Beyond Explanation

Yesterday, I experienced a moment of pause when I was speaking about how to let go of control by embracing the mystery of the goodness of God. To me, this is a newer practice, but I already value teaching it far more than I value teaching people how to more effectively control the world around them through a comprehensive explanation or understanding of some academic discipline.

This second objective governs just about every learning experience I have been part of. But if I truly embrace the mysterious position I have found myself in, then my teaching will go beyond explanation to facilitating an experience. The moment of pause came when I realized that the accepted explanations of our limited experience of existence often lead us so far astray from reality that we get lost in a fantasy world of our own creation.

Among the Elements

The true pagans of today are those who believe their minds define the world. The new gods are not pieces of wood and stone as much as they are living breathing brains, who struggle with one another for power, acceptance, and control over human destiny.

This redefinition represents a fascinating exposure of my perspective. I am far more open than many in the Christian tradition to recognizing the natural function of various elements of creation. I think the rocks, the hills, the trees, the stars, all serve their purpose in the life of mankind. It would be foolish to presume that such things can define human destiny, but not more so than to presume we can define it for ourselves.

Humanity has received delegated authority to cultivate these resources, but it does not come from our power to manipulate the elements. Our authority comes from a connection with the same source of life from which the other elements spring. Through our union with the creator, we may redeem what aspects of their function have fallen into futility, but this responsibility does not eliminate their effect on our lives.

In the same way that our internal thoughts define our experience of existence, so the external elements exercise a similar influence. Space and time have an impact regardless of whether or not the individual is willing to recognize it. Humanity cannot be fully autonomous agents in this world apart from the freedom of identity as children of God. Even then, freedom is not defined in the sense of isolated independence, but in the sense of harmonious interdependence through which beauty is released into the world (shalom).

Authority through Identity

Authority flows from this sense of restored identity (because this enables the humility to be under authority). Power flows from information (or what is mistakenly called knowledge). Both provide a means of interacting with the world, but only the first has potential to do so in a way that brings life.

But because we have mistaken information and definition for knowledge (instead of knowing through intimate acquaintance), the human efforts to express power in this world have led far too often to devastating outcomes. The problem is not in the attempt to define our experience but in our attempt to let our experience become the standard of definition. When we have no idea who we are, it is impossible to tell the rest of creation what it should look like.

That is why the restoration of the individual to life must precede the ability of that individual to bring life to the surrounding world. Only those who have found a sense of internal wholeness or integrity can be safely entrusted with the stewardship and authority over that which is external to themselves.

Beyond Explanation

Those seeking to educate individuals who would form culture instead of destroying it, who will build communities instead of fostering prejudice, who innovate with artistry rather than mere functionality…would do well to consider shifting the focus of education from the study of explanations to the study of individuals (that which cannot be divided). One cannot see the unity of the world without first seeing the unity within. One cannot reflect beauty without first having the capacity to encounter it. One cannot walk in authority without first abandoning the illusions of power.

Until the individual has been persuaded of the goodness of the creator – and subsequently the creation (including all of its brokenness), this illusion will be difficult to address. The fundamental choice of humanity is, therefore, one of faith: either in the ability of self to define good and evil on behalf of a broken world or in the ability of love to restore all things through a cultivation of union with the source of life (Colossians 1:19-20).  

For more educational resources and perspectives, please visit the Human Centered Learning Blog.

Something More

Right now it feels like I stand in between the entry point of reality and something more like unreality from which I cannot escape.

I have come one direction for a while, but I need the courage to keep going: to answer the call to see beyond what I already know – beyond what captures the hearts and imaginations of the world around. I would like to illustrate this subtle distinction within a fiction story, but for now, I must be content that something like what I would communicate is present in the works of George MacDonald and many of the great poets who have gone before.

It is not so often present in the modern world where this afternoon I browsed through a free magazine wondering at the portraits of women and men showcasing luxurious clothing and accessories. I had expected to find some taste of beauty,  but I found nearly all of them to contain little more than a weak attempt at capturing the allure of sexuality.

