Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Extending the Ripple Effect

March 29, 2009

Recently WSU launched Ripple Effect a website that bills itself as “an easy and effective way to do enormous good with a single tangible gift for individuals, families and entire villages in developing countries.” The concept works like Heffer International, the WSU site allows visitors to buy various items (a goat, a beehive, a water pump) which are distributed by an NGO operating in Malawi, Africa.

Ripple Effect gathers financial capital
It could be extended to gather Intellectual Capital.

ThinkCycle (2001-02), as described in Nitin Shaway’s MIT doctoral thesis is an example for how to extend Ripple Effect into Intellectual Capital. The project asks “How can we create an environment that encourages distributed individuals and organizations to tackle engineering design challenges in critical problem domains? How should we design appropriate online collaboration platforms, support learning, social incentives and novel property rights to foster innovation in sustainable design? ” Cathy Davidson has coined the term “collaboration by difference” for this general idea.

A recent story in the Daily Evergreen describes WSU Engineers without Borders developing wind turbine for Africa. Their problem statement is “… to make a very cheap, reliable source of energy that won’t need a lot of maintenance.”

About five years ago, CTLT partnered to design a distance offering of Decision Science 470. The students brought problems from their lives and employment; students teams selected one problem of their peers problems to solve collectively. The results were impressive for the students and their employers.

Ripple Effect retains 19% of each donation for indirect costs. An Intellectual Capital version of Ripple Effect would also retain value for the WSU, but in a different way.

In Ripple Effect, capital is applied to problems that have already been identified and whose solution has already been chosen — the farmer without irrigation needs a pump to get water from the nearby stream. The Ripple Effect FAQ mentions that WSU students are involved, but its description is shallow. An Intellectual Capital Ripple Effect would gather problem statements, a la ThinkCycle or the Engineers without Borders, and invite a world audience to contribute expertise to developing solutions. As we learned in DecSc 470, the instructor, at the center would have visibility into problem statements, problem solutions, and other elements of the process. The instructor of DecSc 470 discovered that such access led to new ideas for his research — meta-ideas that arose from mentoring the process. These meta-ideas are equivalent to the indirect costs, a tangible benefit retained from participation in the problem-solving process.

The DecSc 470 process produced artifacts that were used to credential students in that course. Last year’s Engineers without Borders produced an electronic portfolio that could been a credentialing tool. DecSc 470 worked in a threaded discussion inside a course space. Now we might advocate the course use blogs (to recruit help a la ThinkCycle), and with that more public process, we could easily add a Harvesting Gradebook.

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,, 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 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.

After the Election – Solving the next problem

November 14, 2008

Obama for America created a large grassroots network of volunteers and now its become a football, with a struggle for who should control it. The LA Times article points at the problem of converting this insurgency to a standing army. But that’s Web 1.0 thinking. I got the email mentioned in the article from campaign manager David Plouffe asking for donations to help the DNC retire its debt. It had the caché of the Obama brand. I deleted it. Web 1.0

It sounds like the Obama organization was more Web 2.0, more like a group of cells. Communities, organized, but loosely joined. They were working on local instances of a common problem (get the Obama word out, get voters to the polls)., but they were solving that problem in ways that recognized the local context.

Rather than turn the organization over to the DNC, I’d point the organization toward working on real problems. Turn that energy to making change. Camp Obama would become Problem Identification Coach Obama. It would coach the membership in the organization in problem identification. Is the local problem hunger? Unpack that. Is it supply of food or inability to cook from staples? Unpack that. Does the supply chain fail, or isn’t there enough in the chain?

Create mechanisms for the members in the organization to organize into new cells, this time organized around problems they have found in common. Begin sharing solutions and strategies. The is working on BigDialog as a way to ask a question (or pose a problem) to Obama. There is a voting up/down mechanism, but it seems that a tagging system (where the tags are various problems) might add greater value than for organizing communities than just voting a question off the island. (not .gov) is another approach. It has some causes, and actions, and ways for people to join the causes or actions (and one assumes network into cells for action). Based on work at CTLT, I’ve suggest how to bring in formal education into the mix in ways that will make learning powerful and transform education itself.

