Wikiversity talk:Developing Wikiversity through action research

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Please do comment on this research - what's on your mind?

(Research) questions

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Looking at Wikiversity in its larger scope inevitably involves addressing questions like the following:

  • What is education?
  • How do people learn?
  • What does Wikiversity offer the world of education?

However, I think it might be better (or, at least, more productive in the short term) to ask more specific, and possibly, more practical questions, like:

  • How can I attract more people (learners/educators) to collaborate on an activity of interest to me?
  • How can we attract a learner who has never before used a wiki to learn in/from Wikiversity?
  • How could Wikiversity best serve the interests of a teacher who needs material for their class the following day?

What does anyone think? Do we even need questions of these kinds? How would they prompt/inform actions and reflections?

Cormaggio beep 00:14, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

Cormaggio, I think you should contact various journals and see if they would be interested in publishing the research. If they think they might be, perhaps ask them to point some of their regular contributors to your/our project. I will go ahead and do it with those I know... --Leighblackall 00:29, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
There may be some relevant information at Supporting Wikiversity participants. --JWSchmidt 00:30, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
I suspect we may need to address retention more than initial attraction. Our affiliation with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects should guarantee a steady flow of newcomers. Once potential participant get here how do we funnel them to areas of more than passing interest that look and feel active? Better yet, how do we get them to leave some comments, questions, or tweaks to let us know which trails are getting used by newcomers? Mirwin 04:07, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
All very useful comments/questions/links - thanks very much! On journals, I've already contacted the editor of a peer-reviewed online journal (Journal of Online Learning and Teaching - see cfp) about the prospect of publishing an article there. I thought it might be an idea to use that experience as a learning one - about things like collaborative writing, content licencing - as well as about Wikiversity itself. While I didn't necessarily see this as a product of this research, so to speak, I did see it as potentially fitting into its process (if you can see what I mean). In any case, publishing papers from this research, both individually and collaboratively is certainly something that I'd like us to do. As for supporting and retaining participants/visitors, this seems like it could be an early focus for a pilot project. (Or is it too big a question for such a thing?) How to determine to what extent we can retain visitors to the site (who don't log in), is a very complex question - I'm not exactly sure how it could be done. But I'd be fascinated to hear anyone's ideas on how we could do this.. Cormaggio beep 09:03, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

Hi Cormaggio, Wikiversity is such a divers and fascinating phenomena that I find it very difficult to focus on any single aspect. I think that this makes it essential to clearly and precisely identify the initial goal for any action research projects. I feel that a number of tightly focused action research projects would be more productive than a single all encompassing project.

We already have an active community of participants at Wikiversity. They could provide an invaluable insight into what attracts people to Wikiversity, why they keep coming back and how we can improve Wikiversity so that we have more participants.

One method of identifying which aspect of Wikiversity need an action research intervention is to generate a long list of all the things that could be improved and then prioritise this list to find the most important. This could be done by asking active participants what improvements would make the biggest impact on Wikiversity, posting the answers and asking everyone to vote.

Another approach would be to think carefully about what information we would like to find out from these active participants and draw up an appropriate questionnaire. We could then ask people to fill them in. This could be extended to asking new visitors to fill in an initial questionnaire to find out what they want form Wikiversity. This would have to take into account that people are more likely to complete a questionnaire if they can see some benefit from it.

It would be nice to develop a templates for questionnaires where a link on a users talk page automatically generated subpages for each answer and then added these as includes to the questionnaire home page. This would partially automate the collation of questionnaire replays.

I think the meta-questions are an integral part of action research. The nature of action research means that they don't need to be answered or even asked before the research begins. The questions and their answers will emerge as the project proceeds. These questions are vital as a counter measure to the biases, prejudices and blind spots that we all inevitably have. These questions need to come from a variety of approaches to get a multiple view of the project.

The traditional analytical approach will generate a whole series of questions that need answering. A different view comes form applying the Frankfurt School's critical theory analysis which asks questions about the economic and political significance of the project. Also as Wikiversity is a text based project a wider critical theory analysis would be of use looking at the nature of the author, narrative structures, writing styles and discourse analysis. This brings use into the realm of postmodern analysis. I think applying Derrida's Deconstructive methods would be a very fruitful source of questions and insights. This would entail looking for the internal contradictions and discontinuities that are an integral part of any text and challenge our presumptions of continuity. Also Foucault's approach to discourse analysis will be invaluable in generating even more questions, looking at the web of power relationships that make the existence of any knowledge possible. Yet another analysis would be looking at the project from a cultural studies point of view. Mystictim 12:54, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

