Archive for the ‘Milestone reached’ Category

2015 Resolution – Reflect on Conservation

January 3, 2015

Progress on reducing my direct carbon footprint

Following on my conceptualization for the solution to reducing my direct carbon footprint (this analysis), here is the year in review:

Reduction. I think my theme for 2015 needs to be reflection on conservation, and its nuances.

In previous New Years posts I have tracked our car milage and was pleased to see our progress reducing miles driven. Alas, the reduction was lost in 2014. The lesson: bike/walking to reduce miles in town is easily overwhelmed by driving out of town, which should be obvious, it takes quite a few avoided short trips in town to equal the milage of one trip out of town.

2012 miles 2013 miles 2014 miles
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576
Prius (silver) new 12/4/14
totals  14227  10727  13418

My friend Stephen has a longer dataset and can demonstrate real progress reducing his driving, so it is possible.

spaeth carbon wedge car

In our cars, reduced use requires constant vigilance. In contrast, the area of lawn I mow is being reduced steadily by orchards, gardens and landscaping at the Cookhouse. I haven’t used the 15-year old riding lawn mower/snowblower in 12 months. Since, I’ve proven its possible to manage what is left without the rider, it needs to go away this spring.

Another notable experiment in reduction was to put a timer on our hot water heater. Now we make hot water for morning showers and again for evening dishes. While the savings from not maintaining hot water is small, we have proven in the past 6 months that we don’t lack for hot water when we want it. This experiment needs more study. For example, can we time the water heater so we use up much of the hot water and only store tepid water (rather than having the water heater reheat the water we just used and then storing that hot water)?

Substitution. Another of the strategies to reduce my direct carbon footprint is to substitute technologies.

The Cookhouse was built with all LED lighting and I thought I was done converting the Barn, but the other day I found one more CFL — a small one in a reading lamp. The house is partly converted, the Kitchen, family room and bathrooms are done.

My efforts at substituting LED lighting for CFLs are producing limited results; my home electric bill is not going down much (if at all), because the refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and electric dryer are such a large fraction of the use that they overwhelm the savings in the lighting.

The used Prius that Krista will drive in place of the “red” car appears to give her 40+mpg vs the previous 25+mpg in “red car,” so if we can hold the miles driven steady, it should be a decrease in fuel used.

Replacement. The oven in our gas stove died last spring and (sigh) there are no parts to repair a 10 year old stove. The process of deciding has been slow, but we are headed toward an induction stove, all electric. The decision process was explored in this column. Replacing this appliance will produce a permanent decrease in our direct use of carbon, but a small one compared to the gas water heater. I’m having the electrician get me ready to do the water heater, but can’t afford that change yet.

While the 15 year old gas lawn mower is still running, I’m considering replacing it with an electric one. Since I’m not sure how that will work in when the grass grows fast in the spring, I’ll keep the gas one around for another season.

Generation. I have some more data on the impact of the solar air heater in the Cookhouse. My previous report was from a short duration observation. Now I have a year’s worth of data which appears to show April, May & June readings with less consumption than heating degree days would predict. Since the structure is still unoccupied the only energy use is for heating. Goals for 2015 are getting hot water preheating going in the Cookhouse and in our house. This data are also encouraging me to develop solar air heating to supplement in the barn.

849 electric usage

Electric heating in the Cookhouse for 2014

Year Round Food

September 2, 2012

Shortly after we bought our place in Moscow I read an article about world agriculture that reported the average amount of arable land per person. It turned out that our 1.3 acres for 2 people was average.

Thinking about that fact made me begin to feel a responsibility to try to raise a portion of my food (since, on average, I had all the land needed). I’d gardened as far back as high school, raising a few veggies for summer eating. I decided I needed a goal to push my gardening — eat something from the garden in each of 12 months.

As I recall, Krista met that goal first with raspberry freezer jam. The people before us had quite a big row of raspberries started and freezer jam was a great way to preserve the harvest for 12 months. At that same time we also tried making several canned jellies, the best was red currant but we’ve never really gotten into canning.

Life has intervened, but I have inched my way toward the goal, learning to use the cold cellar to keep garlic and potatoes till March. We added a food dryer which allows us to manage more of our fruit and makes a favorite mid-winter Swedish Fruit Soup more affordable.

The “something from the garden each month” goal pushed a much more thoughtful approach to my gardening. But now we’re long past it.

