Reading through the Aspen Institute Task Force report, Learner at the Center of a Networked World, I came across a fascinating open-source software project called Open Mustard Seed. Designed by ID3, a research and education nonprofit, Open Mustard Seed is part of the organization's mission to "develop a new social ecosystem of trusted, self-healing digital institutions."
What does this mean? It means that even though we have entered an era in which, " the coordination costs for collaboration are nearing zero and unforeseen opportunities for collective action at enormous scales are now tenable," the same technologies "come freighted with worrisome surveillance and data-mining powers." I interpet "trusted, self-healing digital institutions" to mean open data platforms that allow communities to "mash up" their own customized, private data services and policies tailored exactly to their needs. Having control over your own data is important, but so is sharing your data in an open and safe digital space that is part of an ecosystem of similar networks.
I came across Open Mustard Seed while reading the Findings and Recommendations for trust environments in the ATF Report, in addition to a set of high-level principles intended to "guide the process for developing a trusted environment":
- Transparency and Openness. Require easy-to-read disclosures to enable learners and other stakeholders to clearly understand who is participating, what the norms and protections are, what data is collected and how it is used.
- Participation. Provide opportunities for individual and interest group participation in decision making and policy making related to the development and deployment of connected learning solutions.
- Data Stewardship. Find ways to protect data that may include mechanisms to reduce the risk of harm, such as clearly delimiting the permissible uses of data, de-identifying sensitive data and/or deleting data once it no longer has value for learning. Data can also be used to provide feedback about what works, thereby shortening the cycle to improve the ecosystem of learning networks.
- Technology Innovation. Create and deploy technologies that support a trusted environment, such as the use of metadata to convey and enforce data policy or privacy dashboards that indicate what information is shared with whom.
- Accountability. Adopt policies and procedures or a code of conduct that support responsible learning environments.
- Oversight and Enforcement. Establish regulatory arrangements to protect the integrity of learning networks with competent and appropriately-resourced bodies in place to enforce these principles.
This folds into my own thinking about "trust networks" and badge systems, especially when it comes to coveillance and privacy measures, two aspects of badges that don't get nearly as much attention as assessment and motivation, but that's a topic for another blog post. It strikes me that "trust" brings together what may seem like unrelated topics into one interlocking conversation that puts learners at the center. Learning analytics, data mining, privacy, interoperability, safety, access, surveillance, cloud computing, badges, and other related topics are as much a part of our 21st century learning landscape as pedagogy, assessment, motivation, curriculum, standards, and socio-emotional digital literacies. The trick is that it takes many different perspectives, roles, backgrounds, and skills to have a conversation about solutions to something as complex as trust in connected learning environments.
So that we have a gathering place to have that conversation, HASTAC and ConnectedLearning.tv will be hosting a series of webinars throughout the month of July,, starting with Trust Challenges Across Connected Learning Environments on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 11am PDT. Our all-star line-up will feature:
- Cathy Lewis-Long - Founding Executive Director of The Sprout Fund in Pittsburgh
- Nichole Pinkard - Co-Founder of the Digital Youth Network, and Co-Founder of YOUmedia Chicago
- Carla Casilli - Director of Design + Practice at the Badge Alliance
- Barry Joseph - Associate Director for Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History
The month-long webinar series is also a great opportunity for potential applicants to this year's Digital Media and Learning Competition to get involved in the broader conversation about building trust in connected learning environments. DML Competition 5: Trust Challenge opens on September 3, so warm up your brains over the summer and look for connected learning environments, including institutions, partners, collaborators, or alliances willing to apply with you and together rise to the challenge.
Remember to tweet your heart out at #dmltrust and if you join our webinar live, ask our guests lots of questions through Twitter and the ConnectedLearning.tv platform.