Thanks very much, Tim. Firstly, I think you're right that tightly-focused projects are more likely to work than large, open-ended ones, but I think this large, open-ended project needs to exist. I started vaguely here to see what ideas for specific projects/"interventions" people have, and I'm happy to see them coming. What I think will be a natural formation is for these projects to form into distinct agendas and groups, each looking at specific topics. However, what I'd like to see is these groups sharing perspectives and experiences with one another so that we can benefit as fellow researchers/learners/educators etc. I still see the value in keeping a page like this open for now so that we can collectively brainstorm what we want to find out - from this, perhaps, a next step would be to identify plans of action, and groups that share an interest in shaping and implementing those plans. Personally, I don't like the notion of voting for what topics seem to be most relevant - I think that raising ideas, and seeing retrospectively whether and how we act on these ideas, will be a kind of data in itself. However, perhaps it could be made to work, or be felt to be the most efficient way of working - let's see how that pans out.
Questionnaires could, and probably will, be used to some degree in our collective inquiry. I especially like the idea of extending this to new visitors. But, can I clarify: how do you see this fitting into the action research programme, specifically? Did you mean that this would be a form of action, or reflection? Or do you see it as a separate (perhaps even pre-action-research) method/methodology?
On analysis (and thanks very much for bringing this up), there are, as you say, many perspectives that we might care to use. Personally, I am interested in theories like the emancipatory theories of Habermas and Freire, and the activity theory of Vygotsky and Engeström. Language and power also interest me greatly. But, how can we bring specific theoretical frameworks to bear on specific projects? Is it useful to generate data and then subject it to various analyses? I have been taught to think that this is a no-no, but we could prise this open a little more here.. Cormaggio beep 15:47, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
Hope no one minds but I've just unindented the sections above as things were getting a bit narrow. I'd like to suggest a slight revision why not make steps 1 to 3 part of step 4. This would then encompass the whole project within an action research framework. I think this background research and context setting are integral parts of any action research. Also as the action cycle progresses steps 1 to 3 will need to be revisited as new information comes to light.
I agree that we need to keep the debate open and avoid limiting the possible scope of the project to develop Wikiversity through action research. This project could act as a common resource for a number of action research projects. It would be a place to share information on all the steps in the action cycles of the various projects. This would ensure that experience and lessons learnt from each project is shared by all. I imagine this will be enhanced by the fact that some of the same people would be involved in most of these projects.
I also have reservations about voting ("Choice! It's over rated, people voted for Hitler and buy Cold Play albums" Who said that?). Inevitably their will be far more possible actions than their will be people to investigate them. In deciding what action to take we need input from participants of this group and the wider Wikiversity. Maybe this is were the questionnaires could come in.
As I pointed out above I see the initial research and context setting as an integral part of action research. I saw the questionnaires would be part of this context setting. I'd not considered them as a specific action to be investigated but this would be an interesting and valid approach. This initial research can be view as a form of reflection. Making it part of the on going action cycle. I see gathering background information and context setting as part of the reflective process.
Using the scientific method you have to propose a hypotheses first and then look for data to confirm/contradict it. As Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz pointed out you can always find a mathematical formula (hypotheses) to fit any set of data points (phenomena). That is for any set of observations (phenomena) their will always be a precise mathematical description (hypotheses). This is true irrespective of whether the observations (phenomena) are the result of a specific chain of course and effect or are completely random. That's why its bad practice to put the observational cart before the hypothetical horse. The problem then is how do we know if the universe (phenomena) is completely random or follows some set of scientific principles (hypotheses). Leibniz's answer was "God has chosen that which is the most perfect, that is to say, in which at the same time the hypotheses are as simple as possible, and the phenomena are as rich as possible."
This presents us with another problem. How can you form a hypotheses if you have no data to base it on? The majority of scientists have spent years studying their subject both experimentally and theoretically. They never come to an experiment with a completely independent hypotheses it will always be based on past experiences (observational data). As Leibniz pointed out the real test is the simplicity of the hypotheses and the richness of the phenomena (observations) it accounts for.
Highly speculative content follow. What fascinates me is this obviously applies to Karl Poppers world of objective facts, but dose it apply to the world of subjective thoughts and the world of objective contents of thought. The world of objective contents of thought is everything that results from the actions people take. This includes books, cars, governments, films, speech, wikis, the Internet and global warming. Its the world of culture, hegemony and superstructure. It's Foucault's discourses and Derrida's Deconstruction. It's the world of literary theory and the Frankfurt school of critical theory. Dose Leibniz's scientific rule still hold sway in these domains. This might all seem a little esoteric but I think it's an essential part of critical reflection. If the questions these challenges bring up aren't answered then how can we make any claim to the truth and how will we know if our actions aren't just random walks in the great unknown. Mystictim 19:02, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
On slightly revising agenda: you're right that steps 1-3 fit with step 4, but I was afraid that if we merged them, step 4 (which would then be step 1) might get too intimidating as a first step. You're definitely right that we need to think of these steps as fitting within the action research programme (my label of "pre-research steps" is very unsatisfactory), but as to how much we would need to actually blindly follow each and every step in the future is debatable. I definitely think the research is in constant negotiation, and requires us to be ever-observant-and-reflective, but it doesn't strike me as necessary to incorporate steps 1-3 all of the time. Steps 4-7, however, are core and discrete parts of the action research cycle, and are necessary to be followed. This is, of course, in my opinion.