Last fall/winter I experimented with winter gardening to have some greens and this weekend I will start a small fall  garden. This year we will have a big crop of pie pumpkin and butternut squash for the cellar. Those are the two squash the family will eat. Krista has been making/freezing apple sauce with fruit from the new orchard.

Last winter I started a recipe blog to track foods I’m cooking that could be made with local ingredients. It was an attempt to explore how rich and varied my diet could be — IF the ingredients were actually produced in our local food shed.

One thing the blog was intended to do was help identify missing local ingredients. One of them is cooking oil, so I was excited today at Farmer’s Market I saw a new booth selling oil. I couldn’t stop today but I will go back.

I’m musing about a new goal of one meal a month that could be local, or perhaps all three meals in one day per month. Or perhaps the meal needs one ingredient I grew, several that are local, and the rest that could be local. Of course, overlaid on picking this new goal is remembering what my family will actually eat so I need to tinker my way a goal where we can all succeed.

Vision Statement for Co-op GM Job App

August 31, 2012

I’m applying for the Co-op GM position again. They ask for a vision statement.

UPDATE 9/1: I realized that my letter of application contained the section on experience that has interested several people. I have added the application letter  with that information below the vision statement.

My vision is that, working together, our Co-op will meet its mission during a period of unprecedented change by helping members meet their food security needs and by helping local producers thrive.

To explain my vision, I must digress. It is unusual to have an opportunity to apply for the same job twice and to have a year to think about unfolding changes to the world and how I can better to articulate what is important about them. I’m convinced that climate change poses, by far, the greatest risk to humanity. And the failure of essential US leadership in the international community is already having devastating consequences, including impacts on our local food security.

I believe climate change is real and caused by human activity. I think a lot of people share the belief, but they don’t understand what to do next or why we are stuck on the Business-as-Usual trajectory.

We have all heard about Peak Oil and seen the graphs of world oil production peaking about 2005 and drifting slowly downward for the next century. We have not been talking about Peak Oil per Capita — the amount of oil available per person. That graph is declining much faster because the number of people in the developing world using oil is growing. If several billion Chinese and Indians each wish to use only 5% as much oil as Americans use, our per capita supply must become less. If oil-exporting nations decide to meet their internal needs rather than sell to the US, our supplies could decline more precipitously. I’m going to focus on oil because it’s such a wonderful, potent, easily handled and transported fuel. The rest of the fuels could be woven into a longer version of this story.

Time is important in this story because with lots of time there is opportunity to adapt and innovate. Climate scientists call for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 — 8 years away. To get there we need both innovation and lots of capital investment to replace existing infrastructure.

But we all seem to be stuck in Business-as-Usual. The challenge is, presently we are in a recession, and there is less money available for investment in energy conversions. And, more challenging, as energy availability declines then money (a measure of everything produced with energy) goes away. Wealth is disappearing by many mechanisms such as lost work or lost value of investments (think underwater home mortgages). Climate catastrophes (hurricane, tornado, wildfire and flood) are destroying wealth as well. Less energy per capita means there are fewer resources available to rebuild wealth so we struggle along trapped in our high carbon lifestyles. (More about these ideas in Kunstler’s books The Long Emergency and Too Much Magic.)

The Moscow Food Co-op cannot significantly impact any of these global processes. The Co-op is important, however, and I believe that its greatest asset is that it exists as an organization who’s raison d’être to serve the owners’ mutual benefit. The Co-op is our resource, as owners, to make intelligent choices that help us (and our community) manage through the impending energy/economic decline.

My vision is that, working together, our Co-op will meet its mission during a period of unprecedented change by helping members meet their food security needs and by helping local producers thrive.

Price is an important consideration. Over the last year as I have sought the role of GM, people have come to me sharing concerns about prices. Some of those members have lost their jobs in the past year which has made food costs a more acutely felt issue. For a variety of reasons, the real costs of food are likely to rise and the Co-op must pass those costs along. Even while saying so, I recognize that high prices, even the perception of them, makes the Co-op vulnerable to loss of business and to our local competitors. The GM is charged with increasing sales and must navigate these retail challenges as part of a long-term strategy. I will collaborate with the department managers to contain costs and margins while offering the best products and prices to customers.

I’ve spent time over the last year looking at our other local grocery stores, trying to pinpoint what makes the Co-op special. It’s not the friendly staff (though they are) or the natural and organic foods. I think what distinguishes the Co-op, in ways you sense when you walk in the door, is that “we” are doing “this” together.

