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User:Cormaggio/Wikiversity chat 04Nov2005

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This is the log of a conversation about Wikiversity between Cormaggio and JWSchmidt, which took place on 4th November 2005.

[8:14pm] <cormaggio> so maybe we'll begin
[8:14pm] <JWSchmidt> ok
[8:15pm] <cormaggio> well, I'm just interested in your background - I know a bit about it but what exactly is your educational background?
[8:16pm] <JWSchmidt> I think I might have put this on my wikiversity cell biology course

Cell Biology course

[8:16pm] <JWSchmidt> I have a BS in biochemistry
[8:16pm] <JWSchmidt> I have a PhD in pharmacology
[8:17pm] <cormaggio> right -so what specifically do you bring to Wikiversity as an educator?
[8:17pm] <JWSchmidt> I have experience in conventional university instruction
[8:18pm] <cormaggio> as in giving classes - facilitating tutorials..?
[8:18pm] <JWSchmidt> I think I also listed my teaching experience at my wikivercity cell biology course
[8:18pm] <JWSchmidt> I have taught conventional courses dealing with several biology topics
[8:19pm] <JWSchmidt> I'm not sure how relevant that past experience is to wikiversity
[8:19pm] <cormaggio> ok - have you any experience of online education?
[8:19pm] <cormaggio> ever used webct for example..?
[8:21pm] <JWSchmidt> I have in the past made use of online systems like BlackBoard and for the past 6 months or so I have been experimenting increasingly intensively with wikis
[8:21pm] <cormaggio> mmm - how did you find blackboard?
[8:22pm] <JWSchmidt> BlackBoard is fine for linking a course to online resources and for setting up some student collaborations
[8:22pm] <cormaggio> i haven't used it myself - though i think it's similar to webct, which i've been using over the last year
[8:23pm] <JWSchmidt> I have taught courses where I required students to interact on independent study projects by making use of BlackBoard
[8:24pm] <cormaggio> aha - do you think it is a partial system though? as opposed to a fully-online-deliverable course..
[8:24pm] <JWSchmidt> I have never been involved with a fully-online-deliverable course
[8:24pm] <cormaggio> right
[8:25pm] <cormaggio> so what does your work with wikis entail?
[8:25pm] <JWSchmidt> My personal learning style depends on play, I have been playing with the wiki interface, trying to understand what it can provide and what its limits are
[8:26pm] <cormaggio> play - could you elaborate a little more..
[8:26pm] <JWSchmidt> Let me step back a bit first...
[8:27pm] <cormaggio> mm hmm
[8:27pm] <JWSchmidt> Back in the 1990s I got excited about HTML and conventional websites and their use in education
[8:27pm] <JWSchmidt> I soon realized that they were limited in terms of providing a two-way conversation
[8:28pm] <JWSchmidt> I hate passive learning
[8:28pm] <cormaggio> i figured that!
[8:28pm] <JWSchmidt> Students need to be doing things, not just reading a website
[8:29pm] <JWSchmidt> The first wiki I ever saw was wikipedia
[8:29pm] <cormaggio> when was that?
[8:29pm] <JWSchmidt> Early 2003?
[8:29pm] <JWSchmidt> I'd have to check {JWS: my first wikipedia edit may have been 26 February 2003}
[8:30pm] <JWSchmidt> I soon became frustrated with the limits on content at Wikipedia
[8:30pm] <cormaggio> so what did you do about that?
[8:30pm] <JWSchmidt> Some of my contributions did not fit into the wikipedia narrow mission, so I got interested in wikibooks
[8:31pm] <cormaggio> right - wikibooks - and this introduced you to wikiversity?