On questionnaires: I like your initial idea actually - to identify what the ideas/needs of Wikiversity's visitors/users/editors are, and how this information might help us identify a plan of action. It is a part of the "observation/reflection" process, as you mention. So, in effect, relating this to the action research spiral (see diagram on action research), this would be starting at the post-action point, and working our way around from there. However, I think, as above, we also need to work other aspects of this work before we can really get going.
On hypotheses and scientific method - for me, this project would not be a simple case of "discovering truths" (or however you want to put it). I think it is more about coming to common conceptions (ie language/theoretical frameworks) of what we mean when we say or do things. It is also, as you suggest, about coming to a critical understanding about the contexts in which all of our activities/thoughts etc take place. I agree - this is crucial. However, I have never felt so confident in talking about Popper and Leibniz (or even truth for that matter!), so I will leave it at just what I've said here for now. I also know someone who might be interested in this discussion - possibly even chiming in - but don't let that stop yourself (or anyone) from bringing it/us forward.. Cormaggio beep 20:29, 24 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
Wikis as Literature - can they say everything?
a little bird told me there was an interesting discussion going on here. He wasn't wrong. I'm very happy to see Mystictim's angle of entry into considerations of meta questions for an action research agenda being inspired by an Adorno-esque and Derridian narrative - being a bit of a Derrida freak myself. In reading the discussion here and the main article page, I was left wondering how both 'action research' and 'Wikiversity' seem to be being treated as absolute wholes, monological entities, as distinct from emerging as the contingent outcome of both action research and Wikiversity being written into existence by numerous subjectivities 'on the fly', as it were. Can action research say everything there is to say about wikis? I don't think so, as wikis are 'always to come', always unfinished, much the same as action research is always to come. Treating these things as absolutes implies a telos, a finality, a reason for their being which I'm not so comfortable with.
For instance: Mystictim seems to be saying that we have a duty to make truth claims ("If the questions these challenges bring up aren't answered then how can we make any claim to the truth and how will we know if our actions aren't just random walks in the great unknown"). I'm not sure whether it's Cormaggio's action research or general Wikiversity endeavours that have this duty bestowed upon them. I'm also not sure what extra-linguistic Truth this is referring to, outside of the consensus established via the contingencies written into existence by Wikiversity users: what metaphysical realm is being invoked here that can somehow act to rescue our endeavours from 'random walks' in the great unknown, when that is all they may be? What feat of rescue is this? What verifying mechanism is at play outside of the contingent, consensual, non-totalizing yet exigent discourse that is Wikiversity (and this languaged discussion, for that matter)? It would seem Cormaggio has both his subject (multiple subjectivities of us posters and lurkers) and his object (multiple subjectivities of us posters and lurkers) in one, without recourse to a transcendent and arbitrating referent. Our little textual events here organize memory, manage knowledge and legislate not only the apparent extra-linguistic phenomenon under study (the Wikiversity environment), but also the subjects of that environment - we are both subject and object of his (and our) study. Which is why an appeal to Derrida is especially useful in this text-based reality, as big-D's interest is in the 'languageness' of things. I guess I'm keen to reveal the languageness of wikis.
In a separate email conversation with Cormaggio I've been pondering whether the ultimate censure against Wikiversity is to call it literature, and/or whether the tag of literature is the ultimate accolade for Wikiversity. The institution of literature (and I'm referring specifically to D's work 'Acts of Literature') is one which has the authorization to say everything (i.e. not just anything but everything that can possibly ever be said). And given this, literature is related to what it is that calls forth a democracy - not that it depends on democracy, just that the breaking out of prohibitions of speech denotes a democracy. So the tag of literature on what is going on here is both an insult and a compliment: insult since, at least as it relates to recourses to a metaphysical, proponents would claim that these pages are not acts of fiction, works of fiction or in anyway staged fictive acts: but a compliment since it allies our authority to say everything to a nascent democracy. Can wikis say everything, and what would be a non-transcendent reading of a wiki as literature? Surely there's no pure, unadulterated essence to a wiki? What is the wiki's referent: to what does it refer other than itself?Executivezen 21:17, 26 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
"to what does it refer other than itself?" <-- Are you suggesting that wiki is not a tool that people use to help understand and live their lives? --JWSchmidt 15:07, 27 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
good question, and no, I'm not suggesting that a wiki is not a tool that people use to help understand and live their lives. What I am suggesting is that we do not get on more intimate terms with a wiki, closer to its intrinsic nature, within grasping distance of its essence, by unpacking it via an action research endeavour than we do by talking about it (and talking generally) and using it specifically. Neither the wiki, nor the action research allows us a priviledged move out of language into fact, or out of appearance into 'reality', or out of a disinterested and remote relationship and into an intense and intimate relationship with a wiki (as Rorty would say). Don't get me wrong: I'm all for action research so long as it remains non-essentialist in outlook. What essentialist-oriented research endeavours do afford is that we are able to relate their findings to other endeavours, i.e. non-wiki oriented education, learning, communication, biology, architecture. Only, I'm suspicious of positing an 'essence' to wikis, to making that claim to a transcendence, or a metaphysic, that is lingering here. The beauty of wikis lies in their (linguistic) practice: and, as an antiessentialist, I believe there to be only linguistic practice. Yes; a wiki helps us live our lives if by that you mean 'be situated within the linguistic practices of our lives'. The consequences of developing Wikiversity through action research, when done via the wiki in the fashion demonstrated here, are those born from extraordinary congruence - namely, genuineness, empathy, relevance, and contingency. We do not need to appeal to a transcendent order in an attempt to get behind language. Executivezen 14:49, 28 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