Daniel Pink influences my management style. I’ve used his collaborative and empowering ideas in the past and I know they will make the Co-op both a best workplace and create a welcoming environment for new shoppers and returning members.

Pink focuses on a view of management that is contrary to popular beliefs and typical practice. He says, “For simple straightforward tasks monetary rewards improve performance, but once you get above rudimentary cognitive skill and mechanical tasks, rewards don’t work as incentives.” For a summary of Pink’s book Drive see this video

Pink is clear about pay, he says “pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table,” but beyond that point three other factors lead to better work performance and personal satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.

Autonomy – employees need autonomy in aspects of their job. Management often runs afoul of this goal. Management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement with the job and attention to solving novel emerging challenges, self-direction is better.

Mastery – the urge we all have to get better at stuff. Its why people play musical instruments or undertake other personal challenges during their free time.

Purpose – the chance to make a meaningful contribution. The reward is intrinsic, it stems from making a personally important contribution and having the opportunity to make that the best contribution possible. In his TED talk, Pink gives an extended example of these ideas using Wikipedia vs. Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia project.

I see evidence of Pink’s ideas already in place at the Co-op (among employees, volunteers and members) and intend to lead in ways that continues and extends this successful culture. Much as the Tuesday Growers Market (invite your competitors to sell in your parking lot) functions in wonderful and counter-intuitive ways, I believe that with some autonomy and opportunity to strive toward mastery, our Co-op community can invent more ways to leverage our collective resources to meet each of the Co-op’s strategic goals:  Strengthen Co-op community; Create and maintain the best working environment in Moscow; Develop and support the local, organic and sustainable goods economy; Incorporate values of environmental sustainability into facility; and Increase community engagement, outreach, and education.

I will find ways to help the Co-op meet its mission by supporting sound retail practices and by creating and supporting the flowering of more community food resources. I’ll continue the various ways the Co-op organizes and cooperates with the web of resources in our community to — local growers, home gardeners, and food professionals. I believe it will contribute to creating the best workplace and the intelligent response that will be needed as the Co-op and its members adapt to the changing energy and climate times ahead.

It is this idea of “we together” that is the other important consideration in my vision. The Co-op is more than a grocery store. What other grocery runs a newspaper, invites competitors to sell from its parking lot, or organizes social awareness events? We (the members) want to do this and we do it with money that other grocery stores call “profit.” The GM is the agent of the Board, the “face” of and for the Co-op. Attending to the “Triple Bottom Line” (people, planet, profit) is essential to weathering coming changes and I will collaborate with the Board, members and staff as together we prioritize our Co-op’s activities and look out for our wider collective economic benefit.

Addition 9/1

841 Travois Way
Moscow, ID 83843

August 31, 2012

GM Search Committee

%Colette DePhelps, Chair, GM Search Committee

Moscow Food Co-op

PO Box 9485

Moscow, ID 83843

I’m excited to be applying for the position of General Manager of the Moscow Food Co-op. It’s an unusual event to apply for the same position twice and to have a year to reflect and further prepare. Last year I spoke about being invited to apply by members of the search committee and how that prompted me to reflect on the role of the Co-op in our community and why I found the job of GM an important thing for me to do. In the application process last year I became aware of a community need that was outside the scope of the Co-op, but contributes to our developing local food systems: Moscow lacks sufficient commercial kitchen space to serve food entrepreneurs and the value-added processing needs of growers. Over the course of the past year I have located financing and designed and am now building a shared use commercial kitchen, an expansion of our very successful Peterson Barn Guesthouse. More on my reflections this past year appear later in this letter and in my vision statement.

As you will see in my resume, I’ve done a diverse range of things in the last 35 years, from running companies that design physiology software and timber frame buildings to managing teams of IT and instructional professionals and building community around shared purposes. The most complex business I’ve started is Palouse Prairie School.

