User:Guy vandegrift/Faculty activity report 2015
This is a summary of the work I did for Wikimedia in 2015. As this work is not peer reviewed, it should never be categorized as "scholarly activity" by a college or university. However, it might alleviate some of the problems associated with the rising costs of higher education:
- The cost of textbooks- This is only a minor contributor to the net cost of a higher education, but this is also the most obvious place to start.
- Assessing student knowledge- An open source Quizbank is under construction.
- Higher level learning: Coping with standardized tests- There are many ways to compensate for the low standards associated with teaching to multiple choice exams.
- A refereed journal to highlight and reward quality work- The First Journal of Science will be a refereed online journal that highlights those articles on Wikipedia and Wikiversity which have sufficient focus and scope to be useful as course-content materials. Readers will have the option to view the static (uneditable) version of the article that was submitted and peer reviewed. Many students graduate from college with rather sparse resumes. While the journal attributes authors by password only, a job candidate's authorship could be proven in a private communication by disclosing the username and demonstrating knowledge of the password.
- 1 The cost of textbooks
- 2 Assessing student knowledge
- 3 Higher level learning: Coping with standardized tests
- 4 A refereed journal to highlight and reward quality work
- 5 Edit journal for 2015
- 6 Footnotes and references
The cost of textbooks
Two parallel efforts towards creating open source teaching materials are OpenStax College and the STEMWiki Hyperlibrary at U.C. Davis. Another education project is Wikipedia's Wiki Ed. All three projects are more developed than mine, but I maintain that Wikiversity is the most efficient in terms of tangible results per man-hour. Wikiversity has the advantage of instant access to the vast warehouse of knowledge in Wikipedia and its sisters (including foreign language linking). My two best efforts in this regard are Physics equations and Astronomy college course. Both are usable by me, but are two or three years from being useful by other instructors.
Assessing student knowledge
I created Quizbank on May 7, 2015, but the first quiz seems to date back to May 2014. The bank currently contains a total of 760 questions in first year physics and two conceptual courses (Astronomy and How things work). The bank is more successful in the physics course where most of the questions involve random numbers, and only the strongest students can consistently score at or near 100%. A typical average score is near 70%, even though they know the problems in advance. Doubling the number of these physics problems would be more than sufficient to create a bank of physics problems that almost any physics teacher would find useful. The status of the multiple choice quizzes is not so healthy for the conceptual courses, where it was discovered that many students had no trouble memorizing the answers, yet displayed little understanding of the concepts. This low understanding was evident when multiple choice questions were randomly selected on tests to require a short written explanation.
An attempt to alleviate all these problems is outlined in subsequent sections of this article.
But don't we want to get away from standardized tests?
No. We want to get away from how we use them. First, they should not be "high stakes". Students who do poorly need to be assessed to ascertain whether they are learning the material but doing poorly on the exams, or not simply not learning the material. I have seen students suffering from dyspraxia, dyslexia, schizophrenia, ADD and depression (to me almost everybody seems to have dyscalculia). It would be impossible to find one teaching method that serves all individuals. But we can find something that serves most, and then shift our resources to better help the others. As a nation we routinely use multiple choice exams to license drivers. If we are willing let people drive 4000 pound killing machines because they pass a multiple choice exam, I think we can make multiple choice exams a significant part of grade assessment for an undergraduate course. The first stage in a college student's college education is learning to learn, and that can be roughly assessed with standardized exams. When it comes time for learning to do and learning to think, that is when we need higher level assessments.
Higher level learning: Coping with standardized tests
The first stage is to recognize that high test scores alone cannot be used to award the top grades, and that with enough extra work, a top grade can be awarded for those who do not achieve top scores. Some of my best and brightest students simply do not have good memories. Reassure them and give them different opportunities to succeed. It doesn't take long to recognize the work of a capable person with a poor memory.
Selecting certain questions to require short written answers is another way to make the assessment more authentic. A writing component will now be included in each exam, and students will be graded on their ability to place written answers to the multiple choice questions in the teaching materials. Another strategy is to automatically allow students to "drop" 10% of their answers. For example, if a test has 33 questions, divide the number correct by 30 to get the percent score. And, do not award any "extra credit" for scores higher than 30, on the grounds that students who get higher than 30 need to establish excellence through projects that synthesize writing and laboratory skills. The idea that the multiple choice aspect of the course should be a baseline to ensure that students have enough facts and sufficient scientific literacy to master the material.
