Archive for November, 2007

Mud Oven and Weber Grill – roasting

November 18, 2007

I got a late start today on the oven. I got a fire going with lots of prunings, mostly 1″ diameter and less. When I came back to check on it, flames were a foot out the top of the 4 foot stovepipe!

The problem I decided to work on was the ways to use the Weber grill. I dug out coals into the Weber grill (one of the 18″ diameter ones). Covered, with vents open, the grill threw off a huge plume of smoke. I had started a roast by searing it in a cast iron pot and I put the roast into the Weber to smoke. The smoke was not the best smelling, because I had some pine and what-not in the fire, so I didn’t leave the roast more than 10 minutes. (It added a better smoke smell to the meat than the fire indicated.)

BUT, the idea I’m having is to make sure I use cherry and apple prunings in the late stage of the fire, so that those are the coals I’m pulling out. Then the meat goes into that smoke for 20 minutes while the oven soaks and then the meat goes into the oven to roast. I suppose that spuds could go into the Weber too, maybe cut and oiled.

The other experiment I’m trying is leaving some fire in the oven. I didn’t burn the fire long enough and its only 275F in there. I pushed all the bigger coals to the back and put in a couple bricks between the fire and the front of the oven. This reduces my cooking space by half, but the bricks block direct heat from the still flaming coals from reaching where I would bake. Since I got this late start, I’m only going to cook a thermometer and a couple spuds tonight, the roast is in the conventional oven. Next time, roast chicken maybe.

PS. The spuds cooked nicely. The temp fell to 225F (maybe 212F) as the oven remained damp the whole time (steaming madly under its leaky tarp, now supplemented with another layer).

It snowed last night and is still snowing lightly this AM. The Weber is covered, the oven is clear of snow.

First baked dinner

November 11, 2007

Dinner was great, baked halibut w/ herbs; baked acorn squash and spuds, bread and pumpkin pie. Pretty well filled the oven.

Log of the process:

  • 2:15 light fire with lots of 1×3 and 1×1 size material (7-8 of the 1×3). dark smoke, creosote smells. tried putting on the oven door, but the smoke got worse.
  • 2:45 clear smoke, finally got all that wood burning well. Door propped ajar, coals are white hot. Should have started with 1/2 the amount of wood until the oven started to warm.
  • 2:55 soot burning off the inside of the oven, added 3 pieces of wood 2.5″ diameter and 14″ One piece proved to be green and hissed for 15 minutes.
  • 3:00 still cold and damp on the outside of the oven
  • 3:15 still cold and damp outside, clear smoke, all wood burning well or already coals, added 2×6 and 2×4 elm pieces (these were a mistake, as we will see). Wooden oven door is charing where cob is not protecting it from the fire’s heat. (Cob will need repair by February)
  • 4:20 fire all raked out into metal trash can, burned paint off can, burned oven mitt. Too many coals
  • 4:25 swabbed brick with wet rag. Closed damper in flue, put wet rag on inside of door to make it seal tighter. Rag over chimney as extra damper. Its very hot in the oven, thermometer goes to 600 and is pegged
  • 5:10 put in fish, pie, spuds and squash. Bread shaped but still rising.
  • 5:20 bread in, 400 degrees. Oven is steaming from roof, chimney and door.
  • 6:00 everything out, oven still 325


  • Start with a smaller fire to begin warming the oven, adding wood incrementally. Stop adding wood more than an hour before oven is ready, the white hot coals will continue to heat the oven for quite a while.
  • Get a Weber grill to catch the hot coals, plan food to BBQ on the grill while the oven is baking.
  • Have a plan for what to do with a hot oven when the baking is finished. At 10PM oven is still 225. Crackers? Slow cooked roast?

Much as I discovered some of the vertical integration that comes from hewing timber and doing timber frame joinery for building (in terms of the by-product scraps), and in a similar vein, the vertical integration of using scraps from my sawmill for heating, I can see that there are integrations to be made with this kind of small-wood burner, the size wood the oven burns is a size I’ve always thought was too small to be useful – which is important to note.

