Somehow, I want to understand why the majority of teachers struggle to accept the suggestion to use the wikis in this way. Even in the edtech world – ppl who pride themselves on open education development and connected learning, their absence from any substantial engagement in the big wikis is noticable. I think I’m beyond criticising them for it, but I do want to know why.
In the past, I’ve suggested that setting up DIY wikis aren’t a step toward such practice, because I thought most who went there didn’t ‘progress’ into a big wiki.
I reckon there’s something complicated behind this disconnect between open education and the wikis. What might seem to be a logical even obvious association, is actually distant. George Siemens laments the loss of a wiki he published DIY, that the hosting university has unceremoniously deleted on him. My only comment was: wikibooks.org
Some people question my comments as mere complaining about ppl not ‘playing in my sandpit’, but there is more to it. There are no doubt good, if poorly articulated and understood reasons so many are reluctant to do anything substantial in those collective spaces.
First off, I can relate to George’s frustration. At the top of this post is a picture of the first UBC Wiki. It was yanked offline without notice and the box was tossed into a hallway. It was only a fluke that someone wrote me a week later and asked me to collect my trash. I’ve never been able to convince anyone at UBC that there is value in preserving at least a searchable text archive of the wiki. So here it sits in my cubicle in the vain hope that someone might decide it’s worth the effort to save. (Thankfully, the Wayback Machine has captured much of it.) I happen to believe there is some historically significant stuff on there, things like the Small Pieces, Loosely Joined happening in 2004 with many of open ed tech’s earliest innovators. (Oh well, probably simpler to just agree that MOOCs Inc. and Blackboard invented open education.) It also strikes me as disrespectful to the people who took the risk to adopt early and do some wonderful innovative work — evidently those early adopters agree, as some of them won’t work with me anymore, and I don’t blame them.
But back to Leigh’s comments…
On some level, I am a bit surprised that someone who was an early and passionate advocate of networked learning can’t see why independent, autonomous nodes can be a viable strategy. I mean, if we are doing open right, should it matter where our stuff originates?
That said, we don’t do open right. Given the current state of licensing and technology, we probably couldn’t assemble a coherent artifact like Wikipedia using discrete, aggregated, networked sites across various platforms and tools. So I can see why someone who believes in Wikiversity would feel frustrated that there is not more shared purpose in the open community. And I hope my work and scattered writings have made it clear that I value what global/centralized approaches can bring — even when hyping the UBC Wiki at campus workshops, I try to make time to point out initiatives such as the Wikipedia Education Program, Wikiversity and Wikieducator. These type of efforts can create learning conditions and effects that institutional platforms simply cannot re-create.
But there are reasons why working in a local, familiar context is not mere “control freakery”. A few that come to mind:
* A semi-open space like the UBC Wiki, which requires a UBC ID to edit, is a safer environment for people venturing into open online work. There is no spamming, very little trolling (people are accountable for their writing), and management of student access and accounts is vastly simplified. Leigh is probably right to argue that a minority of these people will push further into more adventurous spaces. But some do. And as for the others, at least their work is posted in an accessible, sharable collaborative open source environment that invites reuse.
* There is an element of ego at play for at least some people when they share their work. It’s one of the powers of positive narcissism. Again, my own understanding of networked models (which I don’t pretend to have thought about as much as Leigh has) accounts for an interplay between individual and collective modes of expression. I think it is amazing that so many people are willing and able to subsume their egos to adopt a “neutral point of view” in Wikipedia. Joining a collective like Wikipedia implies adopting a collective ethos and approach — it can yield great results, it can also limit the range of expression, and I think it is understandable why people might prefer to do their own thing.
* As I mentioned in a comment on Leigh’s blog a while back, there is a lot of content that makes sense on an institutional wiki that I am quite sure would not fit on a collective site. A lot of the material on the UBC Wiki is very UBC-specific (Bars and Pubs on Campus, or Library Branch Hours, our Documentation)… The reuse, if any, is mainly within our institution. There is a lot of content in our Sandbox area that is very informal (student group brainstorming, sci-fi movie clubs, etc…), but I am glad we can facilitate it. And we have definitely found that once people author this type of content on the UBC Wiki, they tend to keep going.
* A final, more personal comment. If some of the bigger, international wiki projects want to encourage more participation, they need to honestly address the reception they offer to newcomers, and the image that they project to the wider world. In her review, Tina refers to the snotty comments her students received from some Wikipedians — and, to be fair, the defence that came from others. (As an aside, a fascinating study on the relative expertise of new editors in Wikipedia.) I have periodically lurked and poked into discussions on some wiki-oriented open education projects over the years, and usually feel alienated by the contentious and tedious nature of many threads. I recall coming across a comment, posted by someone I am friendly with (presumably not thinking I might read it), saying something like “Brian Lamb is a good guy, but he has used the NC clause on his blog’s Creative Commons licence” — as if that dismissed any position I might hold for the rest of my life. In my experience, these sorts of statements are not uncommon, and I can’t be the only person who finds them off-putting.
That all said, there are powerful benefits in not only thinking globally but acting there as well. I resolve to up my participation on these fronts. I also hope to report a number of technical and practical shifts to the UBC Wiki in the coming months that will allow for more effective integration between the big central wiki projects and local installations.