From Defined Un-reality

There must be a way to capture and communicate something more real than this, I thought. Though I still question whether it is possible for the general audience to appreciate the subtle difference enough to demand a change. It is possible to find beauty in the human form, but there are some styles of presentation that lend themselves more easily to lust than to admiration.

Naturally, if the intention of the photographer is to awaken desire within a person for whatever is on the page, then the image has succeeded whether it awakens love or lust. Beauty, where it is present in any measure, demands such a response. However, the context I saw called the individual toward consuming a product, which will neither satisfy the desire awakened by the image nor the overall human desire that is hijacked by the whole interaction.


We all should be craving something. I think that something is wholeness, or connection forged by the nature of love that draws all things closer rather than pushing them further apart. How is it possible to capture that?

In words, I think it could be the real definition of purity: being of one substance without contamination by any other. At least it would be a more effective definition than the idea of purity being the absence of something impure. Such ambiguity is equally unhelpful as defining mortality by the absence of immorality. Both are useless because the definitions communicate only what they are not.

To what, then, are we called? I don’t think it is to the image itself, but to something that it represents. When I discover that the image contains only a shallow deception, I am no longer satisfied by what I see…and so I move on, like most people, seeking something new, something more, something that will satisfy the endless craving for something a little bit more real.

It must be possible to create an image representing a truth that will capture the attention of the observer more powerfully. “Here, at last, is something real!” But even this cannot be tied to a product or the context will short-circuit the fullness of what the image represents.

The only exception I see is a product that somehow extended a similar invitation to pursue that which the image represented. True beauty, as a ‘purchasable’ product, might become the bait that lures individuals out of the matrix into the joy of life in all its chaos and hardship. Unlike a sexual high, this undefined thrill cannot be clearly articulated as each one must encounter the reality from a particular vantage point of maturity or immaturity.

Mysterious Reality

Can the invitation be offered to those who are not ready to receive it? Jesus said, “do not cast your pearls before swine” or they will be destroyed along with you (Matthew 7:6).

Must truth, then, be hidden in plain sight? It’s hard to know what you don’t already know.

Can a pathway to discovery be synthesized from the journey of all those who have gone before? The process seems almost exclusively individualized.

Perhaps it is possible to make space for the process and encourage its progress, though it is impossible to tell what this might look like. Perhaps the outcome could be defined as wholeness, but I think for most this is a lifelong journey.

Education as the Invitation

So what kind of structure could be designed to support it throughout a lifetime? Education toward wholeness cannot happen in a moment or else whatever hardens holds the extreme risk of shattering into nothing, taking life with it. Within the constraints of time and place, I consider it possible only to serve the individual with tools, examples, and inspiration – forms of learning and the freedom to customize their design and use.

Perhaps instruction toward some end common to most of humanity might be beneficial. However, too much of this tends toward defining what humanity is, and such a feat is impossible if not destructive. Still, I think there must be some allure – some truth that has the power to overwhelm the deception with an invitation to reality. Even if it evades definition, it must be possible to find.

I have not discovered it, though I have thought myself close to it. I have seen something of it, I have tasted it, shuddered at its presence, felt overwhelmed by something yet beyond my reach though it seemed momentarily tangible. It – whatever it is – speaks to something fundamentally and mysteriously human. A call or invitation echoing through its invisible chambers might invade the waves of light and sound that flood the contemporary human experience with a hint – just a hint – of something real behind what we think we know.

To Seek Something More

To the one blessed with the ability to translate from one world into the other, all the riches of the world might begin to flow. For that which is, is. And to lay hold of it just partially is to align with the current of history and humanity in a way that invites the inevitable to participate with the possible in the presentation of something more beautiful.

Such an invitation could not be overlooked, ignored, or refused, except at the expense of the one who remains blinded by that which has no substance. But the choice of ignorance must still appeal to those who lack the diligence to investigate what is real. The invitation is the only thing that can be received without effort. The reality must be acquired through effort. The first may be free; the second will cost the life of the one who desires it.

