Archive for the ‘Collaborative Tech’ Category

Assessment Specialist Job Application

May 29, 2011

I am applying for the Assessment Specialist position at Peer to Peer University (P2PU) because it looks like a next logical place for me to continue hacking education. Logical because I’ve been exploring peer learning facilitated by the Internet for 15 years. With the addition of assessment tools P2PU appears to be well poised as a ‘disruptive innovation‘ that can credential learning that is already happening.

I believe I fit their profile for the position:

I have been hacking education since 1984 (See CV (pdf), Papers 2-19 ). Initially I developed software simulations for teaching, and in 1986 co-founded the BioQUEST consortium with a manifesto about how real learning happens in the sciences. I think that same approach applies to learning about programming — one needs to start with a real problem, solve it, and then communicate the utility of the solution.

In the 90’s I explored the web and how it might be used for collaboration. With collaborators I explored an online science fair (CV, Online Educational Events section) and the creation and administration of a virtual school to connect pre-service K-12 teachers with children in classrooms (CV, Abstracts 15-20 & 22-23 & 25). In conjunction with my teaching assignment at the time I also explored automated assessment of student writing (CV, Abstracts 21 and 24).

In the first decade of this century my focus shifted from K-12 to higher education. As Assistant Director of Washington State University’s Center for Teaching Learning and Technology (CTLT), I led explorations of the online learning management system (LMS) the University was creating and collaborated on pilots to move away from the monolithic LMS toward personal learning environments (CV, Articles 26-28 and Abstracts 26,27 and blog posts). Toward the end of my time at WSU our focus shifted to assessment and methods for gathering authentic assessment from stakeholders (CV, Article 29). Much of our latter work on these topics was blogged here and here rather than published in traditional media. We explored creating portfolios using Microsoft SharePoint, which expanded my 1988 BioQUEST thinking about solving problems to include the social learning aspects of working in public. By mid-2008 we were exploring mashing up assessment tools in SharePoint and other platforms, in a concept we called the Harvesting Gradebook. By the end of the decade the organization’s name and mission were refocused on developing a university-wide system assessment of assessment. What we implemented for the University’s 2009 Accreditation Report is described here, and our vision for the full concept, from Harvesting Gradebook to University Accreditation is here.

I bring experience mashing up assessment of both 21st century skills and technical skills into the authentic public contexts where learning is happening. Our work on WSU’s system of accreditation required that we help programs capture evidence of student learning acceptable to their stakeholders, including professional accrediting bodies. Professional accreditation, for example ABET for Engineering, include a set of “soft” professional skills along with “hard” domain knowledge skills. We developed tools and assessment procedures to help programs document student learning in both these skill sets.

In addition to the work experiences above, further evidence of my interest in hacking education can be found in my commitment to launch a public charter school (Palouse Prairie School). For years CTLT worked with faculty, advocating contextualized learning activities with authentic assessment. Individual faculty would buy in and succeed with the idea. But circumstances always intervened preventing the innovations from becoming established. Mostly these circumstances were systemic, the University’s tenure and promotion criteria, changes in leadership, lack of program-wide adoption of the ideas, resistance by students to something new. We also tried working directly with students, advocating electronic portfolios as places they could work on learning activities and showcase (for purposes of assessment) both their process and product. But students were trapped in the same context as faculty, a system with a reward structure not aligned with our vision of learning.

Palouse Prairie School was intended from the start to be a systemic effort at an alternative. The school uses the Expeditionary Learning model, derived from the ideas guiding Outward Bound.  The model is exemplified by project-based “Learning Expeditions,” where students engage in interdisciplinary, in-depth study of compelling topics, in groups and in their community, with assessment coming through cumulative products, public presentations, and portfolios. The school has just completed its second year, growing and still developing its implementation of the EL model. I serve on the Board, but without a teaching credential, have no other formal role in the school.

I can bring a working and pragmatic knowledge of assessment practices to P2PU, focused on gathering practical evidence and applying it to direct change. In my mind, small scale, quick, and sufficiently useful assessment beats ponderous activities that do not deliver timely results to learners or stakeholders, or in ways framed to their needs.

