Doug Belshaw

Doug Belshaw headshot in black and white

Doug is a self-professed “Open Educational Thinkerer” and founder of Dynamic Skillset Ltd. He advises clients on issues around new literacies (the topic of his doctoral thesis), new forms of credentialing, and agile processes. Prior to this, he worked on the Web Literacy Map and Open Badges for the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, for Jisc in UK Higher Education, and he was a teacher and school senior leader. Doug holds a B.A. (Hons) in philosophy from the University of Sheffield, an M.A. in modern history from Durham University, and an Ed.D. (also from Durham). His personal website can be found at http://dougbelshaw.com. Doug lives in Northumberland in the north of England with his wife and children.


Blogs (32)


3 Ways Open Badges Work Like the Web

Monday, June 13, 2016

four faces illustration for open badges “The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world.” — Tim Berners-Lee A phrase that I and other Open Badges strategists use often is:  “Open Badges work like the web.” Recently, I’ve been asked by those less familiar with the technical architecture of the web what exactly we mean by this. My starting point is “Working openly on


3 Types of EdTech Baggage: Toolsets, Mindsets, Skillsets

Thursday, April 28, 2016

sketch of man stuck under baggage saying "baggage? What baggage?" Anyone with a background in technology integration will, of course, be familiar with the diffusion of innovation curve. This is a method to explain the way that different groups of people will react to new technologies. It’s useful, but tends to be used in a very two-dimensional way — as if people will always react in the same way to something new placed in front of them. In particular, I think using the diffusion of innovation curve in a simplistic way can leave out that the adoption and use of technologies has an affect on the


The Possibilities of Badges and Blockchain

Thursday, February 11, 2016

open badges plus blockchain equals bit of trust In March 2015, I wrote “Peering Deep into the Future of Educational Credentialing” for DML Central. In it, I explored the potential for the blockchain technology (best known for underpinning Bitcoin) to add an extra layer of trust and verification to Open Badges. Now, a year later, we’re a lot closer to that reality than I originally envisioned. The diffusion of innovation has moved so quickly that even government ministers are excited about the possibilities afforded by the blockchain. Let’s back up a bit first. The great thing about the Open Badges Infrastructure is that it’s


Deliberate Practice and Digital Literacies

Monday, November 02, 2015

lego mechanic working on a microchip There are some phrases — “communities of practice” and “close reading” spring to mind — that we as educators tend to use automatically. It’s never just an “online community” or “reading.” Sometimes, this is because we’re not aware of the very specific meaning of these terms; sometimes it’s because we want to make what we’re doing sound more important or useful than it is. I have to confess that I was using the term “Deliberate Practice” (which I’ll capitalise for emphasis) incorrectly. I had been using it to mean “practice done deliberately.” My mother sitting me


Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Digital Credentials landscape diagram 5 exploring different terminology by Doug Belshaw Recently, I’ve been having some interesting conversations about the digital credentials landscape. On the surface, it’s a bit messy. There are arguments over whether the term “Open Badges” should be used over the more generic “digital badges”; startups are talking about“‘micro-credentials”; and in my own work consulting with City & Guilds (an awarding body in the UK), we’ve been talking about “professional digital credentials.” In this post, I want to spend a little time teasing out the differences between the various terms and explaining why I think the diagram at the top of the post might help


Setting an Agile School Rhythm

Monday, July 13, 2015

graphic of drum set setting an Agile school rhythm When I moved out of the classroom a few years ago, one of the things I missed immediately was the imposed rhythm of the school year. There’s something inherently useful about knowing everyone’s on the same page. Staff and students alike know what’s coming next, with peaks and troughs of activity evident through a glance at the calendar. Over recent years there have been moves which, for better or worse, could alter this imposed rhythm. An increased focus on personalisation, more opportunities for blended/flipped learning, and concerns about student regression after the long summer break, mean


Extending Badges

Thursday, May 28, 2015

graphic open badges now with extensions At the beginning of this month, the Badge Alliance published version 1.1 of the Open Badges specification. This is a technical reference for developers. However, it has exciting, far-reaching pedagogical and social possibilities that are worth highlighting. In this post, I want to explore just a couple of these: mapping and endorsement. Mapping The Open Badges specification has always included a standard set of metadata fields that organisations use to issue badges. These include things like: Name: what the badge is called Description: what the badge is for Criteria: what individuals have to do to earn


Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing

Monday, March 30, 2015

doug belshaw graphic breaking down badges and block chain I recently attended Nesta’s FutureFest event in London. It was a heady mix of everything related to what’s next: from food to technology to economics to politics. What really caught my attention, however, was the way in which one particular innovation seemed to have captured the imagination of people across various sectors. That technology is the blockchain. Bear with me. Some of this will have to be slightly technical in order to get across the point I want to make about credentialing. First, I’ll explain in broad brushstrokes how the blockchain is currently used to underpin Bitcoin, the ‘cryptocurrency’ you’ve


Learning Pathways: Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

animation of black blots blobs connected by intricate web of lines pathways A few months ago, in a post entitled Scaffolding Web Literacy Through Learning Pathways, I differentiated between training pathways (“a series of steps that lead to the individual being able to reproduce knowledge or action”) and learning pathways (“experiences lead[ing] to the re-shaping of… future behaviour”). Descriptive/Prescriptive In this post, I want to dive deeper into learning pathways, dividing these types of pathways into broadly two groups. There are those kinds of pathways that are descriptive and those that are prescriptive. Neither of these labels is pejorative, as each could be appropriate given a particular context. This way of looking at learning


A Brief History of Web Literacy and its Future Potential

Monday, December 01, 2014

WWW mural of the world this is for everyone tim berners-lee quote “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” — George Orwell Part of history is telling stories. It’s about privileging some type of information over others, forming a narrative that helps us make sense of the world. These overviews are important, as they help us orient ourselves toward the future — in ways that reinforce or question what has gone before. We’re constantly reinterpreting the past to make sense of the present. New technologies and revelations can change the way we view those things we think we knew.


Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society

Thursday, October 23, 2014

underwater ocean shot of shark and school of fish If you’re anything like hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world, one of the first things you do in the morning is check your social media feeds. These are online spaces where we find out what’s happening in our friends’ lives, from engagements to baby photos. Increasingly, however, they’re the places where we first find out about the news of the day. It’s no secret that sales of daily newspapers have been declining rapidly. Apart from the free, tabloid, advertising-supported, “news-lite” papers picked up by commuters on their way to work, we


Scaffolding Web Literacy Through Learning Pathways

Thursday, August 28, 2014

footprints through the sand on rocky beach Learning is messy. It starts. It stops. It’s prismatic and elusive. Learners make progress, regress and then make giant leaps forward in understanding and ability. Some concepts and skills come quickly and easily, while others are hard-won. Learning, in other words — while fundamental to what it means to be human — remains somewhat of an enigma. Since leaving the confines of formal education, I’ve found just how messy learning can be. I’ve found that for most people it’s an intensely personal journey, something that not only is important for employment and contribution to society, but for self-actualization and human flourishing. Sometimes, but not


Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation

Thursday, June 12, 2014

banksy reclaim graphite tagged on outdoor building wall Around this time last year, thanks to the whistleblower Edward Snowden, U.S. citizens found out just how little online privacy they have. For those outside the U.S., the revelations were potentially even worse news as they weren’t granted the protection of the U.S. constitution. The Snowden revelations were, and are, shocking. We need to reform government and its relationship to the digital world we inhabit. This will likely be a slow process best achieved through democratic means. The chances of doing so are relatively good, as we have some of the best minds of our generation


Why I Still Believe in Badges

Monday, March 31, 2014

picture of stop sign with graffiti saying don't stop “Badges are plots by for-profit institutions to disrupt state-funded higher education. It’s all about money and trying to turn a public good into a privatized for-profit revenue stream. You need to get your critical theory books out and read Marx.” — Anonymous philosophy professor   I have sympathy for those who see certain developments in technology as being fueled by dark, hidden forces aiming at nothing less than to overturn life as we know it. We certainly need to be cognisant of those seeking to enclose public good for private profit, and never more so than


Re-imagining the Where, When, and How of Educational Practice

Monday, February 03, 2014

students using multi touch screen on wall “Well, I guess in all honesty I would have to say that I never knew nor did I ever hear of anybody that money didn’t change.” (Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men) Last month, I was at Bett, the annual educational technology and training show. It was a feast for the senses: I saw higher-pixel displays that supposedly ‘improve learning,’ multi-touch screens to ‘transform educational experiences,’ and (of course!) tablet devices were presented as a panacea for, well, everything. The irony was that the venue was simultaneously hosting the EAG Amusement and Leisure Show. If


Going Beyond ‘Learning to Code’: Why 2014 is the Year of Web Literacy

Monday, January 06, 2014

teacher and student working at laptop together In January 2012 the Mayor of New York tweeted, along with thousands of other people, that he planned to ‘learn to code’ during the course of that year. Whether or not he was successful in this venture, it’s a good indication of how ‘learn to code’ has captured the zeitgeist and become a movement. A recent Computer Science Education week, for example, was  re-branded as ‘Hour of Code’ – and Code.org features celebrities urging everyone to just learn a little bit of code. The argument is largely economic and aligned with agendas around science, technology, engineering


