All your skills in your own hand

OMO Scholengroep Helmond innovates with digital badges

This article is a translation and was first published in Van12tot18 of December 2019. You can publish this article with a reference to Vermeulen, P. (2019). Alles wat je in je mars hebt in je eigen hand. Van12tot18, 29(12), 30-31.

All your skills , competencies and experiences neatly combined in a digital safe to which only you have the key; and only you decide who can see which part of your portfolio and when. Fully GDRP proof! OMO Scholengroep Helmond has recently completed a very appealing pilot and is now going live with students to test the application. Young people will benefit from this innovation for the rest of their lives.

“We have been working on it in Helmond for a number of years,” says Wim Pelgrim, teacher but above all digital pioneer and educational innovator. “ Student results are now scattered across all kinds of sources. That needed improvement: safely in their own hands. We also see that a certain type of student finds it difficult to sell themselves to a potential employer. That’s why we will start this project with students of the Praktijkschool Helmond, a school for students with an IQ between 55 and 80. Telling what they have to offer is often a bridge too far for them.”

Open Badges and blockchain

Youngsters who participate will have access to an easy phone app. A safe in which data is collected from all kinds of applications that are used within the school. Today, students already have a lot of data about themselves, but they rarely know about it. That data is visualized via Open Badges. “Consider the badges we know from scouting,” Wim explains. “On the uniform of a scout you see all kinds of insignia that tell something about the skills: for example, you can see at a glance that someone can tie good knots or has followed a course with the fire department. Also everyone from Amsterdam, Singapore or Paris can understand these logos. An efficient system that we are now digitizing for our students.”

We work with the Open Badges standard. Think of our project with badges that state: Collaboration level 3 , forklift truck certificate , English level B1 . You name it, the possibilities are endless. School subjects, competencies, skills… And if a dean, career counselor or employer  wants to know more about a specific performance  , they can simply click the badge. ”

The project team guards against uncontrolled usage and – more importantly – gives high priority to the safety of the innovation. Thanks to a combination of open standards and blockchain technology , this is an extremely reliable system. As the owner of the portfolio, you cannot independently add all sorts of badges or raise levels. Every badge has a kind of digital fingerprint that is stored on blockchain, so the parties involved can verify the authenticity of the information. And moreover, the system has no central storage , and is thus fully compliant with the GDPR.

Insight into your talent

Pupils can use their badges to share information with, for example, an employer, who has temporary access to (a part of) the safe. Wim: “What we are doing is unique in the Netherlands. A uniform standard with which students can go to another school or employers. An ideal starting point for conversations. Not to mention all the latent skills: many students do not even see how much they have grown. A mark for an exam is very specific, but how strong are your social skills, for example? Or your problem-solving capacity? We will help with one clear standard by means of  which everything is clearly presented. “

It is great that we can help the students of the Praktijkschool Helmond with it, but this system works for a much wider target group. Consider the international benefits. Suppose a Chinese student comes here to study at Fontys University for a year. How do you check his past? Maybe he designed his own degree, in an extreme case. With our standard you build in safety. Just show us your past!” The system encourages lifelong learning. Childcare information? Calculation application used in primary school? Secondary school portfolio software? Did you take a relevant course or did you follow additional training? Have a performance interview? Super: new badges.

“For us, it is about much more than just exchanging information about the profile of a student. Our students are not  consciously working on their future. They only see the here and now, today. It is important for them to experience that present skills  are taken to the next step in your life: your working career. You are aware that it has value. You can show badges in your app to an employer: look what I can do. “Wow, are you already on collaboration level 2? And how can we get to 3 here?” Our competencies and those of Senzer have been brought in line, more than ever we will soon be speaking the same language. At Senzer, for example, they can build on the skills of students during their time at our school. As far as I am concerned, it is a major improvement on many levels in comparison to the piece of paper with which someone now graduates. The possibilities are endless!”Joost Jacobs, Education manager Praktijkschool Helmond

To work

The app is now ready. During a launch event on January 13th at Praktijkschool Helmond, a great moment of success within a lengthy process. Vereniging OMO, to which OMO Scholengroep Helmond’s four secondary schools belong, funded part of the project, in addition to SIDN Fund and Factom. “But we can’t make this project a success on or own,” Wim realizes. “We work with Sphereon, a software company with a lot of experience in the field of blockchain . Volution is also cooperating, an organization that offers digital learning resources that support personalized education. And then in Helmond we finally have a very nice partner in Senzer, the employment office for the region, which daily helps thousands of people with a meaningful job or social participation and their software builder Matchcare.”

Various organizations within and outside of education have already shown an  interest in the project. How well does the system work now? The first students will be testing in December and January. Wim is curious about the feedback. “We will receive surprising responses, we are sure of that. Things we haven’t thought of ourselves. Exciting, we will undoubtedly learn a lot from the target group. Phase 1 has now been completed; we are completely ready for the next. “

If you want to be present during the launch of the app on January 13th 2020 at Praktijkschool Helmond? Contact Wim Pelgrim:

 Author: Perry Vermeulen