For the learner, Ward Cunningham‘s Federated Wiki is at once curation, collaboration, and synthesis. It’s old school HyperCard mashing up with wiki-anyone-can-edit-this philosophy, plus a little 1990s Wild West of the Internet thrown in. It’s easy and it’s hard at the same time because you have to think in page origins and iterations, not sites and links as we’ve become accustomed to them in the standardized web of 2015. While it may not yet be ready for prime time, I can already see its potential.
(If you want to see its potential, Mike Caufield’s post from today does a great job illustrating the concept).
It got me thinking about the fundamentals of teaching and learning again. Not what instructor to hire or what our FTE count is this quarter, but honest-to-goodness teaching and learning concepts. Wow. (True confession: Had to dust some mental cobwebs out of the way).
In the good old days (pre-administrative appointment) my conference presentations were always faculty-oriented and teaching-related. One area I liked to present on was how to create activities that used critical thinking in online classes. It’s a course and assignment design skill that faculty desperately needed – they created way too many “read and quiz” courses. (It’s still a problem, btw). In the online course, faculty often lacked the instructional design skills or time to move beyond using the basic quiz or test tool – uploading a PowerPoint or lecture capture video with a discussion was considered the height of engagement. (To be honest, some faculty I worked with didn’t do anything more engaging in their face to face classes either).
To help combat this problem, my friend and colleague, Dr. Kay Lehmann, and I developed a lesson planning guide (complete with acronym) to help faculty move from quizzing/testing as a final product to something based more on higher order thinking skills rather than just identification and recall. We called our model EASyR…as in “the EASyR way to teach critical thinking”. We basically challenged Bloom’s taxonomy – at least the way it was always laid out in K12 teacher’s pre-service programs — by flipping the order of the higher level concepts and changing and redefining the terms a bit…(though our idea aligned more closed with Anderson and Krathwol’s post-Bloom revision of the taxonomy). Go big or go home, right?
We’ve refined it a bit since its origins, but in a nutshell, EASyR means:
- E – explore – explore existing thought and concepts – see what all is available. (Think of this as the initial Google search results – the whole list)
- A – analyze – activities that help students differentiate between the relevant and the not-so relevant results of the exploration.
- Sy – Synthesize – the process of taking the relevant results and the students own ideas,.and putting them together to create something new (at least new to the student).
- R – Review, Revise, Reflect – These final steps are the most critical to higher level thinking and the ones we all but eliminate in our rush to prep for the next test.
So as I learn about the Federated Wiki, I can’t help but see how it fits perfectly in this process that I’ve been talking with faculty about for years. The ease with which students can curate web content by dragging sites onto their own wiki pages makes exploration technically easy. Being able to move the smallest paragraphs around, fork them to different pages, add video and images then share those pages with other students who can challenge or extend allows for deep analysis. Because each learner creates the connections as they see them – their site is their synthesis – and the sky’s the limit for what products could result. Finally, the revision lives in each page’s journal – reflection can be in commentary left on a page or in summary linked from the Welcome page.
I’m really looking forward to the Thinking Machine Happening with Audrey Watters in March. The whole experience will, I suspect, confirm what I’m thinking as we explore what information is available, analyze it, and pull it into our own sites to become something we each take ownership of. My reflections to follow…