The response, therefore, will not only be strongly favorable for those who answer, it will be strongly distasteful for those who try to pretend it never came. There is no unhearing what has been heard or unseeing what has been seen, but the struggle to forget may seem more accessible than the struggle to forge a life, and those who acquiesce to indolence soon hate those who have chosen otherwise.

A clear invitation thus becomes a detestable reminder to those who continually reject the offer. The one who extends it, therefore, must do so with the cunning of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove. Otherwise, there will be no occasion to enjoy the benefit or reap the fruits of what has been unlocked.

Disembodied Knowledge

What follows is a first draft section of my upcoming book: “Truth & Knowledge: A New Biblical Paradigm for Christian Education.” This header will be removed as the draft is finalized. Feedback is welcome – leave a comment!

The problem of Being described in the previous section only emerged as philosophy turned inward upon itself seeking to discover its own truth rather than to discover something outside of itself. In doing this, it lost its power to point the individual toward a better way of being, and confused the individual with endless questions about whether there was even such a question. This emphasis took at least one intermediary step between the Greek philosophers, who sought out how to live lives of virtue and those enlightenment philosophers who gave up on the quest altogether. This intermediary step was probably the end result that Socrates feared would happen if ideas were captured in books instead of people. Truth became a disembodied concept that could be poured from the mouth using words that belonged to another into the listening ear of anyone who could be attracted to its sound. Similar to the sophists who began to use rhetoric for the sake of rhetoric and fame, the philosophers (known for their love of wisdom), began to use philosophy for the sake of philosophy rather than for the sake of truth. It was possible to demonstrate a way of life that completely contradicted the creed one claimed to hold sacred.

The Medieval Church bears much blame for the walking contradiction that it became in the dark ages of history, but this is due less to an inaccurate collection of truth, than to an acceptance of its disembodiment. To chop off the head of someone who disagrees with your opinion about the nature of God is to prove knowledge of something other than the nature of God. Words and religious practice are meaningless if they do not spring from the proper source. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of Rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). It is the double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways that should not expect to receive wisdom from God even when he asks for it (James 1:6). “How long,” asked Elijah “will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:22). Holiness requires a full commitment to one way of being. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

If it is possible to think of knowledge as a collection of information rather than as an intimate acquaintance, then it is possible to claim knowledge without putting forth a single shred of effort. Think of all the college graduates who have certified knowledge in everything under the sun except what they really know. As any student can tell you, the true knowledge of college is the art of getting by or getting laid. Those who truly attempt to seek a state of knowledge in anything other subject are too often stifled by a process that provokes more frustration than learning. (This is, of course, too much of a generalization, but its reality is far too apparent to ignore). My objective in such a harsh critique is not to blame the faculty, among whom I count myself, but to ask how we found ourselves in such a dire situation where those who want to learn and those who want to teach face such an impossible challenge.

In the first place, a majority of people are not even aware of the possibility of knowledge, and if they have heard of the concept and desire to find it, they begin with the wrong approach: collecting the data that is so readily accessible. Drowning in facts is perhaps the commonest way to stifle the flame of a young seeker. Too much information too fast is impossible to relate to. Instruction that focuses on this end of the process will tend toward one of two directions: pride in the person’s ability to remember and pretend to embody, or shame in the apparent inability to measure up. Thus, churches and schools are filled with those who pretend knowledge and fear lest the light of wisdom and truth should shine upon their broken and empty hearts. These have looked to the fig leaves of the surrounding world to cover their nakedness as they hide from that which could bring them life (Genesis 3:7-8). Unfortunately, the easier option is pretending there is no problem at all and making the claim that knowledge cannot be found, does not exist, or is of a different nature than a relationship between the knower and the known.

Thus, the separation of humanity from its source of Being leaves two options: to claim that Being doesn’t matter/doesn’t exist, or to seek to rediscover the connection between ourselves and that which is. For the ancient Hebrews, this looked like a pursuit of wise living in accordance with the commandments of God.

