Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Online Museum Learning

Apparently museum web sites for kids are enjoying a resurgence:
"Now, after a decade of experiments with online exhibitions, e-commerce ventures and Internet-based artworks, museums are focusing on a mission that is much closer to home: building educational Web sites for young audiences."
The article links to several good ones, including MOMA in New York. These seem to be pretty solid learning experiences without any added lesson plans or instruction.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Google News

Everyone's favourite search engine now has a University Search that lets you browse all (or most in North America, I'm guessing) universities, then search within their sites for admissions information or whatever tickles your fancy. I popped into Auburn University and found that they have a news feed, which could be a nice addition to my planning portfolio if I was a high school student planning to go there next year.

George also unearthed the new Google's Personalized Search. Great concept that adds all-important context to search queries.The dynamic personalization slider on the results pages is fascinating. Useful? I'm not sure, but it still makes you wonder how long it will be before Google rules the world.

DVD Courses and Lifestyle Learning

A friend of mine has recently started a company that produces and markets courses for collectors of military artifacts. They've obviously done a top-notch job of the production and the marketing (PDF) looks really solid.

When he first floated this idea, I was pretty skeptical. My advice to him was to try to move beyond educational content to find business models that didn't depend on creating and selling "proprietary" information.

I still stand by that advice, one of things I love about this initiative is that it's focused on what you might call lifestyle learning. Collecting militaria (I'm trying to keep an open mind) is just one of many hobbies that are very information-rich, opening the door for learning opportunities beyond what could be gleaned from general books or other available content. If you imagine all the other hobbies the baby boomers will be taking up and pursuing as they retire in the next two decades, you start to wonder how many of them might be willing to pay for high-quality instruction related to their areas of interest.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Testing News Search Feeds: Biology at Brown University

Weblogg-ed bounced off my exploration of news search feeds and extended the idea. I think he identified the key issue...too much information, and most of it not focused enough:
"I know that probably would kick out a whole bunch of stuff, but I'd really like to have the chance to tweak the search to see if I could make it specific enough to be manageable. That is the key to all of this, obviously: the ability to make the vast majority of the results relevant. It won't work if over half of it is random blather."
I've had my test feed running for a week now, simulating the news for a student planning to take biology at Brown University. In about a week, it returned 19 related news items. Aside from an alumni wedding announcement, it's pretty focused and fairly interesting (to my invented student), ranging from local science fair news to fossils on mars and an extinct Australian lion, all with decent ties back to biology at Brown University. More relevant than I expected.

But would this "average" student get real value out of the feed? I'm not sure. First of all, I suspect that if students return at all to a planning portfolio, they're only coming back occasionally with large gaps of time in between. That means that they'd have an unmanageable list in a hurry -- maybe 50 stories in a few weeks. They'd have to be pretty motivated to skim and surf that list. I keep reminding myself that not everyone is a voracious information omnivore like many of us in the blogging realm.

More value might be drawn from a regular non-news search, which might capture a few interesting people, but not much news. One benefit of the news feed items is that they expose the student to a broad range of related topics, which is smart for the exploration and planning process. I also found that many of the stories had a career element -- interviews with biologists in the field, for example. I like these connections that help someone take an abstract idea like a career plan and project it out onto the world to see what comes up. It's unrefined, but perhaps a good starting point.

Common Myths About Web Design

I'm not so sure about the format of Common Myths About Web Design. I haven't been hearing most of these myths, at least not since the late '90s. The only reason I'm linking to the article is that it captures some of the shift from web pages (static, html, browser-bound) to web services and networked applications, which require a different design perspective. Ironically, this "new" perspective may borrow more heavily from pre-Internet software development methodology.

We're seeing that shift in our interaction-design work these days -- we used to be able to storyboard a site by thinking in terms of building and connecting discreet pages of content. It was quite predictable because pages could live in a pre-determined structure and you'd just figure out the best way to navigate between them. New personalized services and applications have nearly infinite permutations of individual "screens", making the behaviour -- if/then rules, cause/effect loops, state-specific displays -- of the application more important than the traditional navigational elements. It becomes a question of managing variables rather than simply giving directions. Cooper has published articles about software behaviour in relation to marketing, but this takes it a step further into the realm of interaction design.

