Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

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.

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Common Reading & Open Learning Communities

May 28, 2009

Thanks Bill Marler for your offer to support Washington State University’s Common Reading program after it got caught in a recent controversy regarding the book Omnivore’s Dilemma. See also developing Facebook action related to the topic.

From his blog, I can tell Marler has some appreciation of Web 2.0 as a life-long collaboration and learning strategy. This whole event is an example of how having a curriculum open to community review can improve learning outcomes. Searching in Google for “WSU Common Reading” shows that the event lit up a problem-solving community with multiple perspectives but overlapping interests in this topic; a community that produced the resources to sustain a learning opportunity.

WSU’s Center for Teaching Learning and Technology has been exploring how to help students learn in, from, and with such communities with projects like the Microsoft co-funded ePortfolio Contest. A variety of lessons can be learned from that project, including thoughts on how to transform the traditional gradebook by extending the idea of grading out into the community and making it a process for collecting community feedback on student work, AND the assignments that created the work, AND the program goals that shaped the assignments. I think this represents the way WSU needs to move forward with a Global Campus concept.

A lesson in driving up readership

May 5, 2009

On Friday, April 24 the Chronicle’s Wired Campus ran an item on the failure of U. of Michigan’s Online Teaching-Evaluation System. The article was hot news because of the scale of the player and the scale of the failure. I posted this comment near midnight Sunday, April 26:

My comment on the article

This drove a large spike in readership of the associated resources on April 27.

Page views for WSUCTLT blog

And examining how readers got to the site we see they came from several related pages in the Wired Campus article.

pages that referred to WSUCTLT

which brought readers to these pages

pages viewed as a result of the comment

Building an advocacy action community

April 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Seattle PI switch marks the start of a new era

March 17, 2009

This item on the Seattle P-I website regarding the new era of online-only P-I has me thinking about the piece I recently read by Clay Shirky on the fate of newspapers.

Toward the end he posits the idea of using amateurs as part of the strategy. Perhaps this is a stringer approach. A number of comments on the P-I story are suggesting they not just copy the wire, the editors need to consider how to value-add to the wire, for example, with an original story that links to the wire and places it into local contexts.

There is an abundance of information out there, filtering, linking and contextualizing it could give it value. I’d suggest the P-I might also want to explore Yahoo Pipes and other RSS aggregators — either to feed to the page or to feed to editors who then write and link.

PS. Following this post I read Steven Berlin Johnson on changing newspaper strategies who suggests:

In fact, I think in the long run, we’re going to look back at many facets of old media and realize that we were living in a desert disguised as a rain forest. Local news may be the best example of this. When people talk about the civic damage that a community suffers by losing its newspaper, one of the key things that people point to is the loss of local news coverage. But I suspect in ten years, when we look back at traditional local coverage, it will look much more like MacWorld circa 1987. I adore the City section of the New York Times, but every Sunday when I pick it up, there are only three or four stories in the whole section that I find interesting or relevant to my life – out of probably twenty stories total. And yet every week in my neighborhood there are easily twenty stories that I would be interested in reading: a mugging three blocks from my house; a new deli opening; a house sale; the baseball team at my kid’s school winning a big game. The New York Times can’t cover those things in a print paper not because of some journalistic failing on their part, but rather because the economics are all wrong: there are only a few thousand people potentially interested in those news events, in a city of 8 million people. There are metro area stories that matter to everyone in a city: mayoral races, school cuts, big snowstorms. But most of what we care about in our local experience lives in the long tail. We’ve never thought of it as a failing of the newspaper that its metro section didn’t report on a deli closing, because it wasn’t even conceivable that a big centralized paper could cover an event with such a small radius of interest.

Web 2.0 and Textbooks

February 25, 2009

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

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

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

Tag:me

November 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

Power of Me tag

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

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 eCitizenFoundation.org 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. Change.org (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.

Implementing Obama’s 100 Hours of Service Plan

November 10, 2008

At the Obama/Biden transition site, Change.gov, there is description of a universal voluntary service plan. This includes an idea to “establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that is worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year.” And a goal to expand service-learning in the nation’s schools with “a goal that all middle and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year.”