Leviticus 18:4-5

You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statues and my rules; if a person does them he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

For the Greek philosophers, this looked like the practice of a virtuous life. The pursuit of virtue could guide the person seeking to live in the way of wisdom. The pursuit of virtue is a predefined pathway of restoring that connection. In this way, religion offered the same solution as philosophy. The love of wisdom is not a pretense of knowledge, but rather an attempt to find life. For virtue is only apparent in its demonstration. One does not consider a person generous until something is given. The beginning of the process of transformation is the humble recognition that one is not virtuous – as long as I think myself to be a wise person, I will have no incentive to acquire wisdom. Aristotle supposes that one must be trained in virtue because it is not a natural practice for the human person. By nature, we seek to conform the world we encounter to ourselves rather to respond to what the sages have discovered is true. We would rather settle for what is easy than to work for what is worthwhile, and the transition from one choice to the other is what requires education.

In part, this reflects the Biblical view in which humanity was given the commission to have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). This does not appear to have changed throughout the biblical narrative. Rather, Paul says that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The blessing given to Noah repeated the blessing given to Adam, except it added a note that the fear and dread of mankind would be on all of the creatures (Genesis 9:2). If by nature of his identity as one bearing the image of God, Adam was supposed to rule, the men who stepped off the ark were so far removed from this image (in spite of being saved) that all the creatures lived in dread. Even today, it is only with careful attention and great amount of time that humans and the creatures we consider tame can form the bond of relationship that it seems they must desire. Thus, it is by nature that we seek to rule, but unless we learn to find our identity in the image of God rather than in our own image, the result of our rule will not be a restoration of peace. I believe it was to address this problem that Aristotle proposed that training in virtue was necessary.

A Prediction for Higher Education

Less than 300 years ago, an institution existed throughout western Europe known as the guild. The guild was the center of commerce in the same way that the universities were the center of thought. In contrast to the guild where individuals learned to master trades through a complex system of apprenticeship, universities more closely resembled the monastic communities of the church where individuals dedicated their lives to the cultivation of their hearts and minds. These were the centers of literacy, art, and the less-practical subjects of the humanities (the domain of the elite).
When technology like the printing press made information widely available, literacy became a valuable commodity and teachers came from the intellectual centers to provide general schooling for the public. The wider accessibility of information did not replace the professor but changed his role into one of a guide for those wishing to encounter the information for themselves. They began to teach the public to read, write, and interact in a more complex world than had ever existed. The only requirement for a respectable commercial job at this point was probably the ability to read, spell, and add.
Meanwhile, craftsmen received their training through apprenticeship and their credentials through the guild. The title of “master” was conferred upon the one who was recognized within the guild as an expert in the trade. Sound familiar? Churchmen received their training through the church. Farmers learned the trade from their family. Those who attended university did so because they had the luxury of time and money to develop their network, their understanding of abstract concepts that were not useful on the farm, and perhaps even indulge their curiosity in the sciences. In some cases higher education was a necessity as they needed to understand principles of law and government that they would use in leadership positions within the community.
As time passed, this exclusive education in the liberal arts became more widely available and in countries like the United States, basic literacy itself was no longer a competitive advantage. One needed a high school degree in order to demonstrate greater potential for participating in more complex jobs. The businesses were too small to train the one accountant they needed and so economies of scale led to mass training for accountants. Those who did not participate in this training could no longer get a job as a book-keeper. And so a trend began in which the well-paying jobs required years of study to prepare for participation. Those who learned the information on their own lacked the credentials of the college and were not always recognized as capable. The university degree thus became the key to both the information and the certification needed for a respectable job. 
It had effectively replaced the guild, the church, and the community as the primary source of introducing information and credentialing individuals. But then the industrial age came to an end with the advent of the information age. As industry became automated, the value of the homogenous individual disappeared and the specialist (craftsman) began to reappear. The guild came back with a vengeance under the guise of internships and technical college where students received training and certification for their pursuit of a trade. But more importantly, the internet was born as a new way of producing and sharing information through digital technology.
Like the printing press, it opened up a whole new world of information and complexity to individuals. And just like the role of the professor changed then, it will have to change again. The internet has replaced the university as the repository and dispensary of information. The professor is no longer the expert in the subject when compared with the collected knowledge of the world. The value of the campus as a place of learning and innovation has fallen relative to the amazing laboratories and experimental centers run by private companies. An internship with a well-respected company is more valuable for job prospecting than a degree at this point. And those who do get a job participate in ongoing corporate training to master their company’s particular knowledge base. As the guild (read corporations) has begun to resume its credentialing and training power, it is leaving the university in a rather uncomfortable position of irrelevance.
I believe this is a good thing as the next 20 years will see the university begin to re-assume its position as the thought center of society.
Imagine children are trained in literacy by artificial intelligence designed by education specialists and technology gurus who learned their trades from dedicated schools on the subject and interact with a worldwide network of related individuals developing a greater depth of information about the field. The learning experience for the children is designed particularly for them from a dizzying database of information and can produce a high school or college level of subject mastery by the time the child has barely reached 13 years of age. Then they will begin to specialize in some particular field and join the worldwide conversation mediated by technology around a particular subject or career field. Some have speculated that at this point the institutions of the church of government, and of education will all be subsumed by the corporation, but I believe that if they adapt, these institutions will find their roles enhanced and expanded by the developments in technology that come from these corporations.
For most people, the university will no longer be a necessary part of a life that is filled with learning through exploration and interaction through digital and real world spaces. History will be experienced live through virtual worlds and ancient places can be explored with accompanying meta-information and guidance that is currently locked away in vaults and virtual databases waiting to expose its secrets to the world. Math will be visual and interactive. Virtual skyscrapers will rise and fall on the mastery of physical properties demonstrated by students in a safe and collaborative environment for exploration. In the rush of available information, much of humanity will be at a loss for how to transform it into something useful.
This is where the university will find its identity by returning to its quiet and noble roots of philosophy, literature, government, poetry, and art which will give meaning and value to the mad process of learning undertaken by the rest of the world. Perhaps for some, university will be a lifelong dedication, for others it will be a detour on the way to more information, and some might find a week at the university to be a relaxing vacation in a quiet and artistic setting removed from the rush of learning. But in order to return to its foundations and maintain its relevance in the next decades, the university must ask an important question: what is education? 