I appreciate that the Co-op must be a business first, that it needs to keep costs low, maintain reasonable margins on the goods its sells, maintain a cash reserve and strive to retain some earnings each year for capital developments. It is these sound business practices that have allowed the organization to flourish. Retained earnings are the resource that can support the Co-op’s strategic outreach and sustainability initiatives. I have four years experience with the Palouse Prairie School budget, creating the first ones to gain the school’s charter and then overseeing three years of operations as Board Chair. The budget at the school is nearly $1 million for the coming school year. My reference BJ Swanson consulted with me several times in the process creating the budget for the launch of Palouse Prairie School and more recently the financing for the commercial kitchen. She can speak to you more about my understandings of successful operation of a complex business. The School’s architect Jerry Brotnov can speak to my can-do abilities during the critical steps of remodeling the building and opening the school.

Further bottom-line accountability experience comes from my other business experiences. My second largest business experience was From the Heart Software from 1989-93. The company developed software funded by a series of Federal grants. This gave me an introduction to balance sheets, accounting practices and labor management. The software sold to a very limited market in medical education. That venture closed shortly after we moved to Moscow. The experience taught me about the revenue needed to sustain a business operation (as opposed to capital to launch it). Peterson Barn Guesthouse that I run with my wife Krista, is my longest running venture. We built the Barn over several years, paying cash to capitalize it. That allowed us to manage with low revenues during the first several years of operation. The Barn rented over 180 days in 2011, and its success is allowing us to expand.

I am interested in your position because I see that the goals, strategic plans and policies of the Moscow Food Co-op are working on issues that I find increasingly urgent. What is important to me is focusing on local sustainability. I care about wider environmental issues, but I can’t do much to solve them. I believe I can contribute to Moscow’s successful transition through these changing economic/energy/climate times.

Central to my concerns for our community’s sustainability are issues of food security. There are two aspects to this concern. As fuel prices rise, people in our community will be faced with hard choices and knowing how to use bulk and local fresh foods could be important to achieving good nutrition. Local food production may also help buffer our community from prices and shocks inherent in global markets and our long supply lines.

One of the things that I admire about the Co-op, more as organization than store, is the way it leverages its resources for the community. Dime-in-Time and Impulse Giving are examples — by identifying worthy activities in the community and creating a donation mechanism, the Co-op has allowed micro fund raising to help new small initiatives, leveraging its members and shoppers without significant costs to itself. The Co-op’s charitable giving, aligned with its policy goals is also an important contribution to the community. This philanthropy is even more important now with the City of Moscow’s elimination of its small community grants program. My reference Tom Lamar can share his understandings of the ways in which I have helped organize in the community for local projects and to foster civil dialog and community engagement.

The General Manager of the Co-op needs to work within a complex ecology, responding to a Board and serving as a representative of the organization to multiple communities, among them, active members and shoppers. My reference Nathan Alford can speak to these ideas. We have discussed his paper’s front-page coverage of the Co-op GM search, and how that is very different from the way they treat managerial changes at other grocery stores. This difference is further evidence that the Co-op is more than a grocery store, and of the important role the GM has within the larger Moscow community.

In the creation of Palouse Prairie School, I have served in the role of Board chair both on the founding board, and in the transition to a governing board. It was a context in which I needed to navigate a various of Moscow’s communities seeking allies, resources and support. The Board’s transition from Founders to governing was also a very important lesson in roles, which leads me to have a deep appreciation of the importance of the Co-op’s policy governance model. Palouse Prairie is striving to implement a similar model.

While your job description does not state retail experience is a minimum requirement, in the GM search last year, some expressed concern that I lack retail experience.

First, I am open to admitting what I don’t know and have a management style that anticipates trusting and learning from the current (clearly successful) staff. Previously the Co-op hired an interim store manager and it may be that the store has reached the size where such a position should be permanent. I will seek the advice of the staff regarding such a move, or additional training that would allow them and me to be more effective.

Second, the job is much wider in scope than managing the daily retail decisions. I have subscribed to the CGIN email list to see what Co-op managers discuss. The issues have ranged from choosing Point-of-Sale software, to unplanned capital expenses, to navigating a change from senior citizen discounts to SNAP benefits, to disposal of property left at the store by a bankrupt supplier. The “How to start a Food Co-op” tutorial on the CGIN site has given me insights into rules of thumb for the balance sheet and the role of member capital in the mix of Co-op assets.

Finally, I expect to get more training both from the current staff and from the Co-op’s network of consultants and resources.

I have a range of other managerial experiences spanning two decades. During the 90’s in the College of Education, I implemented the transition of an organization that did not use much technology for productivity to one that explored the Internet for extended teaching and learning opportunities. That job required me to direct a staff of graduate students in daily tasks and to translate the Dean’s goals into practical implementations.

