exist, and then you can use these identifiers to prove that you have control over your credentials, right? So, um, so, so we’ve done.
Doug Belshaw: [00:14:01] That a little bit because, you know, you’ve got a lot of experience here just to unpack that and maybe I’ll get this wrong, so please do correct me. Um, one of the problems of open badges is that they work. One of the great things is they work like the web, one of the. Problems as they work like the web and therefore they suffer from link rot. So you link to some evidence or whatever and you click through and it doesn’t exist. And so people try to get around this by putting stuff on the blockchain like block certs. So putting the achievement on the blockchain, is that right?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:14:34] Yes. Yeah. So and fill in. Okay, go ahead. I was going to fill in a little bit there is that with open badges, they’ve been hosted mostly. They’re hosted on websites. Yeah. And on those websites, you can’t tell if badge data has changed or it could be removed. Right. The like, you’re sure like a achiever, you may go away. And where are those badges? Yeah. Um, black certs helps with verification. So black certs takes not the actual badge data. It takes something. And I can explain this if you want a hash of the badge data and puts it on the blockchain blockchain so that if I have a blockchain, a black search app on my phone and I say, Dog, Laura, this is my my badge. And then you can take the data from there and hash it yourself. And if it matches what’s on the blockchain, then you know that it hasn’t been tampered with, right? And it’s essentially verifiable.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:28] Just to explain what a hash is. Yeah. It’s taking not the entire data itself, but like a representation of that data in a unique way. How would you describe a hash?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:15:39] It’s a programmatic function that takes a set of data and turns it into a very unique alphanumeric string that is very specific to that data. So if there is one space made in the data or a period, the hash would change.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:53] So, for example.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:15:53] And that’s why.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:54] When you’re loading a large file, it might say, here’s the hash of the data check against it so that when you’ve downloaded it, you’ve got an exact copy and it hasn’t been corrupted in transit. That would be a homely example of people might come across before.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:16:09] Yeah thats right. Yeah, something like that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:16:10] So. Block certs, you’re putting a hash of the data to make sure that the data hasn’t changed on the blockchain. But that’s different to verifiable credentials, isn’t it? Because with verifiable credentials you’re, you’re putting your identity I guess on the blockchain, is that right?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:16:26] No. In fact, you can do verifiable credentials without blockchain at all. Okay. So verifiable credentials, much like open badges, is a set of data, right? So it’s these data properties and it says, who is the issuer of this credential, the date it was issued? And then inside of it is a claim. The claim could be about an achievement, like an open badge. It could be your driver’s license, it could be all sorts of things. It’s even used in supply chain management. And then what happens is that the issuer of that credential actually, um, they’re the ones that do the hashing. They actually like cryptographically hash it and sign it. It’s called signing, really. Um, so that it is provable because it is, um, it is cryptographically provable so you can tell who the issuer was and also that it hasn’t been changed because much like the hash, if the data has changed, you could tell it wouldn’t match the match, the hash and the credential.
Doug Belshaw: [00:17:21] So in terms of the self-sovereign bit, you know, so one of the problems about open badges has been the fact that although there has been the opportunity to have other identifiers, everyone pretty much has used email address to identify the person who’s going to receive the credential or the badge or whatever you want to call it. Um, my understanding and again correct me if I’m wrong, is that with self-sovereign identifiers, you can put you can have basically an identity that you control and you can prove that you control even if it’s anonymous and you can have the badge or the credentials sent to that. So is it that thing which is on I mean, you said that you don’t have to use a blockchain, but is it is it that thing that you would put on the blockchain if you wanted to the identifier.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:18:05] It could be that. So yeah, it could be that they’re called decentralised identifiers. There’s many of them and depending so everyone would have a wallet for their verifiable credentials to store them and it’s with your wallet that you would create your identifier and that’s what you could say, Hey issuer, please send the the badge to this identifier. So the decentralised identifier could be anchored in blockchain or it could actually just be a set of a it just could be on that in the wallet itself. Okay.