This debate is fascinating and opens up a whole field of investigation in itself. It could quite easily come to dominate the whole of this action research project. For this reason and as Wikiversity is about learning I would like to suggest we restructure and develop this debate as a learning activity. The outcome of this separate project could feedback and inform the critical reflection/analysis of this action research project and indeed any other Wikiversity activities. We could continue our critical reflection/analysis of Wikiversity which I feel is important but link this to explanations of the various approaches taken. Also we could strive to show how these various approaches might be applied to specific situations. Mystictim 15:26, 28 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

Sounds good: and at the same time, with a scheming deconstructive evil Scooby-do laugh, I'd say this request to 'learnify', to 'activityize', this suggestion to reframe, has perhaps revealed something telling about wikiization: a reflex towards structuring, towards sedimenting and organising, towards (in this instance, not surprisingly) a pedagogic tendency. Granted that our natural (?) inclination in any strenuous mental activity is to extract the meaning, the theme, meme or repeatable programme - and there is much to commend in this activity - I'd suggest that we, for a second, try to catch a glimpse of this impulse and remind ourselves of the sometimes idiomatic, the irreducibly singular, unrepeatable aspect of any act of writing on/in wikis. Sometimes our posts are radically situated, written and read at particular times and places, and which possess a singularity which cannot always be distilled by criticism, re-situation or theoretical contemplation (much like this Derridian blarney). This appeal goes back to my earlier point about the literary-ness of wikis. I suppose I'm attempting to make this wiki text appear literary and by that, to appear strange by "offering not a reduced and simplified version of the text(s) but one which operates at its own level of difficulty" (Attridge in Derrida's 'Acts of Literature'). Such is the application of Derrida to wikigogy. Executivezen 19:46, 28 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

OK here we go then with Wikiversity as narrative. Mystictim 21:03, 28 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

All truly fascinating stuff. But I think Executivezen has a point here about the 'situatedness' of much of our activity. While a wiki is in constant metamorphosis, through discursive editing, refactoring, and forking (and I very much applaud this new learning project), I think it might be worthwhile to recognise the fundamental 'difference' (not sure if I'm using this in the Derridian sense) of that page, and to start it simply with Mystictim's suggestion/aspiration for it, allowing it to grow into its own type of cognitive resource - but let it refer back to this conversation here. I don't want to appear selfish here (and please don't let this be construed as any sort of ill-will towards the Wikiversity as narrative page, which I am in fact very much looking forward to participating in), but I would suggest that we draw distinctions between particular activities, giving each as clear an identity and rationale of its own as possible. This is indeed a pretty "meta" reflection on what wikis are and how they are used (as is this whole discussion) - but my tone is slightly harsher than Executivezen's, (almost dogmatic), and I am happy to be criticised for making this suggestion in this way. There is so much more of substance above that I'm dying to respond to (and explore further), and for which my profound thanks, but this will have to wait for another day. Cormaggio beep 00:59, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
Hmmm, I think I may have killed the conversation with that last comment - for which I'm very sorry. There is already a good precedent of forking discussions to a new page (at Science teaching materials for creationism), and I'm sure there will be plenty more. I still more or less agree with what I said :-), but I did not mean in any way to take the momentum or creativity from this fascinating discussion. Whether the discussion continues here, at Wikiversity as narrative, or anywhere else is entirely unimportant - what's important (I think) is that we continue to correlate our experiences to eachother, outlining our path of learning as we go. Cormaggio beep 10:50, 13 February 2007 (UTC)Reply