There are also integrations to be made among the kinds and timing of foods that are cooked in the oven.

Were the oven in an enclosed space the waste heat would also be significant for heating. Waste heat in the flue might be used to warm water, though my current design would require a pump to move the water up to the chimney and back.

Ready to Bake and Getting a grip on my portfolio-ing

November 11, 2007

The other night I was pondering my resume/portfolio and concluding that I needed to have a better handle on project proposals and project summaries — forms of reflection-in-action.

This morning I was reading the preface to The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, which struck me as an example of the reflecting I’ve been trying to understand. They are looking back, noting a problem, which formed the basis of their question for further exploration. The book is the evidence they are presenting for how they framed and then addressed the question.

Eight years have passed since Laurel’s Kitchen first appeared, and in that time our approach to whole-foods cookery has evolved considerably. For one thing, we’ve learned to bake bread.

It’s true that back in 1976 we talked a good bread story. And we probably did know as much about baking with whole-grain flours an any of the other people who were writing books about it.

But over time, we became increasingly impatient with the occasional disasters Laurel mentions, and not quite so ready to blame them on factors out of our control. So began the long and painstaking enquiry that resulted at lat in The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, which, as it turns out, may be more of an apprenticeship than a book.

The book is presented as a milestone, not as a reflection-in-action. Those intermediate reflections-in-action must have existed, working and failed recipes, thoughts for next steps. We don’t see those in the book, though there are references to examining the work of others, who serve as context, evidence, mentors, etc.

I was in Laurel’s because I wanted to make some bread in my new oven. This is therefore a milestone item in my portfolio: the oven is ready for baking. In addition to bread, I want to do a pie, some fish and an acorn squash. Those are the questions I’m asking — can I bake them? Data, conclusions, next steps will follow.

I spent some time before writing this remaking the categories of by blog. Pushing things under major headings and making a new set of headings for My Portfolio. This post goes under Milestone, much like the preface to Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, but less developed because the milestone is smaller.

More on 21st Century Resume

November 9, 2007

I’m struggling with the problem of my resume (or now my portfolio) again. Looking back, I like the analysis I did a year ago thinking about a 21st Century Resume. It talks about forward-looking and backward-looking documents that serve as reflections about problems and their solutions. We see those same kinds of documents created by Hotz as he hacked the iPhone.

This kind of reflection captures Gregory Bateson’s notion about information “a difference that makes a difference”. That is, reflections about changes in the world that I made or plan to make — not just random speculation. So in addition to capturing reflections (be they grant proposals, articles (such at the one requested by Innovate), or blog posts, its incumbent on me to show that my reflecting was “reflection-in-action” (from Donald Schön). That is, I’m reflecting with the intent to make a difference.

This thinking helps me move further along the path in the previous post, where I was reorganizing elements on my paper CV. Beyond organizing the content, I need to make presentations of myself that are narrative, that show how these reflections and milestones connect to make patterns.

But collecting the necessary evidence is not easy. For an example of the problem, I joined CTLT in the fall of 2000. They were well into the process of creating an online learning environment called “The Bridge.” One of the key, and incompletely developed, elements of the program was a personal workspace. Unlike previous thinking about OLEs, this one provided a resource for the learner, the learner’s own, private domain, that transcended the temporal constraints of a course. One of the key limitations of The Bridge’s personal space was that it was totally private, the mechanisms to authorize others to parts of your workspace were never realized.

I played a role in the retirement of The Bridge. It was a loss, a defeat, because it successor on our campus was WebCT, which had a teacher-centric, term-limited perspective. Personal space for the learner was lost. At the time I did not place much emphasis on the lost feature.

Enter SharePoint. The university was adopting it for administrative productivity reasons, but it also had a MySite feature that captured The Bridge’s personal space and added all the permissions functionality that was never implemented in The Bridge.