Doug Belshaw: [00:18:36] So as long as you control the wallet, you control whatever’s in it, I guess.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:18:40] Right? That’s right. And part of the verifiable credential standard and the interoperability of it is that you should be able to move this information from wallet to wallet. Um, keep in mind, though, it is really early, so there’s a lot of bridging going on right now. And for instance in open badges an open badges 3.0 where we’re looking to align with this verifiable credential standard. You could still issue it to an email address because it’s really hard for us to shift to a decentralised identifier right away. But you could also use a decentralised identifier and in fact you could have both. So for instance, a platform could say. I’m going to email this person their badge and tell them they got this badge. They can log into our platform with their email address and username still, but then if they want to, they can choose to move this badge into their wallet where it’s associated with their decentralised identifier. So it’s sort of like a backup approach right now. Anyway, I think that’s the bridging approach many of us are looking at.
Doug Belshaw: [00:19:37] Okay. Let’s just talk about some some examples of why this is useful. We’ve kind of touched on that a little bit because we’ve said, well, you know, open badges can represent achievements wherever they happen. They can be issued by anyone. There’s some issues that historically have been, you know, a problem for open badges in terms of working like the Web and verifiable credentials kind of help solve some of that. There’s lots of kind of crypto boosterism and crypto scepticism at the moment. And you’ve said that verifiable credentials don’t necessarily have to use a blockchain, but I think people often use it as an example of something which would be put on a chain of some sort. So I know that you are a very reflective person and are not just kind of like, let’s put everything on the chain. I know that’s not your position, but I know that also you are further down the actually there’s lots of use cases for this kind of stuff that maybe other people in the community. So I wondered whether you could give some examples. And I know I’m putting you on the spot here a little bit, some examples of why, for example, issuing a verifiable credential with a self-sovereign identifier, a use case where that would be better than issuing an open badge, like just so that people can get a sense of a real world application.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:20:58] Sure. I think the one that seemed to be seems to be most relatable is that you’re applying for a job and need to provide proof of employment. You need to provide your recommendations. You need to provide proof of a degree or proof of other skills. If you have all of the all of that data in the form of verifiable credentials in your wallet, you can actually form that yourself and present it the way you want that’s applicable to the job you want. And it’s not just you saying this is the job I had, this is some recommendations. It’s actually provable through cryptography. So cryptography, by the way, has been around forever, right? This is not a new thing. So that is one of the use cases. So you don’t have to worry about going to all these like disparate locations to find all of this information. Right. You don’t have to request someone to write a single recommendation for every different job that you have. You actually can ask them to write one. It could be in the form of a verifiable credential, and then it’s cryptographically provable to any job that you apply for. So I think that’s one example that that people can relate to. And one other one is in education would be teachers licenses and certificates is and also continuing education and education. They have all these PDFs and pieces of paper and ways that they have to prove that they can teach in the area where they are. And if all of that is in the form of verifiable credentials, then they don’t have to worry about tracking that down. The same for the medical profession. They can take years to track down all of your CMS and all of your work experience in medical, right? So those are some of the use cases I think that most people understand most directly.
