Convince Curmudgeons with Comments?

Hey, want to do me and the Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) a favor? Would you like to see something positive actually come out of comments? Read on. The set up might be long, but bear with me. I’d like to convince some of our faculty the worth of sharing their work, their efforts online, rather than locking reports up in a file cabinet.

Our office coordinates a faculty professional growth program for Maricopa- the funds and programs are managed by our faculty and reps from the campuses, and MCLI (that’s us) provides logistical support. One of the ways we have done so is to put all the program information online (it used to be in a thick wad of paper for some reason referred to as “The Green Book”. We introduced some new consistency in program applications by converting variously formatted Word documents and even carbon forms to MS Word Forms available online.

One of the long standing problems with the way the program operates is that reports completed by recipients of faculty sabbaticals and Summer Projects were for like 90 years (I exaggerate) submitted to the committee in paper form, and then filed away in a cabinet. They were not readily available to applicants in subsequent years who might get ideas, or even to share with colleagues. This sorts of things drive me crazy when great work is done, and is not shared.

A first step we made two years ago was to create a completely online application and review process for the Summer Projects program — these are things faculty submit proposals to get funding to do things over the summer like attending workshops, getting training, do work experiences, study abroad, etc (see some sample applications). The first year of applications was a seat of the pants programming job, but we got it done, and were able in August 2004 to provide a system for recipients to file online reports. Through an unfortunate communication gap, the committee gave people the option to do an online report or to turn in a Word document, so the returns were light.

Now these reports are basic responses to a few questions, “What did you do”, “What worked well?, “What was your Professional Growth”, and “How will you disseminate?”. The brainstorm we had was to build into this reporting, a following section where recpients could also add relevant media files and web links, and thus through one report form, we are able to file a report in the FPG database, and at the same time, create an MLX entry from the same content. This gives projects a bit more exposure, allows them to include supplemental materials, and ideally would add like 100 new MLX packages a year.

As an example from 2004, a chemistry teacher did one on “Frontiers in Organic Chemistry”, so you can see the snapshot FPG report and the associated MLX package which has the responses to the questions, plus in this case, some relevant resources. You can see a gallery of examples of projects going back to 2001, though before 2004, these are just abstracts we had collected as a static document.

And what’s even better, we are able to automatically associate a new report into an MLX special collection that will house all MLX packages that are Summer Projects.

This year we got the reporting system for Summer Projects tuned up, and we are expecting all 112 or so to have submitted thme online by the September 30 deadlines.

Now, (finally) I come to the reason for this long winded post. I heard from the committee chair that there are some faculty (how many?) who feel like their Summer Project reports do not belong in the MLX. The reasons are fuzzy, something like they do not see them as of value to others, or it is redundant to have it in two places (the FPG gallery is really buried on our site) or maybe they do not want it to be seen they spent a summer traveling in Australia, or just maybe they don’t want to be public. They are asking me for next year to not have the automatic copy to the MLX, though me minimal offer is to make it an option they can choose.

What I am hoping for, dear blog reading audience, is that a few of you, or many of you can peruse some of their project, and post some comments (constructive ones, not silly things, or “Alan asked to to bug you” or “play poker and smoke phentermine”– I am thinking if a number of the faculty who posted summer projects get external feedback (very closely related to “pat on the back”) that they might see some value in their sharing of their work. I am pie in the sky hopeful that a few constructive or positive comments might go a long way.

So if you have time, pick one or two that are relevant or of interest to you from our Summer Projects MLX Special Collections (newest ones are listed first):


And see if we might be able to convince some of the curmudgeons that sharing is a Good Thing.

I do see this as one of those learning object paradoxes- the person who creates and shares an “object” (or in this case a project report) is the wrong one to judge the overall value to others– there is no way they can know the wide range of uses others might get out of it who come with a different perspective or set of needs or level of creativity. I am so convinced we need more open sharing, as much as possible, not closed gardens, not locked file cabinets, not “my stuff is not worthy” attitudes.

Thanks in advance.

PS- Speaking of the MLX- it is long due some update and attention in the next few weeks, aiming too yet again for another year end goal to get an open source version ready for usage (ahem, the prototype is mostly working)

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I’ve been browsing the MLX for a long time now and I find the experience very frustrating.

    I often come across what look like great teaching ideas or resources that I’d like to use in my classes but more often than not, I can’t get at them. Many of the MLX packages are great descriptions with no or little content. The descriptions sound (read) fantastic! I’d love to have a browse through the content but I can’t.

    The staff at Maricopa have GREAT teaching ideas. Sharing them with other educators outside the system can only benefit them (through the shareback link) and us. What we build together will be far superior to anything any of us build on our own.

    Please feel free to share these thoughts/observations with anyone in your system. As it stands right now, the MLX is a resource with tremendous potential just waiting to be actualized. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting.

  2. Darren,

    Welcome to my world of frustration– however, I have no authority to “make” anyone share and can only rely on previous tried approaches of Pleading, Competition, Bribery to get just the content we have now in the MLX,… but yet have tried physical threats ;-) See all the things we have tried:


    The places we can provide more leverage are the programs we manage.

    I am sorry, I too wish the content where “meatier” and had more assets, but to follow the thread of my post, you are commenting to the wrong person. If someone has written something in the MLX, please use the comment form there to write and say, “I really liked that classroom strategy, do you have an example of the directions you can post or a photo of how you achieved that?”

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