The shift to services may be driven by economics to a certain extent. Perhaps selling information online is unsustainable because it's too easy. As the difficulty and cost of web publishing has fallen to nearly zero, the availability of free alternatives to your very important content is almost guaranteed unless you have very timely and/or exclusive stuff that people just can't do without.

As Stephen and others have pointed out, services are different. I'm not going to pay for an article about how to find out who links to my blog because I know I'll find one somewhere for free. But if I'm curious enough, I just might pay Technorati a few bucks to get an RSS feed of new links to my site, because for me to create the software to do that would be impossible (or at least very difficult and expensive). Maybe the next financial opportunities online lie in helping people accomplish tasks with tools they won't be able to create on their own.

Home Sweet School

Joanne Jacobs links to a report from Time: Home Sweet School. It uses some of the same old arguments against homeschooling (which mostly aren't true, or very interesting), but goes a bit further into how the phenomenon of homeschooling (growing at 11 percent a year) is impacting the public system already...with more to come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

eGovernment in Sheffield

From Sheffield in the UK comes this interesting attempt to get young people more involved in municipal issues: Smart | Connect. The format is intriguing, combining information and surveys to try to teach and gather opinions at the same time. Modules covering smoking issues, recreation facilities, and perceptions of local government are the main focus of this exercise in "e-consultation". They've also added a portfolio-like component called "Your Space", but I'm not sure why anyone would use it.

Monday, March 22, 2004

For-Fee Online Content

I'd like to link to an article about the return of for-fee online subscription models, but the Wall Street Journal charges $80/year for their online subscription...perhaps illustrating some bias and truth in the article.
"Adds Craig Sherman, chief marketing and revenue officer at Inc., which operates popular genealogy Web sites: 'To be able to charge, you need a service that's radically easier, faster and more fun than if it were free.'"
Perhaps I'm inferring too much, but this quote is basically saying that people may be willing pay for good design. I suspect that many dot-coms crashed and burned while trying to justifying their existence with similar hopes. If the free alternative is good enough, not many people are going to be willing to pay for the easier, faster, more expensive version. It still seems like content exclusivity is still the main criteria for what people might be willing to pay for. Several of the examples given might fall in the social-software realm -- can and dating sites like be lumped in with pure "content providers" like news sites?

Friday, March 19, 2004

School Daze

Editorial cartoons are a finely tuned art, but I hadn't realized that they'd hit the digital age. Check out School Daze for a funny, Flashified look at school funding and reform.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

ePortfolio Resources

Via e-Teaching, I found this huge list of ePortfolio resources. Days of browsing in there...

One of the commercial eportfolio providers released their own portfolio xml specification last year -- I don't know if there are other competing ones.

ePortfolios and weblogs: one vision for ePortfolio development

David Tosh is focusing on ePortfolios -- he's just published an excellent overview of the potential for integrating weblogs and portfolios, with in an introduction to the xml structures that enable the exchange of data:
ePortfolios and weblogs: one vision for ePortfolio development(pdf).
"One main strength of the ePortfolio is the ability to alter the dynamics of learning pedagogy, students are actively engaging in their learning not just the recipients of information. Reflecting on what they are learning may help map out future direction."
This is great stuff. It feels like this ePortfolios could really explode in the next couple of years. Everyone seems to be acknowledging the value, and the technology has reached the point where this could be cheap and relatively simple to implement anywhere. My primary question is whether the tools and processes can engage students to the degree that they'll continue using it on their own.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Virtual Environment Research

There are so many interesting questions being asked and answered at the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior at UCSB. I thought this photo-realistic 3D head was ridiculously cool (very quick auto-download browser patch required). It's almost a bit creepy, but there's something fun about twisting that head around. A huge step up from the usual cheesy 3D graphic avatars.

Student Motivation and Blogging Portfolios

Via Will comes Crawford Killian's account of how unwilling most of his students are to blog. As Will says, "It's frustrating that they can't share in the rewards that I find from blogging." I don't think this is much different than online instructors having to basically force students to participate in online discussion boards by using participation marks or required numbers of posts. We know that students will learn more if they participate in a meaningful way, and hope that priming the pump with requirements will help....but most students are just jumping through hoops.

