When I gave this TEDx talk back in 2014, I suggested that our education pipeline was both broken and incomplete. Rather than cultivate talent in its most diverse and abundant forms, and connect it with people and places in the world that need it most, we instead constrain and limit it. I argued that we desperately need new models that connect talent with the world, nurturing, leveraging and harvesting it for the greatest impact and reach.
Since that talk, I have been working to develop such models using Experiential Learning (EL) and digital badges. I created a scalable model, the ELN Project Portal, that connects students at the University at Buffalo with mentored projects and supports their growth through digital badges, allowing them to showcase their project outputs and build capacity around their engagement. The model is scalable and has been recognized for its efficiency and pedagogical merits. It can accomodate any type of project or Experiential Learning efforts as long as they are 1) mentored, 2) collaborative, and 3) culminate in something meaningful to an identified audience.
While my model is practical and provides a scalable and efficient way for organizations to offer Experiential Learning at scale, that is the least exciting part of my work. What is most exciting and important is the potential of the Project Portal and digital Badges to cultivate talent and innovation and connect these resources with communities and ecosystems that need them the most- just as I indicated in the 2014 TEDx talk.
Using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets as frames, we can connect students with global partners- specifically Locally-Led Development and Sustainability (LLDS) organizations that are doing the work of the SDGs within specific communities and ecosystems. By linking students with these organizations and their projects, and connecting researchers and faculty with related expertise, we can create value chains and cultivate engagement, innovation, and collaboration. Digital Badges can be awarded to recognize accomplishments but also to support dynamic assessment and build further capacity for growth and sustainability.
There is great potential to use these dynamic tools and technologies to engage stakeholders around the world and leverage the talent and interests of young people and experts around the world. This is the vision that continues to inspire and challenge me.
Select links and publications
Book Chapter on Project Portal and digital badge model
2022 University Global Coalition presentation
2014 article on Tanzania engagement project and scaling global collaboration