Building the Planet’s Center for Teaching and Learning

July 24, 2008

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

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.

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.

Advice to a Web 2.0 Learner

July 24, 2008

In If you have a problem, ask everyone (CORNELIA DEAN
NYTimes, July 22, 2008) says:

“John Davis, a chemist in Bloomington, Ill., knows about concrete. For example, he knows that if you keep concrete vibrating it won’t set up before you can use it. It will still pour like a liquid.

Now he has applied that knowledge to a seemingly unrelated problem thousands of miles away. He figured out that devices that keep concrete vibrating can be adapted to keep oil in Alaskan storage tanks from freezing.”

The idea in this article is that by gathering other perspectives, diverse ones, it is possible to solve problems that you could not solve yourself from your perspective. This is analogous to the story on 60 minutes about the inventor with a new approach to treating cancer.

Palouse Prairie School was awarded a charter to open in 2009 using the Expeditionary Learning (EL) model. Pupils will work on integrated problems (metaphorical expeditions into unknown territories to solve a real problem and perform a community service [the philosophy behind Expeditionary Learning, a trade name, has its origins in Outward Bound Expeditions]).

So where does “ask everyone” play in an EL elementary school? The pupils need to gather perspectives to work on their problems. Perspectives will enrich their learning. And enhance their problem solving.

The strategy for gathering perspective may be as simple as taking the problem home to the dinner table, “Mom, how can you help my class think about this problem?” or more sophisticated, by posting the problem on the Internet.

In the latter case, a Web 2.0 strategy is important. How can a school child hope to get help from some stranger somewhere in the world? 1. By linking to others (especially the way blogs do, called ‘trackback’), 2. by using key terms that Google will recognize, and 3. by having a ‘reputation’ to raise the rank of the student’s post in Google’s results.

Tracking back gains attention from a specific person. Its part of a process of saying ‘I read your stuff’ which is the kind of flattery that might get someone else to read you.

Reputation is earned, by being linked by others, which means, by doing or saying something worthwhile.

Tracking back takes thoughtful reading. Being linked takes saying something worthy of another’s mentioning. Both skills are, I think, desirable in a 21st century learner.

If a school had a blog, and it engaged the world thoughtfully with that blog, and friends of the school started linking to the blog posts because the ideas were worthwhile, the reputation of the blog would rise, and the potential of gaining help on a problem (ask everyone) would increase as well. (Not that you make a blog post and wait — you need to be active, finding a community that you think can help and engaging it.)

How does this work? I took the title of the NYTimes article and stuck it into Google and found that Cathy Davidson had responded to the NYTimes with a blog post on participatory learning. Having found Cathy and HASTAC blog, I had also found the term ‘participatory learning’ which has some interesting Google results but no Wikipedia entry.

Were children working on a problem, and found nothing in Wikipedia, that would be a prompt to create the page, even just a “stub page” in Wikipedia terms. A Wikipedia page serves as high ground (in a Google search sense) for the concept and from that page one hopes to find links to key resources and communities, perhaps even ones created by the students. Here are more ideas on how to think about wikis for learning.

The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology at WSU has been thinking about how to use some of these ideas to transform University education. We are asking how to help students engage the world in authentic assessment of the student’s work. I can point to examples like 17 year-old George Hotz hacking the iPhone (for my purposes the hack is less important than the blog where he shared the blow-by-blow problem solving and got help) and Margo Tamez who, along with her Apache Nation in Texas, is taking on US homeland security over the idea of a border wall with Mexico. I think these ideas can be brought down to the level of the elementary school and challenge children to engage in authentic problems in a global context.

In Wikipedia they don’t care about your credentials

July 14, 2008

In Wikipedia your contribution can be respected even if you are anonymous. The Wikipedia community works because it has a set of public criteria used by the community (and debated within the community) for judging all work. For example, there is a policy around deletion of pages and procedures for implementing it.