Laura Hilliger: [00:22:43] Can you talk a little bit more about the the identity piece? Because I feel like for some of our listeners, it’s particularly difficult to sort of imagine a world post email, and this is quite relevant to me at the moment because I am a I don’t know if you saw this, Carrie, but I am a Google legacy account owner. And just this past week, Google announced that anyone who had a legacy account is automatically going to be transferred to their work suite and you’ll have to pay and blah, blah, blah. And that’s not really the problem. The problem is, is that my Google legacy is associated with everything. I’ve been on the Internet for the past 14 years, and it’s no longer it’s an identity that I can no longer edit because because of decisions Google has made, essentially. And so I’m in a very current. My identity is being taken from me and controlled by something else and I have to do something about it. And so I’m really interested in what does it mean to really own your identity on the Internet and how how far away are we from that? How does it actually work? How technically competent do you have to be at this point to have an identifier that really does belong to you? I’m quite interested.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:24:02] Sure. That’s a really good example too. I love that you two are asking all the hard questions here. So. So decentralised identifiers are. There’s a lot of them. There’s I think over there’s over 100 different types and it’s a fairly new concept and it’s not quite standardised yet, although these are identifiers that are being used in many places, not just for credentials for like digital credentials, but also to log into platforms. And there are ways to do that and there are applications that are starting to do that. It is very early, so it’s not time yet, but there are wallets that are getting on board. Even Apple and even Google are looking into how do we use decentralised identifiers. And in fact, Microsoft is using the ion blockchain for their decentralised identifiers and they have a wallet and that that is usable. It’s fairly new. It came out in the past year. So they do exist and they are they are coming. It probably will be a few years before maybe, maybe a maybe a year and a half, two years where folks who are really into it will start using it and then probably about five years out before, you know, other folks jump on board for real. But it could move faster. I mean, look at what happened with Nfts in the past year. So it’s hard to know as soon as there’s a real good use case for it and people understand it, right? As soon as it’s perceived as being easy to use and it’s a useful people will will start using it.
Doug Belshaw: [00:25:31] So one of the one of the things about email is that if someone gets into your email, they can reset all of your passwords on all of your all the different sites and hack into your your stuff. Which is why, you know, I make sure that my parents have got two factor authentication on their Gmail account and and all of that stuff. And I was watching this fascinating video and I’ll put a link in the show notes. I’ve never watched something which. Is two hours and 18 minutes on YouTube before. But maybe because I’ve got Covid and my brain’s not working properly. I watched it in like half an hour chunks yesterday. And one of the criticisms of Nfts, given that you brought it up, that this guy raised and it was a very informative and entertaining video, was that on like Metamask and these other kind of wallets? There’s no kind of checks to make sure you don’t have to accept, you know, like you accept an open badge. There’s no acceptance of nfts so people can put an NFT with a little program inside which can then steal all of your stuff. And he was making the point that, well, if you put all of your like, medical data and job history and all of these things into a wallet that people can easily steal by running a little smart contract inside of it, it prevents, you know, it presents a single point of failure. But that’s nothing new because we’ve had single points of failure with email. I just wondered if if you knew if there was a way with the decentralised identifier work to help stop that happening because, you know, my wife works for the NHS digital team and I see some of the ways in which they’re trying to decouple systems to make sure that there’s not an easy way for patient identities and information to be stolen. I just wondered how much that’s informing the landscape at the moment.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:27:19] Yeah, well, that’s a really big question, so I can’t answer the nfts part. I’m not that familiar with Nfts. I’ve actually really only started paying attention to it more so the last like, you know, few months. But I can tell you a little bit about decentralised identifiers and how they work and why they’re better than, than email now. So beyond the fact that you create your own identifier and with email addresses, you don’t when you use an email address and you use it in various sites all over, there’s a possibility of a cross correlation, right? Someone who’s trying to look for that email address on the web could actually see, Oh, this person has a Netflix account. And they have they use this email all over the place, right? And they can learn quite a bit about you, which is a definite security flaw overall in the Internet. Now with decentralised identifiers, they work to sort of describe how the key system works, because I think it’s important for people to understand that every every identifier and this is how nfts work too. And even like, um, IDs on blockchains, um, there’s a public key and a private key.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:28:29] You hold the private key. So the private key is like the key to your house. And the public key is the address to get to your house and you have to hold on to your private key. And that’s how you prove that you have control over the identifier. Um, if you lose the private key. Well, yeah, you’re going to have trouble with things that are associated with that identifier, but it’s just like you would have trouble getting into your own house, right? And there are ways to back those up and make sure that you don’t lose them. And there are also ways to you can create as many identifiers as you want, so you don’t have to use the same one for everything. You could actually use different identifiers for different credentials all in the same wallet if you wanted to. So so there is some security in that aspect also. Yes, it’s the control of the private key. So don’t actually know how someone would get into a wallet and do that. But I’m curious to watch what you watch to.
