Blog Post

Reflections on the Building Connected Credentials Partnership

Reflections on the Building Connected Credentials Partnership

What is a trusted relationship?

Key Understanding One: Partnerships are strongest when collaboratively co-designed, and most effective when outcomes leverage the skills of participating team members.

In my work developing strategic relationships on behalf of Mozilla and Hive Learning Network, one of my favorite moments was a  day back in 2013 when I sat down with Digital Ready Partnership Development Manager Rob DiRenzo and sketched out the parameters of our burgeoning Expanded Learning Opportunities partnership.
We each made a list of the areas of expertise our respective networks had to offer the other, using a venn diagram to illustrate where we saw the overlaps in our work and approaches. We have shown this simple sketch many times since then. It visually demonstrates our bounds and boundaries, not only our common ground, but also the individual skills and assets that each partner agrees to bring to the table. Our hand-drawn diagram, represents an essential moment of consensus and buy-in. One that I have continued to strive for when seeking out sustainable partnerships that support Mozilla Hive’s goals  of web literacy and digital skills through connected learning.  

This moment comes to mind in reflecting on what we’ve discovered developing the Building Connected Credentials project over these past months. Namely, that a resilient commitment and understanding (aka trust) between stakeholders is at its core built through a mutual understanding of performance what each partner does best.

Hive NYC-Digital Ready-Partnership Diagram

Above: Hive NYC-Digital Ready Partnership Diagram

What is a trusted assessment?

Key Understanding Two: When we say “trusted assessment” we mean that whatever is happening in one space can be understood and accepted in another space.

Since May, the Building Connected Credentials organizing team—staff from MHA Labs, NYC DOE Office of Post Secondary Readiness, and Center for Children and Technology respectively—has been meeting in an effort to “braid together” our different efforts around partnerships and assessment. Whether we represented in-school or out-of-school educators, we reached the same conclusion, that educators trust that a student understands something when they are able to demonstrate their knowledge.

It was through this series of discussions that we were able to more clearly identify the preferred conditions for a “connected credential.” A trusted credential is an agreed upon measure of what a student knows or has learned. It is most easily developed through a performance-based assessment, ideally one built through a current relationship, in an action-based context.

Above: Partnership diagram courtesy MHA Labs

Where are we already cultivating them?

Key Understanding Three: The spread of new practices requires a network of people for delivery, balancing the desire for innovation with a clear sense of capacity.

Reflecting on Hive NYC’s part of the venn diagram highlighted the value of gaining a clear sense of the myriad ways that informal learning organizations have cultivated relationships across different learning contexts and environments. In performing a quick inventory of current Hive NYC initiatives bridging the places where students learn, we surfaced many different examples. For example Dream Yard Art Center, Parsons The New School for Design and Dream Yard Prep’s work documenting student learning through Pre-College Learning Portfolios, Cooper Hewitt’s work developing a digital badge system to interface with undergraduate design schools or Beam Center’s Connected Teacher professional development pilot, which supports in-school teachers in learning interdisciplinary skills and technologies. Fueled by these various initiatives, we decided to turn our focus inward, asking: what connected credentials already exist? How can we demonstrate and codify the variety of assessments already being created within the informal learning ecosystem?

Hive NYC/Digital Ready students at a Maker Party event: demonstrating what they have learned—how the learning process can manifest as a “connected credential”

Hive NYC/Digital Ready students at a Maker Party event: demonstrating what they have learned—how the learning process can manifest as a “connected credential”


How will trusted relationships and assessments come together?

Key Understanding Four: In order for learning to resonate and “count” across multiple spaces, assessment should be developed in conjunction with current and future stakeholders.

Hive NYC will draw from the established relationships, skills and competencies that exist within our community to build a repository of credentials between in-school and out-of-school experiences. We’ll extend the parameters of our current work to include a wider-range of trusted relationships. We will mobilize key Hive NYC organizations to create prototypes and models, drawing from their existing healthy partnerships.

In so doing, the Building Connected Credentials team will leverage what our school partners value most: Mozilla/Hive HQ and Hive NYC’s lead educators’ expertise in convening stakeholders around shared values and innovating experiential learning activities prioritising key 21st century skills—often embedding appraisals of what’s being mastered directly into the learning process.

State of Hive NYC Educator Design Workshop

Output from Hive NYC opportunities brainstorm from State of Hive NYC 2015

Next steps for building trusted, connected credentials

Key Understanding Five: Instructors and youth need a clear path towards defining what it means to be successful in any given context - as well as how that success can translate into future opportunities in different places. Assessments developed using trusted relationships achieve this goal most effectively.

As part of Mozilla Hive’s commitment to openness and developing actionable strategies that others can leverage and spread, our DML Trust work will document ideas that demonstrate the co-creation of trusted assessments through aligned school, industry and higher education partnerships. While this may most logically draw from Hive NYC’s strong project portfolios, the goal is to explore skill development and sharing across the diversity of spaces where youth learn. By approaching the issue from the perspective of a network of relationships and assessments, we will highlight burgeoning relationships and assessment models as they arise, broadening the range of credentialing opportunities flourishing within the system.

This fall, the Building Connected Credentials Partnership will be releasing a request for prototypes with the explicit goal of creating a repository of authentic credentials and prototypes that could be adopted or adapted by other Hive / out-of-school networks, to build a more dynamic community of practice. This repository would provide exemplars of partnerships that are fully embracing and respecting out-of-school educators as equal co-creators of youth outcomes. More importantly, we will document and share the process of creating qualifications, achievements and credentials, so that others can replicate the innovation process in their own networks and communities.




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