In my last year at WSU we began envisioning the radar graphs created by the Harvesting Gradebook as a sort of badge — both evidence of participation and as a way to asserting levels of competence in a multidimensional assessment. We came to understand that if our tools were re-implemented as widgets that could be embedded by learners in pages, communities could develop around pages. Google search could assist this, in much the same way that searches can be filtered for Creative Commons license, we imagined them being filtered for pages with Harvesting Gradebook badges, and even badges demonstrating a certain level of competency. That work came to an end with the University’s reorganization of the unit and departure of key personnel.

I have some knowledge of game mechanics. Since the 90’s I’ve dabbled in learning analytics and have some sense of the utility and limitations of primary trait methods vs. more holistic approaches.

I have worked as a programmer since the 90’s but for the last 10 years have been the technical manager for a teams that maintained and developed large scale web-based applications, including the online survey tool that WSU used to implement the Harvesting Gradebook. I have sufficient background in coding and web development to establish credibility with a development team and collaborate to create functional designs and lead implementation of assessment in the P2PU platform. In fact, I believe that I could facilitate pieces of this work being done in SoW courses by teams of students.

I have strong independent project management skills, working on grants and other projects since the middle 80’s.

I am able to travel for conferences, meet-ups and presentations, but will need to renew my passport, which has lapsed.

 

Live Assessment

September 8, 2010

This is the page of feedback from my P3 presentation. Use this form ( http://bit.ly/9Gr8TB ) to give more feedback.  The PowerPoint from the session is here on SlideShare.

Radar Chart of Audience Assessment on Learner’s Criteria
Tag Cloud of Other Important Perspectives to consider assessing this work

Additional Comments
I have not yet digested the data from the session. Soon hopefully.

Notes on “tag clouding” Twitter

August 13, 2010

I’m working on my HASTAC/P3 presentation. I want a back channel where the audience can provide feedback/ assessment of the session. The idea is to see if the audience can give feedback with a combination of a controlled vocabulary and free tagging. (As opposed to using a big rubric.)

I looked at a couple Twitter-centric tools with the thought that the audience can readily come prepared to Tweet from a range of mobile devices. What is needed is a cloud of the tweets @UserID and some coaching for the audience to tweet with tags.

tweetcloud.com/ embedded in their web page. I used @nilspeterson as a search and it says there isn’t a cloud.

mytweetcloud.com/ will get the hashtags from a user ID. UserID nilspeterson worked, This is getting the content that the user tweets, not what is tweeted @UserID.

So to get around the above problem, you need the RSS of the tweets @UserID and that is protected by the Twitter user’s password. Yahoo Pipes can retrieve the @UserID content by passing in the required authentication. You need to embed username:password in the URL used in Pipes. (not totally secure, but workable).  Pipes will do a reasonable job filtering tweets –for example, I can get them for a date range. Here is the pipe I’ve created for user nilspeterson
http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=c0f7b2078b6ad4aa8e835dfdde927644&_render=rss

wordle.net will take the RSS from Yahoo and makes a handsome display (below). The @UserID comes thru big (duh!), but this might not be a problem — it documents who is getting the feedback. The StopList is hardwired and can’t have any additional words added, so blocking the @UserID would need to happen in Pipes. Wordle requires using it on their page (a setup issue and no embed), they say You may not copy or redistribute the Wordle applet itself under any circumstances. Refreshing the page is a pain and not practical. Need another tool that can imbed.

IBM ManyEyes won’t work because you need to upload a static dataset to them.

www.tag-cloud.de can create an embeddable Flash from the feed. It makes a pretty handsome cloud, and in you can link from words in the cloud to web pages., but they process the tags in the URL once so the resulting cloud its static (no auto updates unless you do it on their site).

Diverse Group Tag Cloud (DGTC) is a WordPress plug in. Its not certified in version the version 3.x of WP used by NilsPeterson.com. First attempt with it does not seem to work.