Those managerial experiences continued when I moved to the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology, but with a university-wide scope and with professional staff under my direction. My role of Assistant Director was to facilitate our unit collaborating with staff in other units. It also involved me more directly in HR activities, hiring, termination and performance evaluation.  My reference Doug Baker can speak to my imagination, critical and creative thinking and skills working in these managerial roles. Doug can give you a broad overview of my leadership and management. You are also welcome to speak with my former Director in CTLT, Gary Brown for a closer look.

The work with Expeditionary Learning and its emphasis on collaboration as a strategy for learning and working had introduced me to a language about decision-making. They call it the ABCD model:

  • A-type decisions. Only the leader makes the decision.
  • B-type decisions. The leader makes the decision after gathering input and perspectives, especially from key stakeholders.
  • C-type decisions. The decision is collaboratively made; the leader frames the context and decision-making process.
  • D-type decisions. The leader delegates the decision to another group, while remaining accountable for the outcome.

What I find important about this language is that it helps everyone talk (at a meta-level) about how decisions are made and gives clarity about the way the leader will be treating advice and input. In my approach as GM of the Co-op I will seek mostly to use the other forms of decisions whenever possible, but I recognize there will necessarily be some A-type decisions.


Obviously, since I have been a member of the community for 20+ years there are many people who can share perspectives on my abilities. The people below represent a cross-section of perspectives and have agreed to speak with the committee

  • Doug Baker, UI Provost (208) 885-6448
  • Nathan Alford, Publisher, Daily News (208) 882-5561
  • Tom Lamar, PCEI Executive Director, (208) 882-1444
  • BJ Swanson, Director LEDC (208) 301-1221
  • Gary Brown, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Excellence, Portland State Univ. (503) 725-9149
  • Jerry Brotnov, Brotnov Architecture and Planning  (509) 758-2512

Salary Requirements

My salary at WSU was $65,763 for the 12 months ending December 2010. If the committee is interested in my application, I would not want that salary to be a barrier to opening a conversation.

Thank you for your consideration,

Nils Peterson


Vision Statement

Curriculum Vita

Winter Salad 2012

February 6, 2012

Back at the New Year I posted about several Fall/Winter gardening experiments, including a Greenhouse Crop that I was re-seeding much more densely and a Cold Greenhouse Crop that I had planted.

The new planting in the greenhouse, under lights only, no soil heat, is doing very well. After a month I was able to harvest enough greens (leaf and romaine lettuce, beet greens and spinach) for salad for 4 people. Parts of the planting are not dense (a result of the November initial seeding). Had it been more intensive it would have been better. I cut individual leaves from each of the plants with the hope that they would grow back. It a couple cases I pulled the plant because things are very (over)-crowded and harvesting is difficult.

The Cold Greenhouse suffered a structural failure in late January after a very heavy snowfall and rains. I examined the inner cloche and row cover and can find a couple seeds just starting to break ground. Can’t identify the plant yet.

The salad from the greenhouse was tasty with Huckleberry Vinaigrette dressing.


Experiments in Winter Gardening

January 3, 2012

This is an update on my three winter gardening explorations:

Digging fall carrots Nov 13

Fall crop. This experiment was to plant carrots, beets and chard in late July for fall harvest. I had old seed, so I over-seeded and became challenged to thin and weed effectively. Nonetheless I got all three crops to produce. I gambled with the weather leaving the crop in the ground (unmulched) into November. Animals ate the beet leaves in October and the chard leaves after that. The ground froze before I got all the beets and carrots pulled, I assume the chard is lost, the beets and carrots are an open question.

Digging fall beets Nov 13

LESSONS: The usual challenge of other activities keeping me from weeding and thinning; mulching with leaves or straw and a light row cover would probably have extended the harvest and kept away animals; the harvest needs to be finished before the freeze (or better protection is needed).

Greenhouse crop. November 1, inspired by Square Foot Gardening, I planted a 2×4 foot bed to carrots, leaf and romaine lettuce, beets, chard and spinach.  Individual seeds were planted at recommended their spacing.

The bed is on a bench in my (poorly insulated) greenhouse, a 2×6 frame filled with amended soil sitting on a heating pad set for 70F.  Four full spectrum fluorescent lights were 6 inches above the soil on a timer from 5AM to 7PM. Carrots and leaf lettuce came up fine. The romaine and chard did not germinate, and the spinach only poorly. I replanted spinach mid-November (no more chard seed). One spinach from the first planting seemed to be doing OK and then about Thanksgiving got wilty.

