Archive for October, 2006

Writely now does spreadsheets

October 25, 2006

A long time ago, Steve Spaeth found NumSum for embedding spreadsheets in blogs and it showed some cool ideas. provided an AJAX editor that did a pretty nice job of emulating MSWord as a low-end collaborative writing tool. Then Google bought Writely and now Writely’s URL goes to Google Docs. And, I see in the interface that I can have a spreadsheet as well as a document. I’ve not explored if the publish features that worked in Writely also work in the Googel doc spreadsheet, and if it has graphics features and I assume collaborative ones.

Co-curricular Portfolios and Portfolio for Annual Reviews

October 13, 2006

I got some insight this morning while attending a presentation by Sharon Hamilton from IUPUI. The session was on co-curricular ePortfolios and I asked: Why would a student who was doing some personal and elective thing want to record that thing in the university’s ePortfolio tool and, further, why would the student be interested in pigeon holing it into one of UIdaho’s Fab Five Learning Outcomes categories?

The idea I got comes from the Transformative Assessment rubric (part of an ELI project on using assessment to transform teaching and learning.)

Under the dimension “Purpose” I find at the transformative end of the scale:

The assessment results are designed for multiple constituencies; the assessment plan includes feedback and corresponding resources and protocols for improving student learning… Assessment is open and fosters reflection.


The assessment addresses activities or behaviors that engage students … in reflection and change. Strategies for responding are tied to evidence of change and evidence of conceptualizing and articulating new, valuable outcomes (achievement of outcomes may be secondary to identification of new, more valuable outcomes)

Which leads me to think that students being asked to think about co-curricular portfolios should be helped to think about non-institutional and/or non-traditional tools for building those portfolios — tools that are aligned with the activity (rather than aligned with the institution) [See these thoughts on using blogs and wikis as ePortfolios, and wonder if this can be extrapoated to Flickr and]

Further, students should be encouraged to keep these portfolios for multiple purposes (show off to Grandma, document activity for self, demonstrate for future employer) and students should be encouraged by their mentors to think not only about outcomes, but about discovering new, more valuable outcomes.

“Look at my cool pictures of our kayak trip, but what I’m really thinking about is how to get the camera more into the action so the viewer can feel the thrill of the river.”

I was primed for the thinking above because we are approaching the end of the year and I’m trying to get a jump on the annual review process. For this year (2006), I’m trying to encourage each employee to have a portfolio repository. A simple one can exist within our internal wiki by collecting together for each person the projects we track in the wiki. (For my CTLT colleagues, it looks like this, created by adding MediaWiki Category tags [Category:Nils 2006] to projects where I was involved.)

I think this starts us down the transformative assessment path. We already track our work using the wiki for multiple reasons, not the least of which is internal communication. Another reason is unit accountability reports. Its an easy matter to make a page that lists all the projects that a person worked on.

There is a certain amount of resentment to our annual review process, typically characterized by “its busywork.” We can compel this busywork, but how can we learn from my co-curricular portfolio insights to help it happen more meaningfully? Using the ideas of the TAP rubric, we need the assessment to serve multiple purposes, and importantly to serve purposes that the employee chooses and values.

In the past (and for 2006) we have had a review process that encourages employee-supervisor discussions about four dimensions.

1. Productivity & Quality
2. Attendance (by which we are meaning ‘attending to’ rather than seat time)
3. Interpersonal Skills & Working Relationships
4. Job Knowledge & Training and Professional Development

Maybe, instead, we should ask employees to find something they think is meaningful to reflect on from the past year, and encourage that “achievement of outcomes may be secondary to identification of new, more valuable outcomes.” We’d ask employees to look for personally valuable outcomes and consider if those outcomes might be goals for 2007. It would be the supervisor’s job to map the reflections of the employee to the unit’s 4 assessment dimensions.

Correction, and a reflection on public identity

October 13, 2006

Well, I blew it when I posted about Nancy Chaney’s indecision on the Beebe Rezone. Bruce and Stephanie pointed out my error when I sent the same text to Vision2020. The actual voting can be found in the 9-18-06 minutes of the City Council, there were a couple ties, but several of the options were voted down by the council 4-2, so the Mayor didn’t get a voice. I was wrong in that post. I didn’t get my facts straight before going to press.

Now, I’ve stewed a bit over what to do about my previous post and then came on Anil Dash’s piece

One or two generations from now, the impossibility of scrubbing every private utterance for the demands of permanent public presentation will lead to a society much more accepting of occasional flubs, faults, and flaws. Behold, the triumph of context. Metadata about a person, and hyperlinks to their lifelong record, will inform the decisions made by a public used to an informal, non-governmental version of Total Information Awareness.

One option was to expunge the previous post from the blog, but since its also in the V2020 list archives, I couldn’t re-write history to protect my identity.

Its the flip side of an interchange I had quite awhile back with David Supple regarding my analysis of his comments to the BBC and his request that I remove my comments. Since I view my blogs as one of the repositories in my ePortfolio, the request was to alter my portfolio, which I was unwilling to do.

You may or may not agree with my analysis of Supple, and my recounting of the Council meeting was wrong, but they are in the record, as Anil notes. My approach to living with them is not to disown them, but to try to learn from them. My portfolio, therefore, demonstrates growth (I hope). [Thoughts on blogs as portfolios.]
Anil goes on:

One of the biggest benefits of that reality is that I now have control. The information I choose to reveal on my site sets the biggest boundaries for my privacy on the web. Granted, I’ll never have total control. But look at most people, especially novice Internet users, who are concerned with privacy. They’re fighting a losing battle, trying to prevent their personal information from being available on the web at all. If you recognize that it’s going to happen, your best bet is to choose how, when, and where it shows up.

Theron has been helping me to understand this, and its a reason for buying this domain and moving my blog here.