I've been doing some thinking about creating the ultimate planning portfolio for high school students. Most likely, students would have a few key components of their online portfolios assigned -- probably some self-assessment exercises, self-reported interests/values, some career exploration and building some post-secondary plans. Ideally, once those hoop-jumping activities had been completed, the student would have a fairly meaningful representation of their current identity (what they like, what's important, their personal network) and some future options that interest them more than others.

In the afternoon I dragged my laptop into the application-development office where the smart techies sit. I wanted their feedback on this model of portfolio, and specifically how feasible it was to connect a student's identity and plans to:
  • other people -- peers and mentors -- with similar interests, plans, and experiences (probably connecting to FOAF vocabulary)
  • related news and resources based on their interests and plans (perhaps with custom XML search feeds)
  • school information systems so they could connect plans to specific courses, marks and other metrics (using the SIF standard)
  • the functionality to reflect and comment on their planning process in blog-like form (maybe using a very simple LiveJournal-style model)
Although I was looking for technical feedback from these smart folks, and they confirmed that this was all feasible, they brought the discussion back to the core issue: are the students going to care enough about this stuff to go beyond what's assigned? Or would these further extensions be so compelling that they would be assigned? This model is based on the idea that students may come back regularly (at least occasionally) to make these powerful the designer-dream world, students would care enough to keep checking and reflecting after their instruction was finished. As we talked about it, we weren't so sure that many of them would bother, no matter how relevant the news is, how slick the blogging works, or how closely we could match them up to likeminded folks.

Games Outside the System

Yesterday I said that the Serious Games listserv occasionally flares up...right now it's on fire, with some serious debate. Ben Sawyer probably has more good ideas in a day than I have in a year. In this discussion, he's taking the angle that game developers and advocates should be working with teachers and instructors to help get the right things built and implemented. Marc Prensky objects to the approach, basically saying that it's time to cut out the educating middlemen:
"But if our goal is to help the world, or our country, or the people who are not being served or who are being poorly served, and we want to use public money or scarce resources to do it, then we are compelled, it seems to me, to go where the biggest problems are, and to focus not where the resistance is highest, but where it is the lowest. To me this means getting unmotivated kids motivated and doing it outside the schools rather than through the teachers."
While this change-the-world rhetoric may sound somewhat melodramatic, I tend to agree with his cynicism about the ability and willingness of most teachers to embrace and implement new technology, especially anything that might be construed as fun. They are under too much pressure to cover too much curriculum with hundreds of teenagers who are often hostile to the entire exercise. Marc isn't afraid to alienate the establishment to get things happening:
"My sense is that we now have the tools, with modern game design, to get someone who is initially unwilling through any subject, with a depth that allows them to pass any test. That should, in my opinion, be our goal. Sadly, our teachers and trainers have failed miserably at this (although they deal with the first group reasonably well.)"

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Serious Games

The Serious Games listserv occasionally flares up with some wonderful writing. Debra Lieberman recently posted about the contrast between games being used in a larger instructional context and stand-alone educational games. This is wisdom that should be shared, but I can't find an archive online, so I'll paste it in here:
  • If the game is assigned by a teacher, there is less pressure to make the game so entertaining and instantly gratifying that players will want to play it during free time. If students must play it as an assignment, the game does not have to compete with high-production-value commercial games for their attention.
  • The assigned game can be a lot more difficult than the learner is comfortable with, it can require a greater amount of sustained effort than leisure-time players may be willing to invest in learning, and the range of difficulty can be wider since it is assumed the classroom teacher or coach will be teaching more skills and content than the game itself provides.
  • The game does what it does best, and other kinds of classroom learning or coached learning do what they do best. The game does not have to teach everything since it is part of a larger curriculum.
  • The game can be designed to pique curiosity, motivate information-seeking, question assumptions, encourage discussion...just to get students more involved in the topic so they are ready to learn more in the classroom or coaching setting. Here again, the game is not expected to teach everything.
  • The game can be an environment for learning and rehearsing skills, while the classroom can provide hands-on experiences and new ways to apply those skills.
  • A human teacher or coach has an interpersonal relationship with the learner, and may provide emotional support, caring, enthusiasm, encouragement, role modeling, and a social context for learning. The teacher can read the learner's emotional state and can adjust the lesson accordingly.
  • Other learners also provide a social context for learning. Classroom-based lessons can be designed to encourage social interaction among students while they are learning, and this can be related to a game they had been assigned to play.
  • A game need not be played during class meeting times. Students can be assigned to play a game at home, and then come to class or the coaching situation for hands-on learning, application and rehearsal of skills, group discussion, field trips, and many other learning activities that do not involve playing a game.
I like all of these points, particularly the idea that games don't have to contain entire lessons or cover whole sections of learning -- they might work best motivation and interest-building in a topic. So instead of having students "live" in SimCity for a whole unit on urban planning, why not use one component of the game in one class to get things rolling, then revisit it later for comparison?

