Thursday, December 28, 2006

Roses, grasses, chicks, and children

In all of nature it is obvious that the developmental process is both structured and diverse. It is structured in the sense that all healthy chicks seem to develop along the same path, from embryo to full grown adult. Yet even in the same brood, chicks do not all hatch at the same time. Grasses grow and set seeds higher or lower, depending on rainfall. In the flower garden, roses, even from the same rose bush, do not set buds and flower all at the same time, much less across the garden, where there are flowers that bloom in April, May, June, July; where there are some that bloom in the early morning, while some do not open until the afternoon sun. Yet, a daisy unfolds as a daisy, a tulip as a tulip, reliably and predictably, provided there is not some hindrance: poor soil, lack of water, blight or pests. Each thing unfolds in its own time, in its own perfection, in accord with the life circumstances it encounters. (...more)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Joy to the world!

The word assessment arouses a variety of responses in teachers and students, but it is safe to say that none of them are happy ones. For some it represents a punishing ordeal, for others an indictment of their faults or defects, and for still others, the oppressive weight of an inhumane and usually highly-technologized administrative mandate. Results are used to celebrate a tiny fraction of the privileged while confronting the rest with their inherent “inadequacies,” insufficient “effort,” and lack of status. Posing behind a facade of “objectivity,” and “standards,” judgments are made that derail lives, create suffering, and reify social inequalities. It is costly, labor-intensive, and punishing. And all of this is entirely unnecessary(...more)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

From the Web to Walden: a Manifesto

It is often asserted that evolutionary change proceeds in the direction of greater complexity: the more complex the organism, the more highly evolved it is. It is possible, though debatable, that this holds true for biology. It is less clear whether it holds true in the domains of social structures, theories, or technology. Even in biological ecosystems, surely there have been extinctions that directly resulted from organisms evolving into greater complexity and specialization only to encounter life conditions that required simplicity and flexibility. Viruses are much simpler than humans, yet they are capable of species-level mutation at blindingly faster speeds. Who is more adaptive? Which species is “more evolved?”

In the evolution of both pedagogical methods and technologies, it seems clearer and clearer to me that the simple-minded belief that more complexity = higher levels of evolution cannot be supported. In fact, the lessons of research and observation both for teaching and learning and for the usability of new technologies demonstrate quite convincingly that real evolution often entails a reduction in complexity and a shift toward greater simplicity. It seems paradoxical, but consider the immense leap forward in technology afforded by the graphical user interface, which greatly simplified the demands on human cognitive resources required by complex command-line applications. (more...)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Teacher's Manual and Reference Guide

There is now a Teacher's manual and a Reference Guide for the Learning Record. They are posted, along with the LR forms at:

I hope this will help clarify how to use the Learning Record effectively.
A slightly revised version of the LR has also been posted, to add an entry for the teacher's absence policy and a place for a student picture.

Any suggestions or feedback are welcome! Thanks for your patience and support.

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Learning Record version!

After exhaustive (and exhausting) efforts to provide the Learning Record in a standalone database format, we have returned to the simplicity and ease of use of a basic text document created in Microsoft Word. The new version takes advantage of some useful features in Word, including data fields and hyperlinks. I think you may be surprised at just how lean and easy this version will be. There were a number of contributing factors to this decision, including the fact that the database could not be held down to a size that is portable via email, we had questions about accessibility for students and instructors with disabilities, and the complexity of the application was overwhelming the very simple structure of the Learning Record model. The database version was 9.8 MB, the .doc version is 120 k. The database had 69 layouts, the .doc version has 1. The database version had 81 scripts and countless buttons, the .doc version has none. What it does have is some nifty features that may make it much easier and more fun to use.

You may download the new version in either .doc or .rtf format. There are tips there for how to use it and how to maintain an organized process for transmitting things back and forth between the teacher and the student. There is also a reference guide and a Teacher's Manual. Here is the link to the files:

Please let me know if you have any questions about this transition or the new version of the LR.