Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Don’t do more

August 5, 2010
Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently blogged about Wikimedia as “a sort of social movement“. Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Interesting question.

What sort of social movement is Wikimedia? If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia as a social movement. If you search the Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Wikimedia Foundation Trustee, Matt Halprin: “The Wikimedia Foundation is a critical player in the growing social movement toward greater transparency and openness.”

Gardner wrote, “Our goal is to make information easily available for people everywhere around the world – free of commercialism, free of charge, free of bias.” If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia bias. If you search the Wikimedia Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Doron Weber, Director of the Sloan Foundation’s Program for Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge about Wikipedia: “…Wikipedia represents a quantum leap in collecting human knowledge from diverse sources, organizing it without commercial or other bias…..”

How does the Wikimedia Foundation measure up for transparency and what about bias in Wikipedia? Wikipedia allows anonymous editors to publish biased information about living people. For example, on March 8, 2006, an anonymous Wikipedia editor created a Wikipedia biography article about a university professor. That anonymous Wikipedia editor violated Wikipedia’s rules that are designed to keep Wikipedia free of biased biographies of living people. When a colleague of the university professor sought to correct the biased Wikipedia biography, he was blocked from editing Wikipedia and his user page was defaced and locked. Rather than follow Wikipedia policy and correct the biased biography, a gang of Wikipedians attacked and harassed the person who tried to correct the bias.

The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians, not content to simply block their fellow Wikipedian who had tried to keep Wikipedia free of bias, stalked him to his personal blog and subjected him to vile online harassment. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians also followed Moulton to Wikiversity and harassed him there, with the stated objective of getting Moulton banned from participation at Wikiversity. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians was successful by gaming Wikimedia Foundation Board member Jimbo Wales into violating Wikiversity policy and imposing an infinite duration block on Moulton, a block imposed against consensus and with no public discussion of the block. The decision to impose this policy-violating  block on Moulton was made by a few Wikipedians acting in secret. So much for the “transparency and openness” of the Wikimedia Foundation. Moulton, who only tried to help Wikimedia, is still subjected to continuing harassment by Wikimedia functionaries. Why are a few “special” Wikipedians and anonymous editors still allowed to force their personal biases on the world by using Wikipedia as their publishing platform? What is the ethical nature of an organization that allows anonymous editors to publish false claims about living people? Why are honest Wikimedians like Moulton harassed and driven away when they try to remove bias from Wikimedia? Should anyone take Sue Gardner seriously when she talks about the Wikimedia Foundation having a goal of being free from bias? (related blog post)

In 2010, a Wikiversity community member created a learning project aimed at finding an ethical means to improve Wikimedia projects. The Ethical Breaching Experiments learning project was deleted by Jimbo Wales, without community discussion, in violation of Wikiversity policy and against community consensus. The creator of the learning project was blocked from editing by Jimbo Wales, in violation of Wikiversity policy. In an effort to impose his misguided disruption of Wikiversity on the community, Jimbo Wales threatened Wikiversity with closure. Sue Gardner threw her support behind the misguided actions of Jimbo Wales.

Sue Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Yes, Sue, why don’t you? Why did you support Jimbo Wales in his misguided disruption of Wikiversity?

Online learning

February 22, 2010

Jean Piaget

In my last blog post I showed Isaac Asimov’s pre-internet vision of the impact that computers might have on education. Asimov was skilled at using bricks-and-mortar learning resources such as libraries. He had a personal interest in astronomy and although he never had formal classroom education in the area of astronomy, he wrote books about astronomy, sharing with the world what he had learned during his personal exploration of astronomy topics. I suppose that Asimov imagined computers would provide a kind of super-library where vast amounts of information would be instantly available to people around the world through computer terminals.

In the Bill Moyers interview, Asimov spoke about a two-tiered educational system in which there would still be conventional bricks-and-mortar educational institutions, but individual learners would be able to use computer-based learning resources and freely explore their own personal learning interests.

World-wide use of the internet began to explode in 1993 upon availability of the Mosaic web browser. Since Asimov died in 1992, he never had a chance to see the emergence of new internet technologies that are now available to facilitate online learning. Exactly how do people use computers and the internet to pursue their learning goals?

One of the ideas mentioned by Asimov in the the Bill Moyers interview was the possibility that computers could provide a learning experience that would be similar to having a personal tutor. Is that a reasonable expectation? I’m interested in the idea that rather than a one-on-one learner-tutor  experience, learning on the internet might instead be heading towards a one-among-many kind of learning environment where people with similar learning goals come together and collaboratively help each other learn.

With the on-going explosion in growth of the internet, can we come to any conclusions about how online learning is actually taking place? I want to start trying to answer that question by looking at some published ideas from researchers who study online learning.

Seymour Papert

I’m going to start (in my next blog post) with a discussion of some of the ideas presented in Making the Transition to Ubiquitous Learning. “The reach of new media beyond classroom walls and beyond formal learning contexts challenge the boundaries of education, transforming learning from a managed activity to an ubiquitous – anywhere, anytime, with anyone – and continuous part of daily life.”

Ubiquitous Learning: An Agenda for Educational Transformation by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (see their website)

Ubiquitous learning, ubiquitous computing, and lived experience by Bertram C. Bruce. “We feel that ubiquitous computing technologies help us solve problems, create/access knowledge, and build community.”

Ubiquitous Transformations by Caroline Haythornthwaite.   “Experts in the form of information professionals and teachers are bypassed in the expedience and convenience of retrieval and learning from the web. Peers and other learners become information sources and teachers.”

I’m particularly interested in the social dimension of online learning and the idea that the internet can facilitate the formation of communities of learners who come together and through their online activities (learning projects) pursue their learning goals and personal interests.

Images. Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert.

Asimov and learning

February 22, 2010

In my last blog post I mentioned Isaac Asimov. Here (below) is part of a Bill Moyers interview of Asimov. “If we keep turning science fiction into science fact, we may have to rethink what we mean by education.”

“Anyone at any time can be educated in any subject that strikes our fancy. The key is, ‘strikes our fancy’.”

“Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down. I just enjoy it so.”

“If from the start, children are educated into appreciating their own creativity then probably we can almost all of us be creative.”

Part 2

“Once we have computers in every home hooked up to libraries where anyone can ask questions and be given answers about something you’re interested in…at your own speed and in your own direction then everyone will enjoy learning.”

“Through this machine (computers), for the first time we will have a one-to-one relation between information source and information consumer. In the old days there was a tutor if you could afford one, but how many people could afford one? Now everyone can have a teacher in the form of access to the gathered knowledge of the human species.”

“Each student can be the sole dictator of what he is going to learn.”

“People think of education as something that you can finish. Anyone, any age, can learn by yourself…there is no reason why you should stop learning just because you reach a certain age. Make it possible for people to enjoy learning and they’ll keep it up.”

It would be great if we could bring Asimov back and ask him if the internet is accomplishing the kind of revolution in learning that he had imagined.