Choose Your Own Federated Wiki Adventure

Remember choose your own adventure books? As a kid, I loved those books because they let me decide where the character goes. What happens. Why. I got to choose, and I bet I felt like the writer that I hadn’t figured out I wanted to be as a little girl. Being the gigantic nerdling I was, I read every option. I remember going all book critic by defacing library books and offering advice on the best adventure for the next reader. I’d write, “The wizard turns evil. Choose p. 96, the princess comes back to life.” As an adult, I’m horrified that I defaced public property but I bring this up not to shame my younger self, but as a way to contextualize two ways I think the federated wiki could work for writers, teachers, and students.

First, I’m trying–and I emphasize trying–to write a book using the federated wiki. What if I could play with the form of the novel and give readers the option to read a self-contained story where they choose what to read next? I haven’t figured out how to do this nor is my writing any good. I’m trying to think of an adult version of the choose your own adventure book where the story is embedded in the content and the timeline of the story isn’t as important as trying to encourage readers to read in a different way. What if I could design a reading experience where people take a path that they want? There is no map. No beginning, no ending, or right order.

Here’s my theory: most people read with hyperlinks by either ignoring them altogether or they click on them as they read. This click-as-you-read kills your concentration and you end up with this smattering of open windows and a colossal mess on your computer screen where you can’t remember where you started or what the heck you were even reading. I witnessed this first hand as a teacher and as an instructional designer. Too many links are bad for students who struggle with reading comprehension and critical thinking. They just become blue words and lines that they ignore or worry that they’ll miss something that was hyperlinked on a quiz.

If I could teach people how to read my Fedwiki book by reading all of the page and then choosing the link that interests them, I’d create an open invitation to choose your own adventure with what I hyperlink. Maybe I’ll create a neighborhood of readers and writers who will add to this idea. Why not? But that’s a gigantic sloppy mess for another day mixed with ambition, passion, motivation, despair, and a story that won’t let me go. For some reason, I’m having a lot of fun thinking about this book whereas before it made me feel like a gigantic failure.

At one point, I stopped seeing any new adventures until I started writing the history of my ideas–such as they are–using the federated wiki.

But that’s not where it gets interesting for me.

The intersection of this choose-your-own-adventure-by-changing-the-way-you-read with portfolio potential for teaching and learning bubbles to the surface of my thoughts more often than the novel potential. Because this is what the federated wiki is for, man, it’s for The People! Not just navel gazing selfish writers (a memoir).

So that brings me to the forking of [[Forced Conviviality]] and an idea that I was hoping to work on more before NW eLearn. I’m presenting on the federated wiki, and my title makes it sound like I know what I’m talking about—only I don’t. Here’s my title:

Time in the Federated Wiki: Portfolio Potential From The Happenings

Sounds fancy, right?

I’ve got a hunch that won’t let me go. And this all feels a bit like choosing my own adventure. I’ll be the first to tell you that I really have no idea what I’m talking about and that’s really fun for me. That’s the necessary condition of the hobby job–it’s gotta be fun or I’m out.

Meanwhile back at the jobby job, I’ve been tasked with writing initiatives as they relate to teaching and learning and professional development. In short, what are we going to teach teachers and value as the face of eLearning/educational technology on our campus? I’m not short on ideas or things that we could do. Here’s the link if you’re interested in reading more, but I’m struggling with how to assess that teachers and students will benefit from these projects in order to legitimize funding. How will I know that these ideas will work? How will I know what teachers have learned? How will I know? How will I create data? How will I connect helping teachers to student success? Where is the distillery in the woods that employs yetis to make moonshine? Wait. Sorry, that’s not a question.

This is where I’m struggling because here’s the 411 y’all. It feels impossible–or close to impossible–to measure professional development for teachers as it relates to student success. If you define “student success” in terms of retention and completion, well, I’m not your gal. Let’s talk about learning then I’m your gal. What I think works and what I’ve learned from others is that discipline-specific professional development is easy to measure. Send faculty to a new conference where presenters share the findings of a research project. Faculty incorporate that information into their courses. Students learn about it. Boom! Assessed. Here’s your pile of money.

Teaching people to think differently about the way they teach with technology is not so easy. Purse strings cinch. Eye brows get raised. Teaching people to collaborate with their colleagues is not so easy. Teaching people and then have them change is not so easy. The data is harder to gather. This pressure about retention, completion, and data kills everything that I love about teaching and learning. The Choose Your Own Adventure book becomes a boring spirit killing training manual that nobody wants to read.

And this was my rant to a friend, a fellow teacher, who said, “Just make sure you don’t create situations of forced conviviality. It’s got to be worth people’s time and leave teachers excited to learn more on their own. Forcing people to learn, last I checked, doesn’t work.”

When I got back to work I couldn’t remember if the phrase was enforced or forced, so I used the federated wiki to take notes. I decided to make a short video to explain because my first draft confused me, dear readers, so let me spare you by making you suffer through a video:

In Tools for Conviviality, Ivan Illich reminds us that “Trust in miracle cures obliterated good sense and traditional wisdom on healing and healthcare.”

If I could have forked this page, here’s how I’d revise it: Trust in miracle cures obliterates good sense and traditional wisdom with teaching and learning.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
This entry was posted in All The Things and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Choose Your Own Federated Wiki Adventure

  1. Lisa Chamberlin says:

    And I’d fork it once more, writing: Trust in tests obliterates good sense and traditional wisdom with teaching and learning.

    #keepforkin my friend.


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