Tag Archives: Conference Reports

NITLE Camp 2010 Days 1 & 2

NITLE Camp 2010 was 4 days of in-depth discussion and learning about assessment activities and the pedagogy and support of mobile devices. For me, it was a fantastic intro. to these topics and I have so much more to discuss than what you’ll see here (so find me and we can talk if you want to hear more!) but here are some highlights of what I learned:

Day 1: Assessment: Ideas for inquiry & student success

The focus here was on learning-centered / student-centered assessment (as opposed to teaching-centered) Ashley Finley, Director of Assessment for Learning at the American Association of Colleges & Universities, lead this day’s workshop

Assessment as a conversation

Consider the idea that both formative (continual throughout the learning process) and summative assessment (at the end of learning) approaches have a role to play within an overall assessment program, but that assessment is inherently continual–a conversation, if you will.

Planning for assessment

Create a plan using a logic model (create it from right to left and then implement the plan working left to right). Start by defining the goal/outcome, define the evidence needed, and define the resources needed to effect the change, then work through them in the opposite order. Make sure the plan involves clear steps to analyze and share the data with as broad an audience as possible, and a clear timeline for doing so.

Making assessment a campus-wide endeavor

Approach assessment as a holistic and integrated, campus-wide activity. Many departments are already involved in assessment work. Take stock of current assessment activities in other college departments (involves conversations). Establishing a map of currently ongoing assessment helps everyone identify redundancies AND places where potential collaboration may occur. Ask your institutional research, college advancement, alumni, student life, civic engagement, admissions, and (in Middlebury’s case) Commons offices what they are doing to assess student learning outcomes.

E.g. Say you work in LIS and talk to the campus Alumni office. Imagine that you find out about an annual survey that goes out to alumni 5 years out that asks them to reflect on the value of their college experience. LIS is interested in obtaining feedback about the effectiveness of its information literacy program and adds one question to this survey asking what technology skills they learned, found most useful (or wished they’d learned about) while an undergraduate. This tactic doesn’t create yet another survey but piggybacks on a tool already being used. It also provides a method of measuring an outcome beyond the traditional 4-year time period (continuing the conversation).

Implement and adjust

Make adjustments to the assessment program as needed while it is running. Following the run-through of the assessment program, take some time to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. Revise and amend the assessment program on a regular (yearly) basis!

Day 2: Assessing instructional technology community meeting

Examples of assessment activities at other colleges and universities

DePauw Univeristy, Carol Smith, Director : assessment as a way to inform institutional priorities in IT
Colgate University: Collaboration for enhanced learning
St. Lawrence: ECAR, HEDS, CIRP, MISO, etc. and “run, don’t walk, to your institutional research officer”
Colgate University: Institutional research, planning, assessment effectiveness survey review
AAC&U and MISO: Inter-institutional assessment; VALUE rubrics and MISO survey
Stonehill College: Information literacy assessment program
Centre College: Assessing student literacy through new first year course
Trinity University: Information literacy quality enhancement plan “Expanding Horizons
Meeting participants resolved to check in on progress of assessment activities at home institutions sometime in September.

Poster Session

In the evening on day 2, I attended a poster session presented by other camp participants. Click to view a pdf of all the poster abstracts. I think I gravitated towards the posters on the topics for which I wasn’t attending workshops or meetings (moodle, digital storytelling). 2 highlights:

Woodle (Moodle at Wooster) findings

I particularly enjoyed hearing from Matt Gardzina, Director of Instructional Technology at the College of Wooster, about his school’s experiences with learning management system (LMS) Moodle (nicknamed Woodle :) . As the poster abstract explains, and he related in person, the faculty at Wooster ended up not really using Woodle for much more than course readings and a parking spot for their syllabi. They used Woodle elements like quizzes and forums far less. As a result, the instructional technologists at Wooster have started to downplay Woodle and amped up support for their blogging and wiki platforms as alternatives to the LMS. I mentioned the Curricular Technology team at Middlebury’s recommendation to support a suite of tools as opposed to a single LMS, and he agreed that it was a good recommendation, especially given his findings at Wooster. (Kudos to the CT team on validation for their recommendation from a comparable institution! I bet Matt would be willing to discuss this further if you wanted to learn more about the specifics of the Wooster findings.)

Before and After: Augmenting Digital Story Projects

When we teach with technology how can we ensure a balance between student technology fluency and the other student learning outcomes for the course? Brett Boessen, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Austin College, shared some good examples when he explained how he has begun integrating formative accompanying materials (like storyboards) and self-reflective elements (students’ author statements) into a digital storytelling assignment in one of his classes. He played some delightful (and quite good) examples of videos ranging from video screencasts to mashups created by students in his course on Participatory Cultures. By embedding planning and reflective elements in the assignment requirements, Brett seems to have struck a good balance between successfully engaging students with their own process of creating and sharing a story, and achieving technology fluency.