[8:31pm] <JWSchmidt> And wikiversity goes naturally with the idea of wiki format textbooks
[8:32pm] <JWSchmidt> I think the best textbooks are inspired by working with students
[8:32pm] <cormaggio> but wikibooks and wikiversity are different, right?
[8:32pm] <JWSchmidt> Again, just as for wikipedia, wikibooks was given a narrow range of content
[8:33pm] <JWSchmidt> In my view, textbooks arise from what is learned in a learning environment
[8:33pm] <cormaggio> was that narrow range limited by its mission scope or what?
[8:33pm] <JWSchmidt> I do not think that a real textbook can be constructed on the wikipedia model of collaborative editing
[8:34pm] <cormaggio> ah - i see what you're saying now
[8:34pm] <JWSchmidt> a textbook should not just be a bunch of facts
[8:34pm] <cormaggio> so wikibooks, wikipedia are like products of collaboration
[8:34pm] <cormaggio> but wikiversity..?
[8:35pm] <JWSchmidt> a textbook should be informed by knowing a complete story, a way of thinking about a large topic
[8:35pm] <JWSchmidt> In my view, if you have a wikiversity then textbooks will be produced by the members of the wikiversity
[8:36pm] <cormaggio> yes, I quite like that view
[8:36pm] <JWSchmidt> You need a community devoted to exploring a subject, the textbook describes the journey of that community
[8:37pm] <cormaggio> do you not see those environments (WP etc) as inherently learning environments anyway?
[8:37pm] <JWSchmidt> If done well, such a textbook sucks new people into the community
[8:37pm] <JWSchmidt> Wikiversity and online textbooks can be used for learning, but...
[8:38pm] <JWSchmidt> a learning community is something else
[8:38pm] <cormaggio> aha - how do you see a learning community?
[8:39pm] <JWSchmidt> Learning communities, I like to think of "schools of thought", exist in the bricks-and-mortar world
[8:39pm] <JWSchmidt> It is not clear how to put a learning community into wiki space
[8:40pm] <JWSchmidt> In my view, this is a problem of virtual reality
[8:40pm] <cormaggio> I think learning communities are central to wikipedia - each page is a potential LC
[8:40pm] <cormaggio> do you see LCs as more specific/solid?
[8:40pm] <JWSchmidt> It is exciting when a group of editors assembles around a wikipedia page or a wikibooks module and takes on the task of explaining the topic
[8:41pm] <JWSchmidt> such mini-collaborations are great
[8:41pm] <JWSchmidt> I think we need to find a may of making them more robust
[8:41pm] <cormaggio> so how do you foster that? or is that possible?
[8:42pm] <JWSchmidt> I have a hunch that it is possible; if something happens by chance we can study it and figure out how to make it happen by design
[8:42pm] <cormaggio> ah - so it's a case of finding good case studies?
[8:43pm] <JWSchmidt> Well, I'm not sure if these sorts of thing arise from careful analysis
[8:44pm] <JWSchmidt> some things just happen
[8:44pm] <JWSchmidt> distributed intelligence is at work
[8:44pm] <cormaggio> so, where do we start?
[8:44pm] <JWSchmidt> If you have a hunch that something can be done, you just start doing it and let the pieces fall into place
[8:44pm] <cormaggio> in building a good learning community?
[8:45pm] <JWSchmidt> This is the way it worked in getting a man on the moon
[8:45pm] <JWSchmidt> It was decided to go to the Moon, but nobody knew how to do it
[8:45pm] <cormaggio> motivation was there to put a man on the moon though
[8:45pm] <JWSchmidt> a bunch of people put their heads together and figured out how to do it