Big words make head hurt

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Really, interesting debate. I've always seen wikis as sort of a small workload quantity accumulator. People don’t have time to spend hours working on particular subjects, but a few seconds here and there adds up to something. That was a fine approach for wikipedia, who’s ultimate goal is to produce literature. What if we took the reverce approach here? Instead of very deep intense course work, we allow people to learn very quickly. Have them learn in small workloads. Research could also be done in this way. Take the bloom project. It would take one person allot of time and money to go all over the world taking pictures. But participants, given a camera and a few minutes, could take pictures easily distributed around the world. Those without cameras could work on the identification, one, maybe two, plants. Just keep the tasks small, fun, and informative.--Rayc 21:00, 30 January 2007 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for this Rayc - also for expressing your unease with "big words"! While I in no way want to undermine the above discussion (which I agree is absolutely fascinating), I was hoping that it didn't alienate other people from commenting on the potential of this project (I'm still trying to muster up a response to the above conversation :-)).
But yours is another interesting perspective on doing work together wiki-style. It's probably true that people don't necessarily have a lot of time - and quite definitely true that allowing people to pursue learning activities in a time-restricted manner would be of real use to them. But what is a "time-restricted" learning activity? How does someone "learn very quickly"? Can this type of learning be quality learning?
Personally, I really like the idea of having plenty of 'bite-sized' activities/projects etc that can be aggregated together into a course, programme, or, simply, a personal learning path. It may even motivate someone to get involved in a project if they can see that they can achieve something without a hefty effort (eg. reading a lot of text) - echoing Mirwin's comment near the top of this page. But, this makes me think about the whole context of this comment - how could it relate to an action research project? Were you planning to implement this model as an experiment, to see how it works? How would we evaluate such an experiment? I think addressing this latter question alone could give a very productive insight into how research can be done by all of us into our own work... Cormaggio beep 00:10, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
Were you planning to implement this model as an experiment, to see how it works?. There is a couple of research projects already on wikiversity, though with little interest, that use this process, or could use this process (Bloom clock, Astronomy Project, Wikiversity the Movie, etc..). Just the activity of clarifying a process takes some of the heavy reading out of the hands of the potential contributer and into the hand of the person with a greater interest in the project. There is also sort of a 90 degree shift in the processes that I've seen in Wikipedia and would work well in Wikiversity. Sort of a lateral construction instead of a hierarchal one. If one is an expert in music, they can work on the movie's music, music teaching, and VoIP content creation, while another person likes coding, etc... This way everyone is working in their strengths. Anyway, back on research,
How would we evaluate such an experiment?, metrics could include level of participation, external review of the data collected or results produced, and the acceptance of any summary paper on the work done through the experiment. I would not like to be the one to sort out the contributing authors list on that one, though. --Rayc 01:48, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Reply
I don't know what you mean by "external review" - do you simply mean that the people running experiments and collecting the data wouldn't be the ones to analyse that data? I'm not sure if that's necessary - or even desirable. I don't have a problem with people analysing their own participation (it's a reflective project, after all); however, it is common (and often helpful) to have more than one person analyse the data, to compare perspectives, and usually used to build (and justify) the validity of the analysis. I would also note that doing an "experiment" is a particular kind of research, requiring the construction of a model with which to carry out that experiment. For example, "what is 'data'?", "what is 'a result'?", "what is 'participation'?" - all of these would have to be worked out and agreed upon before starting any experiment.
On writing papers, this is definitely something we can (and, I believe, should) do, but I don't think we need to depend on a paper being submitted/accepted to write a paper (or to deem it useful). We have a space here in Wikiversity where (I hope) we can both do and publish research, so there should be nothing stopping us from just getting on with it, and using the results of our work (eg. statistical/qualitative data, personal reflections, analyses, collaborative papers) to help us to improve our work. This is at the heart of action research. But, on getting collaboratively-written papers accepted for peer-reviewed publications, I've sent an email to the editor of one such publication about this very topic, and am awaiting a response. It is indeed a complex issue. :-) Cormaggio beep 11:59, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Reply


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A thought is buzzing round my mind - what do we mean by "action" (or "intervention") in an action research design, particularly in a wiki? Action research is generally about planning a set of actions, and then reflecting on these actions in order to set up the next phase of planning and action etc. But what I want to know is how, specifically, does an action fall within the action research design, and is not simply an action that anyone might take at any time (which is the wiki way). Do we simply act, and then, if we feel it's appropriate, retroactively include the action within our action research design (ie our observations and reflections)? Or do we need to specifically plan and agree on an action/intervention before it is to be considered part of the research? I'm posting this also on Talk:Learning to learn a wiki way - we might discuss this question in a general sense, and also how it could relate to individual projects. I'd be very curious to hear what people think. Cormaggio beep 15:25, 1 February 2007 (UTC)Reply

