Archive for September, 2006

Charter school optimism

September 29, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/29/06)
As readers of the Daily News will know, a local group of parents and educators have been working on the plans for the Palouse Prairie School, a new public charter school in Moscow. It is based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a learning model that emphasizes love of learning and the importance of service to the community; there are some 150 ELOB schools around the country, including two highly successful ones in Boise and Pocatello. Now, at a milestone, we want to provide everyone with an update, and to thank the community for the strong support the proposed school has received.

As part of the process of starting a public school, a school charter that meets all the requirements of Idaho law has to be written. It is quite a tome, and a critically important one, as it will steer the school in years to come. While assembling the charter, we have strived to work with the community as much as possible, first through a public presentation in May, then through presence at the Farmers Market, and most recently at a public hearing organized by the Moscow School District. We have been greatly heartened by the amazing support for the school from the community, especially so at the public hearing. As a result of that meeting and many helpful suggestions from Moscow School District Superintendent Candis Donicht, her staff and the Moscow School Board, we now have a completed charter in hand, ready for submission to the Idaho Charter Commission. We expect to receive word from the commission in November about the fate of our application. We are optimistic the school can open in fall 2007.

If you would like to receive updates on the progress of the school plans, please send an e-mail to

Olle Pellmyr, Palouse Prairie School, Educational Organization, Moscow

Outcome of Beebe Rezone — Mayor can’t decide

September 19, 2006

CORRECTION, see this retraction.

Original post follows:

I don’t know how Omie is going to cover it, but the events reminded me of the childhood song…

The noble Duke of York, he had 10,000 men.
He marched them up the hill,
he marched then down again…
First they voted it up,
and then they voted it down,
and then they voted half-way up,
which was neither up nor down.

To make matters worse, they repeated the first verse again, moving to pass the rezone, moving to pass the rezone with ‘parking mitigation’ (would that run with the land, if so how??), moving to deny the rezone, moving to table the whole mess for 6 months. Each vote was 3-3 and each time Mayor Chaney sided with the side that would keep any decision from getting made.

The issues seemed to be providing parking and readings of the Comp Plan vs readings of the Zoning code. The Comp Plan says one thing about new CBD and parking, the strict constructionists say the zone is what the zone is (I’m in their camp).

So, approve the rezone with no parking would fail because some wanted parking stipulated.

Add a mitigation plan for parking would fail with those who had problems changing the zone with extra requirements.
Denying the whole thing failed, because “My God” (quote Pall) this is something we want.

Ament wanted to put the whole project on the shelf and couldn’t get a second.

So after at least 6 votes, maybe more the decision was tabled for 2 weeks (first Monday in October) Nobody can talk to anybody.

I can say this, there was good speaking from the audience: Bob and Betsy, a letter from Bruce Livingston, Tom Bode, Kit Crane and BJ. They all made it a thorny issue with multiple facets.

While it got mentioned, no one on Council really said how they think about NSA being required to provide parking in its CUP and this rezone being (or not) similarly required. I think the difference is the CUP was allowing something exceptional in a zone, this is expanding the zone.

My take. Nancy needs to express an opinion, she was given all three choices (yes, no, maybe) at least twice.

Reasons to support the Beebe Rezone

September 19, 2006

This issue is before the Moscow City Council, it involves the rezone of 2+ acres in two parcels in south downtown Moscow, from Industrial to Central Business District (CBD). The parcels each are occupied by a white concrete (mostly) grain elevator. The railroad has pulled out and the elevators are not in use. One is adjacent to the city Hospital.

My comments 9/18/06

Educators talk about the 3Rs. I want to address the 3Ps tonight

Process. I support this project because of what I hope for on the site — the preservation of a grain elevator. It has been pointed out to me that the elevator’s fate is not the agenda item tonight, the zoning is all that is on the table. Its been suggested that the zoning be bundled with other decisions, in this case a PUD, so we had a better guarantee of what would happen. I am torn by this argument, but finally come to this analysis. A building or a use has a shorter life span than a zoning designation. I conclude the process should be unbundled because the question is — should the CBD grow and in this area?

Parking. There may be some who speak against this proposal because it would expand CBD and bring in more lots with no requirements for on-site parking. The choice seems to be between an urban style or in suburban style downtown. I come out on the side of CBD, denser, more walkable, and I think, better aligned with the concepts espoused on the Idaho Smart Growth website. Like buildings or uses, parking is a issue with a shorter life cycle than a zoning decision. I conclude the question is — should the CBD be expanded in a urban style, or has the time past for that style of urban development?