I spearheaded an effort to understand SharePoint enough to get CTLT and ITS to implement it as a resource for the university. The personal portfolio and collaboration space of the MySite is catching fire in multiple places in the university.

OK, so here is the problem — what goes into my resume or portfolio from this story? I didn’t put the personal space into The Bridge, I recognized (but didn’t document) its importance. I recognized that MySites had the same feature. I argued, probably nowhere in print, that the university should implement MySites. I was a cheerleader for the explorations by CTLT staff and their colleagues into SharePoint portfolios, but did not do much of the important technical or intellectual work. I co-authored a white paper about some of these ideas, but it does not capture the difference that I made at WSU, though the white paper might yet be seen to make a difference itself. Closer to the mark is this summary of the history of SharePoint at WSU. It documents that a change was made, but doesn’t show either the seminal role of The Bridge or my agency.

So how do I capture the evidence of my past work, my learning? If I were writing project proposals I would have forward-looking reflections. If I were writing publications of my work I would have backward-looking reflections. We have tried to institutionalize creating these kinds of documents in CTLT, but we tend to rush along with the work and not create them.

Part of the rejoinder to Virtual Worlds

November 9, 2007

OK, so Jim Morrison at Innovate tossed my challenge back, asking me to consider writing a piece, based on my post.

I went to look at the journal, asking, why bother? Why not just write a rejoinder in my blog? Its part of my portfolio, I retain control of my IP, I can collaborate with others via comments and trackback. Is a larger broadcast forum worth anything?

I found that despite the free account that is required to read an article, Google manages to index the articles. (That’s as good as my blog.) There is also RSS of the current Journal contents, and there are discussion features for posting comments on articles.

At random I picked Thomas Chandler and Heejung An’s piece, “Using Digital Mapping Programs to Augment Student Learning in Social Studies” as my tool to explore the Journal. (This will test if the Journal handles trackback.)

I’d chosen some text midway down the article to feed to Google and then went back to read the paragraph more closely, because of the links to Google Maps:

Because they help students visualize pressing civil issues in the context of the places that are most meaningful to them, digital mapping programs can bridge this gap. By using transparent overlays, these programs can enable students to examine a far wider range of community relationships than could be accomplished by any other means. Illustrative of this point are the many ways in which students can use digital maps via free applications, such as Google Maps, to create their own representations of their communities as they see them. This can be accomplished through the insertion of digital photos, hyperlinks, or video linked to specific placemarks on a city map. Taking this concept a step further, Google’s Sketch-Up (Exhibit 1) and Street View (Exhibit 2) utilities now make it possible for users to construct three-dimensional buildings and to navigate virtually through many of America’s city streets from the perspective of a person on the sidewalk. These interactive elements not only provide meaningful information that was not available in the past but also offer opportunities for learners to identify, engage in, and even help solve community-based problems.

The amount of online data available for digital mapping projects has also increased substantially (Exhibit 3). For example, it is possible for such programs to connect to government-sponsored Web sites, such as the U.S. Census Bureau , where vast amounts of data pertaining to any given community in the United States, as well as many parts of the world, can be downloaded and examined for free.

Now, this is a solid rejoinder along the lines Gary, Theron and I previously argued to virtual worlds. Why use a virtual world when these mapping tools in the real world allow students to work on real problems in contexts that are meaningful to them using real data. Who needs make believe?

Virtual Worlds for Teaching – Wrong Question

November 9, 2007

OK, now I understand my objection to what people are thinking about Second Life and education. Look at this call for articles (below) for a special issue of Innovate. Its the same beef I have with Michael Wesch when he asks “What are we DOING to change how we are teaching” in light of digital tools and web 2.0?

How many times does the call say “content,” “delivery,” or “teaching” vs. the times it focuses on “learners” and “learning?” When it does wonder about how learning is assessed, do you get the sense it even considered a learning-centric means like a portfolio? Why does it refer to “student work” and “protection” rather than “student intellectual property” and its licensing?

