Archive for March, 2010

Reimagining both learning & learning institutions

March 21, 2010

Over the course of the 2008-09 school year, colleagues and I at WSU were thinking about institution-based vs community-based learning models. A strong sample of that work is in our AAC&U presentation from April 2009. There are two charts that are important to our thinking, Learning Spectrum and Four Strategies. We think that changing to a community-based model will have an impact on how the university is organized.

This year we got involved with the MacArthur Foundation/HASTAC Digital Media and Learning Competition as a result of looking for colleagues interested in ideas that could transform the university (and the Land Grant mission) in line with the thinking above (see our DML entry).

Yesterday I ran into two related ideas that bring me back to thinking about these topics.

Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook) is launching Jumo, The site says:

“There are no magic solutions to the challenges our world faces. But there are millions of people around the globe who work each day to improve the lives of others. Unfortunately, there are millions more who don’t know how to meaningfully help [emphasis mine].

Jumo brings together everyday individuals and organizations to speed the pace of global change.”

Perhaps thinking along parallel lines, Jane McGonigal’s TED talk: “Gaming can make a better world explored the idea that some of the traits gamers exhibit, including collaboration and a passion for the quest, could be tapped to work on some of the world’s problems. She ended by pointing to a game called Evoke that is trying to explore that hypothesis.

Evoke encourages players to develop these skills: collaboration, courage, creativity, entrepreneurship, local insight, knowledge share, resourcefulness, sustainability and vision. Its a list that has more in common with ideas of Daniel Pink or the 21st century media literacies of Howard Rheingold than 20th century efforts like WSU’s Critical Thinking Rubric (not to fault it, but it comes from a Learning 1.0 context). I recognize Evoke’s list of skills in our thinking above about a transformed university.

Those ideas are even more interesting in light of Tom Vander Ark‘s comments in November 2009 on How Social Networking Will Transform Learning:

I’m betting on social learning platforms as a lever for improvement at scale in education. Instead of a classroom as the primary organizing principle, social networks will become the primary building block of learning communities (both formal and informal). Smart recommendation engines will queue personalized content. Tutoring, training, and collaboration tools will be applications that run on social networks. New schools will be formed around these capabilities. Teachers in existing schools will adopt free tools yielding viral, bureaucracy-cutting productivity improvement.”

Vander Ark was Executive Director at the Gates Foundation and now he’s a partner in a private equity fund focused on innovative learning tools and formats. At the Gates Foundation he undoubtedly had a role in funding Gates’ bets on improving education, including strategies he lists based on people, schools, policy and community. Now he says he’s betting on a different strategy,  one that seems to align with the projects and ideas outlined above.

For awhile I’ve been stuck thinking about how these community-based learning could advance without leadership, or at least cooperation, from the university. I thought the university was a key player because it holds the ability to credential higher learning. And that credentialing power seemed to lock it into a dominant place in the marketplace.

Recently, I came across an argument that some learners may not care about  earning university credentials. The example was a person who owns a business and wants some business training (accounting, management, etc). For this person, the knowledge may be valuable, but the credential inconsequential.

That opened me up to see other alternatives to credentialing. The Evoke game promises to identify top players, based on the skills they demonstrate. For this week Evoke says: “Your LEARN mission this week is to figure out: Who else is inventing creative, sustainable ways to power our everyday lives? Find someone working on a creative electricity project, or a sustainable energy project — and tell the network about their big idea.”

This is all building toward the 10th week when participants will submit an “Evocation” (think of this as a thesis proposal): “Based on the Evokation you submit, and your overall participation in the Evoke network missions, quests, and discussions, we will choose a number of you to continue the journey with us and change the world in unimaginable ways. Selection includes winning a $1000 investment in the project among other “credentialling.”

Evoke’s funding comes from the World Bank. Another funding model might be micro-lending. Kushal Chakrabarti, CEO, Vittana recently posted about Vittana’s new venture into micro-lending for student education loans.

Could these ideas be combined? Could they offer a different path to education for some learners, bypassing the university’s credentialing?

All images thanks to Jayme Jacobson

Free at Last! (of the sling)

March 18, 2010

Week of
March 15. March 18 – Just back from the Doc and starting the next 6-week phase which is Physical Therapy to increase flexibility, but not strengthening.  Doc’s two simple rules: 1) keep hand where you can see it 2) don’t lift anything heavier than 12 oz can of pop.