Planning. I hope that the Council is able to act on the advice of New Cities to revise the city Planning documents. As the railroad pulls out of Moscow, among other changes, it makes the urgency of planning clear. Tonight you can send a signal of the direction you want for that new plan. I conclude that the question tonight is —  should the city should grow inward and upward or should it take its growth elsewhere?

A final thought. During the P&Z process it was suggested that the parcels be designated CBD, but with special parking requirements. Jerry Schutz will tell you I spoke ad nauseum  on the problem of parking as a commons. Tonight I’ll just say I think that is a poor idea.  If, and when, the CBD as a collective addresses its parking issues, having some members in different status will make the process more complex. Better that all CBD sites be on an equal footing.

The 21st Century Resume

September 15, 2006

My wife was working on her resume, returning to the work force after five years time out for motherhood duties. What struck me was her challenge to make it appear she not stagnated in her career. Which got me thinking about my own resume. In the 80’s I ran a small business, got grants and published software and articles. In the 90’s I took a job where they asked me to focus my work more internally and supportively to others in the organization. I got fewer grants and second authored with faculty and grad students. In 2000, I moved to my current job and have been an internal-facing part of the administrative team, working mostly with the technical staff. My vitae looks even more stagnant.

But Theron DesRosier pointed out to me I have portfolios of my work, and some of those portfolios are self-building, such as this blog. Further, some of the blog posts are synthetic of several posts or bodies of work. So we began discussing what grants and publications are – forward-looking and backward-looking documents that synthesize a body of work. They are milestones “recording state” in a career trajectory. A grant describes what is known about a problem, why it is interesting, what methods might be taken to explore it, what resources the grant writing team has to undertake the work and what can come from the outcomes (if achieved) of the work. Articles summarize a piece of work and what was learned from it, and perhaps what new questions are posed by the results. Both are reflective journaling. Another important piece of both grant and article writing is citation of others, indicating that the author is a member of a community of discourse.

Making a Wikipedia entry  (or more likely edits) are smaller scale rhetorical moves than an article, but in the same way they can summarize or clarify what is known by the author about a subject and build on the work of others. Other wikis may have other editorial objectives than Wikipedia, so the nature of what is captured in a page or edit might be different, but most likely it is part of a community of discourse.

I contributed items of work I did, or was associated with, to the Wikipedia page on the History of Virtual Learning Environments. You can see my contributions most readily in my Wikipedia contributions page.

Further, in some ways writing in a community wiki page may be superior to print publication because the involvement with the community of discourse is readily apparent and the subsequent changes, reversions, etc can also be seen.

To follow this direction of thinking, I need to modify my resume to find a way to showcase my electronic portfolios and the places that I document my forward-looking and backward-looking reflective milestones.

I started at the top of my most recent print CV, where it had my WSU address, and created a table to divide my WSU and physical location-based identity elements (mailing address, campus phone, campus email) from my personal identity elements (domain name, Skype, Flickr, etc.)

Then I looked at the sections. I found one called Current Software Projects way at the bottom and promoted it to the top, renamed: Current Projects. I grouped all the sections related to publications (Papers,  Book Chapters, Other Publications, Abstracts / Conference Presentations, Software Published, Grants and Contracts) as children under a new section heading: Publications/ Reflections/ Milestones. That title seemed to give me the necessary room to place some new headings that could contain electronically based publication, reflection and portfolio milestones.

I had several sections on events (Conferences Organized, Online Events, Courses Taught), which I subordinated under Events Organized: Face to face Conferences, Online Events and Courses. I did not differentiate courses as on or off line, and may later decide to collapse F2F conferences and online ones, other than the online ones were very early in Internet history and I don’t want that lost.

So now I needed to make the more recent entries in the Publications/ Reflections/ Milestones section and I got this flash that paper media are not what I want to hold those items. For one, there is the updating thing. For another, if I could handle the new publications in another way, I might be able to use them to find/ join communities of discourse.

What I realized is that I wanted to make all my new vitae entries in some other medium and then somehow aggregate them into my CV a page (that is web page.) The page should support printing as necessary.

A later post will update the results coming from trying to implement these ideas.

