Talk:Learning and learning about learning in Wikiversity

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namespaces[edit source]

"Content has been organised in Wikiversity around the creation of distinct structures, known as 'namespaces'" <-- This strikes me as an interesting way to describe the situation. Wikipedians discovered that it is convenient to have multiple namespaces for a wiki website's "meta-level content", that is, the content that helps participants work together rather than the "actual content" that is the goal of the wiki.

Within the Wikipedia community, namespaces were invented to meet the emerging needs of the community. At the level of Wikimedia, choices have been made about which namespaces are "canonical", that is, which ones should be provided by default to all Wikimedia Foundation wiki projects. Thus, the Wikiversity website was started with all of the namespaces that are used at Wikipedia except for the "Portal:" namespace (which had to be added to Wikiversity by special request). Namespaces such as the "Help:" namespace were inherited from Wikipedia. The "Help:" namespace of Wikiversity was initially populated with some pages by copying help pages from Wikipedia. The Wikipedia "Help:" namespace is essentially a book, a user's manual for Wikipedia, and as such, it certainly cannot go in the main namespace. Should Wikiversity be satisfied to adopt the Wikipedia approach to help? Should Wikiversity incorporate help into lessons of the main namespace?

The Wikiversity "School:" and "Topic:" namespaces provide ways to organize content development projects. The idea of special namespaces for content development arose "by chance" when lists of content development projects were made at Wikibooks and had to be imported to Wikiversity. In some sense, Wikipedia was "locked into" using the "Wikipedia:" namespace for content development. Wikiversity was new and could more easily innovate and make special "compartments" for content development...a more elegant solution than the "WikiProject:" pseudonamespace of Wikipedia.

Here is an analogy: the namespaces of a wiki are like the terrain that a city is built on. Picture the city of Rome and the land that it was built on. Would anyone say, "Well, here we have a city, Rome. I want to start a new city, London, so first let us make a copy of the hills of Rome and then we will build the city of London upon the "correct" terrain for a city"? No. It is absurd. A city can be built upon any terrain and the residents of every city build their cities according to the unique terrain of each individual city. Each wiki needs to define its own namespace structure as a way of meeting its own special needs. In the case of the Wikiversity "Help:" namespace, it was convenient to start by copying the structure and function of Wikipedia's "Help:" namespace. However, Wikiversity does not need to be locked into providing help in the same way that Wikipedia does. Help pages are for the purpose of helping people learn how to work within a wiki community. A major part of the business of Wikiversity should be main namespace learning resources that help people be active participants in Web 2.0, wikis in general and Wikiversity in particular. It will probably always be useful to have the "Wikiversity user's manual" in the "Help:" namespace, but we need to be innovative in placing help into the main namespace of Wikiversity. This is not something we learn from Wikipedia, it is something for the Wikiversity community to discover and elaborate according to this project's mission and goals.

"obvious lack of structure in Wikiversity" <-- Does this mean that the Wikiversity community is still going through the process that Wikipedia went through, that any wiki should go through, a process of discovering how to efficiently use namespaces and other organizational devices? Alternatively, is the point that Wikiversity participants are doing "small experiments, tests, see what works, what doesn't", and that we are, "prepared to be flexible and change", and not, "too locked into stone about how things should work"?

"how do we direct potential students to actual lessons" <-- The basic "first-line" answer is that we use portals. The second-line approach is to have featured content as a way of explicitly putting on display "actual lessons" or any other content that we want to put on display. A third approach is to have a system for marking the completeness of learning resources. This could both involve categories and visual indicators. In general, the more complete a learning resource, the more it will be linked to from other pages, but I think it is safe to say that many members of the Wikiversity community do not know how to use tools like categories, portals, featured content and navigation templates to make Wikiversity content more accessible.

"the semantic structure of the Mediawiki core is based on the assigning of categories" <-- For Wikiversity, there is no point in discussing categories independently from also discussing portals. Portal pages provide a user-friendly interface for the "Category:" namespace. Any large category can have a portal page. Portal pages link to related portals, categories and main namespace content. There is probably an optimal ratio of main namespace pages to portal pages. There is probably some "rule of good editing" that defines how many portal page edits should be made per main namespace edit. That "rule" is probably a complex function of how richly interconnected main namespace pages are at a particular website.

