Archive for August, 2006

Charter school worth a good look

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/29/06)
Lately there has been much focus and debate about the starting of a new public charter school in Moscow called the Palouse Prairie School of Expeditionary Learning. When looking at the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound model, http://www.elob.org, and hearing stories about its effectiveness from those who have experienced it first hand, it is hard not to be excited and hopeful that the Moscow School District will support EL as an option for the children of Moscow.

I am a parent who is completely awestruck by those who, over the past two and a half years, have put in hours of hard work to carefully craft a charter and have held public meetings to educate people about the EL model.

Most of the original board members involved in the conception of this school have had personal experiences with EL that affected them so profoundly they now have a selfless drive to create this type of learning experience for the children of Moscow.

I say selfless because they stand to receive no personal gain with the creation of this school. They are not teachers hoping for a job or parents who want their children to attend Palouse Prairie School.

They are educators and others from the community who have seen with their own eyes how amazing it is to have a learning model where children, teachers, and parents are tapped into their inner drive to learn and contribute.

The passion and selfless devotion of these founding members is testament to the power and effectiveness of expeditionary learning.

There are currently two successful EL charter schools in Idaho. If this letter has piqued your curiosity, please check out their Web sites: http://www.anser-charter-school.org and http://www.accs.k12id.us/. To learn more about Palouse Prairie School: http://www.palouseprairieschool.org/.

Lahde Forbes, Moscow

Charter school deserves a fair hearing

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/28/06)
I know some of the professional educators who have been spending countless hours putting together a charter for a new public school in Moscow (the Palouse Prairie School). When it came time to present their charter to the public Aug. 17, I was disappointed to hear the school district’s response. While it is understandable that they would not welcome a new entry into what was once their exclusive territory, I was hoping for a less biased and more open-minded attitude. Instead, I witnessed a stream of school district employees testifying about completely irrelevant details about day-to-day school management – details not at all relevant to the requirements (clearly set out by the state of Idaho) for approval of the charter.

It got to the point that I would not have been surprised to hear criticism about the school’s Monday lunch menu or where they propose the students hang their hats. One employee brought up some long-refuted data concerning the low ISAT scores of the now defunct Renaissance Charter School (it turns out that the school actually had raised the scores of previously poor performing district students).

Why doesn’t the district just come out and say it didn’t want the competition and be done with it instead of playing silly games. I understand that the state will have the ultimate say in approving the charter anyway.

Harry Moore, Moscow

School is good alternative

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/27/06)
I think that it would be a good idea to agree to the Palouse Prairie Charter School. It would be going by the same educational model that was used at Renaissance Public Charter School, where I had a great experience. I liked that we had more choice about when we did different subjects and about the amount of time we did the subjects for. Also, we did more projects and more speaking than worksheets and that worked a lot better for me. Please give other kids an opportunity to learn with this model by agreeing to the Palouse Prairie Charter School.

Nikola Stanziano, fifth-grader, Moscow

mySite status – users with more than 1MB space used

August 29, 2006

While the number of mySite owners continues to grow,

8/21 642
8/22 804
8/23 894
8/24 1042
8/25 1143
8/26 1261
8/27 1282
8/28 1312
8/29 1429

utilization of the system is still light. Today, I got a list of the 23 users who have more than 1 MB of storage used in their WSU mySite. There are several with high usages, and while the most (9) are between 2 and 3 MB.
Exploration of the list turned up Nathan Daniel Opsal‘s Home (WSU Login required) where he is sharing photos of his interests, in the MyPhotos. One of the students mentioned previously shows up as a high disk utilizer, which makes sense because he has put in audio recordings of class in addition to lecture notes.

Further Notes for creating a mySite ePortfolio

August 28, 2006

In this post I started making some notes on the process of creating a visually rich electronic portfolio using SharePoint mySite and a CTLT developed template called “Poster.”

I previously noted a series of discoveries and logistical hassles getting all my images collected into one place, and sized correctly.  Today I finished a draft of the portfolio by writing the narrative in the center column and adding the images along the left and right. As I wrote I found that I wanted to add some other images, so I explored imbedding them into the text aligning the text left or right around them.

This was not totally satisfactory, neither the visual result or the process of placing the images. A problem with placing the images is that the width of the editor, and hence the word wrap around the images was different than the final presentation.

While I was able to get the bulk of the project finished using a Macintosh OS X, and Firefox 1.5, composing the text for the center column onscreen was a problem. If the column were to contain only text, it would not be too hard to write in another tool and paste in, but I was also imbedding images. Finally, I resorted to moving to Windows/IE to use the WYSIWYG editor.

The switching platforms was annoying, but not too big a problem, because I was able to move my draft text from platform to platform by simply including it in the web part from one platform and then editing from the other.

At this writing, I have not  moved the large format versions of the images to the portfolio. My intention is to include the large formats, and with those, to include the metadata that the document library requests.

mySite status – first use for class notes

August 28, 2006

There are two reports of student created mySite for class notes (Each site below requires WSU Network ID to login):

Brandon Crane (Home – MSE 401 fall 06) started using OneNote (and its audio recording) to take notes in his class. He is exploring making the site visible to students in the class (and more widely as an example).

Mark Zocher (Home – MgtOp215) is hoping to use discussions to share class notes and other discussion.
The mySite creation numbers continue to rise

8/21 642
8/22 804
8/23 894
8/24 1042
8/25 1143
8/26 1261
8/27 1282
8/28 1312
For the first 1008 users in the system, here are the demographics:

By employment status

Classified 20
Exempt 42
Faculty 21
Graduate 60
Hourly Staff 84
Undergraduate 174
Undefined 607

By class standing

Freshman 250
Sophomore 160
Junior 211
Senior 219
Graduate Student 98
Other 70

Several users have started to create portfolios, but only my demonstration timber frame portfolio appears to have any content.