Custom Feeds for Planning Portfolios

In typically slow fashion, I'm finally figuring out why news search feeds might be worth looking into. Although I didn't get great results out of the Yahoo! version, this one using Google seems to work like a dream. Like all real learning, I had to bump into a need before the tool seemed valuable.

The idea is this: if students created a planning portfolio that contained their interests, plans and results of various activities they had done, couldn't we infer that they might be interested in a few very targeted online resources that related to those interests and plans? So I imagined that I'm in Grade 12 and I'm planning to take biology at Brown University next year. Would this custom feed interest me enough to want to keep coming back to check it occasionally? Maybe, although the "news" aspect of it might be overkill.

Downes on Papert

This International Conference on Educational Multimedia sounds like it would have been excellent. Thank goodness we have Stephen Downes channelling Seymour Papert, which is almost as good as being there. More good thinking about using technology as the catalyst for educational revolution:
"The laptop program is part of the answer, but 'don't mistake that for really deep change - we need deeper change.' A study of one of the older programs, for example, showed that after the initial excitement, the results weren't nearly as striking - the kids weren't looking after the machines. 'The kids had high expectations but they soon learned it's the same stuff in a new bottle.'"

Learning in Communities

Stephen Downes assembled a great little guide to Learning in Communities a couple of weeks ago. It's another one of those things that I skimmed while I was too busy, but luckily saved for later digestion. My current interest in learning communities is whether to (or how to) integrate student planning portfolios and learning communities. A few gems I need to internalize:
  • "a group of people can create a more complete understanding than a single person working on his or her own" This is obvious, but I tend to prefer working alone, so I need constant reminders of this truth. Your ability to establish context for new information is often entirely dependant on the people you're working with.
  • "a community generates a sense of commitment not created merely by an individual working on their own with the content. As Rheingold notes, 'People everywhere seem more interested in communicating with each other than with databases.'" I've sometimes thought of comparing this with the value of having a workout partner. By sharing responsibility, you increase the commitment level. Rheingold's quote reminds me that no matter how good the data and navigation in our services, people still want to connect with other people.
  • "content and communication must form a seamless whole"...this seems most difficult to me. Within the context of a single application, perhaps it simply means that when you're communicating, you need easy access to data, and when you're looking at content, you need easy access to communication channels.

Educating Kids to Move Away

Big cities lure away North Dakota youth
I can relate to this story personally because I grew up an hour from the North Dakota border, and many of the same factors applied in Manitoba. Kids don't want to stay because the weather sucks and there's no culture or nightlife. They know they can create the lifestyle they want somewhere else, so they're doing so. Meanwhile, the economy in the state is booming, incomes are rising, the cost of living is low and there are opportunities everywhere. The education system has great graduation and post-secondary rates, which should be a good thing, but it may be part of the problem:
"But the emphasis on higher education — part of a strategy to compete economically — has backfired in a way. The state is producing economic thoroughbreds: educated young people with the farmers' work ethic. North Dakota has plenty of jobs, just not the jobs college-educated young people want. And the state has not been able to attract large numbers of newcomers, foreign or domestic, to compete for the jobs it does have."
So record numbers of young people end up going to college, and most of those leave or don't come back after going out of state for college. I think the one example was telling -- they interview the mother of a young woman who got a university degree, then moved to Oregon, where she's working three low-paying jobs because she loves the lifestyle. Others take professional degrees and realize that they can make twice as much money in the big cities, which more than makes up for the difference in cost-of-living.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Bloglines and elearnspacers

I'm cleaning out my saved items in Bloglines this morning, so it's a bit of a deluge. My transition to the online aggregator is now complete -- I highly recommend it.