[8:46pm] <JWSchmidt> motivation comes first
[8:46pm] <cormaggio> and motivation is a key component to failure in e-learning
[8:46pm] <JWSchmidt> what do you mean by "failure in e-learning"?
[8:46pm] <cormaggio> but obviously, you have to be somewhat motivated to start a course online in the first place
[8:47pm] <JWSchmidt> some people love learning and exploring..that is the motivation
[8:47pm] <JWSchmidt> well, for some people the motivation is $$$
[8:48pm] <cormaggio> ah - i mean that people tend to drift away in distance education - it's a product of not having to go to class, talk with teacher..
[8:48pm] <cormaggio> but online, that can be addressed somewhat
[8:49pm] <JWSchmidt> I am not interested in reproducing conventional education in a wiki format
[8:49pm] <cormaggio> having realtime discussions - getting quality feedback - watching your communal work grow
[8:50pm] <cormaggio> right - i think we need to be thinking broader
[8:50pm] <JWSchmidt> wiki is a tool that allows a community of learners to share and interact
[8:50pm] <JWSchmidt> I do not think we yet realize what is possible in wiki format
[8:50pm] <cormaggio> there isn't much i can find written on this either
[8:51pm] <JWSchmidt> nobody can predict the impact of new technologies
[8:51pm] <cormaggio> until they're applied, yes.
[8:52pm] <JWSchmidt> I see wiki as a facilitator of learning, a tool for learners
[8:53pm] <JWSchmidt> we need to find ways of making the technology work for learners, of allowing learners to go where they want to go
[8:53pm] <cormaggio> and have you used it in this regard at all yourself?
[8:53pm] <JWSchmidt> well, I have a problem
[8:54pm] <JWSchmidt> the things I want to learn about are not real popular
[8:54pm] <cormaggio> what are they?
[8:54pm] <JWSchmidt> this makes it hard to assemble a community
[8:54pm] <cormaggio> oh - you mean biology, pharmacology..?
[8:54pm] <JWSchmidt> Here is one example:
[8:55pm] <JWSchmidt> I am interested in the idea that we can make intelligent devices,
[8:55pm] <JWSchmidt> autonomous robots that will have human-like intelligence,
[8:55pm] <JWSchmidt> but the way to do this is to study the human brain,
[8:55pm] <JWSchmidt> and then apply what is learned about brains to robots
[8:56pm] <JWSchmidt> this is hard work, interdisciplinary
[8:56pm] <cormaggio> absolutely!
[8:56pm] <JWSchmidt> biology, math, computers, engineering
[8:56pm] <cormaggio> but room for real collaboration..
[8:56pm] <JWSchmidt> Very few people care to do this sort of exploration
[8:57pm] <JWSchmidt> it is part of conventional academia to specialize
[8:57pm] <JWSchmidt> anyhow, it has been rare for me to find interesting collaborations within the wiki world
[8:57pm] <JWSchmidt> but I think it can be done
[8:58pm] <JWSchmidt> we probably need to start with simple things that are of interest to many people
[8:58pm] <cormaggio> wikicities strikes me as being somewhere people can focus in on something specialised
[8:58pm] <cormaggio> regardless of their background
[8:58pm] <cormaggio> but do you think wikiversity could become such a place?
[8:59pm] <JWSchmidt> I hope wikiversity becomes a place where learning communities can form and grow
[9:00pm] <cormaggio> and to take you up on that example - i think the media is such a hot topic, that's a real opportunity to create community
[9:00pm] <cormaggio> i'm writing a course on media literacy, but it's still very half-baked
[9:00pm] <cormaggio> i can see potential though