Candidates
TagCrowd.com Will take the RSS output from Yahoo. It has a customizable stop list, which will be needed to prune the junk from Yahoo (if I can’t get Yahoo Pipes to do the pruning). Takes awhile to get a personal stop list to show up in the pick list on the site. Image below is unfiltered by a stop list to show the problems. There is an embed HTML option, which would allow getting the cloud off their page — I assume it updates when the page loads. This is fairly promising.

Google Docs spreadsheet. In the top cell put the function =ImportFeed(“http://news.google.com/?output=atom”).  Then need to use Google’s word cloud gadget to make the rendering and publish the gadget and display on a web page (see below). Need this to refresh on a regular basis.

Alternative (non-Twitter) Method
An alternative would be to skip Twitter and use a Google Docs form. This avoids the need for Yahoo and for stop lists. It would still work with many mobile devices.

Whats up with Google Docs?
Google is moving to a new version of Spreadsheet. The new version does not support Gadgets (even Google’s own). The old version does, but its flaky. For today, the focus needs to be on the non-Google solutions.

Google Workaround
So, what about using Google Forms to fill a spreadsheet, publish it, take Yahoo Pipes to pick it up and feed it to TagCrowd? That seems like a reasonable next experiment.

H1N1 Flu Pandemic Preparations at Washington State University

September 10, 2009

Two years ago Washington State University was doing pandemic flu planning for the Avian Flu. The University was considering if it could respond to a closure mandated by the Governor by moving online. I wrote this piece looking at the potential single points of failure of the university’s technology and how Web 2.0 strategies might prove more versatile.

Now we are watching a rapid rise in H1N1 cases, which fortunately are mild, but it points to the issue that it would be hard to know when to devote the necessary resources to moving all courses online (if it were possible using traditional models) and that the time available to make the decision to move might be very short.

I would now amend those posts from 2007 with this information from Adam Green about AlertRank. Applying the techniques he suggests for tracking Swine Flu with Google Alerts and Twitter to the university classes would further extend and simplify the management of student groups during a Flu Pandemic Diaspora.

Blog as ePortfolio

July 29, 2009

I’ve been thinking about blogs as ePortfolios for quite awhile, in a WSU blog system (now defunct) and here, here and here on the Educause blog site in posts going back as far as Feb 15, 2005.

In the earliest of those I reported on Washington State University blogging experiment:

We (CTLT) began hosting a university blogging tool last August. Because we had an [OSPI] ePortfolio initiative underway at the same time, I tried to keep our smaller blogging project out of the ePortfolio space, but I came to understand that was not possible. A blog is, at minimum, a presentation of a repository of journal entries. But since those entries can be selectively reflect on other posts, the blog can occupy the entire eportfolio space.

Yesterday I was reminded of how nice it is to have a blog of the work I’m doing at WSU. We were giving a webinar on our Harvesting Gradebook ideas and I could answer questions in the chat by pasting URLs of past blog posts.

In a conversation with colleagues after the webinar we were recognizing that the blog is our ePortfolio and when combined with the Harvesting ideas we are exploring, it may well be a totally adequate and perfectly simple solution to the ePortfolio problem.

My, how it takes time to fully recognize the obvious.

[Addendum Sept 28, 2009]
I just wrote some feedback to a writer working on a story about ePortfolios. It got me thinking that for me my several blogs are a portfolio, (several blogs concurrently and several blogs over time), but I’m not advocating blogs as everyone’s portfolio. What is valuable for me is the ability to find many of my pieces of work (which may actually be stored in other places) and to be able to quickly direct a person to my latest thinking. When my thinking updates, or I get asked a question for which there is not already a blog posted answer, then its time to write a new post. None of this is to say that, from a practical standpoint, my comments in the link above about Google being my portfolio are invalid. Google is the de facto tool that would be used by someone looking for me, so its representation of me is my (most public) portfolio. Managing that (and to the extent possible, being in control of key resources so that I can manage it) are my ongoing challenge.

Building an advocacy action community

April 6, 2009

This is an extension to my previous thinking on creating an online community/Center for Teaching and Learning. To think more about the issue of creating online community around a problem, I’m beginning a dialog with the Western Watersheds Project a non-profit group who’s mission is “to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.”