That sounds exciting, but the downside in fraud and corruption is easy to see. To see the problem, look at who can certify my 100 hours of service to the Feds for my tax credit and what I might be doing for them to earn that certification. Beyond those limitations, where is the motivation for the 101’st hour of service? Where is the motivation to quality service? How does this service get leveraged into even greater gains?

Its still a great idea and there is a simple, and powerful, extension to it. We have been pointing at examples, and building some ourselves (see below). It requires a partnership between the school (its teachers and curriculum), the problem being addressed, and the community in which the problem is situated. Here is an example of real problem solving in service to community in a high school in Minneapolis, MN. Expeditionary Learning Schools/ Outward Bound are consulting with schools along similar lines.

For example, a school could set a goal to harness the interests and expertise of the school’s community (students, staff, parents and alumni) to address real world problems encountered by communities both locally and globally. Its curriculum would be designed to collaborate with community members – institutional, local, or global – to identify a problem, explore solutions, develop a plan, and then take steps toward implementing that plan. Students would engage these challenges as service learning. The outcomes of their work would be readily documentable using ideas like Gary Brown’s Harvesting Gradebook. But more than just documenting the student work, the process would have transformative impacts on the educational institution also, far more profound than the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) or the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standardized testing.

The importance of this strategy is its immediacy. It can be launched rapidly (its already started), it can target needs in communities without a large bureaucracy to decide what the needs are. It can tap local resources and world resources at the same time. It scales well.

Examples

Harvard Program in Networked Governance “The traditional notion of hierarchical, top down, government has always been an imperfect match for the decentralized governance system of the US. However, much of what government does requires co-production of policy among agencies that have no formal authority over each other, fundamentally undermining the traditional Weberian image of bureaucracy.”

United Nations Volunteers “The paper argues that volunteering, like social activism, can be purposeful and change-orientated. Volunteering can be directed at influencing agenda-setting, policy-making, decision-making and representation, and is also an important mechanism for promoting empowerment, personal transformation and social inclusion.

The paper also highlights the complementary and supporting roles that volunteering and activism play in fostering participation. For example, social activism plays an important role in providing leadership, defining areas for engagement and mobilising individuals.”

EDUCAUSE Tower and the Cloud “The emergence of the networked information economy is unleashing two powerful forces. On one hand, easy access to high-speed networks is empowering individuals. People can now discover and consume information resources and services globally from their homes. Further, new social computing approaches are inviting people to share in the creation and edification of information on the Internet. Empowerment of the individual — or consumerization — is reducing the individual’s reliance on traditional brick-and-mortar institutions in favor of new and emerging virtual ones.

Land Grant 2.0 “Dramatic shifts in the economy associated with the rise of globalism call into question the traditional ways in which land-grant institutions have defined their roles in contributing to economic and social well-being. Since the assets most needed for global economic viability – a base of innovation, talented people, and ubiquitous connectivity – are core strengths of universities, it is fair to ask how these institutions can more holistically engage with economically distressed regions to build critical innovation economy competencies.” see also University of Illinois Global campus.

WSU ePortfolio Contest “The goal of the 2007 – 08 WSU ePortfolio Contest was to harness the interests and expertise of the WSU community to address real world problems encountered by communities both locally and globally. It called upon contestants to collaborate with community members – institutional, local, or global – to identify a problem, explore solutions, develop a plan, and then take steps toward implementing that plan.” See also specific winners: Margo Tamez, Kayafungo Women’s Water Project

ThinkCycle This is the thesis to study the (now-defunct) ThinkCycle project exploring “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?” This concept can be broadened out beyond the engineering domain to other problem domains. An example is National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, that says of itself, “The NCIIA works with colleges and universities to build collaborative experiential learning programs that help nurture a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs with strong technical and business skills and the tools and intention to make the world a better place.”

A final example is Talia Leman, at age 10 organized fund raising for Katrina relief, and has since started RandomKid.org to help other children become social entrepreneurs. In this NYTimes OpEd notes “Frankly, these kinds of initiatives have a mixed record in terms of helping the poor in a cost-effective way. But they have a superb record in enlightening and educating the organizers.” which may be exactly the outcome that is most important from some of these efforts. The Times piece also points out some other efforts along similar lines.