I’m on my way to Vancouver to meet with people associated with the Commonwealth of Learning’s WikiEducator initiative for the Tectonic Shift Think Tank. They’re having a gathering to discuss the possibilities and limitations of the MediaWiki platform and related free and open source software for developing free and open learning resources. Over three days people will present visions for WikiEducator and its platform and we will work towards setting goals and objectives for further development.

Extending from an earlier post My Vision for WikiEducator, where I talk about the need for the platform to be able to aggregate and embed media from other platforms and then represent that content for embedding back into other platforms… I’d like to point to other thoughts and ideas that represent a wider vision I share.

  1. Pay it Forward Learning. An idea presented to NSW TAFE Outreach coordinators in 2005 as a way to offer free, or more accessible learning opportunities through the use of wiki type technology and processes. This project sees the engagement of learners in the actual development of learning resources through a formal recognition and even payment process.
  2. Brent Simpson’s various notes. Pointing out a few shortcomings on the mediaWiki platform, some ideas for improvement, and some positive possitioning of the eXe project to support WikiEducator developments
  3. Constructivist/constructionist Learning – Wikiversity discussion. The thoughts of – the gold in a wiki is in the discussion pages – where the focus in less on the actual content, but on using the process of content creation as a structure for learning.
  4. Training Packages Unwrapped. An Australian project developed by Peter Shanks that takes Australian Training Unit Standards out of their RTF and PDF formats, and makes them available in a number of other formats, including MediWiki text. This project has generated some measure of interest in Australian eLearning innovation circles, and is already being used by a number of teachers in the development of learning resources on both WikiEducator and Wikiversity initiatives. It is a very fast way to create a basic structure for a resource based on a recognised criteria for learning the subject.
  5. Michael Nelson, Web Design – Wikiversity. Michael has been using Training Packages Unwrapped and Wikiversity to develop learning resources for Web Design. He has described compelling ideas inspired by that experience, how he can conceivably see a relationship forming between teachers, students, industry and the Australian Training Authority where openness in expressions of unit standards not only helps teachers and students to engage with and understand them, but would help to keep each unit standard up to date and relevant.

In New Zealand, Training Unit Standards have been used for longer than Australia, and in some subject areas the inustry body charged with maintaining the unit standards have allowed some units to fall out of date, to a point of not being usable. The WikiEducator initiative could help to solve this problem by negotiating with National Training Unit Standard bodies for permission and encouragement to use expressions of unit standards as a basic structure for starting a resource and to compare unit standards internationally.

Using Training Unit Standards on WikiEducator would provide vocational teachers – who’s work is largely defined by such standards – a big reason to use the platform.

Speaking from general experience, collaboration on resource development is not a primary or even secondary factor normally considered by teachers in the vocational sector. Most teachers have a hard time achieving cooperation and collaborative relationships with their immediate peers let alone students, industry and the wider community, and so it is difficult to perceive and appreciate the usefulness of learning to use a wiki (with all its limitations) and then to overcome some level of nervousness in exposing their work to audiences wider than their students. This is of course something that is changing as the successes of Wikipedia and Web2 generally become more widely appreciated, but it will be some time yet, if ever, before a wiki is considered before a photocopier, PowerPoint, basic Word handout all delivered over a legacy Learning Management System 😦

I hope this meeting will think hard about these realities in some parts of the CommonWealth at least, and that we can think of ways to improve the situation.

Like Brent, I would also like to extend an invitation to anyone else who has some ideas that could help the WikiEducator initiative.