Watershed: Kind of what I had in mind

The focus and an important differentiator in my EdStartup 101 idea a couple months ago was that an ecosystem would empower the learner to understand how their experiences interconnect and stack up regardless of the platform into a profile that can be organized and shared on their own terms.  Well, I encountered a functioning expression of it.  Apparently, it’s now a prototype, and Rustici Software, developers of the Tin Can/Experience API–SCORM successor and one essential enabler of that EdStartup idea–unbridled it this past October at Devlearn 12.

They call it Watershed, and it’s a client application of the Tin Can API that demonstrates how end users can collect, retain and eventually share their experiences while they browse the web, using a bookmarklet.  Apart from the browser, virtually any application that is provided access to a learner’s profile has the capacity to generate and emit ‘experience’ statements using the API, and some of Tin Can’s early adopters, like Tappestry and The Knowledge Guru, were also part of the demo.

The ‘Public Activities’ or activity stream on the left give a good sense of how Tin Can API statements are compiled into plain English.  They mostly take this default form of ‘X experienced Y’, but the specification for generating statements is expressive enough to support more complex assertions of experience, like ‘Dojo Master Jack at Neighborhood Karate Studio says that Jill chopped through a 2 x 4 last Wednesday.’  More lucid examples can be found at Project Tin Can’s website.

Completing a defined set of experiences will earn you one of a handful of Watershed-defined badges, and how a learner would selectively ‘share’ all or part of an experience  profile is a work in progress.  Very much a prototype, but it leaves enough blanks for me to see where a number of current apps and sites in the education space might have incentive to fill them in, and find value in participating in an ecosystem where experience is the currency.

In fact, it appears as if the success of Watershed is predicated on whether machine- and human-readable experience expressed using Project Tin Can’s parameters conveys  value, particularly when it’s not bottled up in a structured context, like a learning management system, a student information system or a game, the confines are broken down to more closely reflect real life, and learners retain license to own and transact upon ones that are theirs.  This particular solution rightly leaves that as an open-ended question.


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