An invitation to shape my presentation at P3

I am going to be participating in a one day event Peer-to-Peer Pedagogies (P3) Workshop September 10th, 2010 sponsored by HASTAC on the Duke campus.  As part of that, I’ve been assigned to work with Kim Singletary on a bio/ speaker intro piece.

The event was great fun. Thanks to all. Here is the SlideShare from my talk. Coming back on the plane I remembered this piece by Downes on Open Assessment that seems as timely as ever.

This post is an invitation to collaborate with the two of us as we co-develop the materials that Kim will ultimately push into final form. At the same time, I see my dialog with Kim as sharpening my focus for the event. Please weigh in using this blog’s comments. I will continue to edit the body of the post based on your remarks, and any backchannel with Kim, or other readers.

After reviewing some of our blog (written with colleagues of mine at Washington State University) Kim sent a list of questions to get the discussion going. Here is the first of those questions.

Kim: What do you hope will be accomplished at P3? What is your goal for your appearance at the conference?

Nils: I feel like the open learning, peer pedagogy landscape is loosely defined and rapidly changing and I hope to come away with some ideas about where the clusters of agreement lie in this terrain. Brian Lamb and Jim Groom just wrote a piece in Educause Review “Never Mind the Edupunks; or, The Great Web 2.0 Swindle” July/Aug 2010 where they are suggesting that the open learning wave may have crested. They provide an interesting perspective on the shoals that may have dashed the vision.

In the same issue Dave Cormier and George Siemens had a piece on their experiments with open online courses, “Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning, and Engagement”   See also some response in Dave’s blog.

My colleagues and I at Washington State University Office of Assessment and Innovation have been approaching this conversation with an eye to two contexts:

  1. The need to expand higher learning opportunities in the developing world is so large that it challenges historic thinking about brick and mortar institutions. John Seely Brown, Don Tappscott and others are talking about this challenge. Some of our analysis of this context is here.
  2. The other context (given our assessment/accountability role at WSU) is the increasing press for accountability and the rising volume in the discussion at national levels about the failures of US higher education to be accountable for its students’ learning outcomes. See this stream of bookmarks on the topic maintained by Gary Brown.

In that context, we’ve been looking at how Personal Learning Environments, or student-owned ePortfolios, can facilitate learning among communities (including peers) and how the learning in those contexts can be credentialed.  A condensation of some of that thinking appears in our discussion of our emerging understanding of an ePortfolio.

We have been developing those ideas, in part, by watching the peer learning and collaborative problem solving of one of WSU’s doctoral students, Margo Tamez.
She blogs:

I would advise anyone who is seriously committed to the larger structural uses of E-portfolios by contemporary students– who by the way do not view the college classroom as their most significant ‘center’ of knowledge and tool acquisition, (providing one is inclined to view the technology and control over the production as the domain of liberatory education)–,to examine their assumptions about knowledge and power and the political will of the Indigenous peoples.

So, one of the things I hope to get from the P3 conversation is more personal clarity on the ideas in this “4 models” figure that we created to think about the changing roles of the university as it moves from traditional brick and mortar, with traditional accountability, to a problem-based curriculum in peer-to-peer university with community-based accountability and credentialing. Along with the four models figure, we created a self-assessment to help clarify the conversation about where each of us in on an institution- vs community-based learning spectrum.

As Margo’s portfolio illustrates, open peer-to-peer learning is necessarily scattered widely across the Internet. Pulling that evidence together for assessment and credentialing is a challenge. Gary Brown coined the term “Harvesting Gradebook” to describe our approach to the problem of allowing learners to gather structured feedback on artifacts of their learning and to route evidence of that feedback back to a ‘home’ institution or to present that feedback as part of a claim within a community for a credential. An early description of the Harvesting Gradebook and how it might work in/out/with a university program appear here (skim down for “Variations in the Model” section).

In my P3 session I hope to introduce some of our Harvesting Gradebook thinking in a large scale real-time experiment using a backchannel where the audience can provide assessment feedback to my presentation.


Shared Language-Jargon Dilemma

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

Shared language

Most academic disciplines and other discourse communities develop context specific language. They use such specialized language to communicate complex ideas efficiently among members of the group. EE Kim uses the term SharedLangage to describe this concept of communication.


Unfortunately, what is effective and efficient for established members of disciplines and discourse communities presents extreme challenges for students, novices and outsiders. Since students have not yet mastered the shared language, they may experience the shared language as jargon impeding their entry into the discipline.

E.E. Kim: Wikis resolve the dilemma

Kim suggests that the discourse communities can resolve the tension between jargon and shared language by using wikis to make the shared language more explicit: [[1]] Kim argues that wikis support the development of shared language in ways that Content Mangement Systems and standard websites do not. He urges writers to use automatic WikiWord linking to identify shared language and explain it.

Using Wiki to Develop Communities

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

The (perhaps not obvious) way to find community in MediaWiki installations (and some others) is to use the history page to see who is contributing to the article. The page provides a portfolio of the work of an ad hoc team collaborating around a topic area. Examination of the history page would show not only who contributed, but the character of their contribution. From this, one might glean ideas about how knowledgeable contributors were to the topic. By then exploring other pages edit by these people (Special:Contributions&target=user) one could learn more about the scope and character of these individuals.