The other day Gary pointed me to Barr and Tagg’s piece on the prevailing “Instruction” paradigm vs. the “Learning” paradigm.

Gary, Theron and I wrote an op-ed for the local paper when they got all excited about virtual worlds. And for EDUCAUSE 2007 Microsoft commissioned a piece (Out of the Classroom and Into the Boardroom) from a team that included Gary and me. We looked at the future moving beyond the current teaching-centric LMS — punchline: Dump Blackboard in favor of worldware and web-based collaborative tools (Google Docs, SharePoint, Blogger).

I think maybe its time for me take the challenge to write a piece proposing a learning-focused use of Second Life — or more likely, setting out the features that are necessary and sufficient in a virtual world for learning-centric activities to happen.

I think there would be two sections:

  • What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for (sustained, if not lifelong) learning centric activities to proceed
  • What are the virtues that virtual worlds offer to learners and learning that are not met in the “regular” virtual world of Web 2.0?

The Innovate call for papers:

Innovate, published as a public service by the Fischler School of Education
and Human Services and sponsored, in part, by Microsoft is soliciting
manuscripts for a special issue on academics in virtual environments. This
issue focuses on the use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) as an
enhancement to K-21 education. A MUVE combines graphics and audio with the
ability to communicate with multiple users in real time within the context
of a 3-D virtual environment. MUVEs are not necessarily considered games,
as programs like Second Life and There have no end goal or objective.

Harvard’s CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion course opened the
doors for other academics to use virtual environments to enhance teaching
and learning. In the past two years, over 300 colleges and universities
have claimed virtual land in an attempt to enhance content delivery. This
virtual land and its future development occurs only a computer network.
While critics and skeptics exist, many educators are looking to take the
plunge and discover the potential of virtual-based teaching.

Submissions for this special issue may address, but are not limited to,
these key issues:

1. Does teaching in virtual environments enhance course content? If so,
how? If not, why not?

2. How is learning assessed within virtual environments? Are these
assessments comparable to existing forms of assessment?

3. What are the ethical considerations of creating virtual content? What
are the practical concerns? If a university funds virtual projects, who
owns the content? Who should own the content? How are students protected?
How is student work protected?

4. Are there best practices for teaching or research in virtual worlds?
What are some strategies for beginners?

5. What are the challenges of teaching in virtual space? How are these
challenges addressed?

6. How are virtual projects funded? What avenues for support exist?

7. What pedagogical approaches are central to the delivery of materials
within virtual worlds?

THEIR VIEW: A place for new, old technologies to coexist

November 9, 2007

Reprinted from an op-ed piece published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

By Gary Brown, Nils Peterson and Theron Desrosier

Monday, September 17, 2007 – Page Updated at 12:00:00 AM

It is great news that Craig Staszkow can say with confidence that there are now “traditional online offerings.” (Daily News, Aug. 27).

In less progressive quarters much concern persists about the quality of this new “tradition.” Still, we’re not so sure about his characterizations of those online courses when he describes them as “stuffed into one dimension and driven by chat rooms, threaded conversation and question-and answer sessions with an unseen teacher assistant.”

Even as we come to understand there is a new tradition, it is still fair to say that the range of designs in those “traditional online courses” varies dramatically. In fact, many thoughtfully organized and well-facilitated courses are very rich and multidimensional. Examples of this success exist in Washington State University’s Center for Distance and Professional Education courses in operations management, where students have solved real business problems saving people’s real jobs as well as saving companies millions of real dollars. And there are great examples, for instance, from WSU’s Human Development Department where, in one course, students conceptualized and wrote new state laws to empower very real citizens.

We’re also excited as are Staszkow and Dave Cillay, the director of instructional development for WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education, about the potential of virtual worlds. The reality of the virtual is amazing. Research continues to confirm the viability of virtual reality, culminating in a recent study published in the journal Science. The findings challenge the “axiom that everything you are is anchored in your body,” says Vilayanur Ramachandran, the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego. He adds, “What you regard as you is really a transient construct created by the brain from multiple sensory sources.”

