Archive for the ‘Global Competency’ Category

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.

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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.

A Global Online Land-Grant University?

July 3, 2008

Awhile back I stumbled on Ken Udas as I was exploring some thinking that John Gardner at WSU is also doing — what is the role of a land grant university in this century. Udas asks:

My experience suggests that western textbooks carry too big a price tag. How would we localize the learning environment and content? Would the organizational model be a network or a centralized institution?

I would answer that the localization would come from choosing authentic problems and assessments local to the learner’s context. Doing so moves the design of the course away from textbooks, and towards learner-collected sets of resources. Dave Cormier’s Feedbook proposes that the course “text” would be assembled from a collection of RSS feeds. This makes the text current and social and encourages that the learner interact with the community. Engaging community is to me at the heart of the land grant mission.

Part of the rejoinder to Virtual Worlds

November 9, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

How are we changing teaching in light of digital tools?

October 19, 2007

Digital Ethnography wiki asks:

What are we DOING to change how we are teaching? If you have any great examples of how you have changed up your classroom (or “classroom”) in ways that are more in tune with the information environment in which we all now exist, please comment. I am looking for examples that span all the possibilities

This is the group lead by Micheal Wesch that has created a series of provocative videos including:

So Wesch and company asks us “what we are DOING to change how we are teaching” and I want to rephrase the question to talk about learning — because the “Vision of students today” video really suggests that the learners and the learning are contextualized differently.

By way of answer, I’d point to these pieces of CTLT work (in no particular order):

What do you think? Am I on the right track to shift Wesch’s focus from Teaching to Learning? Am I missing examples, or are these unclear?

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. http://iphonejtag.blogspot.com/ accessed Sept 10, 2007

WSU ePortfolio Contest. Making Learning Visible. Website. http://ctlt.wsu.edu/eportgallery 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.

Daily News — moving toward Web 2.0

September 15, 2007

In today’s 9/15-16 paper Steve McClure has a piece asking for thoughts about online commenting (which has been in place at the DNews for awhile now). This seems to be part of the slow flirtation the DNews is having with becoming a Web 2.0 player (perhaps learning from the New York Times).The DNews now sports a discrete link “RSS” that goes to a page of RSS feeds. They render in Firefox and Safari, but when you try to follow the “more…” link, you need to log in. Which is probably why they don’t work in the Sage plugin to Firefox.

So in reply to Steve’s commentary (you’ll need to log in):

  1. Make the local content public, remove those logins.
  2. I agree with Mark Solomon, require an identity to comment, one identity/user
  3. Allow trackback from blogs as an alternative way to comment.
  4. Link to stuff in your online editions, and implement ping/trackback so when you link to other blogs, your pieces appear as comments there.

As you pursue this exploration, keep in contact with your News counterparts at WSU who interested in creating “Global WSU” and are beginning to look into “Global Internet Competencies,” like blogging by top administrators as vehicles to keep administration connected to employees and other constituents.

Open Source Assessment and iPhone Hacking

August 31, 2007

In Half an Hour: Open Source Assessment Stephen Downes wrote:

What we can expect in an open system of assessment is that achievement will be in some way ‘recognized’ by a community. This removes assessment from the hands of ‘experts’ who continue to ‘measure’ achievement. And it places assessment into the hands of the wider community. Individuals will be accorded credentials as they are recognized, by the community, to deserve them.

We have been talking quite a bit the last few days about George Hotz and his iPhone blog.

The important piece in our conversations is that its easy to ‘recognize’ Hotz’ achievement (and a wide community has), and in the way he structured his blog, its easy to ‘recognize’ that he is a thoughtful and collaborative worker, these last two skills being important traits for employers, and his portfolio an interesting example of how students might demonstrate these global competencies in authentic project-based learning.

Worldware ePortfolios as tools for educational entrepreneurs

August 21, 2007

Recently John Gardner posted some thoughts on Entre/Intrapreneurs, and what roles especially they play in a university. This sent me to looking for the blog of Clayton Christensen author of Innovator’s Dilemma. What I found was not specifically Christensen’s blog, but an interesting group blog from his consulting organization. I added that to my blog roll because I’ve found ideas in the book shape my thinking about trends around me at Washington State University.

For example, I’ve been thinking about Innovator’s Dilemma in the context of BlackBoard Course Management System and alternatives that may exist to that (increasingly expensive) tool. Alex Slawsby’s post gives me some further insights in applying the ideas of “interdependency” and “modularity” that I think play well with my own Web 2.0 and ePortfolio thinking.

BlackBoard is an “interdependent” system (if I understand Slawsby), with many tightly linked modules. This produces an internally efficient product, but at a cost to the customer. We (WSU) the customer are looking for alternatives that are “good enough” and at lower price points. SharePoint 2007 looks to meet that goal. It also is an interdependent system, but less specialized, it is a collaboration tool used in many business settings. As a course management system, it does not have all the features of BlackBoard, but many faculty don’t use most of the features, so SharePoint may be “good enough.” And for the University, which can amortize the cost of SharePoint over many other collaborative uses, it might be at a lower price point as well. Ehrmann calls tools like SharePoint, developed for other markets and applied to education, Worldware, and argues that they deserve special consideration for being both valuable and viable.

In a previous post, Slawsby discussed a potentially more disruptive, and more modular approach than even SharePoint to challenge BlackBoard’s CMS — online services offering free storage or other free resources (eg Google Docs). These ideas begin to beg the question, what part of the instructional IT should be outsourced completely?

I would have previously said that the University can’t outsource its instructional applications, because the University needs to manage the identity (the login ID) of its students — because it has scores and grades tied to those student identities. I would have said, “You can’t have a student just using Blogger, how would you know who they were or that the work was authentically theirs?”

Enter the student, who is increasingly “swirling” (taking courses from two or more educational institutions concurrently). The student is treating the university programs as modules (Slawsby’s term), mixing and matching courses to make independently concocted programs. The student may use one institution as a home base, bringing in credits toward a degree, or may be jumping around, ultimately looking for someone to credential the melange.

I recently wrote about an electronic portfolio as the core learning platform. In that thinking, the portfolio serves as the place to present to a specific audience the collection of learning experiences and the value and meaning that come from those experiences. Those experiences are probably not test scores or even a transcript, but more authentic products of learning, work, and avocational activities. Such a portfolio should not be a broadcast, but more like a blog, be open to comment, a place for the learner to present her current state of thinking and seek input to evolve understanding.

Which brings me back to my interest in Dr. Gardner’s post on Entre/Intrapeneurship in the University. He says, “It [entre/ intrapreneurship] must be embedded in our WSU culture and our curriculum.” Given that swirling students are already acting like educational entrepreneurs, and Google continues to move in directions that allow those students the potential outsourcing of elements of our instructional IT, I think the time for Dr Gardner’s conversation has already arrived.