15 January 2007
Here are some comments on Wikiversity:Reports/15 January 2007:
Cormaggio mentioned that Wikiversity has a quality of openness. I understand this to reflect a comparison between Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Wikipedia has a narrow mission (produce encyclopedia articles) while I view Wikiversity as a more open experiment aimed at trying to explore the full potential of wiki technology as a tool to support human learning. The human capacity to form large and complex social groups and for individuals to learn from participation in social groups defines us as a species. Cormaggio asked how can we act to ensure that the openness of Wikiversity isn’t lost or undermined. Wikiversity needs to remember the broad mission of the Wikimedia Foundation, working to make possible that every human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. From a biological perspective, we need to remember that humans are diverse. The human brain is a device that amplifies human behavioral diversity. To respect this diversity Wikiversity can "run small experiments, tests, see what works, what doesn't, and be prepared to be flexible and change, and not be too locked into stone about how things should work" (Jimmy Wales said this in a different context, but I think it applies to Wikiversity source).
What are blogs at Wikiversity for?Edit
Wikipedia was designed to be all about the "content" ot "product" while minimizing the role of the contributors. Wikiversity was given a broader mandate: "..... the idea here is to also host learning communities, so people who are actually trying to learn, actually have a place to come and interact and help each other figure out how to learn things. We're also going to be hosting and fostering research into how these kinds of things can be used more effectively" (source).
Each Wikiversity participant can use blogs to describe their learning goals. Doing so can help individuals find other Wikiversity participants with similar interests. Personal blogs can be used to document the intellectual challenges being faced by Wikiversity participants. I like the idea of "writing across the curriculum". Learners should always be writing and blogs are a natural way for learners to order their own thoughts. Group blogs for collaborative projects should also play a role at Wikiversity. Due to the limited communications channels linking wiki participants, we will all benefit from opening as many communications channels as possible.
I previously placed a request for the developers to start to introduce MediaWiki tools that will make it possible to control individual page sections when transcluding page content from a source page to a target page. Until we have such tools, we can use cut-and-paste and use transclusion of pages with individual blog entries.
The path to Wikiversity Reports was by way of Wikiversity the Movie and Wikiversity shorts. There were two goals. I wanted to learn about video podcasting and I think it would be useful for Wikiversity to make use of multimedia techniques to facilitate learning.
Cormaggio asked, "In making technologically advanced reports, are we excluding the technologically-not-so-advanced participants?." Even if someone has no interest in making or using multimedia they can still participate at Wikiversity Reports and Wikiversity the Movie. There is work in support of making video presentations that can be done just by editing wiki pages. If someone wanted to, the content of a video presentation could be "translated" into other formats such as text descriptions of the content.
Cormaggio asked, "what will/can be done if materials from, say, a Nazi-ist perspective are added to Wikiversity?" The Wikimedia Foundation traditionally hides behind the safety of the "Neutral Point of View" and "No Original Research" policies. If Wikiversity is to create a space for scholarly activty that exists beyond the confines of NPOV and NOR then we need some new protections. I think that we can make use of a policy for Scholarly ethics to help the Wikiversity community distinguish between desirable and undesirable content.
Cormaggio raised several questions about how best to develop the Wikiversity community. I think this basically means attracting more good editors. There are specific things we can do to support both new wiki editors and experienced editors. I previously put some ideas at Supporting Wikiversity participants.
I think it is worth keeping in mind that most wikis depend on self-motivated volunteer editors who edit because they enjoy doing so. For example, some of the Wikia websites such as the Star Wars wikia are powered by a large fan base for Star Wars. Most students in conventional schools do not associate learning with fun and they are trained that academic learning is something they are forced to do by others.
Those learners who are self-motivated generally do not want to "waste" their time on inefficient learning. Such well-motivated learners seek out the most efficient learning experiences. While the Wikiversity community is forming we are in a situation where it is highly unlikely for several people with the same interests to show up at the same time and develop a constructive collaboration. Editors are likely to stay a short time, confirm that they cannot establish constructive social interactions with like-minded learners and then move on.
Under such conditions, it can be important to attract visionary participants who recognize that even a successful wiki such as Wikipedia started out small and took several years to begin to develop robust collaborative "wikiprojects" for particular academic topics. A first step towards attracting the rare participants who can help get Wikiversity started is to make sure that Wikiversity is widely "advertised". We also need good "help" pages and tutorials to help people learn to be constructive wiki editors.
We also need to build links to Wikipedia so that academically-oriented editors at Wikiversity feel free to help edit at Wikiversity.