Information processing research has been pointing to this phenomenon for some time, finding again and again that our perceptions of simulations conjure up the same physiological responses – heart rate, skin conductivity, brain waves – as do “real experiences.”

So the question gains urgency, why use new technologies to create pseudonymous avatars and virtual worlds when the real world is rich with challenges?

There are good answers, of course, and Staszkow mentions virtual travel to Minnesota to inspect the bridge and build new virtual bridges as one example. Great, but why stop there? How do we decide when to use virtual technologies to create new virtual worlds versus using virtual technologies to augment the world where we sit and ponder this question? Rather than make believe, why not use technologies that allow us to inspect the pictures and microscopic details of the collapsed bridge site and engage the reports and even the engineers who really have inspected the site? For examples of this use of the Internet to engage professionals, check out Brett Atwood’s WSU School of Communication’s students’ blogs and you will “see” where real professionals engaged WSU students and enriched their discussions about a real and complex copyright case.

Recently in the news, George Hotz hacked the Apple iPhone, unlocking it from the restriction that it only be used on the AT&T cellular service. While not condoning hacking, we note his blog provides a view into his collaborative learning process. Hotz understood the power of the real-world Internet, and elected to work the problem in public where he solicited and got feedback critical to his success. He collaborated with people from around the globe as each worked on different aspects of the problem.

John Gardner, the new WSU vice president for extension and economic development, also is blogging. He is exploring this global competency and establishing a vehicle to support his professional learning, inviting feedback on his ideas and directions for WSU. His blog is beginning to gather comments from a global community, a vast, multidimensional resource available to him now. Even as we wait for similar sorts of communities to gather in Second Life, they are flourishing in ways that augment the “traditional” Internet that is shaping and reshaping where we live, work, and learn.

New technologies don’t supplant old ones – note the pad and pencil by your phone. The trick is bringing them together in proper measure.

Gary Brown is director of WSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology. Nils Peterson is the center’s assistant director, and Theron Desrosier is a design consultant for the center.

A brief history of SharePoint at WSU

November 7, 2007

FacOps started it. They needed a document management solution that could serve as an integration platform for the wide range of data sources that they use to manage WSU facilities. They were running the 2003 version, and evangelizing it in various ways. FacOps, ITS and several Colleges that had started exploring SharePoint hosted the “SharePoint Summit” in the summer of 2004. ITS’s contribution to the show was a demonstration of how SharePoint could be used to re-implement the functions currently served by Oracle in myWSU. What I saw in that demonstration had some big implications for CTLT.

1) The myWSU demo had a link to a SharePoint site for a class and I realized that if SharePpint could be used for a class site, that potential would be discovered by some of the Colleges beginning to host it. I argued that the potential existed for Colleges to begin using SharePoint for classes and CTLT needed to be prepared to consult with faculty and/or provide students with helpdesk support. My subsequent exploration of SharePoint with the help of Roxie Mitchell from Microsoft (winter 2004-05) convinced me that SharePoint could serve as a Learning Management System at least as sophisticated as “The Bridge” [an LMS that CTLT had created in 2000 and was retiring in favor of WebCT (now Blackboard CE)].

2) The other exciting piece of the SharePoint Summit demos was the MySite feature. When developing myWSU, we had looked at Oracle’s personal site and collaboration tools. They did not seem completely developed when we looked (2003) and the licensing costs prevented WSU from acquiring them. The SharePoint Portal tools were coming as parts of centrally purchased licenses, which changed the cost. Since the licensing resulted in zero cost to Colleges, individual Colleges might launch their own portals with mySites. WSU’s history with the adoption of Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange made me believe that College adoption of Portal and MySites was probable. Exploring this idea with those colleagues, I found that the challenge for Colleges to give students MySites was that the students might use College resources for non-College purposes. That suggested that students needed access to MySites as a central resource — and a role for CTLT to play.