George had a couple of great posts last week. In The Value of Debriefing Learning Experiences, he talks about his daughter's frustration in a learning experience and how he reacted to it.

Also I agree with his objection to the idea that online communities 'are old-skool'. It's true that the hype around social networks, IM and blogging has crowded out the status of message boards, but I've recently found very successful online communities for two of my and bikes.

Non-College Options

It's very uncool these days to imply that lots of high school students aren't cut out for university...or even that it shouldn't be desirable for everyone to think they should go to college. Some recent posts that go against the grain:

Bumps in the Road for Students Blogging

Via James...some difficulties with student blogging, including some interesting ruminations on the purpose and parameters of online reflection with learners.
"One learner stated that he was uncomfortable with how much to reveal about himself. The future consequences being 'too exposed' could be detrimental to his employement or releationships down the line."

Technology in K-12

Are We There Yet?
This research was completed in 2002 for the National School Boards Foundation to assess technology integration in the public school system. Lots of interesting nuggets, many underpinning the frustrations I've heard from teachers in my recent courses: they don't get professional development for tech integration and tech decisions are being made at the top (out of touch with the needs of the front lines). A few quotes:
  • Almost 30 percent of school leaders believe that at least one in five students soon will receive a substantial portion* of their instruction over the Internet.
  • More than half of school leaders report that students are providing technical support in their districts. Often, they are assuming major responsibilities.
  • Despite the rapid advances in technology and the expected increase in online learning in the coming years, decisions on technology policies and budget allocations remain in the hands of a few.
  • They are looking for standards-based resources (64 percent), online assessment and test preparation (59 percent), standards-based report cards (50 percent), and Web-based portfolios (48 percent).
At the end, they also offer some guidelines for better technology integration. They're fleshed out quite well, but here are just the bullet points:
  • Treat technology as an integral tool for instruction and administration — not as an add-on.
  • Use the Internet for core educational priorities that matter most to student achievement.
  • Invest significantly in professional development for school leaders and teachers.
  • Anticipate and plan for the changes that increased use of the Internet will bring to schools.
  • Broaden community involvement in school technology policies and practices.

Faceted Browse and Info Retrieval

Information architecture just isn't very exciting...but it's extremely important and I need to stay on top of the latest methodologies in the field. Tons of good stuff linked from the IA Summit schedule, including Keith Instone's faceted browse presentation. We do a fairly complex faceted browse in one of our products, to help people find careers that meet their criteria: show me careers paying $50,000, using a degree in education, suiting someone artistic and investigative, with good job-growth potential. The one we've got works pretty good, but I like Keith's sequential narrowing technique. More clicks, but simplified.

Along similar lines Mathemagenic posted this little blurb about the difficulty of designing good information structures. Sobering, but I suspect those numbers are pretty close to the mark. Great follow-up discussion as well. Ever try to find a file in someone else's personal folders (organized perfectly logically to them, of course)?

Downes on James Paul Gee

More great stuff on games and learning: Stephen's summary of James Paul Gee's presentation. There's an undercurrent of revolution in these ideas -- when you put the motivating factors of games beside the irrelevance of school (as perceived by most students), something has to give. Some great questions in the first response as well.

Mark Prensky on Games and Learning

This collection of writing on games, simulations and education could eradicate hours of your day in a flash. Some of it is a couple of years old already, but it's not less relevant because of it. He really gets the split between analog instructors and digital kids, as well as the fundamental difference between educational software and games. From Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants:
"Is it that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, or that they choose not to? Often from the Natives’ point of view their Digital Immigrant instructors make their education not worth paying attention to compared to everything else they experience – and then they blame them for not paying attention!"
Much of his philosophy is outlined quite nicely in Game Design: a New Language for Communicating Ideas, a collection of slides that stand alone reasonably well.


Seb's Open Research linked to a new blog about ePortfolios, which referenced a conference in Vancouver that I should definitely attend. Lots of great stuff in there, including ePortfolio samples from Maricopa College, and Alan's description of the process. Oh, and I'm not sure where this came from, but there are some beautiful portfolios in here -- if only they could get students reflecting about process.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

What Should Be Taught

Regular readers know that I'm a sucker for big steps back from the usual myopic view of what the purpose of education could be. Education - What Should Be Taught? is one of those thought-provoking pieces that basically points out how much important stuff we don't know when we get out of high school. It's pretty funny, too.

