Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart has argued that “parent-managed learner profiles” will by key to both enabling and scaling personalization in education. As Tom envisions, these profiles would include all of the elements of traditional school transcripts, supplemented with richer, more nuanced, and actionable information about student learning attainment, achievement, and needs. Critical to this vision is the ability for the student transcript to both be easily portable (and under direct parent/student control) and decentralized (in that traditional education institutions should not completely control or dictate its contents).
While digital badging and its underlying technical approach points a way forward to solving some of the issues associated with a ‘distributed proof of learning’ system, there has emerged another approach that might hold even more promise: blockchain technology.
For those not familiar with the concept of the blockchain (and I wasn’t until I serendipitously learned of Gridcoin, the socially-conscious kissing cousin to the more famous crypto-currency Bitcoin), here’s a simplified description:
The blockchain is a secure, openly replicated and distributed, ledger of every…transaction ever executed. In addition to this data being openly shared amongst all participating services, there is a mechanism to constantly identify discrepancies and test them across the entire network, automatically identifying and overriding illegitimate transactions as it goes.
(excerpted from Forget Bitcoin – Blockchain is coming: Blockchain will be the banking MP3 disruptor)
In essence, blockchain technology allows a system of trust to be maintained in the absence of a central authority.