"a more structured, semantic system" <-- I think a system of richly connected portals can do wonders. I would stress that diversity is good. There is no need to create and force on Wikiversity visitors a single hierarchical content directory system. There might be dozens of good ways to sort Wikiversity content. So far, Wikiversity has been essentially locked into creating a rather conventional college course catalog. That is just one approach, the obvious default, but it should not remain the one and only system. Wikipedia has had the luxury of adopting the idea that there is "Mr. average Joe" and so each article can be written for a single audience. Wikiversity must explicitly tackle the problem of providing learning resources for learners at all levels of sophistication. I expect subpages to play an important role in allowing wikiversity to deal with this extra dimension of complexity. We are going to need a more sophisticated content search process that will involve first finding out what people already know and then getting them to where they need to be within the Wikiversity web of content.
--JWSchmidt 19:40, 13 June 2007 (UTC)[reply]

epistemology of knowledge[edit source]

"epistemology of knowledge" <-- this seems redundant, like saying "biology of life". --JWSchmidt 03:07, 14 June 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Defining Wikiversity[edit source]

"long-standing uncertainties regarding its relationship with another sister project, Wikibooks" <-- Jimbo kicked Wikiversity out of Wikibooks by saying, "Wikibooks has an identity and mission, and other stuff doesn't belong here." The "logic" of the situation was that Wikipedia had encyclopedia articles, Wikibooks had textbooks and Wikiversity would have "other stuff". Wikiversity should have learning resources that do not fit into other Wikimedia projects. In a sense, this means that Wikiversity has a negative definition, or that Wikiversity is defined as complementing other sister projects.

The Wikiversity project proposal tried to clarify the situation by giving explicit examples of what would be at Wikiversity and by explicitly saying that Wikiversity does not duplicate other projects; Wikiversity does not host textbooks, but it can be a place that fosters wiki participants who might help write a textbook. That was all fine, but a potential problem is that a broad definition of "books" can include everything held on collections of webpages.

For a long time Wikibooks was explicitly and narrowly defined as hosting conventional textbooks that must be constructed without involvement of original research: people interested in other kinds of learning resources were not made welcome. Many Wikibooks participants, but in particular Jimbo, adopted the view that the Wikibooks mission did not have room for other kinds of learning resources. Lately, there has been a trend towards making Wikibooks more open to certain types of books that are not textbooks and towards allowing some original research. This shift back towards a more inclusionist model of Wikibooks makes it is possible for some people to look at Wikiversity and think, "This is just a branch of Wikibooks".

I do not think it should be difficult to adopt the position that Wikiversity is a place where people can explore how to use wiki technology for learning - and I mean that each participant should try to personally discover how to make use of wiki technology as a tool for exploring their personal learning goals. If some Wikiversity participants end up writing encyclopedia articles or textbook modules, no harm is done. Wikiversity needs a culture that promotes awareness of the fact that this will happen and when it does it is not the end of the world. Sometimes those encyclopedia articles or textbook modules will only be useful as a learning exercise for the people who make them and there will be better stuff at Wikipedia or Wikibooks. Other times, some of the new content might need to be moved to Wikipedia or Wikibooks. In other cases, it might be decided that the content should stay at Wikiversity as a specialized learning resource that really does not fit into Wikipedia or Wikibooks. If people are still puzzled about how Wikiversity differs from other projects, the main page can direct them to pages such as Wikiversity as a Wikimedia sister project.
--JWSchmidt 05:23, 14 June 2007 (UTC)[reply]

feeling of isolation[edit source]

"This feeling of isolation" <-- There are two contributing processes. First, Wikiversity has a larger playing field. Pick any Wikipedia article or Wikibooks textbook module and it is not hard to imagine several Wikiversity learning resources that could complement what is at the sister project. Even if two Wikiversity participants are interested in basically the same topic, they may come at that topic from different perspectives and so not feel a desire to collaborate. Second, projects like Wikipedia have a rather simple model of the wiki participant as someone who knows something and can write it down. Wikiversity includes elements of that model, but is also open to a more complex model of participation that requires a learner-teacher pair. Many people who know a topic do not know how to explain it and they need to interact with people who are learning that topic in order to discover/remember what needs to be said to a newbie. The other side of the learner-teacher pairing requires that learners not look for static content at Wikiversity and leave when they do not find it. For many years Wikiversity will be mainly about content development. Learners need to be made comfortable with the idea that they can learn by editing wiki pages and that they cannot wait for experts to magically arrive and create the content.....learners are going to play a fundamental role in the development of Wikiversity content.

We have been talking for a long time about the need for at least one "model learning project" that would attract a functional learning community and serve as a prototype. It may be that we need to invest serious effort in making that idea explicit for Wikiversity participants rather than just waiting for a group of participants to find each other and make it happen by chance. An obvious candidate project is the Sandbox Server. Wikiversity will always attract many people who are interested in computers, but there is nobody who should expect people to learb about computers without computing resources to play with. It is too bad that the Foundation has no mechanism for providing support (a server) to Wikiversity for the Sandbox Server project. --JWSchmidt 06:03, 14 June 2007 (UTC)[reply]