Doug Belshaw: [00:29:24] Tell me if this is a useful analogy. So I was setting up my son’s new phone this week because it was his birthday and he’s got a Google Pixel phone and on the Google Pixel phone, when you when it connects to a Wi-Fi network, it keeps randomising the unique address of the phone, the Mac address of the phone every time it connects. It’s a new one. So you can’t tie that phone necessarily to that person. So it’s still the same phone, but it has a different identifier that’s sending out. Is it similar in that sense in that it’s not a different identifier every time, but you can choose the identifier that you it’s almost like having 100 different email addresses and you’re choosing which one that you’re going to use for a different account. But instead of having to log into 100 different ones, you’re actually just holding one wallet and choosing which one you’re going to connect to. The different service. That’s it largely fell apart, but you know what I mean.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:30:18] No, no. Yeah, that’s similar. It is. And people can choose to do that. You can choose to have different wallets, right? There’ll be a whole bunch of different ways to to decide upon this best practices. At some point will will show up. We’re not really there yet. Right. But that is how it would work that you get to decide. And also you decide when that identity goes away. You decide you don’t want to use it anymore and it goes away and that’s fine. Um.
Doug Belshaw: [00:30:43] Okay. And one thing which kind of struck me during the conversation we’ve just been having is that there’s nothing new under the sun. There’s new technologies, but the fundamental key, like the fundamental desire that people want, stays the same. So when I started my career so we’re talking 2004 ish and people were all about e-portfolios. So like people we know, like Serge Ravi were running E-portfolio conferences and it was all about representing yourself online in one place, which linked out to lots of different places so that you felt you could bring all of yourself to it. So sometimes you upload some stuff into the system and represent it there. And it was, it was there. And sometimes you’re linking to your website, but the idea is that you could represent yourself in its totality and then open badges ended up being like little e-portfolios And now we’re getting to a world of wallets where you’re talking about identity but still trying to represent yourself in a way that you control on the web. And it feels like the technology’s changed. But the underlying desire to do something with all of the different stuff that you’ve got kind of remains the same. And the example we often give is people going to get a job because people, you know, recognise that. But there’s loads of other times when you’d want to represent yourself at a distance in a way that you can kind of verify, I guess.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:32:08] And that’s true. So I imagine someone was asking about portfolios the other day and how this work and Twitter, it could actually work the same, right? We can build upon the same system. So you may get issued a badge on Badger and you may decide to put that badge in your wallet. And then there may be an e-portfolio program that says, Hey, why don’t you send me your badges and you can send them from your wallet. They can be on the portfolio, they can be there and they can on the portfolio. They can say, Oh, this badge came from Badger, but here’s a cryptographic proof of this badge. So it can be in both places. So you can actually do the same things. It just adds more verifiability to what we’ve already been doing all along. And I think that is from my perspective. You remember we started a badge chain in like 2015, right? Because we were talking about this verifiability of badges. And to my my perspective at that time was like, well, that’s why people aren’t adopting this because they don’t think they’re verifiable. I don’t think that was the case. I learned otherwise. But I think we are adding adding that now because you might have in your wallet is a is a degree that’s in the form of a badge or, you know, a medical license. That is one of the parts we’re doing with open badges in 3.0 is that we’re working towards defining what is the achievement type, which is also something we wanted to do years ago so that the achievement type could be not just a badge, which could be anything, but also could be very specifically noted as a degree or something of that sort.
Doug Belshaw: [00:33:43] What I thought was really interesting. Sorry go on Laura.
