Sunday, May 13, 2007

Where there's a will, there's a wiki.


There's been some discussion over on the WikiEducator google group about whether there needs to be a wikilearner.org ... about whether WikiEducator is just reproducing traditional pedagogical practices and principles. I don't subscribe to the "one pedagogy to rule them all" approach in this epic battle, and think that WikiEducator is doing some fantastic stuff... but I do think that there may be a place for a wikilearner.org (or something along those lines.) A few weeks back after a conversation with Leigh Blackall along the streets of Vancouver I reserved the domain name wikilearner.org just in case we wanted to give this a shot. What follows is basically a post I made to the WikiEducator mailing list/group today.

I've been conspicuously quiet on this one... particularly on my 'intentions' ... which are mostly good ;-)

I am / we are thinking about how, or why a wikilearner.org card might be played out. It seems to me that there is definitely a black hole appearing here ... which is something along the lines of, "can you 'learn' on this platform' and if so, how? (Which, of course, implies .. can you teach? should you teach?) It also reminds me of the age old question posed by Freud: What do women really want? Well.. replace 'women 'with 'learners' and you'll get it from the perspective of a bunch of educators and technologists running around with good ideas, tools, and desires. What those learners really want may tell me more about my own psychologies/philosophies/pedagogies than i'm willing to admit.

I'm very appreciative of the benevolent goals of Wikieducator, it's focus on the Free Culture movement and developing societies. Personally, I see it as a site for "educating the educators", developing robust "content" in the more classical sense - the result of which is essentially a print based model, stemming from the lessons of distance education but replacing the printing presses with distributed, collaborative authoring tools. I don't see anything 'wrong' with that, and I'm more than happy to partake in that vision. But the truth of it for me is that I co-exist with a very very very digital-native (even though I hate that term) - so native in fact that the terminology doesn't even apply to him. "There was something before digital, Daddy?" And, to tell you the truth, I want make something that might end up contributing towards how he and his buddies learn and teach. Fortunately, i've got some time (he's only 2.75 yrs old.)

I don't know how and if "curriculum" applies to him.

I also spend a great deal of time lingering on the IRC chanell for Wikiversity as well, and engaging in conversation with that group as well, as do some others on this list. What Wikiversity is ... is mostly "what Wikiversity is about" ... a great struggle for self-identity. If my psychology was more up-to-date i'd probably have a great term to explain this in tems of some evolving stage of development. It's kind of painful to watch sometimes, but it's also a wonderful space full of some cutting edge thoughts and ideas about using the platform for learning in a networked world, (see: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/WCR), etc. The problem with Wikiversity is that it's a 'versity' and it scares the pants off of people ... i'd never try to "learn" there. It's also currently stuck on the same MediaWiki software that runs Wikipedia ... that's a serious drawback at the moment, because what's good for the goose is not, in this case, what's necessarily good for the goslings. How they will break this bond and fly away from the nest is yet to be seen. Some smart guys over there though, and backed by some heavyweights in the wiki game.

So it seems to me that between these two .. there is a grey area that should really be a very colourful area. Think of it as the little brother or sister of it's parents WikiEducator (the Mom/Mum/Id) and Wikiversity (the Dad/Superego). I think that this is the area that a wikilearner.org might fill, a space that is carefully oriented towards learners in a networked world, that balances content with creativity, an online learners mirror stage (excuse all the psychology references please!). It still needs it's parents for the most part but it may not need all the baggage they bring with them.

This wiki platform isn't the be-all-and-end-all but it's the best manifestation of Berners-Lee's original intent we've got; it's the second half of his dream come true, but it's probably just one bit, one skill, in something larger. So maybe we are nearing the need for another experimental space here ... and maybe a wikilearner.org is it. It wouldn't/shouldn't be about content development though.. that's what WikiEducator and WikiBooks do best. It should be about the activities of living and learning online. Not about all the worlds knowledge in one place, but about the subtleties of discovery, the moments of clarity, and the power of peer-produced creativity; it should be about harnessing the spaces in between teaching and learning (and it shouldn't be anything near a varsity), it should be equally about teaching/learning how to navigate the metaverse, as how to sharpen a chainsaw; how to manipulate a mesh-network, as how to manipulate a solar cooker. So, there's my 0.10 c worth.

brent.
Image: Where to find a good wiki

1 comment:

mackiwg said...

Hey Brent,

Wayne here from Wikieducator.org .

I really like the idea of Wikilearner and this is a big gap in the suite of wiki's that support learners.

This is a great concept -

Learners can become "teachers" on Wikilearner.org by creating content for learning. The old adage that if you want to learn something - try teaching it.

Teachers become "learners" on WikiEducator through the processes of democractic authoring of free educational content.

I hope you're going to go with Mediawiki :-) - this way we can get some interesting interwiki stuff going.