Skills Label – A Step Towards Tracking Lifelong Learning

What replaces shelves of books you keep from education and higher education? The shelf where that dusty chemistry or finance book rests, which brings back memories of long hours of frustration (and that you never look at again). How do you keep track of learning for games you play online, activities in a classroom, or lessons outside of a classroom?

I propose a collection of Skills Labels – an electronic catalog for all learning, essentially a summary of learning and index (and perhaps storage) to the resources themselves. And this not limited to books, but also includes games, activities, VR, experiences, and any discrete task where learning takes place.

Skills / Learning Labels is a step towards tracking lifelong learning. It is patent pending utility which involves creating a label, assigning learning expectations / outcomes, verifying the accuracy of the assignments (optional), and designating a credential. Let’s breakdown each step:

  • A label itself is a standardized display for any discrete task or experience.
  • On the label (and landing page), there is a link to the resource itself.
  • Learning expectations are largely expressed as a ‘Skill Line Item’, which is based on skills, their underlying methods and measurements. It is also possible to anchor them to standards.
  • An algorithm (perhaps with AI) is being built to verify the learning expectations are valid. (The initial phase involves discretion made by the person creating the label.)
  • Upon successful completion (of the task or experience), the learner has access to a credential. This might be a badge, award, or certification.

Either through a LMS system (like Google Classroom), a skills tracking system (like Skills Based Approach), or the Skills Label user interface, users can easily find, access, and collect these labels over time. There are a few advantages:

  • LMS systems in K-12 and Higher Education is fragmented, so students are using varying systems. Skills Label is a standardized representation. (It is possible to import a Skills Label as an assignment in Google Classroom, for example.)
  • A significant amount of learning takes place outside of the classroom, not in the jurisdiction of school assignments. Students / professionals should get credit for this learning.
  • There is no way to compare traditional and emerging learning technologies. Many of the new applications– online games, VR experience, etc. – do not explicitly state learning objectives.
  • Being largely based on skills and methods, the labels work laterally across subjects and disciplines and vertically across education and career stages. The labels are meant to have continuity, so are not only useful in depicting learning from a task but also bridging past, present, and future learning.
  • One measurement, Skill Points, is meant to capture the overall learning of a task in a single number. Using Skill Points, time taken, and cost, a student can make an immediate ROI on any education resource.
  • A platform to ‘stack credentials’.

The whole matter of ‘tracking’ is unobtrusive, controllable by the user, and (with validated labels) has significance. It is unobtrusive meaning a user simply finds the label, consumes the resources, and stores the label in a collection. (If the student is at a store, simply scan a QR code to access the label.)

A series of labels, representing completed tasks, assignments, and experiences, is a convincing way to track lifelong learning. Later, the data collected from a label and interpolated over time provides valuable insights regarding personal learning. This has advantages:

  • Measuring and using skill competencies creates agile workers. For any career change, a worker accesses a current learning path (data from a collection of labels), finds gaps in skills, and then fills them. (Faster and more efficient than going back to get a degree.)
  • Students / professionals have access to the learning resources that impacted them the most.
  • Shareable with a counselor, teacher, mentor or supervisor as a personalized learning track.

Looking for partners, investors, and early adopters of move this technology / application forward. Try building your own Skills Label™ online. Join the discussion on www.twitter.com/SkillsLabel .

Import Skills Label into Google Classroom

Import Skills LabelTM into Google Classroom as an assignment. This is ideal: teachers share a standardized display for learning in any task (the label) with their students in software they are already using and students are familiar with.

GoogleClassroomSkillsLabel

Teachers create labels for activities in or out of a classroom, books or articles to read and synthesize, online games, VR experiences, or any possible way students acquire skills and knowledge.

The instructions are simple. As a teacher (meaning you create, publish, market, or distribute learning resources):

  • Create a ‘Teacher’ account on Skills Label (skillslabel.com , www.learninglabel.com, or www.educationlabel.com ).
  • Use the label wizard to create a label.
    • In the header, create a title and description of the task. This is important because both are automatically pulled into the ‘assignment’ in Google Classroom.
    • Assign prerequisites and requirements.
    • Add skill line items. Provide context and use your own assessment for focus and difficulty levels. Use standards to anchor them.
    • Designate a link to the resource itself (website, app, etc.).
    • Summarize an overall knowledge gain.
  • Finish the wizard and navigate the public URL. Click on the button for Google Classroom.
  • If you are not already signed in, you must sign into your Google Classroom.
  • Select your classroom and course then click GO. Click ASSIGN on the next page.

Once the label has been imported, students access a full-paged Skills Label as an assignment in Google Classroom. Labels require students to understand learning expectations and outcomes – in skills, before starting any learning task. Students may collect and store labels too.