I just sent a note to HuffingtonPost.com to explore how to get WWP news into their site. This offers some potential for high profile exposure for news about WWP successes, such as the recent Federal Court Order requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a status review as to whether the Big Lost River Whitefish deserves Endangered Species Act protection.

Some of the news stories I read on HuffPost are ‘reprints’ that link back to the source’s website. What would be interesting to know is how to syndicate WWP news to HuffPost and bring readers back to the WWP site.

A number of sites I visit have links near stories inviting users to use Digg, or other services to highlight stories. This is a way to promote one of the “teach Google” strategies, and it has the potential to raise the profile of WWP news pieces so that it show up better in searches. I don’t know the exact mechanism for adding this to WWP’s site, but I expect its fairly straight-forward.

I use the social bookmarking tool Diigo, less popular that Delicious, but it has some group features that are more enhanced. If WWP were to adopt a social bookmarking tool it could be used to point at items across that web that were of interest to WWP members. Further, it would generate an RSS feed of those items that could be placed on the WWP site. The Diigo group mechanism would allow a collaborative effort in gathering these related links.

The reason to do this, and the focus for it, would be to help build the community around WWP issues. A previous strategy I proposed was to find high ground (e.g., Wikipedia) and announce where a community could be found. There are some pointers to WWP’s work in Wikipedia, so I’ve been thinking more about how distributed and disaggregated communities actually are (I suppose this is a comment on how long the long tail is). A person like Stephen Downes reads, comments on, and synthesizes parts of what is going on in the community, but he does not get me in touch with all I find important. So, I think another part of the strategy is to make your own site rich in pointers to other parts of the community. The challenge is to do this without spending the amount of energy that Downes spends, hence the idea for a bookmarking/commenting group. Our own CTLT & Friends is beginning to get a little of this traction.

Since there are several bloggers who write about WWP-related items, another part of the strategy should be to merge the RSS of their blogs (or some tags in their blogs) with the RSS from the bookmarking site to make a richer mix. Yahoo Pipes will do this with a fairly high degree of control.

Finally, in thinking about what to do with new eyeballs arriving at the WWP site, I looked on VolunteerMatch.org. I’m not very familiar with that site, but am considering how WWP might use and post opportunities for volunteer efforts. For example, here is a potential example for a group of voluneteers — a mapping party. They are mapping an urban landscape, but WWP could use a similar approach.

Do you have any insights that might help me sharpen this analysis?

Web 2.0 and Textbooks

February 25, 2009

Trent Batson has a piece in Campus Technology where he is exploring howWeb 2.0 Finally Takes on Textbooks. It reminds me that back about 2005 Dave Cormier posted an idea he called “Feedbook” that imagined a course got its “texts” via RSS. The instructor would subscribe the feedbook to several sources (blogs, Del.icio.us, etc) and the aggregation would be fed into the course’ online space.

Fast forward. Yahoo Pipes is a very powerful aggregator that would would make Dave’s idea simple and Diigo is a social bookmark tool that supports highlighting web pages, groups, and discussion along side the page that is bookmarked. The combination would make a very rich feedbook. Students could be contributors to the feedbook via Diigo bookmarks.

Awhile back I went exploring in Amazon.com with the question, “could Amazon be an alternative to a Learning Management System?” What I wanted was a place for a learner to find community interested in a particular problem, build a portfolio of expertise and reputation, and engage in discussion. Amazon will do it and you don’t need to buy anything. Further, students would be in a position to critique traditional textbooks or to build collections of resources that could supplant a textbook with more primary sources. The only limitation I found on this idea was that the items had to be for sale by Amazon.

Collaborative Notetaking in Diigo

January 24, 2009

Notes on AAC&U Conference Jan 21-23, 2009 Seattle Wa

Higher Education conference organizers that accept a conference facility without free wireless Internet for live blogging are out of touch. The one apparently open device causes “Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.”

Gripe aside, this was an interesting meeting. The Opening Plenary set the broad context and the urgency of the problem: there is a political environment starting with No Child Left Behind and moving thru the Collegiate Learning Assessment that is rolling toward and over higher education. The higher education community needs to choose between being reactive and defensive or proactive by using innovation in self-assessment to demonstrate relevance as an offense.