[9:00pm] <JWSchmidt> yes, media literacy is a good example, a core skill for learners
[9:01pm] <cormaggio> and alongside that, EFL, and computer literacy too
[9:01pm] <JWSchmidt> maybe a wikversity course on using media for learning
[9:01pm] <JWSchmidt> recursion there
[9:02pm] <cormaggio> using media for learning? could you be a little more specific?
[9:02pm] <cormaggio> or is that my job? :-)
[9:02pm] <JWSchmidt> everyone interested in using wiki technology for learning could participate in exploration of how to make it work
[9:03pm] <JWSchmidt> and I think the future of wiki is to merge seemlessly with other communications technologies
[9:04pm] <cormaggio> aha - though that's beyond my understanding for now
[9:04pm] <JWSchmidt> an example:
[9:04pm] <JWSchmidt> the way some wikis link to IRC or blogs or email discussion groups
[9:05pm] <JWSchmidt> eventually such links should be transparent to the wiki user
[9:05pm] <cormaggio> ah yes, i get you now
[9:06pm] <cormaggio> i was thinking about having a few courses as kind of flagship courses - maybe we need to think about popular areas where creating a community won't be a problem..
[9:06pm] <JWSchmidt> or test taking
[9:06pm] <JWSchmidt> we have not been able to get a simple question/answer system into wiki format
[9:06pm] <cormaggio> so is this something we need to work on - the software?
[9:06pm] <JWSchmidt> yes, I like the idea of flagship courses
[9:07pm] <JWSchmidt> well, I hate the example of test/quiz software
[9:07pm] <JWSchmidt> I would not delay wikiversity for test/quiz software
[9:07pm] <JWSchmidt> but eventually it will come
[9:08pm] <cormaggio> but do you think the wiki format needs extension in some areas?
[9:08pm] <JWSchmidt> it will happen
[9:08pm] <cormaggio> yes, sorry - got that
[9:08pm] <cormaggio> but we're ok to go in your opinion?
[9:09pm] <JWSchmidt> I wish wikiversity had started 2 years ago
[9:09pm] <cormaggio> well, some people don't want it to start for another two years..
[9:10pm] <cormaggio> but i agree
[9:10pm] <cormaggio> with you, that is
[9:10pm] <JWSchmidt> Thank god Jimbo could just start Wikipedia, if Wikipedia had depended on votes and such nonsense it would still be under discussion!
[9:10pm] <cormaggio> :-)
[9:10pm] <cormaggio> so what about leadership?
[9:11pm] <cormaggio> this is ray's big criticism
[9:11pm] <cormaggio> i don't know if you read his reply to my mail
[9:11pm] <JWSchmidt> leadership is nice when it happens, but some things just emerge from collective action
[9:12pm] <JWSchmidt> no, I think I did not see that email reply