Understanding science has little to do with knowing all the facts. Having said that, there are perhaps 1000 things no professor should have to explain to a class full of students. Instead, students should prepare themselves by tooling up on the basic vocabulary and concepts before coming to class. For this reason, the exams should be restructured so that students are exposed to each question on two exams that occur before the cumulative final exam. On the first exam they learn the basics before the topic is covered in class. The possiblity that a question might appear on the next exam might encourage students to pay attention to the topic when it is covered in the course (keep in mind that since the bank should be considerably larger than the exam, most questions are not actually tested).
A wiki "dashboard" roster for managing student edits
By late November of 2015, my Wikiversity colleages called my attention to something called mw:Extension:Education Program, which generates Wikipedia "dashboards" like this:
I also learned that a request to have this extension installed on Wikiversity was denied (and later came to the conclusion that this denial was justified because the decision to focus all their energy on the main Wikipedia education program was probably wise). In an effort to mimic this "dashboard" I wrote a MATLAB program that creates wikitext that generates a dashboard like this:
However this format proved too awkward and time-consuming, and after January 1st this much simpler "dashboard" was constructed, and now used for all my Spring 2016 courses. The following page can be constructed for a high-enrollment class without requiring a high level language such as MATLAB to create the table:
This "dashboard" is more of a "roster" with links attached to each student's username that can be used to manage and assess student efforts to improve quizzes, labs, and other course materials. For example, look at question 10 of this quiz and note that it refers to a "German astronomy" instead of a "German astronomer". This version of the quiz must be static since it is a study guide for an exam. But if you click on the number 10 you will go to this page, where the question is discussed. If all goes well, students in the Spring 2016 WSU-Lake astronomy class will be editing quizzes in this way for 30% of their grade. By clicking the "v: " next to the student's name on Wright State University Lake Campus/2016-1/Phy1060 I can see what edits the student has made on Wikiversity.
Some of my students might be instead editing on Wikipedia, for example on this draft of Bell's theorem paradox. Or they might choose to post photographs or drawings that can be seen by linking out of this category list on commons. These edits would be observed by clicking "w: " or "c: ". To illustrate how this "dashboard" permits everybody to view each other's edits, this is a sample of my "dashboard" template:
(The aforementioned example has no page for log, which is a course journal maintained by the instructor, and .S, which is a subspace of that log reserved for each individual student enrolled in the class.)
A refereed journal to highlight and reward quality work
The need for static (uneditable) teaching materials has been clear to me for years. On November 25, 2015, I first publicly suggested that Wikiversity host refereed articles during a discussion about the need to get an extension like Wikipedia:Wiki Ed installed on Wikiversity. Since then, conversations with Wikiversity colleagues established that this should be achieved not by protecting pages from edits, but using permalinks. Permalinks cannot be edited because they are retrieved from the history of a Wikimedia article. For example, even though I did not begin the construction of Wikiversity's
until after the first of the year, documentation that I began to struggle with the concept in November 2015 can be seen in the subsection titled "The strange case of role reversal between the elitist and wild sisters", which is permanently stored in Special:Permalink/1481139
Edit journal for 2015
This is a log I keep that attempts to describe all my edits to Wikiversity and its sisters. Similar logs can be seen on my userpage.
- Wikiversty: Created Category:Physics and Astronomy/Labs and began to place labs there. At the start of the year, it was essentially empty (a few fragments were already existed in How things work.
- Angular diameter. Image was made in collaboration with a student in my Astronomy course. 21 January 2015
- Wikipedia: Improved documentation on sister-interlink template. 22 January 2015
- Wikipedia: Added figure to article on Messabout. Just a fun and nonacademic edit of a page that I sometimes link to because I believe in messing around in the physics lab.
- Wikipedia: Added one equation to Big O notation in order to bring it down to the level of a typical engineering student. 31 January 2015
- Wikipedia: Added link in Frictionless plane to Two New Sciences. 1 February 2015
- Vernier scale to Wikipedia's Vernier scale 9 February 2015
- Hooke's law and Young's modulus and added sisterlink to Wikipedia's Hysteresis 9 February 2015
- Heisenberg's microscope (New image shows the wavefronts, as well as the proper direction for illumination at minimum uncertainty) 18 February 2015
- Wikiversity: Created page Astronomy education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 20 February 2015
- Wikiversity/Wikipedia: Added Steam tables and Compressibility factor to Engineering thermodynamics. Plan to place an extensive collection of open source tables and graphs there in the future. 20 February 2015. Added sister interlink to Wikipedia's Steam 13 March 2015.
- Wikipedia: Minor edit to Computer, inserting one word to remind the reader that the medieval period extended after the Roman era. 21 February 2015
- Compton Scattering (See Talk) 26 February 2015
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity:Completed preliminary version of student steam tables and placed inline sister link on Wikipedia's Properties of water. March 22, 2015.