The latter will be hard. The mode of failure will be silent, there will be no pain. The failure will be degradation of the developing new cartilage from the micro-fracture treatment, which will eventually flake, slough off, and I’ll be a candidate for shoulder replacement. (Might have been nice to know this before now as I have progressively begun to cheat, both in and out of the sling.)

Week of March 22: First visit to Physical Therapy Monday 7am. This guy measures rotation from a different zero point than my chair uses. Rather than getting 60, he measures me at 25. So machine – 35. I managed to do mt chairs 160/60 this AM, and am now trying to do wider rotation w/o elevation (faster cycle time). I got to 130/80. Going high and wide was harder than just going wide at elevation 30. I’d need to push the chair to 160/95 to match the Doc’s goals with the PT’s measurement scheme. The PT also gave me non-chair way to do the same exercises. I’ll go to PT Mon & Wed for next 6 weeks.

Tues 23rd Pretty stiff and sore this AM after pushing yesterday. I’ve relapsed. Just did 115/80 by building up from 80/65. The chair goes away today or tomorrow, unless the Doc gives a reprieve. I got the reprieve to March 31 and I’m regretting pushing because the relapse Tues aft is worse.

Wed 24th This AM my PT encouraged that 60 to 80 was a big jump, and that elevation was more important now than rotation. We agreed I’d attempt to get back to 160/60 and then use the next week of CPM machine to move from 60 upward, perhaps 4 degrees for each of 5 days. This AM I got back to 160/60.

Week of March 29: PT this AM helped me not relapse in the chair. I’ve regained the desired elevation, and intend to expand the rotation slowly this week until the chair goes away. Small personal victory, I can now carry a small bar of soap in my left hand to wash my right arm pit.

Criteria for Progression to Phase 2

  • At least 6 weeks of recovery has elapsed
  • Painless passive ROM to (see data here)
    • 140° of forward flexion
    • 40° of external rotation
    • 60-80° of abduction (swing arm out from side) (not sure if I can do this, its not part of the machine)

Shoulder Motion


  • 140° of forward flexion – progress to 160° (see graphs below)
  • 40° of external rotation – progress to 60°
  • 60-80° of abduction – progress to 90°


  • Continue with passive ROM exercises to achieve above goals. (looks like I can get there in one day)
  • Begin active-assisted ROM exercises for the above goals.
  • Progress to active ROM exercises as tolerated after full motion achieved with active-assisted
  • exercises.
  • Light passive stretching at end ROMs.


  • No strengthening/resisted motions of the shoulder until 12 weeks after surgery.
  • During phase 2, no Active Range of Motion (AROM) exercises for patients with massive tears.


  • Discontinuation of sling or abduction orthosis.
  • Use for comfort only.

Pain Control

  • NSAIDs for patients with persistent discomfort following surgery.
  • Therapeutic modalities
  • Ice, ultrasound, HVGS.
  • Moist heat before therapy, ice at end of session.

NOTE: Blue data is first 6 weeks, red data is 2nd 6 weeks on new regime

Who is preparing us for the Grand Challenges

March 16, 2010

This post is in response to a post by Cathy Davidson on HASTAC 2010:  Grand Challenges and Global Innovations coming up April 15-17.  She says ‘David and I are thinking ahead to our address on “The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.”   We will have a bicoastal conversation, and then a live chat, still in the planning stages.   So we’d love you to send us questions that might form the basis of that conversation on any aspect of our educational futures.’

This is a long preamble that ends in a question for Cathy and David in the last paragraph:

On March 5, 2010 the US Dept of Education released the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) which says on page 4:

What and How People Need to Learn

Whether the domain is English Language arts, mathematics, sciences, social studies, history, art, or music, 21st century competencies and expertise such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication (emphasis added) should be woven into all content areas. These competencies are necessary to become expert learners, which we all must be if we are to adapt to our rapidly changing world over the course of our lives…

This NETP plan is titled “Learning Powered by Technology” but this list of learning goals does not depend on technology (except perhaps the multimedia) and none of the list depends (or acknowledges) the growing hyperconnectivity of the Internet or the shift from an information scarcity economy to one of information abundance.

Nearly simultaneously, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) opened to comment its proposal for K-12 standards. The CCSSI standards purport to be getting students ready for college and the workplace.