Journal Notes for creating a mySite ePortfolio

August 25, 2006

I wanted to create a sample portfolio of my timber frame projects, 1996-2005 to model the mySite portfolio tools, to learn about the tool for the purpose of recommending improvements, and to have a reflection on a decade of my work. Since much of my work is visual, it was important to me to explore creating a visual portfolio.
For awhile I’ve been collecting images in Flickr, with the tag “timberframe.”

Referencing the images directly from Flickr is problematic because the portfolio is running SSL and some browsers give security warnings when including an image from a non-SSL source. So the images needed to be re-hosted.
The first step was to get all the images into a folder on my hard drive in preparation to moving them to the generic poster template that I had chosen for my portfolio. Using the Image web part, I quickly discovered that I needed to size my images to their final presentation size — the webpart didn’t give a tool to resize the display, only crop it. This left me with a problem of how to present the full sized images.

I elected not to create Content Editor web part with image tags to reference this images. This would have allowed me to set the display size of the large image, and make the image click-able to zoom in a new window. However, it seemed to make a greater threshold for creating the sie, and could be a barrier for others to follow. I elected not to create two pictures libraries, one for full size images the other for thumbnails, because that implied another skill other users might not have. I recognize I will have a problem to make the full size images obvious for the reader. That problem is not solved at this point in my process.
Once I had loaded images into the Picture library there was a logistical hassle to make each of the webparts, because I needed to have two windows, one where I copied the picture’s URL and the other where I was editing the web part.

Summary of steps/decisions: Get all images onto hard disk. Make thumbnails. Come up with good naming scheme to segragate full size from thumbnails, move all images to one Picture library, create the needed Image web parts.

Board should OK charter school

August 24, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the editor 8/24/06)

I am writing in support of a recent petition by the Palouse Prairie Education Association to the Moscow School Board requesting approval of its charter.

Palouse Prairie Charter School would provide Moscow families with an alternative educational model called Experiential Learning Outward Bound, a project-based model used very successfully at Renaissance Public Charter School where my son attended kindergarten and first grade. As an involved parent, I would like to attest that though the administration failed to provide strong and ethical leadership, the ELOB model and its teachers proved their merit over and beyond my expectations. I also would add that while the Moscow School District has questioned the ability of ELOB to serve gifted and special needs children, it is my experience that ELOB is an expansion of what now happens in my son’s GT program, naturally integrating children at different levels and providing opportunities for them to learn from and support one another in the context of collaborative projects that draw on students’ unique talents and skill sets.

When my son was learning within the ELOB context, he was excited to go to school and full of enthusiasm afterward.

Sadly, this enthusiasm waned when he moved to a mainstream school. These are his foundational years, his prime years. I want those years to be more than OK. I want them to be outstanding. I want his love of learning to thrive and propel him to be the most creative, confident and capable citizen he can be. I see these values at the heart of the ELOB model and at the core of the Palouse Prairie Charter School.

The Moscow School District has great schools already, and expanding its support to include educational opportunities that may work better for some children and their families can only enhance the district.

Katrina Mikiah, Moscow

Tracking the growth in WSU mySites

August 23, 2006

On 8/15, WSU opened the doors on a new collaborative resource called WSU mySites. This is an extension to the myWSU resource launched Jan 04. I am starting to track the growth in mySites. The first measure is the number of sites. Its easy to create a site, from the top of the myWSU menu, you just follow the link and log in again. (That login is providing a small hurdle, because on some OS/browser configurations you need to type “AD” before the user ID. Hopefully this will be fixed shortly.

Data collection has been a bit irregular, but we now have a means to get a number at about 1AM each day. So far, the information looks like this.

Date #sites
8/21 642
8/22 804
8/23 894 (at 1AM) 1010 by mid-afternoon
8/24 1040 (at 1AM)
The next interesting statistic will be the growth in the amount of data in the system and the use of the system for activities. How long until we see a published URL pointing at a mySite? Or here reference to “I provided this for you in mySite.” ?

ELOB school will be good for Moscow

August 23, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 8/23/06)

We are writing in support of a group in Moscow that is organizing a new public charter school based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (elschools.org) model. We have a daughter who has attended Anser Charter School, an ELOB school in Boise, since its opening in 1999. This model allows students to delve deeply into a concept while relating it to their world.

For example, during one yearlong expedition, “The Roots of Rebellion,” the students did a survey at Boise State University asking college students their views, formulating questions about rebellion to guide them as they studied the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement. They wrote and illustrated poetry, which was compiled into a calendar, reproduced and sold to the public. Students wrote diary entries for two characters, British and Colonial, while studying the American Revolution. After many other activities, the students were better able to understand opposite perspectives and tolerate differences of opinion.

We can’t talk about Anser without mentioning the caring community it has created there. Classroom community and whole-school community are times set aside to share, connect, and recognize individual and group efforts. Bullying is rare, if not nonexistent. Positive character traits are taught and assessed.

Anser was a K-6 school for several years and later added seventh grade and then eighth grade as it gained stability in staffing, finances and other logistics. The Moscow school is proposing to take a similar approach.

An ELOB school would be good for Moscow because it would give parents more educational choice, the service projects would benefit the community, and the lessons learned would guide the children well through the rest of their lives!

Lee and Kathy Wassmuth, Boise