ePIC Newsflash April 2016

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ePIC 2016 Newsflash

April 2016



ePIC 2016

the 14th conference on ePortfolios, Open Badges, Blockchains, Trust and Identity

26-27-28 October 2016

In Partnership with .Bestr / Cineca, the Italian Higher Education Open Badge Platform

The Advent of the Personal Ledger ePortfolios and Open Badges Unite!

ePIC 2016 Update

Learners and citizens as leaders of educational and social innovation
A great panel of international speakers
Bologna and Palazzo Gnudi

Open Badge Passport News

BadgeChain: exploring the future of Open Badges


The Advent of the Personal Ledger

ePortfolios and Open Badges unite!






Badge Alliance Logo

Badge Europe!

International Journal of ePortfolio





1088, Bologna gave birth to the world's first University. Centuries later, in 1999, Bologna hosted the ministers of education of 29 European countries to adopt the Bologna Declaration setting-up the European Higher Education Area. The ambition of ePIC 2016 is to associate the name of the great city of Bologna to one grand ambition: making learners and citizens the leaders of educational and social innovation!

After having explored the power — and limits — of ePortfolios, then Open Badges, as instruments for educational and social innovation, we are very excited at the perspective of introducing a new theme to this year's conference: the blockchain (also referred to as Distributed Ledger) the technology underpinning Bitcoins, the alternative currency revolutionising the world of finance and beyond. While ePortfolios and Open Badges developed their own idiosyncratic technologies, the advent of the blockchain, a general purpose technology used by a wide range of innovative services well beyond the world of finance, could be the tipping point to eventually achieve the initial goals of educational and social innovation set by the early ePortfolio and Open Badge practitioners.

A blockchain is the historical record of all the transactions between the participants (nodes) of a network. This record is referred to as a ledger, the artefact accountants use for book keeping. Adding new entries to the ledger, or modifying existing ones, is done by adding a new block to the chain.
Ledgers are unfalsifiable. This is done by providing a copy of the full ledger to all members of the network and defining an ingenious protocol for adding new blocks to the chain so that even if someone tried to add an invalid block, the network would detect the fraud and reject the chain containing the invalid block.

What makes blockchains particularly interesting is that there is no need for a trusted authorityto ensure the trustworthiness of transactions. Nor does one need permission for creating one's own blockchainBitcoins would never have existed, had their creators asked banks and governments the authorisation to proceed! Blockchains give us the power to re-create a bank without a bank, Uber without Uber, Facebook without Facebook and LinkedIn without LinkedIn — in fact, a blockchain-based LinkedIn would be far superior to the current one!

There are now hundreds of initiatives exploring the power of blockchains to address a wide range of needs well beyond the world of finance, from land registry to healthcare services, ride sharing, voting and education*. Recently Airbnb acquired bitcoin and blockchain experts — to recreate Airbnb???

How could blockchains impact ePortfolios, Open Badges (and more!)?

What blockchains allow is a clean separation between the storage of data and the associated services — the blockchain is first and foremost a [trustworthy] storage mechanism. The same blockchain could be used to store badges, and prior to that, the evidence submitted to get a badge such as references to work, artefacts, achievements, testimonies and more. From the data stored in the blockchain multiple services could feed-in and be fed-from: resumé builders, accreditation portfolios, learning and assessment plans, etc.

As a storage mechanism, a blockchain provides a function similar to an ePortfolio repository. Yet, there are major differences: 1) it is a trustworthy record, 2) it is stored in a shared space independently from any ePortfolio platform, 3) it can be fed-in automatically, 4) data mining can be used to provide feedback in real time. Imagine what would be possible if Moodle, Canvas, Mahara, PebblePad, Badgr, the Open Badge Passport and other applications made use of the same repository and if that repository was open to other applications and services under the control of learners!

One of the powerful features blockchains now provide is the possibility to execute smart contracts (a small piece of code) something that could be handy for example to set conditions for keeping a credential current: "this badge will be revoked after one year, unless getting at least 5 endorsements each year from 5 different peers holding an equivalent or superior badge."

The name we have given to that particular blockchain is Personal Ledger, i.e. the trustworthy record of one's personal assets. Personal Ledgers could be combined to create Community Ledgers and Organisational Ledgers, thus creating a seamless continuum of learning individuals, learning communities, learning organisations, learning cities and territories**.

Shall Personal Ledgers prevail and transform the world of learning, its technologies and practices? Or shall institutions assimilate blockchains to continue business as usual? Shall ePortfolios, Open Badges and other technologies unite to create a seamless learning environment? Or shall a learning landscape remain a discontinuity of independent silos? The work has just started — c.f. below the information on the Open Badge Passport and the BadgeChain initiatives.

