Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Badge System Design

July 21, 2011

POST-it Notes from P2PU Badges Mtg II (July 18-19)

In the agenda building process, Post-it notes were grouped by the participants into clusters and the clusters given titles. Two of those clusters are reproduced here as they may shed light on design questions or framework ideas for an upcoming white paper funded in part by Hewlett Foundation via P2PU
Nils Peterson editoral comments made while posting these notes are show in [ ]
  • How to learn from mistakes of educatational games. Build on theoritical framework instead of trying things in a hit or miss fashion
  • What are the types of “power ups” that getting badges can unlock? ie. teach a topic
  • Define the informal learning space where badges can play a role for identity, process, participation, achievement, etc.
  • Foreground the educational outcomes over the technical whizbangs.
  • How can others learn from your badges?
  • What can badges tell us about who we want to be (model identities)?
  • How do I see patterns in other people’s careers [badge collections]? How do I learn from that?
  • Is the assessment [criteria] public?
  • Is displaying evidence for obtaining a badge is optional? [seeing the evidence could be useful to other learners]
  • [Badges should be] Pedagogically agnostic: but can there be values? [Possible values might be:] Language and culture, building the tools, and building the community.
  • Are there different badge considerations for different ages? How can one sytem support life-long learning?
  • Are we scoping badges just in the learning and EDU context?
This heading was also the topic of a breakout session. The original post-its were augmented with new ones and organized into a structure
Guiding Questions:
  • What makes a good badge system?
  • How do you know if you have a good badge system?
Responses were classified into 4 groups. Group #1 was giving higher weighting
Group #1
  • Learning objectives are being met
  • How are assessment criteria made public?
  • Do peers learn from doing assessments?
  • Does system record what learner is =NOT= good at doing?
  • What to do with “failed” applications for badges
Group #2
  • Is the system used for long periods in [the learner’s] life?
  • Does user advertise their badges in Facebook, etc?
  • Do learners participate voluntarily?
Group #3
  • Does the system have a user community?
  • Does it have learners using it?
  • Does it have robust assessors?
  • Is awarding of badges automatic or does it require human judgement?
  • Why will peers assess each other well? [assumes system facilitates peer assessment]
  • Are badges better to mark a learning process completed or an assessment passed?
  • [Does the Community reflect on the utility of the assessments?]
Group #4
  • Has robust assessment instruments/ criteria
  • How to assess the system without distrubing it == Portfolio==

Unconference Mechanics

July 19, 2011

I just spent 2 days at a meeting hosted by P2PU to talk about badge systems.

The meeting used some “unconference” techniques. One activity, early on, was to work in pairs and create Post-it notes with a question, or statement, about badges, e.g., “allow badges to operate as reputation currency.” People were encouraged to generate as many stickies as they wanted. Each team had a different color stack of stickies.

Stickies were posted, randomly, on a wall (photo 1) and then during a break, the group read them and lumped them into groups and gave each of those groupings of post-its a title, e.g., “Badge Discoverablilty” (photo 2)

Later the first afternoon the conference organizers picked 3 of the groupings and invited the audience to divide itself among the 3 topics, nominating a facilitator for each.

On the second day, the organizers posted a grid (rooms and times) (photo 3) and posted a few events into the structure and invited others to post events (which were drawn from the groupings from the previous day). This formed the agenda of sessions for the 2nd day.


SODO Moscow web strategy

December 26, 2010

At the urging of Karen Lewis (“you need a web page”) and after checking around and having the real estate broker alert the property owner, I launched SODO Moscow site. You can learn more about SODO there. This post is a place to pull together my web strategy thinking.

Karen’s suggestion to work in public fit what I had been learning at WSU in my work with student ePortfolios (see Learning Portfolio Strategy: Be Public). Another part of working in public is to work where the community interested in your problem is already working. For this project, Facebook seemed a logical place. I created a FB group SODO Moscow after exploring the idea of creating a new FB account and using its personal page or creating a FB page. I choose the group approach because it seemed to allow its members the most equal footing in a collaborative space.

One of the things we learned at CTLT was that a learner’s portfolio needs to deliberately build “Google Juice” around its problem to attract a community of collaborators (why else work in public?). The decision to use Facebook worked against gaining Google Juice, because Facebook is a private island that Google does not index. The SODO Moscow blog in Blogger was chosen as a Google friendly place to be the public anchor for the project.

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. embedded in their web page. I used @nilspeterson as a search and it says there isn’t a cloud. 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 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. 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 First attempt with it does not seem to work.

Candidates 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(“”).  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.

I’m in the clouds

April 14, 2010

Moving from a laptop to the iPad is moving me into the cloud. The iPad is not a local storage device, so I don’t create documents there. I create them here, on the web, which means I’m naturally more focused on creating for the web.

This realization, and a conversation today about how to organize our office study group (aka Design Circle) has me re-reading my previous post (a manifesto) for changing our unit’s web strategy.

Our study group met today to look at Gary’s summary of the three broad strands of the curriculum we invented for ourselves two weeks ago. Gary suggested that we each might study within the three strands differently, or with different emphasis.  In addition to the topical strands, we discussed a “course question” We didn’t nail down one question today. Perhaps with more time we can, or perhaps we should not, preferring instead to have personal questions that overlap, much as our roles and interests are personal but overlapping. And with our course questions in hand, what products do we anticipate creating as evidence of our learning accomplishments? Again, these are likely to be individual or small team. For example, Gary and I need to create a presentation for a conference April 28. And how will we assess our evidence of learning?

Thinking about our study group, and the different member’s differing needs/desires/strategies for storing and sharing documents, I concluded that we are (or need to be) embarking on creating our Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) rather than a singular unit resource.

But that makes a new problem, if we are a group of individuals, how do we do something as a collective unit? We probably also need a unit resource where we post to the web our various learning products.

A common store could hold our work products, but what about our reading lists and recommended readings. We already have a group in Diigo for sharing bookmarks. I get a digest from there of what others have bookmarked, but have not gotten systematic at re-Diigo-ing the items that ring my chimes. The result is I’ve read something, but I can’t find it, so I can’t recommend and share it.

But I could re-Diigo (like Re-Tweet) the links I read and value, and that would have an interesting effect, we’d know when several people valued the same item:

A Diigo Bookmark

This is the information about a bookmark in Diigo. Note that 3 people have saved this link.

This way we can find our own stuff, organized the way we want to tag it, but we can also learn of one another and our overlapping reading interests:

Three people bookmarked and tagged this linkWho is George? I might want to follow him, or look at other things he tags as “Teaching Innovation.”

I also am guessing that we could combine the RSS from several Diigo users so that the common items (those with more than one “vote”) come through a filter. This would make a means to vote on the most important readings and a way to “de-clutter” the recommended readings that we are collectively sharing out.

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

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?

Learning in a Community of Angels

October 30, 2009
Prepared for presentation to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse
November 1, 2009

I want to start by thanking Jayme Jacobson and Eric Wegner for collaborating with me to create this service.

Today I’m going to share a personal reflection that weaves together two stories in my life. One story is the process to charter and open Palouse Prairie School. The other story is from the work I do at WSU, exploring how technology is impacting learning.

There is a place at the end of the program today for your response, but, in keeping with my WSU explorations, the text of my talk is also posted in my blog where you can comment. I’ll get back to why I blog.

The title today comes from a comment made by one of the Charter School Commissioners after Palouse Prairie’s first visit to the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, in April 2007. The Commission had sent us away to work on our facility and budget plans. This Commissioner took me aside at a break and said, “You need an angel.”

Driving back from Boise, I realized that I had failed to ask him what an angel was, and more importantly, how to get one.

I think I know now what he meant by angel, in the sense of a financial angel or venture capitalist. Someone who would sweep in and solve the school’s financial problems. Such a person may yet exist for Palouse Prairie School, but in 2007 I didn’t know how to find an angel and so I needed to solve the school’s problem another way. What I found is a community of angels.

The opposite of a community of angels is the story of the little red hen. Wikipedia summarizes the story as: Hen wants to make some bread and she asks the animals which of them will help sow the seed. At each stage, sowing, harvesting, threshing, grinding and baking the other animals decline to help Hen. In the end Hen does not share the bread with the farm animals.

The story is used to teach the virtues of the work ethic and personal initiative. As you will see, I don’t think Hen lives in a community as I value it.

The virtue I would teach children is that of a participatory gift economy, a community created of gift giving.

Wikipedia again. “A gift economy … is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists)….[R]ecurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within the community.”

Another aspect of the Hen story, that I’ve only recently considered, is that Hen knows how to solve her problem. Its a well-defined problem that just requires executing a series of steps.

Despite the three inch manual from the Idaho Department of Education, starting a Charter school is not just executing a series of steps.

