• Amy Burvall

Just Make Stuff – Radical Transparency as the New CV

“Is there more evidence than evidence?”


That’s the question my dear friend Alan Levine posed in in recent blog post “Seeking Evidence of Badge Evidence”.

As far as credentialing goes, I’ve always been a fan of Open Badges (key word is “open”) if they are framed in the Doug Belshaw framework (I respect and admire that guy very much). I think, like anything they are misunderstood and often misused. Some might be issued with no metadata attached, becoming more of a digital certificate than a tool that can point to exactly what one has accomplished. In other cases the issuer might write criteria in lieu of what the “evidence” actually is (I think both are needed).

But let’s look at the pink elephant in the room…


Why do we need “evidence” if your work is evident?

For many years I have spoken at conferences about radical transparency and its place in the classroom. I might be a little “out there” for some, but I truly believe that students need to cultivate a positive digital presence early on, and that that presence – with all the work they put out there – will in essence become their CV (or transcript if the point is to get you into university). It must be noted I use the term “digital presence” because I think the commonly used “footprint” is far too past tense and the term “tattoo” has negative connotations in addition to being something more passive (a tattoo happens to you) rather than active (you create how you want to be seen on the Web over time through your work).


It’s About Walking the Walk


I’ve never been a fan of people who “talk” but don’t “walk”. In other words, I always think, as I evaluate someone, “what are you making?”; “what are you sharing?”

I get that not everyone is comfortable creating and distributing artifacts like videos, gifs, novels, poetry, music, or visual art. But they can curate and contextualize with their own thoughts and share that out. They can blog abut anything from their vegan food obsessions to media philosophy.

As a person who puts a lot of work out there- some of it admittedly not so great – I am privy to many viewer comments. In my 13 years of being fairly transparent on the Web, I must say it’s been for the most positive, but I have not come out completely unscathed. I learned a long time ago how to navigate through hurtful user reactions – ignore them. I know that is easier said than done but they key for me is to just keep making. Another mantra I like to use in response to naysayer is

Create Don’t Hate


Andy Warhol has a lovely quote about this:

“Don’t think about making art- just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether they love it or hate it, but in the meantime, while they’re deciding, make even more art”

I would definitely rather call myself a maker rather than a decider.


What Counts as Evidence?


I have, (and I think I can say this for Alan) perhaps, a different take on the world than most. I evaluate someone by their work not their work history. 

I’ve known too many people with amazing degrees and career experience who fall unfortunately short when it comes down to being original, nice, or even productive. That’s all I ask: have something new or interesting to say or contribute, be kind and hold up the work of your peers, and work hard making stuff. Yes, I’d be a terrible HR person, I know. But this attitude has really helped me as a teacher – I’ve never judged kids by their record as “honour students”, or for that matter see them as any less creative than I am. We were co-creators and co-learners, to reference the esteemed Howard Rheingold.

Many times (ok oftentimes) my students’ work – be it blog posts, essays, movies, poetry, what have you – was WAY better than something I could ever do. But the thing is I never considered myself to be an authority whose job it was to judge them. I’d rather have students work through their own evaluations with extensive guided reflections (my favourite were vlog reflections in which they responded thoughtfully to prompts).

My students’ work was transparent – from the first day of school they created personal blog portfolios on which they posted every bit of course work (plus contextualized with an introduction and reflection). They established Twitter accounts to take part in course chats and backchannels (these were then archived in Storify for “evidence” of participation, though I was always seeking a more streamlined approach to assess the quality of participation). They maintained YouTube accounts to house all their media production (mostly vlogs but a few more creative film projects). They used their school Google accounts to hop on to G+ so they could contribute to our class G+ Community or our Summer Reading community. All this contributed to them

being Googled well

I think Will Richardson came up with that phrase and it has stuck with me. I wanted my students, when Googled by future bosses or college entrance folks, to find the good stuff – the academic and artistic goodies attached to their REAL NAME (yes, I did teach high school not kindergarten and there is a difference). And do you know what? It worked. I remember one girl came up to me as a Senior and said she was pleased that when she Googled herself her (very thoughtful) blog and film projects from 9th grade History popped up and not the sketchy party photos from Facebook. Other students returned from college and let me know that although it often seemed overwhelming at the time, learning to manage a variety of social media accounts, produce creative work and distribute it across channels was quite helpful to them in university.


Man’s Lust for Classification

I came across this yesterday when discussing my post with a friend who called me out about paying to much heed to semantics.


The problem is, most people DO want to classify, to define. There is security in knowing if something has a stamp of approval. That’s why we like certain name brands, even though everything is probably made in the same factory in China anyway. Letter grades sure as heck don’t cut it, and most of us don’t have much esteem for standardized tests. Performance and criteria-based assessments are the best we have right now, and that is where open badging and micro-credentials in general come in. The reason I like them is because they

honour the informal learning we all do

This shift from mostly formal learning to a hybrid of formal and informal learning experiences is profound. At an increasing rate, people are carving out their personal learning paths, and they want to keep track of what they have accomplished. Having a “mobile backpack” full of badges aids in this (particularly since it is tied to the person not a platform).


Reputation as Currency


The long and short of it is, until we move to a world in which you can only prove yourself by what you do not what you say you do, then we need things like badges, certificates and degrees. I do think, however, that with our ubiquitous archiving devices and the ability to basically life log, transparency will eventually win out. The trouble will be making sense of it all- oh, and perhaps authenticity and honesty, but since we are human that will always be an issue.

Teacher as Amplifier


The best way to help students is to provide opportunities for students to create and share their work. You perhaps will need to set up an infrastructure to do this (for example, I helped students create their blog sites, then had a blog roll on my course blog so we could all easily see each other’s sites). Part of this is inspiring students to get creating – so think up some great projects now.

Help students navigate different social media spaces and use social media in the context of the curriculum. We did Twitter backchannels when we watched TED talks or student presentations, had a Twitter question of the week, and tweeted during socratic discussions.

Amplify students’ work by sharing it. To do this you will – no surprise here- have to be a connected educator yourself. If you don’t have a lot of followers. make sure you know which hashtags to use so that the appropriate audience will find the work serendipitously. Students should understand how to leverage hashtags, too.

Why not use the #FF (follow Friday) tag to follow a student’s blog, video channel, Instagram or website?


One reminder…

you can make the coolest “stuff” in the world and still be a jerk. So in this ever-shrinking, uber-connected space that flirts between the “IRL” and the virtual, it is beyond important to play nice. Here are some tips:

build up the work of others, and attribute everything

refrain from negativity as much as possible – populate the Web with pleasing things 

if you get jealous that someone is better, make more stuff (you will get better too and it distracts)

ok, just accept people will be better or their work will be more popular (but realize there is a niche for everyone)

share your own work freely (but make it unique enough so people will know it’s yours)

encourage remix of your work (remix is the heart of creativity- embrace it)


A few years ago I did an Ignite at ISTE called “#Daretoshare :Transparency is the New Black”


#microcredentials #WillRichardson #creativity #socialmedia #radicaltransparency #sharing #dougbelshaw #alanlevine #openbadges #andywarhol #badging #ISTE #amyburvall #digitalfluency #howardrheingold

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