Join us In Bologna to meet the experts, practitioners learners and citizens leading educational and social innovation

 Serge Ravet​, ePIC 2016

* For an overview of current development based on Ethereum, one of the platforms to create blockchains, see dapps.ethercasts.com. Other main Blockchain creation platforms include Hyperledger (IBM) and Multichain.

** Conversely, a Personal Ledger could be a personal "view" on a collection of various ledgers. The point is only about eliciting the fluidity between the different contexts where learning takes place, not a technical choice — it's much too early for that!


ePIC 2016 Update


Important dates for the submission of contributions

May 30, 2016   Submission deadline of abstracts
June 20, 2016   Author notification
August 22, 2016   Author registration deadline*
October 26-27-28   Conference
November 1 2016   Start of the open authoring and review process











Learners and citizens as leaders of educational and social innovation

Since its launch in 2003 in Poitiers as the first international ePortfolio conference, the initial theme has been extended to include identity (2004), trust (2007), then Open Badges (2012). This year we are excited to embrace the most promising technology that has emerged in recent years: blockchains, also known as Distributed Ledgers. ePIC has always focused on exploring technologies that learners can use to learn about themselves, construct their identities and give them the power to act. While some conferences focus on how to push things into the heads of learners (the art of instructional design), ePIC is passionate about exploring ways to pull things out of learners so that they can reflect and act on the world.

This year's theme "Learners and citizens as leaders of educational and social innovation" aims at furthering our reflection by taking a critical look at current practices and asking whether some innovations are done to, for, with or against the learners and what are the conditions for authentic empowerment.

We are looking for contributions on the following themes:

  • Opening up Education: educating social innovators
    • Teacher education, continuing education, competency based education, open educational practices (e.g. open assessment…), accreditation of prior learning
  • Opening up Lifelong Learning: empowering social innovators
    • Informal and experiential learning, self-directed learning, peer learning, individual and community learning, learning without grades...
  • Opening up Credentials: enabling P2P credentials
    • recognition, assessment and accreditation of learning achievements, key competencies and 21st century skills, peer assessment, endorsement
  • Opening up Workplace Development
    • education to employment, talent pipelines, talent management, team building, workforce adjustment
  • Opening up Employment: enabling social entrepreneurs
    • entrepreneurship, self-employment, social entrepreneurship
  • Opening up Culture: enabling rich identities
    • art education and practice, food and wine education and practice, folk cultures, learning in a global world, learning from developing worlds, learning from migrants and refugees
  • Opening up Cities and Governments: enabling active citizenship
    • civic engagement, open democracy, cities of learning, social integration, social responsibility, citizenship, refugees, migrants, youth at risk
  • Opening up Healthcare: enabling a healthy society
    • healthcare education and practice, humanitarian learning and development, personal healthcare records
  • Opening up Technologies: enabling an open society
    • open knowledge, open data, open source, open access, open architectures, open platforms tools and infrastructures
  • Opening up Markets: enabling responsible consumers
    • fair trade, educated consumer, Vendor Relationship Management (VRM)

Presenters are invited to submit abstracts for research papers, workshops, case studies, work in progress, hands-on activities, position papers, presentations and posters on one or more of the abovementioned themes in relation to ePortfolios, Open Badges, Personal Ledgers, Identities, Trust and Blockchains.

Submissions that do not make clear references to one of the themes AND either ePortfolios, Open Badges, Personal Ledgers, Identities, Trust or Blockchains will not be considered for review.


A great panel of International Speakers

We are very pleased to publish a first list of speakers who will be presenting at ePIC 2016. The wide range of leading experts, practitioners and researchers, operating in many different disciplines and coming from all continents will contribute with their findings and insights on the latest developments in their fields to make ePIC 2016 a very unique event.

Keynote speakers:

  • Atish Gonsalves, Humanitarian Leadership Academy UK
  • Bernard Bull, Concordia University Wisconsin, USA
  • Carla Casilli, Badges + Digital Credentials, USA
  • Dan Hickey, Indiana University, USA
  • Don Presant, Learning Agents, Canada
  • Jim Groom, Reclaim Hosting, Italy
  • Kate Coleman, AAEEBL, Australia
  • Mairi-Anne MacDonald, Scottish Social Services Council, Scotland
  • Milad Doueihi, Université Paris-Sorbonne, France
  • Nate Otto, Badge Alliance, USA
  • Serge Ravet, ADPIOS, France
  • Simone, Ravaioli, Cineca, Italy
  • Tracy Penny Light, Thompson Rivers University/AAEEBL, Canada

More detail to follow in the next newsletters. Link to the speakers' biographies.