- c:File:Lens3b third ray.svg and linked footnote to it on w:Lens (optics) in order to illustrate the "3 easy rays" of a diverging lens. March 29, 2015
- c:File:Editable_ray_diagram_of_eye_v0.svg to w:Lens (anatomy). March 29, 2015
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity: Wrote v:Joule-Thomson effect to Wikipedia's Joule-Thomson effect. Also linked Wikipedia's Joule-Thomson effect and Shock wave with interlinks between the articles, as well as a reference proving that they are closely related concepts. April 5, 2015
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity: Students and I wrote v:Skygazing/Solar eclipse lab on a sunny day and linked it to Wikipedia's Solar eclipse April 17, 2015
- w:Len (optics) by editing File:Lenses en.svg. April 21, 2015
- Wikiversity: Created OpenStax College A sister-link with Wikipedia:Cat and mouse led to minor edits to that page as well as Wikipedia:Cat and mouse (playground game) May 7, 2015.
- Wikiversity: Created Quizbank and plan to devote a great deal of time developing it. May 7, 2015.
- Wikipedia: Included the term-by-term summation used in Numberphile's video in Wikipedia's 1+2+3+4+... June 24, 2015
- Wikiversity: Spent some time investigating the value of Boubaker Polynomials. Got a glimpse of how Wikipedia makes decisions. But it was only a glimpse, from which I can draw no conclusion. The page definitely belongs on Wikiversity. June 28, 2015.
- Wikipedia:John Dalton. One of the references shows how John Dalton might have used used nitrogen (N2) and oxygen gas (O2), as well as Nitrogen dioxide (N02), and nitrous oxide (N2O) to establish the indirect evidence that atoms exist. (They mix in simple ratios of volume, although it should be noted that it is not certain exactly how Dalton reached his conclusions).
- m:Metawiki:m:Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Open source multiple choice bank of exam questions Proposal submitted August 15, 2015
- Began construction of Object to be edited (see Man Ray's w:Object to be destroyed) Fulfilled request myself by requesting permission to from New York Museum of Modern Art. Waiting for reply. August 29, 2015
- Wikiversity: Subpages/Forking and organizing This is a permalink to an essay. Even though nobody "owns" a wiki page, permalinks are owned. The laws of physics prevent anybody from editing this essay. September 3, 2015.
- US unemployment rate under President Obama.svg
- Wikibooks: Minor errors fixed in Probability/Probability Spaces September 12, 2015
- Wikiversity: Started Bell's theorem. 13 Sept-21 October 2015 (22:58 UTC) (1 2 )
- Wikibooks: Conditional Probability (Even and prime numbers) September 25, 2015-22:58, 21 October 2015 (UTC)
- Wikipedia: Minor edit to Classification of mathematical definitions, required so that I could use the expression "working definition". September 26, 2015
- Wikipedia: Started the A/index page and its discussion at User:Guy vandegrift/A. September 30, 2015
- Wikipedia: Very minor role is a discussion about Talk:Bell's theorem#Delete new section-Alternative Analysis interesting for what it says about Wikipedia editing. October 3, 2015
- Thomson's 1810 textbook on Chemistry, one of the first such experimental arguments in favor of the atomic theory 3 November 2015
- Wikiversity: Proposed Permalink as a way Wikiversity can be used as a course management system: The following permalink is to a brief essay by a Work Study student who was asked to write something specifically for this discussion:
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity Added sister link to on Quantum_mechanics/Quantum_field_theory_on_a_violin_string to w:Quantum field theory and w:Second quantization
- Wright State University Lake Campus/Mock Course 101a. At the moment, the user needs to be experienced with Excel, and also have Matlab installed. I think I will call this EduV (See Wikiversity:Education extension. Also created sevveral templates to help organize all this: Template:Subpages/Simple, Template:EduV, Template:EduV/tip,Template:EduV/announcement,Template:EduV/warning, and Template:EduV/generic-- December 25, 2015 Just before midnight (local time) on New Year's eve, gave quizzes editable subpages that can be created from the protected page. See Phy1060 for application.
- Wikiversity: Large contributino to Wikiversity:Year of Science 2016 December 31,2015
Footnotes and references
- A third effort is How things work college course, which is approximately 6 months behind Astronomy college course in development.
- I learned this from a number of informal interviews, conducted after I made it clear that telling the truth would not hurt their grade, and convincing them that my sole reason for asking was to make the course better.
- "This should not be deployed to more wikis until all the security issues that this extension have are resolved; which IMHO is unlikely to happen. We can restore this change later if such miracle happen" https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T111630
- See Special:Permalink/1502414#Announcement_of_intent_to_protect_quiz_pages