For if education is simply the mastery of one’s subject, the university will be replaced by a digital crowd-sourced environment for discovering and interacting with information. If, on the other hand, learning is the mastery of oneself and subjects cannot be separated from the individuals who engage with them, the university will play a prominent role in the success of individuals using the available technology in a way that is profitable. In this second scenario, the university will become the center for the development of the individual as a holistic being who not only thinks and feels, but breathes and moves and loves and creates and will never be confined to a mere cog in the digital machinery of the information age!


Universal Instructional Design

In my opinion, the challenge of universal instructional design is a much broader and deeper question than one of overcoming disability. It is a question of the philosophy of education: what is the purpose of formal education? Structural design for universal access is certainly important for residential buildings, but not so much for roller coasters. The purpose of the structure determines the value of making it accessible. Is anyone going to pay for an elevator to the top of Mount Everest just so everyone can have equal access? Certainly the views are spectacular, but nearly everyone is plagued by their disability to climb such a high mountain.

Is education a matter of reaching the top of the mountain, of learning how to climb, or of choosing whether to practice climbing or to practice swimming? If education is a process of learning how to climb, it is thwarted by building an elevator to the top of the mountain so that individuals in wheelchairs can reach the top. If the point of education is reaching the top of the mountain, why would anyone bother learning to climb when the elevator works much more quickly? If education is about helping the individual recognize and develop their preference for swimming over climbing, its purpose is defeated by forcing everyone to practice mountain climbing.

The point is that every individual has a different skill set and ability that can be developed by education. Unfortunately, there is often an assumption that every student needs to climb Mount Everest. A few will succeed at this challenge, but many will not. Some are even scared of heights. Does this mean that they need additional psychological support so they can reach the same goal as everyone else? Perhaps they simply need to recognize that their natural condition makes them much better swimmers than climbers.