December 1 I raised the lights to 18 inches, and wrapped a plastic curtain around the lights making a terrarium of the bed and lights. The spinach recovered, perhaps due to the increased air temp and humidity.  Three leaf lettuce plants were coming along slowly.  The carrots continued slowly.

Mid-December, after reading Coleman’s 4-season gardening, I replanted spinach, romaine and leaf lettuce at Coleman’s 1” row spacing. One of the original leaf lettuce failed after Christmas due to lack of water (its hard to water in the confines of the terrarium).

January 3 I harvested 3-4 spinach and 3-4 leaf lettuce leaves to start an experiment in regeneration. Lights and heating pad draw (on average) 0.110 KW, lights only draw 0.062 KW (measured by WattMeter). So, my energy cost Nov 1 – Jan 1 was   0.11KW * 24hrs/day * 61day * $0.07689/kwhr = $12.38 (An interesting experiment but spendy for a handful of lettuce leaves.)

I’ve now turned off the heater to see how things grow with the light (and its heat) only.

Dec 2 (31 days since planting)

Dec 14 (looking west)

Dec 31 (looking east)

LESSONS: Heated growing space is costly and plants need to be planted densely and then thinned for eating as they grow. Carrots at 3” spacings need to be interplanted with something faster growing. The goal is to cover every square inch of soil with edible leaves as quickly and completely as possible, then retreat the number of plants as the plant size increases.

Cold Greenhouse crop. Based on more Coleman reading, on January 1 I planted in my hoop house under a cloche and a wire frame covered with row covering. Spinach, leaf and romaine lettuce, and beets and carrots. The first question will be can I get germination.

Building my first solar oven

October 1, 2011

I celebrated the Fall Equinox by building and testing my first solar oven. One of those projects I’d been thinking about all summer and the waning sun motivated.

It was a project made of scraps. I had the plywood box from a WSU Auction. The 1/2 inch reflective insulation was left from building garage doors on Peterson Barn Guesthouse. It took a little practice to recover my (ca. High School) glass cutting skills, but they allowed me to re-use a piece of glass from a defunct cold frame.

The lid still needs a reflective treatment and a means to prop it at an angle to reflect into the box. As it was, I got 3 cups of beans and water to 135F from 11AM till 3PM. Needed another hour simmering on the stove to finish cooking them.

I needed to rotate the box to track the sun. To reduce that need, I want to think about wings that will bounce light from the side — ultimately having a bit of a light funnel.

Dismantling my mud oven

November 30, 2010

Back when I built my oven, I’d been using Kiko Denzer’s book (now in new edition). He suggested an oven could be built on saw horses with a wooden plank subfloor, but that it would burn through eventually. I’ve previously reported my notes of that problem happening (here) and (here).

The burning problem reached the point where I was sure the oven was losing lots of heat via air coming in from the floor. I’ve enjoyed the oven and want a more permanent one. It was time to dismantle the first oven.

This post is really to share observations of what can be learned in the demolition.

First, its not hard to demolish. I did it by hand with a garden trowel as pry bar, breaking off the outer shell, which I mostly saved at the raw materials for the next oven. Breaking up the inner shell was also easy, and it was not very fired, as shown below. Finally, the burn spot and depth of burn is worth noting, my 2×6’s were half char in the center area.

Seeking advice in a transition

March 10, 2009

Washington State University is on the eve of its 10 year accreditation visit by NWCCU and my sense from reading Standard 2 (teaching and learning) is that WSU appears to still be struggling with
what it means to close the assessment loop..

Concurrently, the university is proposing a 50% budget cut for its Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology that has produced this supplement, highlighted in the accreditation report as Transformative Assessment.

The University is proposing to re-organize the remainder of CTLT into the Office of Academic Efficiency. Looking around the web, it appears that other campuses are undergoing a similar transition. Awhile back I proposed creating the Planet’s CTL. Concurrent with that blog post, CTLT started a blog at WordPress, that has garnered considerable critical attention, and a group in Diigo. There are a several portfolios of our work hosted on CTLT servers that may need to be moved if CTLT servers are going away: ePortfolio of CTLT ePortfolios; a portfolio of our LMS work and its Web 2.0 directions prepared for a Gartner visit; two ePortfolio contests 2006-07 and 2007-08 using SharePoint with some important lessons about Workspace vs Showcase and the recently produced Transformative Assessment site for the accreditation visit.