Bologna is a magnificent city located in Emilia Romagna, the region nick-named "the stomach of Italy."Cradle of the world's first University (1088) it is attended by nearly 77,000 students animating the life in a city of 380,000 souls!

There are plenty of things to see and do in Bologna, and when you move from one place to the next do not worry about the weather forecast: 38 km of porticoes run through the city's historical centre to protect you from the vagaries of the elements. Stroll from palazzi to chiese to nurture your spirit, glance through the windows of salumerias and trattorias, in anticipation of a dinner soon to be planned whilst sipping a well deserved Aperol Spritz on Piazza Magiore! After dinner, don't be afraid if you don't find your way back to the hotel. This has nothing to do with the effects of drinking too much Sangiovese, something not uncommon after having been invited to confirm that the best ones are from Romagna, not Emilia (or was it the other way around?) — yes, "the stomach of Italy" has 2 pouches! No, if you are under the impression that you have moved to a different place, it is a simply the sign that you have fallen under the charm of a magic city.

For more information on Bologna to plan your stay: http://www.bolognawelcome.com/en

Palazzo Gnudi, where the conference will take place!

Built on the canal carrying the water from river Reno, the Palazzo is located at no. 77 Via Riva Reno. The origin of the building dates from the first half of the 5th century. In 1747 the building was sold to a business man of modest origins, Raffaele Gnudi. In 1796 Antonio Gnudi married his son into the most important Bologna and Romagna nobility to receive in 1786 the title of Marquis of Porretto and Piumazzo. Between 1785 and 1789 the Palazzo was rebuilt under the direction of architect Francesco Tadolini calling on the best decorators of the time: Serafino Barozzi, Giacomo Rossi, the Pedrini father and son, Vincenzo Martinelli and David Zanotti.

more (in Italian)


Open Badge Passport news

One of the laureates of the DML Trust Challenge, launched at ePIC 2015, the team building the Open Badge Passport is proud to announce that we have achieved significant progress:

  • A “proof of concept” was initially developed based on a content management system (Drupal). This fully functional version is now used by over 5,000 people and is accessible at www.openbadgepassport.com.

  • Using state of the art software programming language (Clojure) we have then started the development of the Open Badge Passport community edition, called Salava. The open source code is accessible at github.com/discendum/salava

  • We have also developed an environment where the Open Badge Passport community is able to report problems, suggest improvements, etc. www.salava.org/

We are now working on:

  • The creation of a sandbox that members of the community will be able to use to test the software, develop and test extensions.

  • The migration of the user accounts currently stored on the “proof of concept” to the Salava version

  • We have started the development of services exploiting/servicing Open Badge Passport users, in particular social network services.

This last point is at the heart of Salava's design, so that software developers should be able to easily add new services to the Open Badge Passport.

For that purpose contacts have been established with other Open Badge actors (Bestr. Concentric Sky, Badge Alliance) and the first service that will be developed should be a “twitter-like” service using Open Badges as the equivalent of hashtags. More services should follow and we are looking for partners interested in contributing to extending the range of services. The Open Badge Passport is also actively involved in the BadgeChain initiative (c.f. below)


BadgeChain: exploring the future of Open Badges

Wednesday April 13th was the day chosen to launch BadgeChain, an initiative led by small core team of experienced Open Badge enthusiasts committed to exploring how Open Badges (and related technologies) could be advanced by exploiting blockchain technologies. About twenty-four individuals from the US and as far away as Latvia, France, and Spain participated in the call.

BadgeChain mission: Explore through research, advocacy and development how Open Badges (and related technologies) can be advanced by blockchain.

An enriching round of introductions took up the majority of the call and everyone spoke about their projects and what brought them to the BadgeChain call. Building on that information, we spent some time defining our areas of interest, the things we would like to build, and the questions we have.

Unsurprisingly, the BadgeChain community shared a ton of great thoughts, questions, and suggestions in response to those prompts. Needless to say, many of the comments, suggestions and ideas will inform upcoming BadgeChain Community Calls. So stay tuned!

Along with notes from the call, you will find future conference call information including dial-in information on the BadgeChain community call etherpad.

We are looking forward to hearing from you during our our next bi-weekly call

April 27th at 8am PT / 11am ET / 3pm UTC!

To follow and contribute to the BadgeChain initiative:

(Adapted from Carla Casilli's report)

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