In the Writing Standards for History/Social Studies and Science grades 11-12, I find, “6.   Demonstrate command of technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update work in response to ongoing feedback, including fresh arguments or new information.”  Which is interesting, especially when taken with this sidebar: “New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. The Internet has accelerated the speed at which connections between speaking, listening, reading, and writing can be made, requiring that students be ready to use these modalities nearly simultaneously. (emphasis added) Technology itself is changing quickly, creating a new urgency for students to be adaptable in response to change.”

“Collaboration” is mentioned along with “comprehension,” in terms of social manners (good listening skills) but not in terms of skills in finding collaborators or learning communities on the Internet. “Social” is only mentioned in terms of “social studies,” and “community” does not appear in the document.

While its not surprising that CCSSI does not endorse learning using the Internet, except as mediated by public schools, it does not seem to recognize the wealth of resources, skills, and social capital that  learners potentially are bringing into the school setting.

Its interesting to contrast the NETP list, or the CCSSI with Howard Rhiengold’s 21’st century media literacy skills, or John Seely Brown’s thoughts on Learning 2.0 and communities of practice, or Cathy Davidson’s ideas of ‘collaboration by difference.’ Recently, David Gelernter, in Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously said:

“Modern search engines combine the functions of libraries and business directories on a global scale, in a flash: a lightning bolt of brilliant engineering. These search engines are indispensable — just like word processors. But they solve an easy problem. It has always been harder to find the right person than the right fact. Human experience and expertise are the most valuable resources on the Internet — if we could find them. Using a search engine to find (or be found by) the right person is a harder, more subtle problem than ordinary Internet search


“The traditional web site is static, but the Internet specializes in flowing, changing information. The ‘velocity of information’ is important — not just the facts but their rate and direction of flow. Today’s typical website is like a stained glass window, many small panels leaded together. There is no good way to change stained glass, and no one expects it to change. So it’s not surprising that the Internet is now being overtaken by a different kind of cyberstructure.


“The structure called a cyberstream or lifestream is better suited to the Internet than a conventional website because it shows information-in-motion, a rushing flow of fresh information instead of a stagnant pool.”

Under “search” CCSSI says: “[Students will be able to] tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn
using technology with what they learn offline,” which is a far cry from Gelernter’s  “the Internet specializes in flowing, changing information. The ‘velocity of information’ is important — not just the facts but their rate and direction of flow.”

Contemporaneous with the publication of NETP 2010 and the CCSSI, posted responses to its Question 2010: “How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?”

David Dalrymple, MIT, says:

“Filtering, not remembering, is the most important skill for those who use the Internet.

“I see today’s Internet as having three primary, broad consequences: 1) information is no longer stored and retrieved by people, but is managed externally, by the Internet, 2) it is increasingly challenging and important for people to maintain their focus in a world where distractions are available anywhere, and 3) the Internet enables us to talk to and hear from people around the world effortlessly.”

What David does not say, that I think is also important, is 4) the self generation of online systems for managing personal knowledge.  As a blogger, wiki contributor, and social bookmarker. I am building a digital footprint and a personal exosomatic memory!  I sometimes refer to the traces I have left to see what I was personally up to. Rarely, now, but as our productivity and capacity expands, we must be becoming more dependent on this exosomatic system. (I keep saying that, exosomatic because I use my website as a auto or personal blog of notes to myself, my memory displaced from my body.)

There seems to be a large disconnect between the NETP & CCSSI and the latter conversations.

Who will lead the transformation from our current institutions, K-20, to institutions that would support 21st century learning implied by a highly networked, information rich and information producing society facing global problems on an unprecedented scale?

I missed the bus – thoughts on indirect assessment

March 9, 2010

I missed the bus to work today. I knew time was tight as I was going out the door. As I went along, I gained confidence I would make it, because I saw one of the school buses that I usually meet. And some kids waiting for another school bus (I usually see two school buses). And I saw the city buses at the bus transfer point (but I could not see my bus meeting them).

ALAS, none of that indirect evidence measured where my bus was on its route. As I rounded the Kibbie Dome I saw my bus picking up a rider at my stop and heading away.

I’m noting this as part of the conversation I’m part of about direct and indirect evidence of student learning outcomes. This is an example of the failure of relying on indirect evidence.