Laura Hilliger: [00:33:46] Oh, I was also just going to say I thought was really interesting in your epic presentation that you gave a couple of months ago when you were talking about the different types and there was on on your slides, you had a list of the different types of things that could be verifiable, verifiable. And you used I was I wanted to ask you. So you had like certificates, degrees, skills, competency, like a bunch of different types of badges that are going to be written into the standard. And I would love to hear a little bit about how you came up with those types and how how much of a semantic discussion there was. Because I know in like in the EdTech community and the badges community, semantics has been a big deal for a really long time. And so I’m curious if that if the types that are built into the 3.0, are those set? How many are there? How much of a fight was it? I’m just curious there.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:34:44] I love this question because it also goes back to years ago when we tried starting this taxonomy group in open badges where we were trying to also figure this out. My answer is not going to be a very good one because honestly, that list comes from the global standard. And there we are working to align the open badges with the clear. And that list is I don’t think is definitive in any way at all. I think it was just what the group decided at the time at IMS Global and and there is a way to add things to it. So I guess we will see what happens with that list as we proceed with the open three point. The Badges three point network.
Doug Belshaw: [00:35:25] CLR stands for Comprehensive Learner Record, right? That’s another IMS standard and IMS stewards the open badges specification since 2017 after taking over from Mozilla, which is potentially a nice segway into sitting over here in Europe as Laura and I are, and I’ve said this many times to you and other people, Kerry, there seems to be like a difference between the way that different continents or different parts of the world do Education and open badges are certainly of the North American educational system, for example, trying to create space for stuff which isn’t seat time and on the curriculum and all that kind of stuff. And it was created out of that kind of milieu, as it were. But it seems to fit in better with almost the European way of doing stuff. And I think you’ve seen some of that with the way that Serge and Filipescu and other people in France and and other places are doing almost like on an apprenticeship model, on a competency based kind of curriculum. I don’t know whether that’s just me seeing something that isn’t there or whether you’ve noticed that as well.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:36:40] I have noticed that for sure. And I have a sense that that’s changing in the States. There’s this a the topic of skills based hiring has really been raised. You know, it’s been coming up quite a bit and, you know, earning badges while, you know, on the job or know having experiences now seems to be something that is hitting the the mainstream topic in our in our space, so to say. Guess so I think it is shifting. But I also think, you know, there are institutional and systemic holds on education still that will continue to be they’ll continue to be a struggle with that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:37:20] It’s funny what you said about not funny. It’s interesting what you said about the kind of skills based hiring and maybe earning money while you’re learning and all that kind of stuff. I think it’s David Lisa at IBM, who obviously oversaw a massively successful open badging program there. And it’s still going and issuing millions and millions of badges every every year. But he he’s got a phrase and I can’t remember the phrase, but it’s something about which is one of the reasons I wanted to get into open badges in particular and was about your earning money as your levelling up, So almost like an apprentice or an intern or whatever. So for me now, my son’s now 15 and I got involved in open badges. He was four and I wanted after spending 27 years in formal education myself, I didn’t want him to feel like he had to like the formal education route. And my daughter as well was the only way into it. And I feel like we’re getting there. Like I see things like multiverse in the UK, like the kind of skills based programs around the world where you don’t just have to have a degree to go and get this job. You don’t just have to be a graduate, you have to have these particular skills. And obviously it’s more common in more technical stuff. But have you have you seen that in the US in particular? Can you remember the name of David Lisa’s thing that he talks about? Because I know you’re involved in the Open Skills Network stuff.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:38:44] I can’t remember the name of it, but I know what you’re talking about. And I think what is happening now is you’re seeing more more badges or credentials being issued for even courses, right? Or for skill translations more so than ever before. I mean, I think this is great because college is expensive. Universities are expensive in the United States is really expensive. I mean, upwards of like $70,000 to go to some schools per year. So we’re seeing a lot more of a certifications, schools like Western Governors University issuing credentials for courses and and and skill attainment actually listing the skills in those badges. So I think more of that is happening and it’s great to see. I’m sure.