What if "action research" were not as important for a Wiki, in the sense that something else which supersedes it would be a more natural model of education for it? --HappyCamper 11:38, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
I don't fully understand this question (though it intrigues me) - what do you mean here exactly? Cormaggio beep 16:38, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
Hmm...I'm sorry, I forgot where my train of thought was taking me. --HappyCamper 02:53, 11 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
I think I have an idea of what can constitute an action in AR terms, that being a deliberate intervention which can be planned and implemented. The action should be intended to achieve some kind of improvement in the setting being researched, in this case Wikiversity. Perhaps implementing a change to the software, if that is within the locus of control, or adopting a new set of behaviours. Launching a publicity campaign could constitute an action, or introducing a new revolutionary concept. Adding something to improve communications between the participants, like an old fashioned mailing list or series of skype conferences (yuk). Asking the community here the question "what is perceived as the most pressing problem facing the Wikiversity", or what is it not doing as well as it could be doing is one way to arrive at target to aim for when planning the first action. I'm assuming that the overall research question is along the lines of "How can we improve/develop Wikiversity through action research?" --Andy Roberts 13:15, 26 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
Hi Andy, yes, this is a very practical look at how this project might proceed. I was more worried about a different question - namely, that of the boundary between an action done 'in the name of' this research, and an action which is done independently, but which could inform this project. However, all these are good suggestions - especially asking what the most pressing problem is. I think this could generate some good discussion. Thanks. :-) Cormaggio beep 19:29, 26 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
Ok then, where would be the place to ask the question "What's the most pressing problem facing the development of Wikiversity" where it might generate a number of individual responses and for which we could then consider various practical actions to take, rather than just provoking more discussion. Could you post a request for individual replies or something?--Andy Roberts 13:06, 28 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
I've implemented this on Wikiversity:Colloquium#How is Wikiversity not working? - perhaps it can be moved to a separate page if it gets too long. ;-) Cormaggio beep 10:15, 1 March 2007 (UTC)Reply

Action proposal: Do most visitors to Wikiversity come and go without even thinking about editing a page? Should the number one "lesson" at Wikiversity be "How to edit a wiki"? I propose that we change the Main Page into a page that attempts to force new visitors to make a page edit. The new main page could have a prominent link to the current main page: this link would be for those visitors who already know how to participate at a wiki website. One immediately available option is to use Wikiversity:Introduction as the basis for a new main page. See also: Supporting Wikiversity participants.

Yes, I agree with promoting the participation of fresh visitors - the introduction is good, but perhaps we need to modify it if we're thinking of making it the new main page. I personally think the main page could be a lot simpler - though I have my own slightly different ideas for this. Should we continue this discussion at Wikiversity talk:Main Page, Supporting Wikiversity participants, or a new project aimed at "capturing visitors" (for want of a better phrase)..? Cormaggio beep 19:29, 26 February 2007 (UTC)Reply
Wikiversity:Main page design changes is a page that was previously created as a place to plan changes to the main page. --JWSchmidt 02:59, 27 February 2007 (UTC)Reply

Revived action

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There's been some good discussion arising from my post to the Colloquium (Wikiversity:Colloquium#Problems and actions), and also on my talk page, which I'm copying below. I should also say I've been adapting and refactoring the project page - and I'd appreciate any comments/suggestions/edits... Cormaggio talk 21:12, 7 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

(copied from User talk:Cormaggio)

Hi Cormac,

I would like to spend some time on action research, but i have no internet at home at the moment. I will be connected tomorrow. I will spend more time on it from then on.--Daanschr 09:12, 31 January 2008 (UTC)Reply

Thanks very much Daanschr - I've very much appreciated your thoughts so far, and of course it's fine to dip in and out as and when you like. I'll start doing some work on the project page and its subpages after I get a bit more clarity on the Colloquium - and we can use these pages to brainstorm and start planning some concrete steps. Cormaggio talk 09:38, 31 January 2008 (UTC)Reply
My suggestion is to arrange regular meetings. I can only be involved in that when i have internet at home. Every meeting can have its own topics for discussion. Three kinds of topics would be very helpfull for the progress: 1) specific tasks for individual participants of the meetings, which will be performed within a certain timeframe. Individual participants are not obliged to perform tasks, but if an individual participant promised to do a task than he should be reminded of it when he didn't perform it. 2) A meeting can be dedicated to analyse a specific topic in a sort of brainstorm session. This way certain philosphical problems can be researched. The tricky part of these kind of discussions is that it will lead to conflicts easily. 3) Thinking of ways to gain new participants from other places.--Daanschr 13:40, 31 January 2008 (UTC)Reply
AR - a success story.
Hi Cormac. I just wanted to say, I think I'm an early example of success in Action Research. Wikiversity has motivated me to get some stuff straight and head back to school (albeit part time) to study teaching. I have some other stuff in the pan, which I'm hoping a little pushing in this new year will bring some results. And Wikimedia Canada looks like it's starting to get rolling again. I'm not sure this exactly fits the theoretical model of AR, but we can talk theories on WCR. :) Historybuff 03:58, 1 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