In thinking about transforming the grade book, I am concluding that we have reduced the teaching and learning proposition to one core idea: the public presentation of evaluation criteria, the public application of the criteria to a given learner’s work, and a public means for the criteria and their application to be negotiated by a community over time.

I think this is what Stephen Downes is saying in Open Source Assessment, you don’t need a curriculum created by experts, you need this core tool, the assessment.

But, key to making this work is to directly assess what you want learners to be doing. If you use an indirect measure, like a standardized multiple choice exam, what you will get is learners who master that test but may not have the skills and knowledge that are actually desired. Patricia Cross suggests that what you measure and value is what you will get more of from learners.

And, once you have your assessment underway, you need to constantly redefine it by holding the results up against what you would like to have happening. The key is not how well students do on our exams, its how well the exams promote what we want students to do.

Role for Novices in helping Experts

January 2, 2008

Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike – New York Times

Published: December 30, 2007

IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.

Points at an interesting idea, I’ve yet to get the Made to Stick book and look more deeply, but the role of the ‘transient “zero-gravity thinker”’ (an outsider) in causing experts to slow down, explain and in the process examine their knowledge and assumptions, is interesting. We have been talking about communities and how the novice moves from the edge to the center of a community as expertise is gained. That view is hierarchical, the goal is expert status and novices are not viewed as a resource to expertise. This review gives a different perspective, novices play a role that is helpful to experts, breaking them out of the myopia of their expertise. This makes the expert-novice relation within a community dialogic and mutually dependent.

It connects to ideas of ecosystem, where monocultures are less stable and productive than diverse native systems.

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.

eLearning 2.0 Talk for Educause

September 17, 2007

We (Ashley Ater-Kranov, Theron DesRosier, Jayme Jacobson and I) just put in a proposal for the Educause Learning Initiative 2008 Annual Meeting: Connecting and Reflecting: Preparing Learners for Life 2.0, January 28–30, 2008 San Antonio, Texas.

Our proposal is “ePortfolio 2.0: expanding our views of portfolio”

Abstract (50 words max)

George Hotz’ blog chronicling his iPhone hack demonstrates students can collaborate world-wide and create portfolios that make learning visible. Our research suggests students and faculty are equally adept at giving criteria-based feedback. Portfolios capturing learning process combined with criteria-based feedback have implications for teachers, course design and LMS platforms.

Research Results

Ater-Kranov, Ashley and T. Desrosier. Raising the Bar: Communicating High Expectations and Getting Results. Poster. Washington State University Academic Showcase March 2007.

Cho, Yoon Jung, A Ater-Kranov, and G Brown. Faculty Attitudes about ePortfoios: A study for the National Coalition for ePortfolio Research. Poster. Washington State University Academic Showcase March 2007.

Hotz, George. Finding JTAG on the iPhone. Blog. accessed Sept 10, 2007

WSU ePortfolio Contest. Making Learning Visible. Website. accessed Sept 10, 2007

Session Focus

Portfolios have been used in several ways beyond being showcase of best work, including documentation of learning growth and for personal reflection. In the Spring of 2007, the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology at Washington State University hosted an ePortfolio contest that asked students to document their learning growth. The result was a rich array of evidence of learning, and a wide range of portfolio documentation.

More simply, a blog can be understood to be a learning journal, and with suitable summary posts, might serve as a portfolio. George Hotz blog of the hack of the iPhone is one example that illustrates one person’s informal but substantial learning journey enhanced by a collaborative community.

Personal Learning Environments (PLE) integrate both formal and informal learning episodes into a single experience and often have a blog at their heart around which the user assembles a range of resources and systems to create a personally-managed space.

To the extent that users open their PLE space for inspection by others it becomes a multi-faceted journal that makes learning processes and outcomes visible. When the user presents that log of learning evidence the PLE becomes an extended portfolio view.

A key facet of the blog or PLE is that the user seeks critical feedback and collaboration on their learning objectives, which typically involves the creation of social networks that cross institutional boundaries and are intended to place the learner at the central node in a learning community. We have evidence that demonstrates that students are at least as adept at faculty at providing criteria-based feedback, which opens the potential that giving of critical feedback can be scaled much larger than what faculty alone can provide.