If teachers want to give students choice before starting a task, these labels are ideal for making comparisons between different tasks. (For example, as a teacher, I might create twenty assignments represented as labels and offer students the choice of completing ten of them.)

At this stage, Skills Label is a free online resource. Feel free to try this new, patent pending technology – a single display for learning in any discrete task.

If you have any questions, email support@skillslabel.com

New Skills Search

Search Skills
Search Skills

Introducing a new skills search on Skill Culture. With this search, you can search on just about anything and get the same expected result – a manageable list of skills.

In addition, (if you are a teacher or professor) you can add new skills, methodologies, and relationships – all you have to do is create an account.

(I would like to see this grow like Wikipedia framework, where experts participate in building the content.) All content is verified before going live.

Why would practitioners want to participate? There are a few benefits:

  • This becomes a platform where practitioners work together to develop a set of methods and application behind skills.
  • The search is accessible to students, so there is someone accessing the results. (A practitioner can influence the search results.)
  • This skills database will be accessible to the Skills Label, Skill Syllabi, and Skills Based Approach application.

 

(Skills Label) What is the Brand Name?

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Skills Label™ is a standardized display to express learning expectations and outcomes in any task (experience, activity, or resource). It solves a big problem:

There is no way to compare learning from traditional learning media (books, game, course, activities, etc.) with emerging learning media (games, virtual reality, and IoT). This disarray gets worse when comparing media targeting different education, higher education, and career stages.

Skills Label™ is a patent pending process / method to create a standardized display, catalog, and database for learning resources. Skills Label™ differs from what currently exists. There is not a process for game designers, educational publishers, providers of online learning platform, practitioners of traditional high school and college programs, and other producers of educational experiences to publish the learning expectations of their resources.

Been working on coming up with a ‘brand name’ for this concept. Here are four potential names for the brand:

Skills Label™. This is the brand name we have invested all our marketing efforts in. Clearly, the prime space on the label is used to emphasize skills and elements related to skills. (Using the analogy of a nutritional label, skills are like vitamins – the essence, goodness of the resource.) In addition, putting ‘skills’ in the brand name strongly associates it with two other core apps: Skills Based Approach and Skill Syllabi. Finally, it coincides with the Skills Culture mindset.

Skills Emblem. Badging and stacking credentials has gained a significant following in education and professional development. This might emphasize what you get after consuming a label. One part of the process and utility of the label is to assign credentials. This ties skill to learning achievements.

Working with skills, competencies, and their related underlying methods is an ideal medium to express learning expectations. The database of skills is robust, representing technical and transferable skills, soft skills, and behaviors and constantly growing to accept new technologies and applications; an advantage in working in skills is they are evolving. New elements like focus values and context have been added to the label. Standards, like Common Core, are linked to skills and anchor the level of difficulty or required competency.

Education Label. The advantage in this name is it directly links the intent to reach a target audience of students in K-12 education and higher education. The lion’s share of labels might be created by teachers and professors for tasking in their courses.

Learning Label. Summarizing learning is the objective of the labels. It does not matter if the learning takes place in the classroom or out of the classroom. It does not matter if the learning is required or self-directed. The purpose is to capture learning.

Not expecting to get a response to decide on a brand name with this article, so clearly the intent is to put marketing spins on this exciting new concept. But if you have something to say, please share. Join the community: www.skillslabel.com and www.twitter.com/skillslabel

 

 

Skills Label With Standards (Common Core)

Group of happy young people at university Photo Credit: DepositPhoto C Goodluz

Recently, I added an interface for Skills Label™ to work with Common Core – both in the assignment and on the display. From its inception, I have been a big proponent of the standards. I see them as a way to get all students’ advocates – teachers, counselors, parents, game creators, publishers of education resources, etc. – on the same page.

The benefits of the standards are: 1) having transparent and easily accessible standards; 2) building ‘core’ foundational skills – critical thinking, problem solving, and analytic skills; and 3) representing a nation-wide audience of students. They are online, accessible to anyone: students and their parents, teachers, educators, community planners, and third-party organizations.

Here are my responses to the naysayers:

  • Students are dejected after underperforming on the tests. Understandable argument, though the tests are relatively new. Students will perform better in the future. There is so much upside with the standards, I suggest decoupling the testing and standards.
  • Teachers are losing their jobs because students are not performing up to expectations. Teachers are getting better. According to a recent survey, thirty-nine percent of teachers feel “very prepared” to teach the standards (up 20 percentage points from 2002).
  • Not enough learning resources based on Common Core. Per same survey, only 18% of teachers strongly agree that their resources were aligned with the standards (up from 9% in 2002). Of course, this only improves over time.
  • Education needs to be less standardized. Take standards for what they are, building “core” basic skills. The standards are clear and concise, leaving considerable leeway to create a wide range of experiences. Schools can and should differentiate in the programs they offer their students. Publishers should find creative ways to build upon the standards.