Thinking about WSU mySite marketing

September 12, 2006

So I ran across this quote

Bob Ivins, managing director of comScore Europe, said many of the websites currently seeing the fastest rates of growth are those that tap into their audience’s need for self-expression, which in turn encourages others to join the party. “It is the classic network effect at work,” he said in a statement.(Web 2.0′ sites see traffic explosion)

and it got me thinking about Network effects and Reed’s Law. The core idea is if you own a telephone and I buy one, it makes yours more valuable. (This is assuming I answer your calls.)
So is it true that if I have a mySite and you get one it makes mine more valuable?

Unlike the telephone example, my mySite does not gain value by you having a mySite. All I need to take advantage of the content in your mySite is a browser and a WSU Network ID.

A counter example is, the social bookmarking site. I save bookmarks there for selfish reasons. You save bookmarks for your reasons. I can discover that you and I save the same bookmark, hence discover you, and discover other bookmarks you save. I might learn something from this, which gives the bookmarks I save more value to me. (And it accelerates. The more I save, the more likely I am to find others saving the same thing and thus gain more value.)

A user could create a teamsite in their mySite that would gain value as users joined the site. An example would be a user group where a lively discussion and mutual help made the value of  participation grow with the number of participants. An example is Wikipedia. But what would a user do in their mySite that would gain this value that they would not do in a more public context?

WSU mySites in Daily News Story

September 12, 2006
This is a better article than the one I commented on in the Daily Evergreen. As of the publication of this article,  there were over 2500 WSU mySites and the growth of mySite creation (not to say meaningful use) was 105.8 sites/day (r-square=.99)
WSU launches new service to help students share information

By Erin Madison, Daily News staff writer
Published: 09-07-2006

Brandon Crane takes notes during his classes on his tablet personal computer. The senior studying mechanical engineering and secondary education then posts those notes to his WSU mySite.

His fellow classmates can look at his notes, whether they missed class or simply need to review.

Washington State University launched the mySite service this fall.

MySite allows students to create portfolios of work, share and collaborate on documents, post class notes, and create a profile, said Nils Peterson, assistant director for the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology at WSU.

“It’s a really slick tool,” Crane said.

Crane is a little ahead of the curve. He works at Information Technology Services on campus and has been playing around with mySite since it was in the developmental stages.

About 2,200 students have signed on to mySite. Most of them haven’t actually done much with the site other than look around, Peterson said.

Peterson expects the new program to catch on. If one student asks another for something from class, an eventual response might be, “I have that document. It’s in mySite,” he said.

The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology has a chart on its Web site that allows students to compare mySite to Facebook and myspace, two popular social networking sites.

MySite wasn’t designed to compete with or perform the same functions as Facebook or myspace, Peterson said.

“It’s actually not very good for social networking,” he said.

Facebook and myspace are good for showing off your social identity or what you did on Friday night, Peterson said.

“This is your academic and professional identity, as opposed to your other identity,” he said.

MySite is only viewable to people with WSU logon user names and passwords, Peterson said.

The idea of mySite stemmed from some departments around campus wanting students to create portfolios of their work, Peterson said. Some departments, such as education and architecture, already have students put together portfolios, but there has been an increased interest across campus for electronic portfolios.

“We’ve been having conversations about this initiative for at least two-and-a-half years,” said Gary Brown, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

Peterson and his crew looked into some different software options and decided to use Microsoft SharePoint to power WSU mySite, largely because its possible uses were broader than some other software.

“MySite is much more powerful than portfolios, but we were after portfolios,” Peterson said.

The university also requires students to submit a junior writing portfolio that includes three term papers they’ve done up to their junior year, he said.

“The simplest thing a student could do is just save their files,” he said.

Students don’t yet have a way to show a portfolio they create on mySite to anyone who doesn’t have a WSU network logon.

Peterson’s department and Information Technology Services are working on a way to either allow students to burn a portfolio to a CD or make it possible for them to allow select people access to their mySite page.

Students should have a way to share their portfolios by next fall, said Debby Lawson, director of ITS operations and system services.

Lawson is also working on adding instant messaging and calendaring to mySite.

Mark Zocher, a student who works as the ITS Help Desk coordinator, has been trying to think of how he wants to apply mySite’s portfolio capabilities to his work.

“It’s a new thing that people don’t really know what to do with,” the junior in management information systems said.

Zocher has had a lot of students ask him what mySite is, but he doesn’t know a lot of people outside his coworkers who have started using it.