Hi Cormac, I was a bit ill last couple of days, but i do have internet at home since today. I saw on the colloquium that the discussion has dried up considerably on friday. I like the idea of SB_Johny, but there needs to be an opportunity to be involved without having sound. Perhaps that can be a topic for a meeting?--Daanschr 18:59, 4 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

I'm sorry to hear you've been sick, Daanschr - I hope you've recovered or are on the road to recovery. :-) Yes, the Colloquium discussion has faded a bit - and I've been thinking about how to progress from this point. I think we need to set out a plan of concrete action (or perhaps a number of plans) - and just to clarify, which idea from SB_Johnny did you like? A meeting might help too - and I'm always aware that we need to provide for people who don't have access to audio/visual and other communication tools/platforms, such as yourself (though I think you have access to IRC, right?). I think I'll make a stab at something tomorrow - I've got a meeting with my PhD supervisors tomorrow morning and they might be able to give me some ideas for what to do now. But please don't hesitate in adding your own ideas. :-) Thanks again, Cormaggio talk 19:18, 4 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
I was referring to the major proposal he made a few days ago. SB_Johnny wants to build Wikiversity into a platform to combat climate change and war. He wants Wikiversity to get new people for Wikiversity.
An important thing to note is that Wikiversity exists out of a random collection of people, mainly from the western world. Communication should be adapted to that, otherwise these people will not understand what is being said. The discussion in the colloquium will be abstract from time to time. Certain topics, like the Greek antiquity or climate change are really appealing to people. What could be done aditionally is that different institutions of Wikiversity will be systematically analysed, something like a department for the development of academic institutions on the internet.--Daanschr 09:05, 5 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Thanks again - I also like SB_Johnny ideas for discussion groups on political (and therefore contested) topics, and I'd like to instigate something along these lines here. (You seem to be interested in conflict - which is great - I'm also very interested in how conflict can lead to learning - both personal and organisational.) On your comments about technology - I'm always aware of keeping a discussion as much as possible on the wiki in order not to exclude anyone - but I'm also aware that other forms of discussions (and mediums) can be more productive in certain ways. I'm certainly not going to stop anyone (nor could I) from using whatever medium they think best - but we should probably keep records of all discussions (logs of IRC chats, recordings of audio chats) and post them to the wiki. More basically, I wonder if we could start exploring what a wiki is good for in facilitating such discussion groups. However, I would also like to raise this (and everything else here) somewhere more public than my talk page. :-) But just on this last post, I agree that Wikiversity is a random collection of people, who are currently predominantly from the western world. But when you say "communication should be adapted to that", are you saying that communication would be somehow only relevant or accessible to the western world? That would be another means of exclusion in my book... Cormaggio talk 13:58, 5 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

I was more referring to the reason why the discussion might have dried up. It was too abstract.

You got a point about wikis. Wikiversity has wiki and university in its name. So, if there will be a lot of chatting and radio listening than maybe it is not wiki enough anymore. I have theorized a certain contradiction to adress this problem, the conflict between quality and participation. These are completely different interests. Stimulating quality (keeping wiki) could mean that only a small group of people are interested. What could be an idea is that the wiki will be the central medium to keep the other media organized together within Wikiversity, but that other media may be used.

A romantic or postmodern answer to what a wiki is good for would be that it depends on who, for what reason and how someone uses a wiki. Nietzsche wrote that it is very hard to establish a method due to laziness and conservatism of people. That it is hard now to get a good working method on Wikiversity doesn't mean that it could be working very good after a century.--Daanschr 14:45, 5 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