Concurrent with these events, CTLT was exploring the Open Source Portfolio (OSPI) tools, looking for an ePortfolio platform to offer the university. The SharePoint platform as ePortfolio was more appealing than OSPI for several reasons: 1) support and scalability, 2) overlapping skills/training (if faculty were being moved to SharePoint for enterprise-wide business reasons, the skills they learned would transfer to ePorfolios without needing to learn another tools 3) worldware (skill students built in SharePoint would more likely be applicable on the job than skills built in OSPI. 4) Personal control of a collaborative resource that was outside of any course, and could span a student’s career at the university (and possibly beyond).

By Spring 2006 CTLT had formed a partnership with ITS where ITS would deploy, and CTLT would provide user support for, SharePoint 2003 Portal (and MySites) for all current students and employees. At the same time we collaborated to create a SharePoint LMS offering — with the rationale that if faculty had MySite, they would (and already have) used it for their classes. The problem for the institution with classes in MySites is that its harder to provide central support (such as automatically arranging the student enrollment) and providing backup for records retention (since quite likely that the institution will have no knowledge of the class in the faculty’s MySite). Bellevue Community College was a year ahead of WSU with SharePoint MySites, and was having this experience. Thus, the MyClass LMS offering was initially motivated by “self-defense” against classes in MySites.

SharePoint for classes, while powerful and using the same SharePoint skills and training, is limited because it lacks a gradebook for sharing scores between instructor and student and a quiz/testing tool, which is popular as a testing strategy in some online courses. SharePoint is presently better suited to courses with discussions, project collaboration, or for courses where the instructor needs to share documents to students and the interaction otherwise takes place in the classroom.

OpenEd Week “X”

November 2, 2007

Previously I posted on David Wiley’s Open Ed online course. I decided to drop in on the course and see what was happening. I found Alessandro’s post of his frustrations with the course, with David Wiley’s reply:

Alessandro blogged tonight about the same frustration many of us (myself included) are feeling with regard to the Intro to Open Ed course. Alessandro’s frustrated that I haven’t been providing as much feedback as might be desired. I have to agree. With about 60 students following the course, I could easily spend all day every day responding to what you are all writing and still not keep up.

I think its important to surface an assumption going on here and look into some alternatives, especially in light of what this course is about (or maybe what I read “Open Education” to be about). David talks about reading and responding to each student, as if that is his role. Students talk about the “dry” readings and their posts as summaries of those readings.

What if instead, David had framed the course differently — A few general readings to start things off, and a request for each student to propose an open-ed project that interested them and that they would research. However, rather than working alone, students would be asked to form teams among the class members, selecting among the proposed projects the one that they found most interesting. My friend and former colleague Stephen Spaeth designed a distance course (Decs 340) using that concept. The students were all older, working, and had authentic on the job applications for the ideas of the course. Theron DesRosier places this design idea into a broader context when he talks about bringing the outside world into the class.

In addition to working on projects, students would weekly post about readings related to open education they were finding that aided their projects. Some would delve into learning objects, others into copyright and licenses. The topics of the course would get “covered” but driven by the authentic work of the students. The learning of any individual might not be as wide as the course survey, but it would be deeper and more lasting.

Wiley’s student Karen Fasimpaur has proposed a project that I think fits the notions above when she writes (outside of class!?) about her project idea to create a kids dictionary. This looks like an open education activity, when she asks “How could this be hosted to best facilitate mass collaboration?” [Frankly, I’d like to get involved in such a project, and I’d start by suggesting that kids working with parents and teachers could be the authors. Other dictionaries would be a resource to them. I’d also endorse Karen’s inclination to use a wiki for the reasons outlined here.]

I see notes in the course that it has been redesigned in the latter weeks of the semester to give students more reflection time. Perhaps it could still be modified to give students more peer-critique responsibilities as well. A rubric such at the one in WSU Critical Thinking Project might be adapted to provide the framework for the peer feedback, and (for next offering of the course) even the framework for the instructor assessment.