email reply

[9:12pm] <cormaggio> he says it lacks vision and leadership - says a vision can't start with a conditional verb: "Wikiversity could become.."
[9:12pm] <JWSchmidt> I will read the email, but
[9:13pm] <JWSchmidt> I suspect that it just expresses the Type A mentality

Type A mentality

[9:13pm] <cormaggio> what's that?
[9:13pm] <JWSchmidt> of wanting to know the outcome before starting
[9:13pm] <cormaggio> ah yes - I'm fully with you there
[9:13pm] <cormaggio> this is a wiki - we don't know what will happen
[9:14pm] <JWSchmidt> we need to play
[9:14pm] <JWSchmidt> we need to experiment
[9:14pm] <JWSchmidt> build me a sandbox
[9:14pm] <cormaggio> and someone will piss in it
[9:14pm] <JWSchmidt> As a biologist, I am comfortble with an evolutionary model
[9:14pm] <cormaggio> only joking
[9:15pm] <JWSchmidt> well, piss is a source of nutrients
[9:15pm] <cormaggio> yes, the circle of life
[9:16pm] <cormaggio> well, it seems liek we've come back to your idea of play
[9:16pm] <JWSchmidt> frankly, I find the arguments against starting wikiversity to be irrelevant
[9:16pm] <cormaggio> absolutely all of them?
[9:16pm] <JWSchmidt> all
[9:17pm] <JWSchmidt> if it fails, what will have been the harm in trying?
[9:17pm] <cormaggio> I can see where some are coming from - resources, maybe
[9:17pm] <cormaggio> money
[9:17pm] <JWSchmidt> maybe we need to explore grant support
[9:17pm] <JWSchmidt> education is one thing people will spend money on
[9:18pm] <cormaggio> but, yes, I don't see why it can't be allowed to spread roots and grow
[9:18pm] <cormaggio> and grants will come too
[9:18pm] <cormaggio> UNESCO
[9:18pm] <cormaggio> education for all
[9:18pm] <JWSchmidt> I think a possible danger is that companies making money from education will try to destroy wikiversity
[9:18pm] <cormaggio> well, how could they?
[9:19pm] <JWSchmidt> It would not be hard to work against wikiversity, to disrupt its growth from inside
[9:20pm] <JWSchmidt> some people have the zero sum view of things
[9:20pm] <cormaggio> really? it hasn't happened with wikipedia
[9:20pm] <JWSchmidt> well, these are simply bad dreams
[9:21pm] <cormaggio> yes, I think we need to be somewhere between the nightmares and the fantasies
[9:21pm] <JWSchmidt> sometimes I feel like there are people editing wikipedia who are trying to be disruptive
[9:22pm] <JWSchmidt> anyhow, we have to work the positive side of community building
[9:22pm] <cormaggio> yes, absolutely
[9:22pm] <JWSchmidt> I doubt if wikiversity will ever really compete with conventional universities
[9:22pm] <cormaggio> and look for good examples, best practice..?
[9:23pm] <JWSchmidt> maybe try all practices and see which ones work
[9:23pm] <JWSchmidt> play and experiment
[9:24pm] <cormaggio> hah - the man wants his sandbox
[9:24pm] <cormaggio> and he shall have his sandbox, soon methinks
[9:24pm] <JWSchmidt> any word on the next board meeting?
[9:25pm] <cormaggio> angela mentioned it in her reply to robert's mail
[9:25pm] <cormaggio> details are usually at [[m:Board agenda]]
[9:25pm] <cormaggio> and wikiversity will eb on the agenda {November Sat 12, 13:00-15:00 (UTC)}
[9:26pm] <JWSchmidt> wax
[9:26pm] <JWSchmidt> not "eb"!
[9:26pm] <cormaggio> i think it is up to us and others to make the case as strong and appealing as possible
[9:26pm] <cormaggio> flow
[9:27pm] <cormaggio> yes, well I'm motivated and others are too
[9:27pm] <JWSchmidt> I wonder if it would help to comment on the complaints that were thrown at wikiversity during the vote
[9:27pm] <JWSchmidt> I have also been thinking about some changes to the wikiversity main page
[9:27pm] <cormaggio> i think that would be good, but we also need to explain and show what wikiversity could be
[9:28pm] <cormaggio> oh yes, change the page by all means
[9:28pm] <cormaggio> and i've written up a learning community on meta which you may want to take a look at
[9:28pm] <JWSchmidt> wikiversity needs a portal for students that is more than a conventional list of academic disciplines
[9:28pm] <cormaggio> which i've linked to from wikibooks:wikiversity
[9:29pm] <cormaggio> absolutely - put it on - write it up
[9:29pm] <cormaggio> i'd be interested to find out more
[9:29pm] <JWSchmidt> there is a page called "learning community" on meta?
[9:30pm] <cormaggio> but I'm aware that we've been talking for quite a while now and i need to call this to a halt
[9:30pm] <cormaggio> yes, capital L small c

Learning community

[9:30pm] <JWSchmidt> yes, I must go pick up my son from school
[9:30pm] <cormaggio> i wrote it myself
[9:30pm] <cormaggio> ok, so let's keep the ball rolling
[9:30pm] <JWSchmidt> will do!
[9:30pm] <cormaggio> and i'm really interested in what turns out and what we can do with it
[9:30pm] <JWSchmidt> thanks for the chat
[9:31pm] <cormaggio> thanks so much for coming on here
[9:31pm] <JWSchmidt> I have high hopes
[9:31pm] <cormaggio> and taking the time
[9:31pm] <cormaggio> it's been good
[9:31pm] <JWSchmidt> thanks for suggesting it
[9:31pm] <cormaggio> i'll also save this log somewhere visible and let you know where it is
[9:31pm] <JWSchmidt> okay
[9:31pm] <cormaggio> so, meeting closed?
[9:31pm] <JWSchmidt> yes
[9:32pm] <cormaggio> right, thanks again
[9:32pm] <cormaggio> and talk again soon
[9:32pm] <JWSchmidt> right
[9:32pm] JWSchmidt left the chat room.