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« Are you a digital curator, packrat, editor, or snacker? | Main | The Urge To Edit Someone Else's Blogging or Social Networking Policy Is Irresistible »


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Sarah Stewart

Hi Beth

I would also suggest you talk to Leigh Blackall who can tell you about wikieducator. cheers Sarah

Leigh Blackall:

Jeff Trexler

Interesting stuff.

One reason why some educators may find the wiki experience not to live up their expectations is the anti-plagiarism feti-- sorry, I was thinking norm and then stopped myself when I realized what I was typing. But I guess that really was what I meant.

The thing is, Wikipedia didn't really take off until they data-dumped public domain material. Before then it was the digital equivalent of blank pages, an environment that can be daunting even to professional writers, let along students.

My guess is that collaboration will increase over time as subsequent classes build on what previous students have contributed. It's far easier to redact and to supplement existing articles than to create them from scratch.

That's a far different model from traditional academia, where each iteration of a class is a tabular rasa, but it could be more engaging for the students in the long run. Beyond that, it could also be the path to having wikis replace textbooks, which I though would be a good thing.


Hey Beth--thank you! As a newbie to all of this, I'm honored to be linked. I also love the idea of your wiki portfolio and am considering a similar approach with my own stuff. I have to agree with Jeff on all points as well....perfect assessment of things, I would say.

Leigh Blackall

Hi Beth, I was a little surprised not to see you reference wikiversity or wikieducator..

You specifically asked for a sequence design wiki.

Note the attribution to David Wiley's wiki and Teemu Leinonen - where you will find other sequence designs.

Another approach that follows the sequence design is the wikieducator Permaculture design. It laid out a course schedule, but content-less. As we move through the course, content is recorded, created, sourced and added. I think it will take about 2 runnings of the course to complete the production so that it can be reused by others easily.


Kevin Gamble

I was studying the "purist definition" slide. I guess I'm a purist. I think if you "impose" the conditions on the right side of the slide you break the conditions which allow a wiki environment to work in the first place.

I'd love to see an example, anywhere, where someone has succeeded using the non-purist approach?

Leigh Blackall

Regarding Jeffs comment about what kicked Wikipedia (media commons maybe?) up using data dump public domain materials.. I very much disagree, mainly because I have heard nothing about such a move, but for other reasons as well. If a data dump did kick off Wikipedia et al, then I reckon it would have been acknowledged and talked about far more - most of all as a success story for Public Domain lobbyists. But I haven't encountered any talk like this - which would suggest that it may not be a significant reason for the success of WP et al. Also, to suggest that such a data dump lead to the success would be to suggest that WP is determined by the quantity and quality of its content. I think it is much more complicated than that. A data dump of PD doesn't acknowledge the ideology behind WP etc. I think the success of WP can be more fairly attributed to the success of the free and open information ideology, which has had significant agency in many more areas than WP and a data dump of PD. It is this more complicated mix of things that might help to explain most of WP success. PS See Brian Lamb's posts on Murder and Mayhem to see another very interesting use of Wikis.

Beth Kanter

@Kevin Gamble --

I'm pulling the comment you made in email up here because I want Matthiew to respond.

One of the things on the non-purist side probably doesn't belong on the slide at all: wysiwyg. That's a characteristic of the tool and not of the "conditions". :) Words are words no matter how they get on the page. So that slide probably could use some deconstructing.

Jeff Trexler

@Leigh: The web is littered with stillborn collaborative projects--nonprofit law is sad example of this, unfortunately--which never reached critical mass. Collaborative projects are a classic example of network effects and scale-free aggregation. In short, the more you have the more you get; the less you have, the less you're likely to grow. It's fine to praise the virtue of collaboration, but if your team doesn't understand how social systems work the reality probably won't to live up to the ideal.

As for Wikipedia, my impression was that the data dump is pretty common knowledge from back in the day, and it has been cited as an example of the benefit of the public domain. Its existence can be demonstrated by both the entry histories and the remaining traces of the imported texts. Recently, for example, Nicholson Baker summarized the backstory in an overview for the New York Review of Books, available here: Here's an excerpt:

So there was this exhilarating sense of mission—of proving the greatness of the Internet through an unheard-of collaboration. . . .