Doug Belshaw: [00:39:38] Laura, I’m wondering, given that we’re almost 40 minutes in whether we should we should approach the issue of this particular article that we’ve been discussing offline.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:39:50] Bring it up, bring it up.
Laura Hilliger: [00:39:51] So people can listen to us rant or.
Doug Belshaw: [00:39:55] Well, I’d be interested because, Kerry, I think you’ve read this as well. You might not have read it in the last couple of days, but I think you’ve read it because it was published on December the 14th last year. And so this is by it’s a collaboration between Scott, David Mayer, Ashish Mistry, Blair Rorani, Scott Mayer and Rishi Saraf. And the title of it is From Web3 to three Reimagining Education in a Decentralised World. So yeah, if if you can remember what it says and all that kind of stuff and you’ve got in front of you, it’ll be interesting because you are probably, well, definitely more technical in terms of than Laura and I. What, what your response to this was. Perhaps before we give our reactions.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:40:38] Sure. Um, so many thoughts about this. Uh, to start this concept of web3 has been around for a long time. There’s, I mean, we’ve been talking about Web3 since 2015. And, and what I did like about I attended a webinar with Brian Alexander, with the writers of this article and they were talking about people kept saying, Well, what is web3? Why don’t you define Web3? And, and they said, What I thought too was, it’s on the spectrum, right? There’s all different parts of technologies that make up Web3 may or may not even include blockchain. Decentralised technologies is a vast span of how those work. Um, so what I think is great though actually about this thinking is it ties into our previous topic of, you know, earn while you learn type of situations where folks can actually learn things online, gain tokens for it, maybe even Nfts there’s this NFT out there called Poep, which is a badge, basically. Don’t think it’s an open badge, but it’s a type of badge. And what happens is like they can gain value over time, right? These nfts and it can actually bring some income to while you’re learning right on your own and it can help build out community and it can give you more control in how you participate and what you do with your data. And we talk about like data privacy and decentralisation. And we just spoke about that a little bit more in identity. But really it still will be up to individuals to decide who they share their data with, whether it’s on a decentralised network or not. You have to decide who you trust, but there is like this vast opportunity there with this. Will it change everything? No, I don’t think it is like this thing that is going to change everything and it’s also not going to break everything either. Right. It is just going to introduce new thinking about how we can do education online and what we can do with the credentials. So think that’s my opinion right now, which is somewhere middle of the road, honestly.
Laura Hilliger: [00:42:37] But yes, that was that was positive and optimistic and socially diplomatic and all of the things that I was not when I first read the article, which was only earlier today, because Doug passed it to me and said, Oh, we should talk about this with Kerry. And I was like, Well, I should read it first, you know? Um, but it’s funny because, yes, Web3 has been around for a really long time, but I’m internet og enough to remember when web2 and defining what web 2.0 was and the discussion around that and sort of the, the philosophical back and forth around what, what is web 2.0 and it’s very interesting and funny and kind of adorable how history repeats itself and the some of the problems that I see in the quote unquote web3 space are really problems that we’ve seen for decades. You know, problems around the way that things are presented as brand new, shiny, and the tech will save us. Technology will save us. Continues to be. Yeah.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:43:48] You know, we also have this problem we have that always still exists right now that we really need to take care of. I’m not sure how it is in the UK, but also I can say in the States we have access to tech problems. Major, mean, people don’t, don’t consider that, but it still exists like internet access, access to phones, like having actual hardware and software to use. It’s expensive. And so there’s a large part of the population that can’t participate yet. And I think we need to look at that more than we keep growing the technology. Like let’s get everybody online, let’s look at the policy around that because that makes me really sad. You see people earning all sorts of money and honestly, they are. You know, the demographics for that are very wealthy white men, honestly, who are making a lot of money in this space. And I’d like to see that flip and I’d like to see those who actually could use the money and the actual digital identity to have a first stab at this. So we need to figure that out. Yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:44:42] And so let me be positive first of all about this article. I think it actually identifies three really important challenges in education access. It talks about the three A’s, triple-A like Access, affordability and accreditation. And they are the things that I think we’ve, you know, certainly access and accreditation. I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to help with informal education as a teacher and senior leader and then since then as well, and the accreditation, all of us have been involved in that. I just don’t particularly see the link between those challenges and the solutions such as they’re described in in this particular article, for example, Daos decentralised autonomous organisations sound great until you kind of scratch the surface and you realise that they’re kind of very techie code focussed co ops basically. And it, it’s the, it’s the collaboration and the social bit of it which makes the difference. And I think a lot of this is trying to solve the problems that technology themselves itself has caused. And I don’t necessarily agree with some of the premises like Web one. I mean, I know it’s just a kind of a sleight of hand, but Web one was centralised infrastructure. Well, web one was decentralised infrastructure, and then all the big players came in and centralised it. So the need to decentralise it is because of tech pros centralising the infrastructure infrastructure. So and, and this is just for me the logical conclusion of turning students into consumers and into customers. Yes. Because you financialized all of the things and then everything ends up having some kind of financial relationship with with each other. And so it’s kind of a trajectory that we’ve been on for a while. But there’s some stuff in here which I definitely agree with. Like, my daughter was off because she had Covid last week, so she was back to like how she was during the pandemic lockdowns. And she loved it because she could work at her own pace, get through all the work and then do gaming, crafting whatever she wanted afterwards. She can’t go at her own pace. My son is in mixed ability classes apart from maths, where he’s in the maths and science ways in the top set. I agree with mixed ability education because it’s more inclusive for society. But as a parent who wants to push my kid, it’s horrendous because he sits there bored for half of the lesson. So for that kind of thing, I think it’s fantastic. I just don’t necessarily think. We need daos and blockchains and nfts to be able to do it. That’s the only thing I know.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:47:33] All of that is true. And then yet there’s this opportunity to build out these, like, consensus, like educational consensus mechanisms using daos that may be very useful. Right? Co-ops of sorts where individuals can actually make decisions about things together as a community using the technology. I’m interested in that kind of thinking, like how could that be used as a researcher? That’s what I’m interested in. Like what happens when there is more more control as to what happens versus, you know, the centralised platform saying here are all the fields you must enter. What if in a decentralised system you can decide what.
Doug Belshaw: [00:48:13] We have to engage with new technologies. Otherwise you end up like, I’m in my 40s now and I’m like, I can’t just turn into some grumpy old man who’s like, This is not the way that everything was supposed to turn out. I’m not going to engage in these things. Like we have to engage with them to try and steer them towards a hopeful future to go full circle. You know, we make the road by walking, so it’s not like we just have to all decide on the destination and figure it out ahead of time. Like we figure it out as we’re going along. We’ve done that with open badges. You know, we’ll do it with verifiable credentials and net3 as well.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:48:49] Yes. My goal at Badger is to help make this more understandable. So I hope I hope I can do that. So I’m working on it. It’s an interesting challenge to take everything and translate it, but the analogies I think are helpful. So we’re getting there. Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:49:09] All right. Thank you so much for joining us. I would definitely like to check in in six months and talk a bit more about especially identity. I’m fascinated. I’m fascinated by the idea that I could own my own online identity, especially at the moment. So we should definitely do this again sometime.
Doug Belshaw: [00:49:28] Thanks, Kerri.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:49:29] Yes, Thank you very much for having me here. And Laura, I’ll stay in touch. And we’re going to we’re going to try it out, try out some decentralised identifiers together.
Laura Hilliger: [00:49:37] Okay.
Kerri Lemoie: [00:49:38] That sounds good. That’ll be good, right?
Kerri Lemoie: [00:49:39] Yeah. Okay.
Doug Belshaw: [00:49:41] Thanks for now!
Kerri Lemoie: [00:49:42] Okay, Bye for now. Thank you very much. It’s fun!