I think we are going to see a significant rise in the number of learning resource tied to Common Core. More institutions (all ultra-large software companies, education publishers, game creators, etc.) are creating resources aligned to the standards. Furthermore, I think it is more reasonable to consider an equitable distribution of learning resources (free and online), than distribution of education in schools (often based on demographics). Skills Label™ is the ideal platform for students to make comparisons of Common Core learning resources.

For all other standards (even non-accredited ones), Skills Label™ accepts a ‘dynamic set of standards’ for any level of education. Institutions or a cadre of professors or teachers create their own set of standards, aligns them to related skills, and uploads them to Skills Label™. Then, they have access to them and choose to have them appear on the labels for their students. These dynamic standards are shareable, so credibility is established by the number of institutions applying the standards in their labels.

Peer review, dynamic standards are advantageous by making the standards dexterous to rapid changes of demand for new age skills. It takes many years for an accreditation framework to appear. It takes time for a new program to be reviewed and become accredited. The dynamic standards can be created and gain acceptance almost instantaneously.

Standards provide an anchor for expressing learn expectations and outcomes to skills. They are useful for capturing the slippery ‘level of difficulty’ assessment – a challenge because learning a skill might span as much as ten years and traverse across education, higher education, and early career learning. Skills Label™ is an ideal platform to work with accepted and dynamic standards.

New Age Skill Assessments

I have been working on skills and skill competencies for the past six years (published A Skills Based Approach to Developing a Career in 2013). My work with Skills Based Approach has gained a significant audience and following around the world. Recently, I have focused on a new innovative concept: Skills Label™ – one standardized display for learning in any task – online game, virtual reality, courses, videos, activities, etc.

knowledge31When I talk to professors about assessing skills in Competency Based Learning (CBL) programs, they tell me “there are institutions working on developing competencies but there are no clear standards already in place”. (I guess I am looking for something like Common Core in standard education.) Some professors seem perplexed and ask: “Where would you even start to create a standard for addressing skills?”. Some professors are not convinced in the necessity of teaching and tracking learning at such a discrete level.

The challenge is trying to develop a one-size fits all approach to assess skills. I argue, in our every experience, we apply skill. Skills work laterally across subject and disciplines. There are thousands of defined skills (I reviewed a LinkedIn database of 4,500 skills). The list only keeps growing with new technologies being defined every day. Addressing the breadth of skill assessments is a challenge.

Skills work vertically across education, higher education and career stages. For many of the foundational thinking and soft skills, we use them throughout much of our life. Critical thinking is considered a pinnacle skill, one we start learning in high school and is the benchmark of higher education. To learn a skill for our “own needs”, it takes twenty hours. To become a master, it takes ten thousand hours (according to one commonly referenced yardstick). Creating a measurement that works across what could be an eight to ten-year stretch is difficult. Addressing the depth of skill assessments is a challenge.

Skills Label is an early iteration to represent lifelong learning expectations with skill competencies. There are five elements:

·        Focus Value. For an experience, this value represents the intensity in learning a skill. (Represented as a percentage of total focus values multiplied by the time to complete the experience.)

·        Level of Difficulty. A one in five value representing how difficult the application of the skills. (A scale based on middle school, high school, college, graduate and professional stages.)

·        Standards. A way to anchor Level of Difficulty to actual standards, either universally accepted ones (like Common Core) or dynamic ones (created by a group of practitioners). For example, Common Core standards are linked to a grade level.

·        Underlying Methods and Application. Measure the intensity and frequency the underlying methods of a skill are applied. This is thinking one level deeper than skills.

·        Skill Points. An algorithm calculates this measurement of learning based on the other elements and time spent.

Perhaps the most difficult element to quantify is: Level of Difficulty. Applying standards helps to anchor a level of difficulty to an education or career stage. But, I think the most compelling process to assess skills is to work with their methods and applications. Count the number of times the method is applied, measure the difficulty in applying it.

For example, there are perhaps 20 to 50 methods behind applying the skill of Critical Thinking. It is easier to evaluate Critical Thinking by working with these methods as a framework.

Ideally, (I believe) accurate, new age assessments based purely on the application of skill (as opposed to being rooted in grades, age, demographics) become a gold standard in learning.

Learn more about this exciting new concept on the website: www.skillslabel.com