This is Why Kids Need to Learn to Code

Thursday, November 28, 2013

colorful stacked spools of thread Proclamations like ‘kids need to learn to code!’ may be accurate but, without some context and conceptual unpacking, they can be rather unhelpful. Thankfully, fellow DMLcentral contributor Ben Williamson has done a great job of problematising the current preoccupation with coding by asking questions like: “What assumptions, practices and kinds of thinking are privileged by learning to code? Who gains from that? And who misses out?” In many ways what follows builds upon these ideas so it’s worth reading Ben’s article first if you haven’t already. Along with the landscape issues identified in Ben’s article there’s a couple of


The Ontology of the Web (Why I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Learning Standards)

Monday, September 16, 2013

close up of old john dewey united states stamp pink ink At the beginning of 2013 the Mozilla Foundation announced its intention to work with the community to create a new learning standard for Web Literacy. I’m delighted to say that we’re well on course to release v1.0 of that standard at the Mozilla Festival in London at the end of October. In this post I want to give an overview of how I went from being initially skeptical to an enthusiastic project lead – all because of something I learned about ontology from Clay Shirky. If it’s impossible to create a completely coherent categorization, even when you’re doing


Privacy, the NSA and Web Literacies

Monday, June 17, 2013

2 women holding code pink support whistle blower sign rally I work for Mozilla. We were one of 86 civil liberties groups that signed an open letter demanding swift access from Congress in the light of recent revelations around NSA surveillance. The website StopWatching.Us has seen a surge in people signing up to find out what they can do to campaign for a more visible, transparent and accountable government. I’m a UK citizen. This does not make me exempt from this story. In fact, it makes it even more relevant for ‘foreign nationals’. The NSA has admitted to routinely surveilling those outside US borders – in other words, people like me.


Why Organizations Large and Small Should Align with Mozilla’s Web Literacy Standard

Monday, April 08, 2013

Innovation graphic tier open badges infrastructure the web and complicated studd At Mozilla we don’t like silos. We believe in innovating upon open standards and in ensuring that the Web remains an open platform. That’s why our Firefox web browser exists. It’s why we’re working on Firefox OS. And it’s why we’re delighted to have recently launched v1.0 of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). In a previous post I introduced our latest work engaging the community around a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. In this post I want to elaborate on that and explain how the standard might work in practice. One of the great things about the OBI is that


Why We Need a Learning Standard for Web Literacy

Monday, February 18, 2013

page covered in pink white brown dots Mozilla is working to create a new open learning standard for Web Literacy. In this post I want to consider why we need a ‘standard’ and who might be interested in helping define one. I’ve written much more about this on my blog and you can find more about this area of work on the Mozilla wiki.   Look around you. There are many people and organisations doing amazing things all over the world, in all kinds of areas. Some of this work is highly co-ordinated but most, I would suggest, is not. It’s something frustrating


Some Thoughts on Interest-based Pathways to Learning

Monday, January 28, 2013

interest based pathways for learning graphic colorful honeycomb design I have a confession to make. It’s a shameful, dark secret that I fear may be common to many adults around the world. And, when I was teaching, it was certainly one that I saw shared by many students I came into contact with. It’s something you don’t tend to admit to — especially as an educator. What is this thing that I’m reticent to admit? I’m not sure how I learn best. Do I learn best by listening to podcasts? What about by studying diagrams? I seem to find those useful. I dropped out half-way


Some Thoughts on iPads and One-to-One Initiatives

Thursday, October 18, 2012

close up of ipad and spiral notebook In my experience, there’s broadly three ways to relate to any kind of educational technology: 1) Technological — decide on the technology (for whatever reason) and that determines what you do pedagogically; 2) Pedagogical — settle upon the pedagogy and then look for a technology that fits; 3) Ecological — combine pedagogies and technologies to promote certain kinds of behaviours. I’d like to think that most of what I’ve done so far in my career, from training teachers to implementing multi-site learning systems to evangelising Open Badges, has been focused upon evangelising this ‘third way’ of


What Constitutes ‘Rigour’ in Our 21st-Century Educational Systems?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

rows of empty green desks in gymnasium Recently Michael Gove, the English Secretary of State for Education, announced the Government’s plans to “restore rigour and confidence to our examination system with the introduction of English Baccalaureate Certificates in English, maths, the sciences, history, geography and languages.” Modular assessment with the opportunity for student retakes is out, three-hour final examinations are back in. The number of top grades that are awarded will be limited. This approach is actually a toned-down version of Gove’s initial proposals which were leaked back in June. At the time both Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick


Digital Literacies and Web Literacies: What’s the Difference?