But it also became great because it had a head start: from the beginning the project absorbed articles from the celebrated 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is in the public domain. And not only the 1911 Britannica. Also absorbed were Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Nuttall's 1906 Encyclopedia, Chamber's Cyclopedia, Aiken's General Biography, Rose's Biographical Dictionary, Easton's Bible Dictionary, and many others. In August 2001, a group of articles from W.W. Rouse Ball's Short Account of the History of Mathematics—posted on the Net by a professor from Trinity College, Dublin—was noticed by an early Wikipedian, who wrote to his co-volunteers: "Are they fair game to grab as source material for our wikipedia? I know we are scarfing stuff from the 1911 encyclopedia, this is from 1908, so it should be under the same lack of restrictions...." It was. Rouse Ball wrote that Pierre Varignon

was an intimate friend of Newton, Leibnitz and the Bernoullis, and, after l'Hospital, was the earliest and most powerful advocate in France of the use of differential calculus.

In January 2006, Wikipedia imported this 1908 article, with an insertion and a few modernizing rewordings, and it now reads:

Varignon was a friend of Newton, Leibnitz, and the Bernoulli family. Varignon's principal contributions were to graphic statics and mechanics. Except for l'Hôpital, Varignon was the earliest and strongest French advocate of differential calculus.

But the article is now three times longer, barnacled with interesting additions, and includes a link to another article discussing Varignon's mechanical theory of gravitation.

Mathieu Plourde

@Kevin Gamble and Beth Kanter

On the issue of the WYSIWYG editor:

I think you are right Kevin. Some wiki tools don't even use a markup language (like Wikispaces). I would even add that the best markup language is no markup language at all! It's the simplest form of editing, which is a major part of the wiki philosophy.

That slide will be revised in my final wiki report, which should come out eventually. Thanks for the comment.

On the issue of the non-purist approach:

In higher ed, applying a purist approach is usually a deal-breaker for faculty for one single reason: grading. Developing a charter which defines the behaviors, whether it is imposed by the professor or negotiated by the group, is a key part of making the wiki work in that specific context. Unless you want to use the wiki in an optional way for a course. In that case, some students will do it, most won't, simply because they see a greater benefit at spending their time putting efforts towards graded activities.

The other issue is time. A semester is 15 week long, and professors must set a goal for a somewhat finished product by the end of that time frame.

Jeffrey Keefer

Beth, you might also find Stewart Mader's work on wikis useful for this as well.

Stewart Mader

This is excellent - for curriculum development, here's one way:

A few years ago, I worked with a group of my fellow teachers to build the curriculum used in a chemistry course where multiple sections were taught by this group. By using a wiki we had less email - we all went right to the wiki to work on lesson plans, teaching notes, etc.It gave us a common source of information to teach from, keeping the sections better aligned with each other, which meant students could more easily study together with students from other sections since they were on the same subject matter at the same time.We were able to pass on the materials to the next set of teachers the following year, so that instead of reinventing the wheel, they could focus on revising & updating the material we created on the wiki, and making sure it was up to date for their students.

This comes from my most recent piece on wikis in education - Arielle Pandolph from Florida State interviewed me, and we did the interview on my blog.

It's got a list of uses, several examples, and links to some of the best stuff I've found on the web about using wikis in the classroom & research.


Stewart Mader

@Jeffrey Keefer - Thanks for mentioning my work!

Anne Gentle

Hi Beth - I think there are levels of collaboration you're talking about using wikis as a tool - class or student-to-student collaboration, teacher-to-teacher (or teachers-to-administrators) collaboration, but there's another one that I want to be sure non-profit folks know about, and that's the Wikipedia Project Wikislices that's being used for the One Laptop Per Child project, effectively collecting and gathering and bundling Wikpedia articles for use as textbooks for kids across the world.

So it's author-to-author textbook content collaboration (not, technically, curriculum collaboration, I suppose.) For the 2007 slice example, take a look at Subjects such as Art, History, and Citizenship are stacked in clickable bundles, so to speak.

What's also interesting, and was eye-opening to me, is that the wiki model of "one and only one "correct" article wins" may not be the best application for creating text books. There are open source textbooks at Connexions (, but instead of implementing a wiki model, they've implemented a "lens" system that filters the content based on your parameters. From their definition "A lens is a selection of content in the Connexions repository to help readers find content that is related to a particular topic or focus. Three types of specialized lenses are currently supported: endorsement lenses for reviewed materials, affiliation lenses for material created by members of the lens creator's organization, and member list lenses for all other purposes."

Thanks for pointing out the excellent examples, hopefully these are two more that can help others.

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