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Getting Smart Podcast

May 2, 2018

Today, the Getting Smart team dives into a conversation about industry-defined student competencies at Del Lago Academy in Escondido, just north of San Diego — with Alec Barron and Brett Goldsmith.


Alec Barron is a Science Coach in the Escondido Union High School District and has taught a variety of science subjects for grades 6-12. He is one of the founding teachers of Del Lago since it first opened in 2013 and was part of the team that helped set up the school. At Del Lago, he developed a program called Competency X that provides the opportunity for students to develop a digital science portfolio to track and reflect evidence of their competency with science and engineering practices. The students earn badges that are validated by industry experts like Brett Goldsmith, from Nanomedical Diagnostics who joins Alec on this podcast.


Brett Goldsmith is the co-founder and CTO of Nanomedical Diagnostics — a nanotech company building biosensors that speed up medical research and diagnostics; The first such tool in the world. He’s also one of Del Lago’s business partners that help define what STEM graduates should know and be able to do.


Join Tom, Alec, and Brett as they discuss their backgrounds in the sciences; Del Lago’s genesis and current goals and focus; Brett’s nanotech company, Nanomedical Diagnostics; Alec’s program, Competency X; and all about the use of digital badges and how they help support authentic, competency-based learning and work experiences that help students build rich, digital portfolios to support their college applications and career aspirations.


Key Takeaways:

[:17] An introduction to the topic and guests today — Alec Barron and Brett Goldsmith on industry-defined student competencies.

[2:15] Tom welcomes Alec and Brett to the podcast.

[2:22] How Alec came to study chemistry in college.

[3:08] About Brett’s physics background in college.

[3:35] How Alec went from hard sciences to student-centered learning.

[6:10] Do Alec and Brett see science as a field that lends itself to competency-based progressions rather than a set of linear progressions?

[9:50] How did Alec get to Del Lago? About the genesis of Del Lago and their main focus.

[10:54] How Brett made the switch-up from working in the Navy to starting up a nanotech company.

[12:16] How did Brett make the contacts needed to start and run his new nanotechnology business? What his company currently does and has accomplished.

[13:47] What Brett looks for in hiring new talent for his team at nanotech company, Nanomedical Diagnostics.

[15:38] Alec explains what his program Competency X sets out to do.

[17:47] How Brett got involved at Del Lago.

[18:41] Does Brett see the world of science and engineering moving towards more authentic forms of evidence (i.e. digital badges)?

[19:35] How Alec has developed badges in terms of grade sizes in comparison to each other.

[21:39] Are widespread are the badges use? Are they being used outside of Del Lago?

[22:54] Could the badges work with other subjects (such as english or Math)?

[23:52] How winning the recent Assessment for Learning Project grant has helped advance the work at Del Lago.

[25:37] Brett speaks on how internships are involved in Competency X.

[26:52] An example of what a good internship experience would be like.

[30:42] Do Brett and Alec see the possibility of more subjects in the future being taught in this way (with digital badges and authentic learning experiences)?

[33:55] What’s on Alec’s roadmap for Competency X.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Del Lago Academy

Brett Goldsmith

Alec Barron

Nanomedical Diagnostics

Competency X


Escondido Union High School District

University of Colorado

Center for Collaborative Education

Assessment for Learning Project


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