DrupalCon 2010 Trip Report Day 1

Hello from San Francisco! I was waylaid in Chicago and missed the morning presentations, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far at DrupalCon. First, a quick bullet point summary for those who don’t want to dive into the details:

  • Drupal now powers over 1% of the total websites, closely tied with Joomla. Wordpress powers about 8.5%.
  • Drupal 7’s forms will allow us to add conditional form fields that appear for the user without requiring a postback to the server. See the (very relevent for us) example here: http://d7.drupalexamples.info/form_example/states
  • Drupal 7’s User Experience (UX) team has made improvements to the interface that on our site is called the “Edit Console”. You can read more about their project at their website: http://www.d7ux.org/content/
  • We can improve our site performance by moving functionality out of the template files and into theme functions. Basically, the way we currently do things, we have to read a file off the server’s disk every time anyone loads anything on the site. By using theme functions instead of template functions we avoid this disk read and dramatically improve performance.
  • You can watch many of today’s presentations at http://sf2010.drupal.org/conference/schedule for free! Many of those without video have their slides up. The presentations from Monday are at the bottom of the page since, at the time I’m posting this, they’ve already happened and aren’t as interesting to the conference attendees.
  • Monster Menus, the module the Amherst developed that lets you add sub-pages and manage permissions is a few weeks away from being refactored to eliminate any Amherst-dependent code. The version we’re currently running assumes that Amherst’s version of Banner exists, which we’ve had to work around. The new version will make this easy for us and open MM up for other schools to use.

All of the sessions I attended today focused on the improvements coming in Drupal 7. Currently, Drupal 7 is in “feature freeze” with 114 critical bugs left to resolve before it is released. At the keynote presentation today, Dries projected that Drupal 7 would likely be released some time between June and October of this year. Even so, and even with the large number of improvements it offers, we will not move to Drupal 7 when it is released. Our challenge is that the system we rely on to provide our site editors the ability to add sub-pages and manage permissions for their site is not part of “core” Drupal – it is provided by a module that is only used by us and Amherst College. I had an opportunity to speak with the developers from Amherst today and our projection is that, at best, we will be able to move to Drupal 7 for the start of Fall Semester 2011.

Even that timeline will be challenging, but I will provide a quick synopsis of each of the sessions I attended below, focusing on how they will impact our site if and when we make the move to Drupal 7.

The State of Drupal


The meat of this presentation was defining a framework for thinking about the future growth of Drupal. Right now the project is at a crossroads where it can continue to add features to satisfy the “enterprise” users of large organizations and compete with commercial CMSs like Microsoft Sharepoint, or it can aim to reduce the number of features and compete for the low end of the market with WordPress, aiming at people who just want a simple site with a few pages that is easy to manage. Dries seemed to believe that the Installation Profile system, of which there are now 19 releases, will allow Drupal to target specific low-end markets while core continues to add features to satisfy enterprise needs, but he seemed unsure of his own assertion that Drupal could do both.

This will be an interesting discussion for Middlebury as it continues in the Drupal community. We are one of those places that has an “enterprise” need that is not satisfied by Drupal core: the need to organize our site as a tree that allows our editors to add to that tree and manage fine-grained permissions in that tree. To that extent, Monster Menus is like our own installation profile of Drupal since we know that it imposes limitations on what Drupal can do since modules need to be changed to intergrate with it. We will have to see what features get added for Drupal 8 and how well they align with our needs.

The Rest

I had actually planned on diving into the details of the afternoon presentations I attended, but have run out of time before this morning’s round of sessions. Today, by the way, seems to be offer a lot more for the people currently running Drupal in production. Monday’s sessions were all about all the cool new features in Drupal 7, which is fun, but not something I’ll be working with for over a year. Today I’m attending sessions on search integration, search engine optimization, cloud computing integration and database optimization. These are topics closer to my day-to-day work.

Here are links to the sessions I attended on Monday. If you’re interested in hearing more, be sure to ask in the comments.

AJAX and JavaScript in Drupal 7

D7UX How to integrate the core Drupal 7 usability improvements with your module

Default theme implementations

Monster Menus

After the sessions, I had a good conversation with Dan and Victor from Amherst about the future direction of Monster Menus. Dan is close to being done with the “revamp” branch of Monster Menus that removes the Amherst-specific code from their system. We’ll want to convert to this and try it out when he’s done since there are some features of our implementation that don’t work right now because the module assumes that it will be able to talk to Amherst’s version of Banner on the backend.

Other interesting things from this meeting:

  • They are working on a way to move course sites (which are currently pages in their website – everything Amherst does on the web is in Drupal including their LMS) from one semester to the next while preserving associations like page permissions. This is tricky since you might assign permissions on a page in your course site to one student who won’t be in the course the next time it is taught.
  • We should be able to theme the RSS page content type without much trouble (this solves a request that I currently have with Communications to improve the way news items in the Newsroom are displayed), but we will probably never be able to theme the actual menu in the fashion that Drupal expects because of the processing overhead on generating that menu.
  • Amherst runs the Google Search Appliance to manage their search services. They allow the GSA to crawl their site as an administrative user and have a Drupal module that filters the search results based on the permissions of the currently logged in user. This is a requirement because their site also includes their LMS which they need to search with admin permissions. They are interested in seeing what we do with faceted search, an area they’ve wanted to look into but haven’t yet had the chance.

We had a lot more discussion about the minutiae of various modules and parts of Monster Menus, but those are the major points. I’ll post again this evening with a roundup of today’s sessions and on Wednesday after I meet with the guys from White Whale.