The Play Ethic and Good Work

Pat Kane had a great post recently about the Good Work Project by Csikszentmihalyi and Gardner. I enjoyed their book last year, although it seemed incomplete in many ways, not taking full advantage of the research they'd pursued individually in the past. Pat's Play Ethic has plenty in common with Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory and he extends this connection into speculation about what kind of ethical play/work hybrids might emerge in the future. This ties in so well with the mission of the work I'm doing right now: trying to help students envision future work/play/lifestyles that are sustainable and fulfilling...connecting their interests and values and projecting them out onto the unknown world that will exist a generation from now.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Post-Ryze LiveJournal Experiment

Did you know that Ryze doesn't allow you to delete your account on your own? You have to send them an e-mail requesting deletion, along with the reasons you don't want to be part of their network. Am I alone in being entirely creeped out by this stuff?

You'd think I would have learned my lesson already, but I also signed up for a LiveJournal account. The way they've separated your profile (personal info, interests, friends, networks) from your journal is simple and smart. The fact that your account auto-generates a FOAF file is pretty slick and I love clicking on one of my interests to see all of the other users and networks that share it. The primary limitation of LiveJournal as a platform for a learning portfolio is that you can't upload files to it, so you'd have to be linking out to documents, images and people outside the LiveJournal realm.

Myers-Briggs Personality Types and Identity

Myers-Briggs personality types have been around for a long time, and they've often been used in career planning. I got thinking about them again this week when I saw that MBTI codes were an interesting addition to the FOAF specification. As part of a learning/planning portfolio that you were going to share with others and use as a basis for finding people with similar plans, MBTI could be really cool.

Why do we seem to enjoy taking these assessments that supposedly tell us about ourselves, even though we know the answers beforehand? We seem to like the simplicity of the generalizations these tools spit out. I found the "blindspots" for my type somewhat valuable:
  • Moving your plans from the "thinking" stage to the "doing" stage.
  • Establishing realistic and achievable goals.
  • Appearing overly confident or arrogant to people.
  • Not following through on important details.
  • Avoiding making decisions while you collects even more information.

Second Path

Pathways to Technology profiles students who have gone to community colleges to take technology programs and follows them through to their employment. Although the bias is clear (funded by an association of community colleges), it certainly does give the impression that these programs are hands-on and applicable to the real world. Just seems more relevant than the university route, somehow.

Two guys from my hometown started post-secondary school at the same time -- one in an electrical technology program at Red River College and the other took an electrical engineering degree at a university. The first guy got hired right after finishing the two years, while the second one is finishing up this spring after five years and a huge debt load. They'll likely be doing similar types of work, at least at the entry level. At some point, the guy with the degree will probably make more money, but at what cost?

Standards-Based Education

Evan linked to this teacher's experience in implementing Standards-Based Education. Much of it focuses on the reporting and the confusion of eliminating the familiar letter-grade system, but we're hearing a lot about the importance of academic standards these days -- I need to understand it better.

Pew Personal Publishing Report

Content Creation Online was released yesterday, leading with the claim that "44% of U.S. Internet users have contributed their thoughts and their files to the online world". The demographic profiles of the types of people who contribute the most online content is interesting: the young tech elite blog, share files, chat online and play games at higher rates than any other group, while older creators focus their attention on their personal web sites. Accompanying the report is this nifty breakdown of what the 69 million Americans who use the net each day are actually doing online.

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy?

This somewhat disgruntled review of James Paul Gee's new book has some interesting thoughts about identity and learning:
"Gee argues that the identification with the avatar and the player's agency gives you a completely different experience than in other media. An experience that enhances learning as things becomes relevant and important on a concrete level in the game. It not something you 'just' learn in school more or less, and then move on. Here it is tested and perceived as important. It is also used in different settings and becomes more fully integrated into the student's way of understanding the world."
Although the critique seems to be based on the idea that the focus of the book isn't academic enough, I wouldn't be bothered by that -- it sounds like it would be worth checking out. Found this through Pat Kane, who was recently shocked by Joanne Jacobs' approach to kids, leisure and homework. I regularly disagree with her, but I figure you never learn anything if you only read stuff you agree with.