He thinks it will catch on as students see what they can do with it. It will just take a little time, he said.

Erin Madison can be reached at (509) 334-6397, ext. 310, or by e-mail at

School will meet standards

September 11, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/11/06)
Moscow School District is reviewing the charter for a new school based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound ( model. Cindy Bechinski, MSD curriculum director questioned if the ELOB model could meet the Idaho Content Standards. At the State Board of Education Web site I found Idaho State Achievement Test data for every building and district, by grade level and subject. I looked up the ISAT scores for Anser Charter School in Boise and Pocatello Community Charter School, both ELOB schools.

What I found belies Cindy’s concerns. I examined sets of 24 scores in grades 3-6 in each school in three subjects: math, reading and language. I focused on students scoring at the “advanced proficiency” level. The state’s Web site does not give enough data to analyze for demographic variables, such as socio-economic status, ethnicity, or English proficiency, so I did a pair-wise comparison of each school to its district. Looking at the sum of “advanced” and “proficient” categories (the “passing” level) the ELOB schools beat their districts 21 of 24 times. Looking at “advanced proficiency” only, ELOB schools beat their districts 19 out of 24 times. Not only did ELOB beat the district (I had no way of subtracting the ELOB school’s score from the district average), they beat their districts handily, 13 out of 19 times the ELOB school had more than 10 percentage points more “advanced” students.

Another of Cindy’s concerns was Palouse Prairie School’s proposal for multi-age classrooms, and the difficulty of meeting grade-level assessment targets with kids of multiple ages. It is worth noting that Anser uses the multi-age model with obvious success.

The Palouse Prairie’s learning objectives are deeper and richer than ISAT, but in this era of testing, we are confident the school can meet Idaho standards and its own excellence goals.

Nils Peterson, Moscow

Learning and thriving

September 9, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/9/06)
I am gratified a committed group of parents, educators, and other community members continue to advance their vision for a new charter school in Moscow. On Aug. 17, the charter for the proposed Palouse Prairie Charter School was presented to the public. This meeting was an important and necessary part of the complex process of creating and chartering a new school. Though I was unable to attend, I understand that the general tone of the meeting suggests that more effectively educating school district staff, the board of trustees, and the general public about the vision and merits of the proposed charter school is a critically important next step.

At the heart of the Palouse Prairie Charter School’s proposal is a teaching/learning model known as Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound. Currently used in numerous schools across the nation, ELOB creates hands-on, project-based learning experiences that integrate multiple strands of the curriculum into relevant educational activities within the classroom and the community at large. My son had the good fortune to experience ELOB while attending the local Renaissance Charter School. Though satisfied with the school he now attends, he still reminds me that his two years at Renaissance remain his favorite years of school. He and many of his friends thrived academically with the ELOB model, and I would like other children in our community to have the same opportunity to learn in such an engaging and exciting classroom environment.

Our children are a diverse group of learners with a wide variety of learning styles. In a community that rightfully prides itself on its support of diversity, I believe we must consider all educational proposals that offer our youth an expanded menu of environments in which to learn and thrive.

Donald Stanziano, Moscow

mySite status – Evergreen Article notes

September 1, 2006

The 100 users per day rate of new site creation continues. We’ll see what comes from the Daily Evergreen article’s publication.

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
8/30 1573
8/31 1755

Frankly, the article stinks. It was poorly researched, and the reported did not use much of what I know him to have been given to develop an image of the system. To start with the opening line – to draw a parallel with the Facebook/MySpace ‘Internet craze’ is to have not given much of any reflection to the offering. The author does not appear to have given any thought to the comparison of Facebook, MySpace and mySite provided in the mySite help. And, from the nature of several student quotes, it seems obvious that this same simplified pre-supposition was used in conversations with other sources.

Ricky Solitaire who is quoted describing the system as for “leisure” has a site but has not done anything publicwith it (as of this writing). Neither Solitarie or Brenton Poirier also quoted have even finished setting up their site’s color theme (let alone swithching to a different there).

Matt Kushin, also quoted, has uploaded his (MA?) thesis and is suggesting that he is new to WSU and looking to meet students who share his research interests.

Not reported was any interview with students who have started posting notes they are taking in lecture in an attempt begin collaborative study with their classmates. An interesting problem these students faced was how to advertise their efforts to classmates. One chose to use Facebook to announce the link to their WSU mySite.