I am going to make a quick return to some previous writing I did on the potential power of community to drive course and knowledge creation. Bear with me, as I am still getting my head wrapped around this whole thing. I am clearly not there yet, so this is an open call for discussion around this concept.
Let me just say that I am loving the wiki. I have never (in my 10 years at PSU) seen the power of the collective more clearly than I have through the use of the ETS Wiki to drive thinking forward. Nearly as many of the edits to the things we are working on internally are coming from those outside the ETS staff — amazing and very powerful. Since I said no more invitations in my last post, let me say that I was wrong. You are invited to continue to participate. It is making my work more meaningful on levels I didn’t anticipate. With that said, I am getting set to explore a new use of wikis here at PSU.
With the closing of the IST Solutions Institute, a place I called home for six and a half good years, I have been working through emotions about lots of things. One thing I am struck by is the fact that much of the work of SI in the early days centered around creating courses for use across the State of PA to help manage curricular drift, create new standards for problem based learning approaches, and unify faculty in their curricular decisions. We built the Online IST courses to serve as the basis for the core undergraduate curriculum for a brand new College at a big, geographically dispersed University. The most amazing thing about it to this day was that faculty used it! They used these centrally designed course materials as their textbooks, delivered the problem activities we designed, used the ANGEL templates to quickly generate their semester sequence, and they participated with us by offering to help edit, create, and grow the content so it better matched the needs of the curriculum. Amazing participation and for me it was career changing observation.
So flash forward to the SI closure and a note I recieved about how the course materials would be “frozen” and left in their current state — no new updates. Perhaps an opportunity to explore new thinking? Why not go the other route? Why not “defrost” the materials and turn them into wiki articles and invite the IST community in to participate? Think how a concept as simple as “Knowledge Worker” (update …compare the linked Wikipedia article with this lesson from Online IST 110 on the same concept … sorry, PSU authentication is required.) could be created and grown through active participation. Think about dozens and dozens of these articles being created and shared openly within the community so the content grows and becomes as rich a resource and it once was — only stronger with the power of community behind it.
Well, people say that is fine, but what do you do with hundreds of disconnected articles? I guess my answer is to invite the community in to create meta articles — articles that creates a narrative story about the collection of concepts you are trying to string together into lessons/topics/chapters or whatever you want to call them. Let a course committee determine how the meta articles link and drive the course structure, but do it from a wiki approach.
I would have to think new affordances would present themselves … here are a couple I am thinking about:
- Faculty could weave their work into the articles in a more seamless way. By exposing their research and citing their publications in a wiki article students would get a more complete perspective of what the field is all about. Encouraging debate within the articles would open up new perspectives on otherwise mundane topics.
- Students could be asked to contribute new knowledge and make it available to the course committees for inclusion in the meta articles. Students are often out in front of us on emerging trends and getting them to contribute seems really exciting and very appropriate.
- Alumni, Doctoral students, and industry partners could participate in new ways that brings in perspectives that would otherwise be locked out. One of my former colleagues at IST, Shawn Clark, has done amazing work with an advisory board member and letting him work side by side (virtually) with the students. The reason it works is because Dr. Clark gets that there are people outside the academy that have much to contribute to the work going on inside the academy. His futures site is a model of open collaboration and contribution. If Shawn can pull it off, don’t you think other interested parties connected to IST could as well? Wiki content could help that.
There are more, but at the end of the day this would be a ton of work — not at all hard to move content out of existing systems, but really hard to socialize the whole approach. Someone would have to apply that energy and someone would have to see the value in it all to make it real. With the closing of the Solutions Institute, I’m not sure who that person is.