This presentation will explore the blurring of the lines between portfolio, blog and personal learning environments and a parallel blurring between novice and expert feedback when novice feedback is appropriately scaffoled and guided. We will invite participants to join in the exploration and the implications they have for teachers, course design, assessment of learning, and IT planning around LMS and other supporting tools.

We are going to be working on this (sketchy) proposal for Active Learning Strategies in the session and welcome feedback:

The audience will collaborate in an analysis and deconstruction George Hotz’ blog (ne portfolio) of the hack of the iPhone. Then the audience will participate in a collaborative criteria-based rating. Audience data about itself will be shared and discussed within the threads of the presentation. Following the session, the audience data will be posed for later review by the audience and others.

Global Cultural Competencies Include Internet Culture

August 16, 2007

On Aug 15, the Pullman-Moscow Daily News ran the editorial below referring to WSU’s John Gardner and aligning WSU priorities with the economic goals of the state. Without citing it, they seemed to be generally responding to his blog post Universities and Economic Development.

Its nice that the local paper has decided to enter the conversation with the Vice President about university priorities, but given the goal of WSU’s President Floyd for increased Global Cultural Competencies, I think a little conversation about Internet Culture is in order.

Dr Gardner has begun to explore the role of blogging in the leadership of a major university. His blog has RSS and is open for comments (create an free account) and trackback, all signs of understanding Blogging Culture. The Daily News went online several years ago, but unlike global citizen The New York Times, the Daily News keeps it content, including its editorials, behind a login available only to paying subscribers. Comments are allowed (by subscribers), but there is no trackback or RSS. And unlike Dr. Gardner, the Daily News does not include links in its online content. Dr. Gardner is exploring what it means to be a node in an online conversation; the Daily News is acting like a broadcaster with proprietary content, a cultural faux paux in a read-write Web 2.0 world. (see Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, We Media, (PDF) pg 57)

What I’d like to see on Dr. Gardner’s blog, a next step in acculturation, would be context, in the form of a blog roll. Who is he reading? Who provides the context from which his thinking springs. This is different from linking from within a post, where we see Dr Gardner’s synthetic thinking. I should blog roll better in my own blog, but, for example I point to Stephen Downes as a thinker I read on topics related to Web 2.0 and eLearning.

Reproduced for the benefit of furthering the conversation, the editorial appearing in Daily News 8/15/07 (login required)

OUR VIEW: WSU right to align its goals with those of state

BY Steve McClure, for the editorial board

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 – Page Updated at 12:00:00 AM

Nimble usually isn’t a word associated with universities. The procedures that drive institutions of higher education largely dictate that new initiatives and massive changes in direction take a little bit of time.

That will be one of the challenges confronting Washington State University’s new vice president for economic development.

John Gardner arrives from the University of Missouri with the task of aligning the university’s priorities with the economic goals of the state.

That’s a noble goal, and one universities in general should be mindful of.

Universities are a major component of economic development and economic success. In addition to providing a well-rounded education in the liberal arts, college graduates will be entering the work force at some point. Most graduate with the expectation that the skills they picked up in college will provide them with a leg up when it comes to employment.

At the same time, private businesses that support higher education through tax dollars should be able to expect the state’s universities to provide an educated work force. That hope is amplified by the need for a workforce educated in the skills employers are looking for.

If Washington needs nurses – and it does – that should be a skill available at colleges and universities. If economic forecasters are predicting a huge need for computer software engineers in the next five years, universities should be flexible enough to provide a pretty good chunk of home-grown talent.

Washington State doesn’t need to get into the business of providing a degree that only works at one company, but it should be dynamic enough that it can look into its crystal ball and anticipate the careers of tomorrow – and the skills students will be looking for when they complete their degrees.

Gardner already recognizes the initial challenge. His next hurdle will be implementing the changes within the university. We wish him luck.