What would you recommend?

Setback for 21st Century Resume

July 20, 2008

I’ve been trying to make headway on understanding a 21st Century Resume, thinking that it should not be your father’s paper resume. But recently I’ve had a couple “send me your resume” requests, so here it is in all its paginated glory: Nils S Peterson CV.

I’m choosing categories for this post. Milestone is obvious for a noted setback. Reflection-in-action seems an appropriate guide to what I should be doing, but it is Assessment that caught my eye. Clearly, it is assessment that is the goal of keeping a document like a CV. In my experience reviewing job candidates, a CV is a cumbersome tool for assessment.

So, I have added a new section to my CV, at the bottom, Community Activism. My wife’s summary: you defeated WalMart, Saved the Bus, and Chartered a school. But the reflection, and I hope your assessment, is what did I learn doing those things?

I joined the NoSuperWalmart effort in December 2005 hoping to get a chance to apply my ideas about blogs to community organizing. There is a blog, but it did not become a key piece in the communication strategy. I found myself in a role of spokesperson and part of the inner leadership circle, but the communications strategies that carried the day were email, newspaper ads, and handbills.

A year later, I got a better chance to explore the nexus of online and local community organizing. The conclusion that I draw from this work is that the web can be integrated into a local community’s political organizing. It requires effort to make the site participatory (with multiple perspectives) and authoritative (with data that has been collected about the problem and is open to inspection, support or refutation).

My most recent activism has revolved around gaining a charter for Palouse Prairie School in Moscow. This work has been conducted mostly offline, but its given me a chance to think about how to merge the content management of two blogs and Google Calendar into a web site. It not right yet, but its a step beyond the NoSuperWalmart effort.

What I think I’ve learned in those efforts is feeding into a series of blog posts I’m co-authoring regarding transforming the grade book. What we are arguing is that a community assesses its members (and a university education should assess students) by applying a set of broadly agreed criteria across a span of the member’s work. We are exploring the mechanisms by which the learner gathers, organizes, learns from, and demonstrates that assessment. The result will not be a CV, it will be a portfolio and the public assessment of that portfolio. Not a showcase portfolio, but a learning portfolio.

The CV is a showcase, and not even the best one, in that it is a catalog of everything without organizing narrative. What would be more interesting it seems is to showcase an accomplishment and the learning history leading up to it, as George Hotz did in his blog/portfolio on cracking the iPhone and Margo Tamez did in her portfolio on her efforts to prevent a US-Mexico border wall.

Ready to Bake and Getting a grip on my portfolio-ing

November 11, 2007

The other night I was pondering my resume/portfolio and concluding that I needed to have a better handle on project proposals and project summaries — forms of reflection-in-action.

This morning I was reading the preface to The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, which struck me as an example of the reflecting I’ve been trying to understand. They are looking back, noting a problem, which formed the basis of their question for further exploration. The book is the evidence they are presenting for how they framed and then addressed the question.

Eight years have passed since Laurel’s Kitchen first appeared, and in that time our approach to whole-foods cookery has evolved considerably. For one thing, we’ve learned to bake bread.

It’s true that back in 1976 we talked a good bread story. And we probably did know as much about baking with whole-grain flours an any of the other people who were writing books about it.

But over time, we became increasingly impatient with the occasional disasters Laurel mentions, and not quite so ready to blame them on factors out of our control. So began the long and painstaking enquiry that resulted at lat in The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, which, as it turns out, may be more of an apprenticeship than a book.

The book is presented as a milestone, not as a reflection-in-action. Those intermediate reflections-in-action must have existed, working and failed recipes, thoughts for next steps. We don’t see those in the book, though there are references to examining the work of others, who serve as context, evidence, mentors, etc.

I was in Laurel’s because I wanted to make some bread in my new oven. This is therefore a milestone item in my portfolio: the oven is ready for baking. In addition to bread, I want to do a pie, some fish and an acorn squash. Those are the questions I’m asking — can I bake them? Data, conclusions, next steps will follow.

I spent some time before writing this remaking the categories of by blog. Pushing things under major headings and making a new set of headings for My Portfolio. This post goes under Milestone, much like the preface to Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, but less developed because the milestone is smaller.