Monday, August 20, 2012

graphic showing difference between digital and web literacies I’m currently iterating some work around Web Literacies for the Mozilla Foundation (you can see the latest version of my thinking here). Perhaps the biggest consideration when dealing with so-called ‘New’ Literacies is distinguishing them from one another. As I’ve discussed many times before, without some clear thinking on this issue both theorists and practitioners alike tend to talk past one another using imprecise terminology. What I want to consider in this post is the relationship between Digital literacies and Web literacies. Aren’t they just synonyms? The topic of digital literacies was the focus of my


Web Literacies: What is the ‘Web’ Anyway?

Monday, July 23, 2012

graphic design depicting network connections I’ve recently started in a new role for the Mozilla Foundation. At least half of my job there is to come up with a framework, a White Paper, around the concept of ‘web literacies’. It’s got me thinking about both parts of that term — both the ‘web’ and the ‘literacies’. In this post I want to consider the first of these: what we mean by the ‘web’? I’ve already considered the latter in quite some detail in my doctoral thesis (available at neverendingthesis.com). Defining the Web Sometimes it’s important to step back from the things


On the Importance of Webmaking

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

kids and adults working on laptops at table I’ve come to realize over the last couple of years just how important the Open Web is for online innovation. It’s a standards-based platform that allows anyone to use relatively low-cost technologies to connect things and people together in new ways. It’s radical in its egalitarian, open, and democratic approach. But it’s under threat. When Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone only five years ago in 2007 he emphasized the importance of getting Web browsing right on a mobile device. Hot on the heels of the announcement, of course, came the wildly successful App Store. A


Gaining Some Perspective on Badges for Lifelong Learning

Friday, March 30, 2012

2 beautiful birds flying together I first read about the idea of Open Badges back in the middle of last year. It excited me. One thing I’ve always been interested in is how to shift the power dynamic within classrooms towards learners in a positive way. Changing (or at least providing additional) ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding is one way to do that. Using Mozilla’s Open Badges infrastructure, any organization or community can issue badges backed by their own seal of approval. Learners and users can then collect badges from different sources and display them across


Conferences as Catalysts for Educational Innovation and Change

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

vintage photograph of thousands of men and women gathered in the streets Last year I attended, on average, a conference or similar event every other week. As part of my role as Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet it’s an important part of what I do: finding out what’s going on in the UK education sector and disseminating our (publicly-funded) work. The face-to-face nature of conferences is, I believe, of even more importance in an extremely digitally connected world. Whilst it’s often the case that you can get to know people very well online, there’s something about embodied interaction that makes your knowledge of that person three-dimensional. I don’t think


Badges for Lifelong Learning: Reframing the Debate

Monday, September 26, 2011

picture of a hole in a tree framing an eagle flying representing reframing badges Last week saw the launch of the DML Competition. I’ve been following the development of Mozilla’s Open Badges project for a few months now and so was (and still am) excited by the potential of badges in education. The current ‘elevator pitch’ for Mozilla’s Open Badges project is: “Learning today happens everywhere. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements gained outside of school. Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy to issue, earn and display badges across the web. The result: recognizing 21st century skills, unlocking


What do Google, Open Source Software and Digital Literacies have in Common?

Monday, August 29, 2011

graphic of many words describing Digital information Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, hit the headlines recently with an attack on the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) curriculum in UK schools. It “focuses on teaching how to use software,” he said to the audience gathered for the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, “but gives no insight into how it’s made.” According to Schmidt that equates to “just throwing away your great computing heritage.” The link to the BBC News article containing Schmidt’s comments quickly did the rounds in the educational technology and elearning social media circles of which I am part.


What do new Social Networks tell us about Digital Literacies?

Monday, July 11, 2011

screenshot of google homepage with arrows pointing to the + sign to add new pages The recent launch of Google+, a new social network, has caused ripples in many different online spaces. From talk of it being a ‘Facebook killer’ because of its enhanced privacy settings to discussion of who one should place in the various ‘Circles’ available to users, the focus has been on technical aspects of the new service. What interests me, however, is how using the lens of digital literacies can cast light on practices and interactions in these spheres. There are two graphs ingrained in the brains of most people interested in technology and its effects on