Informal learning activities

  This collection of resources is intended to provide tools for informal learning, that is, for learning incidentally, even unintentionally.  The tools provide an informal interface to Wikipedia with the Wiktionary as an adjunct.

Informal Learning ActivitiesEdit

  The idea is that the user can use the name trees described here to wander around Wikipedia and beyond as instinct or interest suggests, rather than as some authority prescribes.  The tools given here are meant to provide an organised collection of starting points for the wanderer.  For more about wandering, see here.

  The following descriptions of the tools and their background resources assume the prospective user is familiar with at least the basic operations of whatever Web browser is to be used for wandering.  A description of using a browser for wandering is given in the Wandering Web page just mentioned.

Name TreesEdit

  At present the available resources provide name trees, so-called because they provide a choice of starting points for wandering.  The starting points are Wikipedia and maybe Wiktionary pages which are like the trunk of a tree.  A starting point is like the trunk of a tree because it provides links to other Wikipedia (and sometimes Wiktionary, sometimes further afield) pages that are like the branches of a tree.  Those branches in turn provide other links, and so on, and so on.

  The various Wikipedia and other pages describe an entity of some kind, and the kinds are many and varied.  Rather than having one list of entities, one forest of name trees, it is less confusing to have separate name tree forests for different kinds of entities. 

  One distinction to be made between kinds of names is between generic and specific names.  This is explained in the description of the primary forest that follows, and from where wandering can start.

The Primary ForestEdit

  The first family of name trees, the primary forests, to be provided in this resource is described in detail here.  This link will also allow anyone keen and experienced enough to start their wandering without tuition to do so straight away.

  Items within primary forests are in alphabetic sequence, but segregated into eight groves of items.  Provision is made for easy movement between groves.

  The items in the various primary trees were not chosen systematically.  Mainly they were entities that the composer of these trees came across while developing this resource and while doing other online work, such as Distributed Proofreading.  However, relatively familiar entities were not chosen, though this factor is quite subjective, and unusual spellings were favoured.

  The expectation is that the primary forests should be left as they are, that is, that items should not be added or removed, so that frequent users will be more comfortable with a stable forest.  Of course the Wikipedia links on the branches of the trees are not all that stable, as they may be changed under editorial control.  This is the main reason why the items in the Men and Women primary forest are all of deceased people, and hence less likely to be changed significantly.

The Secondary ForestEdit

  The secondary name tree forests very closely resemble the primary forests.  They are linked to through, and explained, here.  However it is not intended for use by inexperienced wanderers.

  The intention is that wanderers through primary forests may well come to wish to add items to groves, and this is what the secondary forest is for.  As and if this forest grows then it will provide an extra place for general purpose wandering.  At present it is sparse.

  The items within the secondary forest should be chosen along the same lines as followed for the primary forest, and care should be taken to not repeat primary items in the secondary forest.  There is a link in the heading of each grove that allows easy switching between corresponding groves; ⇓⇓ in primary groves to move to the corresponding secondary and ⇑⇑ to move the other way.

Tertriary ForestsEdit

  Tertiary forests are much more a prospect than a reality.  However two such forests have been started and are explained in the Background information below.

  Anyone wishing to go directly to one of these can find the topical forests here, and the educational forests here.


  The content of this background is about where this resource came from, its early history, and where it could go to.  Users who just want to wander do not need to know about the things described below.  Users who want to know how the trees are coded, for example so that they can contribute, can make a start here.


  In the beginning was a simple HTML file written to allow review of simple English words encountered during reading both offline and online.  This file may be got at for inspection from here.

  The link words in this file were not restricted to nouns, and were presented like a very simple generic name tree item.  The link was to one of a variety of online dictionaries, or to Wikipedia in the role of a dictionary.  The hint was parenthetic.

  The idea of putting the file online was that, if it proved popular when it was cited in a published paper, it could be extended indefinitely.  However, the paper was never finished, so the file went into abeyance.

  Some time later the richness of Wikipedia provoked a realisation of the importance of specific names, and of the awkwardness of including adjectives and verbs and alternative spellings.  Thus began the construction of the primary name tree forests of this resource, which involved a protracted development of templates for displaying name tree groves in parallel with separating the existing files into two specific name forests and with building the two generic name forests from scratch.


  It is hoped that the original (primary) name tree resources provided here will be supplemented by various people for various uses.  The following descriptions and suggestions are to help such supplements to be made.

The Secondary ForestsEdit

  The secondary name tree forests closely resemble the primary ones, but have relatively few items as they have been set up mainly to allow enthusiasts to have somewhere to put items of particular interest to them.  One obstacle here is the forest of templates coded for these name trees.

  The first need is for changing the templates needed to code the adjunctive hints for the Places and Buildings trees, for which hints see here.  Each hint has its own template.  There should be some way of collapsing them into a single template with conditional coding, which the original compiler of this resource doesn't know how to do and needs an example to guide him.  If this could be done (and soon) it would make it much easier and safer for contributors to the secondary name trees to add a new country or region to the code template.

Topical ForestsEdit

  The idea of a topical forest is to have a narrow focus so that wanderers with a specific interest can use the forest to greatly increase their knowledge.  In other words, each topical forest embodies a specialty in great detail.

  The problem facing anyone wanting to put together topical name tree forests is the coding of the forest groves.  It would be best if they all used the same presentation style, but this is difficult, again because of the multiplicity of the templates needed.  Again, as for the adjunctive hints described above, these should be able to be collapsed into a small number of conditional templates, able to be used in any groves.

  A topical forest for geographical history has been started, and it, and topical forests generally, are described here.

Educational ForestsEdit

  Although the name tree forests are mainly intended for use in informal learning, they also have an extremely important potential role in support of basic education.  Teachers can direct their students to particular educational groves to foster their interest and encourage their learning.

  An educational forest is intended to provide support to education in two ways for any particular subject area.

  The first way is to provide a simple portal to Wikipedia for a large number of simple links to items within a particular subject area.  That part of the forest corresponds to the topical forest.

  The second way is to provide an interface for teachers to use to manage student group use of name forests.  This is a complex but extremely important use, and the importance and nature of student group use is discussed here.

  Items in educational name trees therefore do not need adjunctive hints; the displayed name is enough for the learner.  Of course a complemetary forest in the style of the primary and secondary forests, that is, with animal names in alphabetic sequence with adjunctive hints, could well be put together, but has not yet been started.

  An educational forest for the study of animals has been started, and it, and educational forests generally, are described here.