I started to blog thoughts on the sessions, and decided instead to try something different. I had already Diigoed the program and started putting highlights on interesting sessions. Now I’m adding notes to the Diigoed page. If you want to read the notes, join the “CTLT and Friends” group on Diigo and go to the conference page above.

This process could work for multiple collaborators during the conference (see gripe above) and is also widely available to others.

Tag:me

November 14, 2008

I have been struggling with how to understand and implement a Web 2.0 resume. Today it came to me that I need a new Diigo tag – “me.” I’d put this tag on stuff that is mine or about me: blog posts, pages, photos, etc. Then I would be able to get an RSS of “me.” Further, I can readily share me in different resumes for different audiences by combining tags in Diigo. [The syntax looks like: http://www.diigo.com/rss/user/nils_peterson/+ ] You, the reader of “me,” can gather evidence from the forward- or backward- looking evidence of my effectiveness. I can use tags like me+reflection to mark more reflective steps in my work. Because it’s a feed of things I’m tagging, it stays as current as my tagging.

This “feed resume” is analogous to Dave Cormier’s “feed book” and it extends thinking about my blog as my portfolio or any other one space as my PLE. It serves as both a tool to present myself, and as a vehicle for a reader to walk (via Diigo) other things that I tag and other communities that tag the things I tag.

In the case of things I write that others tag, it is a way of measuring the social capital of those things (and me). See for example what is happening around this article I co-authored in JOLT. Showcasing myself is one of the things a resume purports to do.

It seems that this same thinking can be extended to “we.” In this case, the tag to use would be for my group, in this case the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology. This thinking also makes me extend my previous suggestion about the implementing a Web 2.0 organization website with the idea that we would collectively use a WSUCTLT when we are tagging us. Which clarifies a difference. I’d been thinking about our Diigo group (CTLT and Friends) as a place we’d put stuff we found interesting AND stuff by us. This “we” tag idea lets there be a clean separation. The group is a way to share stuff we find. The “we” tag is a way to build the unit’s portfolio.

Power of Me tag

Diigo-ing a page and adding the me tag becomes an invitation to say what your role is, or claim is, to the page. It lets you build a portfolio of things on the web that are otherwise not obviously yours. It also invites that you write a reflection (in your blog) about the lessons you learned in your involvement with the page you just me-tagged.

Building the Planet’s Center for Teaching and Learning

July 24, 2008

The following is an invitation to Centers of Teaching and Learning (CTL)

Preamble
We are looking at updating our website. Again.

The last revision used Oracle tools to make a site that was readily modified by the whole staff — an attempt at content management to eliminate the webmaster. It worked to an extent. We also moved some of our content into the university wiki — an invitation to the campus to contribute to our efforts. But our staff still say they can’t find the stuff they want to help our faculty.

More recently we have been thinking about Web 2.0 strategies for learning, summarized here. This has me thinking about how our CTL could be working differently. Further, I suspect that all CTLs are working on roughly the same problems — assessing learning outcomes, accreditation, large classes, integrating the newest technology, course evaluations, advancing our own professional development, etc — AND all are understaffed for the amount of one-on-one effort required.

We recently enjoyed the help of a post-doc with expertise in survey research who made a collection of public domain survey instruments, with annotations and some bibliographic references about each. We also have our own collection of course evaluation instruments and another collection of rubrics. Each is filed in its little cubby somewhere.

One of the requests for our site redesign was have fingertip access to these surveys. And make that collection available to faculty who might wish to write their own surveys using the survey tools we support.

A large amount of the work of our CTL has no need of secrecy. As a public institution none of it can really be kept secret, but discretion is often advisable around data associated with instructors and programs. Some materials we use have licenses that restrict our posting them on the web.

Sticking with the obviously public content, how do we (all the world’s CTLs) use Web 2.0 tools and Learning 2.0 strategies to collaborate on the common problems we are addressing? I recently wrote a letter of advice to a Web 2.0 Learner. It offers some clues.

The Invitation
Join us in creating the world’s CTL. You will need to work differently and think differently, but my hypothesis is that, by changing some habits, you can learn to work more effectively.

