It was the emergence and rapid growth of Pokémon Go, and a number of “Badge Breakfasts” in Johannesburg and Cape Town that first sparked the idea with me. I want to coin a new word for the phenomenon of micro-credentials in the world of learning and teaching. Pokémon Go muscled in on the phenomenon that people like to collect things. The same way we collect souvenirs on our travels, pick up shells on the beach, or collect credits towards the next free coffee at our local coffee shop, we like collecting. In the field of elearning this phenomenon has also been recognised both by the open badges community and by the rise of SCORM and Experience API.
So I was looking for a term that would cover the phenomenon of collecting bits of learning and stringing them together to form a portfolio, or maybe even a qualification. I was looking for a word that would resonate with Seymour Papert’s Constructionism. So, I looked first at collectivism, which describes the fact that knowledge rests in the collective – and I like it, because it resonates with Rhizome theory. But collectivism is about people working as a collective, it does not describe the act of collecting. Then I found a word that had no definition in Google’s online dictionary – “Collectionism”. I found one use of the word as hoarding. So I want to propose the use of the word Collectionism in the design of teaching and learning as a way of leveraging our natural tendency to collect things, and using that as a basis of developing a knowledge base.
Collectionism would then form the basis of what I want to call asset-based teaching and learning – where the learner is seen as someone collecting assets to construct an own skill-set, rather than as an “empty vessel” with a deficit that needs to be filled or corrected. The concept of collectionism will resonate with librarians, who are, by definition, builders of collections. So from the librarians one might borrow the act of classifying and categorising assets. Of course in dealing with assets one is already borrowing from economists, and thus it would be necessary to find some way of classifying the assets that are collected. This definition of assets can already be seen in the way that metadata is imbedded into badges. One could define assets by their size – in other words the amount of knowledge that is contained in a unit, or by their duration – in other words, whether they are permanent assets, such as degrees, or whether they have expiry dates – such as drivers’ licences. . Are they cardinal or ordinal assets – did you get them for achieving a stated learning objective, or did you win them in a contest? One could also define assets in terms of their tangibility or otherwise in other words, can the asset be “traded” in the form of a course and certification. I could be trained as a life coach and based on that asset, I could coach, or even train other life coaches. On the other hand, in intangible asset would be the fact that I was voted the best life-coach in the district, and thus could charge more for my services that someone else.
So that is my opening gambit. How can we develop a system of assets and recognise them so that they can form the building blocks of all our learning?