Solving the School’s problem brings me to the other thread in this story. Solving a problem is the context for learning.

Teachers know this, which is why they set problems for students. Some problems have answers in the back of the book, other problems are more ill-defined and set in larger contexts. For example, we see university students working on class projects in our community: designing, analyzing, planning.

Expeditionary Learning would call these challenging problems an exploration into an unknown territory, where the challenge of traversing the territory becomes the teacher.

What I have come to appreciate is the role of community in giving gifts needed to help solve ill-defined problems. Some of these gifts are monetary, but importantly, many are not. Some are skills. Some are enthusiasm and joining into the collective doing. Some are gifts of teaching and learning.

I am calling the people who give these gifts the “small angels” who continue to help Palouse Prairie School.

My title today is “Learning in a Community of Angels” because my joy comes from discovering a personal understanding of a community willing to contribute to my learning (our learning) along the road to solving a problem. This goes beyond my previous experience with community, the joy that comes from communal effort toward a common task.  I’ve shared that joy with some of you at a barn raising.

Styer Barn Raising (mid-lift)

I now see Community is a learning resource. The angels (and there are many) are the people who make up the community.

They have gifts to share, if you can learn to frame or re-frame your problem in ways that they can contribute.

Rather than finding a big angel to solve the school’s problem, what I am learning is to value the gifts from small angels.

But working with small angels requires setting up contexts in which gifts can be given. It involves working on your problem in public, telling your story, and then listening for the (sometimes unexpected) gifts. The gifts often come as teaching. It may be the introduction to another person and some hidden talent they have, or an introduction to a idea and its application. The key is to be open, and to accept a variety of help — to participate in what Cathy Davidson calls Collaboration by Difference — and let the community find the answer. We (not I) started Palouse Prairie School, and we, a collaborative community, are learning to make it thrive.

I cited Wikipedia above. Wikipedia is an example of the work of many small angels. Jimmy Wales had the idea of getting an encyclopedia into the hands of every person on earth. To do so, he needed one that was very cheap. He needed volunteer experts to write it. Today Wikipedia has 1.74 billion words in 9.25 million articles in about 250 languages; 25 times the size of Britannica and growing. But size, or arguments about quality, are not my point here, rather, Wikipedia cleverly presents an invitation for small angels, with different purposes, knowledge, and goals, to collaborate toward a grand vision (even if they do not know or share the vision). Wikipedia is a Collaboration by Difference.

Above, I said that I have blogged this sermon. I blog because of what I learned from George Hotz, the teenager who hacked the Apple iPhone. Hotz had a problem that required he defeat the corporate goals of Apple and AT&T to use his iPhone on the Sprint network. He blogged daily his steps in the process. Not in a vain-glorious way, but to elicit help from angels around the world. And the angels came, and commented in his blog, and provided money and other resources. Hotz’s strategy to work in public and learn from a community enabled him to solve his chosen problem.

I welcome your comments today (or in my blog) in the same spirit, as gifts toward our shared learning.

The joy I am sharing with you is one of community. Community created by a gift economy.

Able to learn.  Able to take collective action.

In the opening words for today, by John Seely Brown, “We participate, therefore we are.” I want to encourage your giving, your learning, your collaboration, your making of our community.

Months ago, when I proposed the topic of this talk, I had no thought that it would land in the middle of the UUCP pledge process. But I am happy that it does.

I want to encourage you to join me in your willingness to give, monetary and otherwise, that creates this community of shared religious dialog. I want to encourage your giving that creates this community of Moscow.

I am sharing my joy of experiencing and coming to understand that community is built not of our co-location, but of our gifts to one another.

Gifts of sustenance or succor.

Gifts of cooperation.

Gifts of collective action and gifts of learning.

Different conversations about what is important

July 16, 2009

In IJ-SoTL – A Method for Collaboratively Developing and Validating a Rubric Allen and Knight discuss their experience validating a rubric with two groups: faculty and industry professionals. They report:

Faculty weights differed markedly from the professionals’ results [see table 4 in the article]. Faculty considered category 2 (In the headline/lead combination, Is the message clear and compelling?) and category 4 (Does the news release use a convincing journalistic style?) the most important. Categories 1 and 5 received the lowest weighting.

We have seen similar results in a course where we asked a group of faculty and a group of industry professionals to rate student work and also to rate the assignment used to assess the student work.

In both examples, the faculty seem more focused on formalisms and the professionals on the aspects of the task that lead to practical success.

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 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 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?