Gadzooks! "A century" - I'm holding out for something useful somewhat sooner :-) - if simply to point us to what the limitations of a wiki are. This is implied when I ask "what is a wiki good for?" - I'm talking affordances/constraints - but you're right that these will fluctuate to an extent depending on context. Abstract - I like abstract. ;-) However, I'm too tired right now to make a go of developing our discussion so far into a concrete plan - this will have to wait until tomorrow (and I will promise I'll do it then - I had a few other commitments today which took longer than expected). Cormaggio talk 23:13, 5 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Okay, untill later than. ;-)--Daanschr 08:06, 6 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Another idea: Wikiversity could stimulate similar wikis from outside Wikiversity to merge with us. This way, larger communities and networks could emerge. For instance, three of the wikis in this list, which was posted on the colloquium could relate to Wikiversity. There are two wikis dedicated to teachers and one to wild life preservation. Wikiversity could be a networking organization, or an umbrella organization.--Daanschr 08:23, 6 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Cormac, i like to include case-studies and topics dedicated to increase participation. With case-studies, i mean some small topics, which can say something about the bigger picture, the major concepts. A case-study could be a course on Wikiversity, or a certain text reading, which can be discussed with a broader view in mind. Topics dedicated to increase participation have to do with the perception of what others are interested in in our direct environment. For instance, what do Erkan, John and SB-Johnny want and how can we coordinate their wishes. This way we can directly work with the community we serve. What do you think about it?--Daanschr 18:21, 7 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
How would such a case study actually work? Do you want to explore an issue through discussion - finding out what people are interested in - and then creating a project around common interests? This is what I hope to do through discussion groups and reading groups, for example the ones I've created recently around the Wikiversity learning model. It would be good if you spelled out clearly what kind of project you're thinking of, and how it would work. (I should make clear that I like the ideas - i just want to make the ideas themselves clearer.) Cormaggio talk 21:04, 7 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Something like a research department. Armies, political parties companies, they all got research departments, where plans are developed and actions analysed. Many times these research departments have met success. Phillips invented his cd, the German army was able to conquer neighbouring countries, political parties were able to win an election with a good strategy. The bad thing about such a research department on Wikiversity could be that a certain spirit of voluntarism, common people enjoying themselves on the internet, can dissappear.
Maybe this research department could mostly look like what you got with television: developing new programs. Finding people who want to do boring work, mandatory to make these programs a success. So we can develop new concepts, comparable with the story scripts for movies in Hollywood. When you have the concepts, then you also need people who perform certain tasks to make everything work. An enormous amount of creativity and insight is needed to create a 'method' which will work.
Above all it requires some discipline and therefore also some system of rewarding. How is it possible to have people work in a team, if people don't attend and don't perform tasks? There are many forms of coercion in our society to ensure participation. Children are forced to go to school and employees are able to take care of themselves thanks to the money they get from employers. Coercion will not work on Wikiversity, but somehow this spirit of responsibility, of being able to have a minimum of attendance and to get a minimum of deadlines need to be here. Otherwise the fate of every initiative will be that it will be come oblivious soon after when the initial thrill for it has subsided.
What you see here on Wikiversity is that everybody has his own project to attend to and there is a lack in communication and cooperation. Our efforts could be aimed at trying to build a bridge between people, to make them able to contact eachother.--Daanschr 09:49, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply
Thanks very much for this post, Daanschr, and for picking up the discussion on this talk page. :-) I think that these groups (or "departments" or "guilds" as you have called them) must stem from the actual interests of the community - again, as you've said. And I think they will work through forming common goals and working towards them. I think there's something pervasive in asking questions like "What is the Wikiversity model for learning, and what is it based on?" and "How can we build active learning communities on Wikiversity?". I think these are questions that persist beyond an "initial thrill" - a very good way of putting how wiki participation often works. But you're right that there's an issue with people working in their own necks of the woods without coming together to share experiences etc. Of course, people are free to work in their own corners, but others (myself and yourself included) would like to see a community forming around broader questions of: what's going on, what's working and what's not, and how can we understand better and improve on our work? So consider this the research department! Or, as I would prefer, a group of practitioners/researchers - who are free to contribute as they like. I think you're concerned that people will drift too much and nothing concrete will get done, and this is why you stress deadlines. I'd prefer to make it slightly more flexible - setting an agenda along the lines of "we want to do these things, and we'd like this to be well underway by x". With this in mind, how about setting up Developing Wikiversity through action research/Agenda? Cormaggio talk 12:34, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

Yes, i would like to have an agenda and to plan things.

It would be good if we both come up with plans of what can be developed. My ideas of what could be planned:

  • Inventarizing all wikis and other organizations on the internet and trying to categorize them for wether they are doing the same things as Wikiversity, partially do things which are alike to Wikiversity and doing something which has nothing to do with Wikiversity. Goal for this activity is to try to merge with these organizations in order to make Wikiversity larger.
  • Developing marketing strategies to increase the amount of active users on Wikiversity. Wikiversity first has to offer something people want to join in, otherwise it will be pointless. Marketing strategies can influence what will be organized on Wikiversity.
  • Developing opinion polls for users of Wikiversity. This in order to check what they want on Wikiversity and also if they are interested in some of the activities of Wikiversity, or an activity that can be developed by us.
  • Trying to stimulate cooperation and communication within Wikiversity.
  • A whole range of other possibilities.....--Daanschr 13:32, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply

We are looking at best practices for employing Action Research in the Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia. Please have a look and let us know how we may best support and inform each other's projects here. —Moulton 14:15, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply