Help:Experimental resource types
On Wikiversity, you are not restricted to any canon of conventional educational resource types. You can try and create new kinds of resources. This page is intended as a guide and as help in this process.
Poor reasons for being experimental
- "I want to be different."
- What you think is experimental may be very, very conventional (see below), not that there's anything wrong with it. Remember that collaborative authoring is 1000’s years old, and probably older than individual authoring.
- "I want to be famous."
- Prior to the inception of the wiki and Wikipedia, there were nevertheless tens of thousands of progressive educators all over the world, experimenting, developing and publishing methodologies in other formats. Just as a matter of statistics and probability, your chances of having an original idea are slim.
- "I want to achieve great things."
- If you wish to see further, stand on the shoulders of a giant rather than your own two feet. Find someone who already did something similar to what you want, then borrow from them, learn from them, build on their foundation incrementally. (Tip: this is the wiki way).
Good reasons for being experimental
One of the characteristics of experimental educational approaches in the field of open educational resources is the erasure of the strict distinction between teacher and learner. To students who are disillusioned with their teachers after making it through an unusually old-fashioned educational system, this can seem like fun: "students rool!". However the reason for creating resources which do not require a teacher/learner distinction is in fact that there are parts of the world with such under-developed educational systems that they have few or no teachers, or teachers lacking qualifications in key areas, or teacher-student ratios which are so bad that unusual approaches are required. It is sadly a matter of economic necessity in these areas that teachers must become students or students must become teachers, just in order to provide a basic education for everyone involved. However we need to remember that extreme situations of this kind have occurred throughout history, so methods of education which attempt to cope with these situations also exist which are centuries old.
Reaching new audiences
The internet is an old idea which works a little quicker and on a larger scale. The speed and scale of the new opportunities provides good reason to modify old methods and invent new ones. Remember that there are parts of the world where electricity is only available for part of the day, if at all, and that these may be the parts of the world with the greatest educational needs.
The word "wiki" means fast. Possibly the one thing which school-teachers in developed countries most lack is time. If you develop methods of education on Wikiversity which help make things faster for school-teachers, then you are catering for a huge market.
Compensating for lack of resources
Necessity is the mother of invention. The other side of this is that if nobody needs your invention, nobody will use it. Need brings both ideas and audiences. Resources (in the sense of money, time, staff, books, materials, etc) are very unevenly distributed in the world, even within the world's richest educational systems. Developing new ways of using a wiki to cope with lack of resources isn't rocket science, though. Just follow one simple principle: follow the need.
Approaches to being experimental
Abandon conventionality completely
Section under construction.
Modify conventionality step-by-step
Section under construction.
Tips for being educationally experimental without completely goofing up
Things to think about before you goof up
- When Thomas Edison invented the light-bulb, he is widely quoted as saying that his (failed) attempts included no less than 1200 experiments with 6000 different types of vegetable matter as possible filament components. Don't think you'll get it right first time.
- Don't stereotype convention. People who stereotype convention usually end up assuming that "convention = frontal teaching", perhaps because they were taught that way. Convention really just means any methods which have been well-studied and are widely used in education. Here is some reading for you: traditional education, education reform, constructivism (learning theory), active learning, problem-based learning, discovery learning, student-centred learning, Socratic method, open classroom.
- If you didn't manage the reading list above, don't worry. The wheel was a great invention, and if you reinvent it, nobody's complaining (it's your time). To continue the story, Edison didn't actually invent the light-bulb; he spent enormous amounts of time and money improving previous ideas and then found that someone else had had the idea first (see rest of story).
Things to do while you experiment
- Be educational. Even if your resource isn't a lesson, nevertheless read a lot of the advice at Help:Lesson about teaching and being educationally valuable. A lot of it may apply.
- Try out your ideas on a real world class so that you can create a feedback cycle for testing and improving your ideas. Run your feedback cycle like this:
- Put your experimental resource type onto Wikiversity.
- Send your class to the resource.
- Find out what the class thinks.
- Judge whether the class learnt anything.
- Think about the above.
- Write an experience report on Wikiversity for others who follow in your tracks.
- Modify your resource in the light of what you learnt from the experience.
- Repeat steps 2 to 7 until you feel the resource type works.
- Think of a name for your new invention and tell us about it.
- If you hope to rely on a new audience that was waiting for you on Wikiversity, this may not work. Even if sufficient numbers of people become interested in your resource, the quality and quantity of feedback you get will be very low. There are people who have done it this way, but they were probably talented educationalists who worked very hard. Real world classes are an easier route.
Wikiversity has a resource type called an "observational clock", which is based on the scientific practice of phenology dating back at least 1200 years to a time when the Chinese and Japanese recorded the annual variations in the blossoming times of peach and cherry trees.
The "observational clock", despite building on ancient and very well-established ideas, can be classified as an "experimental" resource type because of the arduous and innovative process of adapting the MediaWiki content management system to the hosting of a global phenological recording system. A Wikiversity observational clock is an experiment in massively distributed collaboration which invites school classes and amateur horticulturalists from all over the world to join in tracking the bloom times of hundreds of species of plant. At the technical level, the project involves complex templates for creating and maintaining recognition and classification "keys". Adapting and perfecting the technology behind the resource type is an ongoing process which responds to the growing number of participants and species.
Although the majority of resources on Wikiversity are probably conventional resource types, the very largest single resource is an observational clock - the Bloom Clock Project.
- Holmberg, B. (2005). The evolution, principles and practices of distance education. Bibliotheks-und Informationssystem der Universitat Oldenburg. p. 13.
- Moore, Michael G. (2005). Distance Education: A Systems View (Second ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-50688-7. Unknown parameter