The Strategy
1. Use Google. Someone else might be working on your problem. There are multiple ways to search using Google, including Google Alerts that will run a search and email you when it finds new results (works very well for highly targeted searches). Google’s Blog search and Alerts each produce RSS. You can also get 3rd party RSS feeds of regular Google searches.

2. Teach Google. Google learns from us. (Thanks Michael) The strategies below are all about using and storing links to teach Google.

3. Use Wikipedia. Google privileges Wikipedia highly in its search results. Find your topic there. If Wikipedia knows less than you, “Be Bold.” Not everything can be in Wikipedia, use it to point to additional key resources and communities, this teaches Google and since Wikipedia is where a novice is likely to start, it invites people to your community and resources.

4. Find your community online. Join them, use their tools. Can’t find a community, create a community space. In any case, tell Wikipedia where the community is.

5. Empty everything that does not need to be private from your file cabinet, hard drive, and file server onto the web. Put everything at URLs where it will remain stable over time. If possible, put copies where your community can edit them. Tell Google by linking to these resources.

6. Bookmark online, not in your browser. Use the bookmarking tools and tags your community uses. Post information about which tags in these systems are useful in your community spaces and Wikipedia. This helps your community and it teaches Google.

7. Blog. When you have on a problem invite the world to think about it. Report your solutions, too. Make links in your blog posts to the resources you found. Keep a blog roll of resources that you find valuable. This helps you, your community and teaches Google.

8. Comment on other blogs. Provide both feedback and guidance. Add links in your comments, these teach Google.

9. Write reviews that synthesize and link several resources or your current solution. Post this review where your community can best find it, which might be your blog, your community’s space or Wikipedia.

10. Create custom Google searches. This can focus the search experience for your faculty and community. It also teaches Google.

Possible Objections
Wikipedia can’t be trusted. If the Wikipedia pages you need are wrong or are changing, garden them.

I don’t have time for this. Make this your work, not extra work

My stuff is not good enough to be online. Get over it. If you dare share it with anyone, put it online. Refine it as you go. Keep both versions, blog about what you learned and why the new version is better. This is your learning portfolio, it helps you earn credibility in your community.

I don’t have a web server. Where I can put my stuff? Use free online resources.

Proposal for our CTL Website
This discussion started from a need to revise our unit’s website. It proposed that we collectively create a planetary CTL web resource. Given the above, what should our campus CTL site contain?

As a starting hypothesis, and to be blunt, our website should contain only the things that keep our budget from being cut.

That means the site needs an Intranet where we can securely share with select members of our campus the data and reports related to our collaborations with them.

We may also need a public repository where we can dump our files online.

The site also should provide information about the problems that our unit is working on, and who the partners are in this work, and the value this work is providing to the University — what have we done for you lately? This might be a learning history or a showcase portfolio. This information should be rich in links and other clues to find more information. Some of the links should be fed into the site as RSS from the activities above.

The site should provide one-click access when that is politically valuable, but it should not strive to be an A-Z index, rather our site should have a custom Google search, and hints about what problems that search has been optimized to address.

Our site might have public resources if they are politically valuable to us, but we don’t want turn our site into a content silo, rather the preference should be to link to resources stored elsewhere. We should strive to collaborate with other units and host resources in the most appropriate places (For example, campus-centric technology help in the campus help resource. (And we should remember to make our custom Google search look there.)) We should also collaborate with our communities and put resources on off campus sites if that gives the resources more global value.

Objections
Faculty should find the resources they need by browsing our site.
Maintaining links and resources takes time. Unless having those links is protecting our budget, we should spend time on things that are more essential. Further, we are probably better off assuming (or helping) faculty use Google than being information architects. Social bookmarking is quick and has other payoffs. Feed the results of your social bookmarking to your website. Use search.

I don’t want to put our content in places we don’t control. Wikipedia is based on the hypothesis that “we are smarter than me.” Its seems to be working.

There won’t be much left on our site. So? See the hypothesis about protecting budget and political value.

Our technical and web staff won’t have jobs. Keep your staff focused on your intranet needs.