In WSUWiki, there are additional, more explicit mechansims to enable users to find one another. The best developed of these is CTLT’s Morning Reading Group (MRG). Using a Category page, MRG is building pages to capture the group’s thinking about articles that are read bi-weekly. Rather than the process above where interest in a topic is inferred by edits shown on the History page, MRG members are encouraged to edit their user page to include a Category tag (for example see User:Nils peterson.

To facilitate these group-forming activities, two templates have been created, one for the Groups’ page, describing it and inviting others to join, and the other for a User’s page, declaring and describing reasons for interest in the group.

Categories in MediaWiki are essential to the operation of this system. As MRG members create or find pages of interest to the group, they tag the pages with the MRG category. This causes the pages to list in the index of the MRG page).

Student-Faculty Interaction

Another application of this strategy of users adding themselves to category pages can be seen in the work developing to faciliate more faculty-student interaction. The concept started out being called ‘Undergraduate Research,’ but came to be understood as something more general, presently its working name is Matchmaking.

The objective is to help faculty advertise ways in which they would like to interact with students in scholarship activities, and for students to find faculty (and perhaps groups of students and faculty) with shared interests and experiences. The only example implemented as of this writing is by Nils Peterson.

Other campuses have undertaken similar initiatives, using custom database solutions. WSU is exploring Wiki as its solution for two reasons:

  • Its more ad hoc, and can support data and structures that might be invented later more readily than a traditional database solution.
  • Wiki can support other group formation (in addition to Matchmaking) using the same mechanisms, allowing users to invent other purposes and groups without requiring new tools.

See also:
Using_Wikis_For_Learning and especially

Stubbing out as a teaching tool

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

Stubbing out as a teaching tool is one way to support constructivist thinking.

Somewhere in a learning experience, a question arises about a topic. It may be confusion over wording, varying perspectives, lack of knowledge (and/or skill), or a whole host of other reasons. The point is that there is a “hole” in understanding (can be individual but it is more likely to be a “hole” because of a lack of shared understanding). One example of a hole in collective understanding is the concept of jargon/shared language.

Once we discover a hole in our understanding, someone can stub it out in the wiki with the topic/controversy. When I was learning about discourse communities I posted this stub in Wikipedia to see if others would fill in the gaps. Other Wikipedia contributors, with more knowledge about discourse communities than I had, filled in the details (see history of the page). In this case, the stub was a simple definition of discourse communities taken from the discourse community literature. But a stub could be as simple as a title for an article or as complex as a complete article. The idea is to get something out there that others can interact with.

Interaction with the growth of the knowledge is key to learning. As learners engage in the construction of the knowledge, they become part of that knowledge. Stubbing (and engaging in) a wiki topic meets all three principles for promoting contextual knowing as outlined by Baxter Magolda (1996). She argues that we must “validate students as knowers,” situtate “learning in the students’ own perspective,” and “define learning as mutually constructing meaning” (p. 286).

The underlying power of the wiki is that it allows learners (students and teachers alike) to become part of the knowledge construction process.

For more on stubbing in wiki’s, see Stub in Wikipedia

Other posts that relate using wiki’s in the classroom.

Using Wikis for Learning

Wikipedia in the Classroom
Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1996). Epistemological development in graduate and professional education. The Review of Higher Education, 19(3), 283-304.

Wiki as a Portfolio

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

It generally takes time for different applications of a new technology to be realized — sometimes a long time — and wiki seems to be no different.

Regarding electronic portfolios (another new technology), Wikipedia Wikipedia:Electronic_Portfolio is currently focused on a specific approach to e-portfolios that uses large-scale purpose-built software.

However, at CTLT we understand e-portfolios to include that model as well as other tools — like wiki — which meet the criteria for ‘folio thinking.’ E-portfolio tools need to facilitate activities where learners a) create artifacts that evidence their engagment with core concepts, issues and skills, b) reflect on what those artifacts reveal about how their efforts line up with what they’re trying to accomplish, and c) present the package to an audience. Depending on the context, that audience could be a group of peers who are supporting one another through the learning process, or experts in the area (faculty, community partners, etc.), or even potential employers and/or other institutions and educational programmes to which the student is applying or considering applying.

Blogs are one such tool, as several have noted (Nils’ analysis [new thoughts since that link was originally posted]), and, as this illustrates, wikis are another. The essence of the process is that learners engage in authentic work in a wiki; see for example a course design being tried at Washington State University.

Key elements which make wiki useful for e-portfolios include the “My Contributions” feature, which lets a user easily locate the work they have done, the “diff” listings, which let the user document the change(s) that he/she made in the pre-existing page (and the changes that were made afterwards), and the User page, which offers a place to create a reflection about the diffs.
Locate other articles from Washington State University related to this topic here.

Students Contribute to Wikipedia

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

CTLT Reflection on Experience

Andy Carvin has acknowledged “the hostility that many educators have towards the [Wikipedia] website, particularly their concerns that it can’t be considered a reliable source.”

At WSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, we are approaching classroom use of Wikipedia not from a concern about “reliable” reference sources. Instead, we view it as an active learning environment, and a collabortative one, where students can learn by engaging an authentic task. Furthermore, we want to challenge some of the criteria that have traditionally been used to determine the quality of learning. To get at broader criteria, it is helpful to ask ourselves what kinds of intellectual performance give evidence of deep understanding. As students write, revise, edit, substantiate, and collaborate, Wikipedia offers them opportunities to:

  1. Develop an intellectual voice by persuading an actual community of interested readers
  2. Justify and defend thought in a public setting
  3. Increase awareness of, and engagement with, the history of the writing — the controversies, analysis, perspectives, assumptions, and evidence
  4. Collaborate with others, beyond disciplinary silos
  5. Engage in an authentic task

Recognizing that students might be at varying stages of readiness to contribute to Wikipedia, we have added a scaffolding process where students can explore a topic area, using Wikipedia and other resources, identify key terms and concepts, identify gaps in Wikipedia (missing articles, articles with missing concepts or citations) and then develop and submit new entries to Wikipedia.

To facilitate this scaffolding work, WSU has launched its own instance of MediaWiki, where students and instructors can do things that would be unacceptable in Wikipedia (for example, create categories for specific courses, post syllabi, or other instruction), and generally work in a quiet area outside the rough and tumble of Wikipedia itself. By using MediaWiki for our wiki, students can practice the markup, software features, and protocols of Wikipedians while at the same time learning in a safer space.

See Collaborative Reflection on The Cultural Politics of Sport

See also Wiki as a Portfolio which provides an assessment mechanism for the work above.

Using Wikis for Learning

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed worth keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation.

NOTE: Some links may not work because this item is quite old.

Andy Carvin and Jimmy Wales have started a public conversation (ca Sept 2005) to see what educators have to say about Wikipedia. They asked questions that focus on Wikipedia in the classroom:

“For example, is Wikipedia something you’d want your students using in the classroom? Do you consider it an appropriate teaching tool?”

These questions suggest a perspective that misses what Carvin suggested in an earlier post on this topic (see the example 5th grade class mid-way down). The broader, better question I think Carvin and Wales mean to ask is, “How can Wikipedia be used to meet education goals like critical thinking, research, and collaborative knowledge generation?” This question gets away from factual accuracy of Wikipedia and toward transforming educational instituions — and even defining how a Wiki-versity would be created.

Carvin’s prompt seems to be focused on K-12 education, Washington State University is able to provide perspective for Wikipedia in Higher Education, which we think may inform the K-12 conversation.

This is an introduction to a multi-voice response by staff in the Washington State University Center for Teaching Learning, and Technology. Some of what we have to say is not being implemented in/with Wikipedia, perhaps can’t be, or shouldn’t be. Some is not in the classroom, but outside. The responses below might suggest how Wikipedia could/should change, or confirm that there is another role for wikis in parallel to Wikipedia.

Discussion about using wikis for learning continues as a recent post on the POD listserve was asking for a good presenter about using wiki’s in the classroom. Our response was to point to this work and to say “if you like what you see, contact us.” One other response suggested Timothy W. Spannaus at Wayne State University who conducted a workshop on wiki use in the classroom at the Lilly National Conference at Miami University, Oxford, OH in 2005.

Students Contribute to Wikipedia

In Students_Contribute_to_Wikipedia we describe a scaffolded course design where students learn about a topic through a reflective process of preparing to make entries to Wikipedia. The process involves using Wikipedia as a text and analyzing its deficiencies, then doing other research to locate resources that would address those issues, and finally developing new articles, editions to existing articles, or bibliographies to enhance existing articles and posting them into Wikipedia.

[For another, more contemporary example, see the Murder, Madness, Mayhem project conducted by a course at UBC.]

Wiki as a Portfolio

Wiki_as_a_Portfolio describes another aspect of the course design above, illustrating how the “My Contributions” feature of Wikipedia can be viewed as a repository of artifacts that a student can use to compose a portfolio of their learning process. It describes how User pages in WSU’s MediaWiki serve as the place to develop reflections on specific “difs” the user is making, and on “difs” that others make to the user’s contributions.

The Shared Language-Jargon Dilemma

Shared Language-Jargon Dilemma addresses the issue of learners entering a community of discourse. Building off EEKim’s post on the Essence of Wiki. In this article, Steve Spaeth develops some more thinking on the Janus-like relationship between jargon and shared language. The process of novices entering a community of discourse can be view as one of moving from jargon to shared language.

Stubbing out as a Teaching Tool

Todd Vanek shows an application of Spaeth’s thinking in Stubbing_out_as_a_Teaching_Tool, where stubbing out pages is a strategy to focus students’ wiki contributions, and at the same time attend to the jargon/shared language issue.

Using Wiki to Develop Communities

Using Wiki to Develop Communities within a university context. In addition to the Wikipedia-supported mechanisms for discovering people with shared interests, WSU is exploring the use of Templates in this wiki to facilitate groups announcing themselves and their intersts, and for users to advertise their membership in groups. Seen in the context of DesRosier’s work, this begins to suggest how students learn about topics outside of the silos of courses.