The suggestion that I hope to make by this example is that the future of education may not be about helping everyone reach the same summit no matter what obstacles or disabilities they may face. Rather, it shifts the challenge of teaching from one of how to make everyone a great climber to one of helping individuals decide if they want to climb at all – and if so, which mountain…and how. In fact, it even allows for individuals to recognize they are not physically built to be climbers and to take up swimming instead. After all, not all mountain climbers can also be good at swimming. This is the idea of restructuring education around the individual (Human Centered Learning). By creating an educational environment in which a multiplicity of abilities are developed and valued, universal instructional design can create a level playing field for students of varying abilities.

Creating Engaging Learning Experiences

One of my classmates shared this slideshow on how to make online learning into an engaging process for students and I thought I would share it here. The presenter uses the Moodle platform, but the principles apply to many different environments.

[slideshare id=40465062&doc=180minutesofelearninggbeevers-141019180756-conversion-gate02]

Social Media for Learning

This week of learning through social media created a sharp contrast between the utility of the LMS (Learning Management System) used by my school and the free platform we enjoyed this week. If it were not for the convenience of grading tools, organizing assignments, and maintaining consistency of student experience, I would choose to learn via social media just about every time.

Social media is designed to be social. Information gets lost so quickly in the discussion boards on Canvas and Blackboard. The social media platform that we used ( brought forward the posts that I needed to see into a convenient newsfeed and was simple to navigate. It was also much easier to follow the threaded posts and upvote those things that I thought were important or interesting.

Notifications showed up whenever there was something new I needed to take care of and it was easy to interact with others in the predefined spaces. There was no boundary separating the information from the conversation. To me this seemed to create a more integrated learning experience.

In addition to these basic functions, it was simple to navigate to resources, easy to edit my profile, and there were other additional functions like blogging that were available if needed.

Despite all of this, I still feel like it will take some time for social media to overtake the entrenched learning management systems as the dominant platform for online learning. The reason for this is outlined in one of the thoughts we discussed this week:

It seems to me that there is a divide between learning and education. From our other discussion thread, it looks like many of us use social networks for learning on a personal level. When it comes to a more formalized learning experience, however, there are so many things to quantify that the simple interactions allowed by social networking tools are not sufficient for the classroom. Perhaps if learning facilitators could let go of the idea that every learner must go through the same experience and be measured by the same benchmark standards, then social networking tools could really be leveraged in a formal group learning setting. Until this changes, I think LMS will continue to dominate the distance learning scene.

Race and Education

I think that in dealing with the subject of race most of us will run into the problem of defining our terms at some point in time. It is clear that there are differences between people, whether this is skin color, height, or age. Whether or not it is possible to argue that they are a result of genetic history or geographical history, physical variations do exist. The issue under question is one of how we respond to these differences.

This is a difficult task for individuals who inherit a historical and cultural context in which wealth and opportunity are often divided along the lines of certain physical features. For example, certain studies have shown that taller men have greater earning potential. Tall men who make more money and are able to afford a healthy lifestyle will most likely give birth to more tall men and pass on this genetic advantage. Similarly, individuals whose families have lived in cold parts of the world and adapted to this environment over the centuries will probably have an advantage in outdoor sports like skiing where their bodies can focus on performance and not simply on staying warm. If we lived in a society where skiing was the only mode of transportation and it was always cold, individuals with a certain genetic history would probably end up in control of resources and opportunities. Does this mean that people who don’t know how to ski are in some way less human? No. However, they are at a disadvantage to participate in a society that revolves around skiing.

I would like to suggest a logical transition from this scenario to one of our own. Individuals who grew up in a tropical jungle may find it difficult to adapt to the corporate jungle. This does not make them inferior, but if they attempt to compete in an environment they are not familiar with, they are at a disadvantage…and vice versa. The corporate individual would be at a disadvantage trying to survive in the jungle. Does this mean that there is a problem with the jungle or with corporate America? Not necessarily.

The problem comes when individuals have no opportunity to learn how to survive and compete in environments they were not necessarily prepared for. This is where education comes into play: offering individuals the opportunity to overcome the natural disadvantages they inherit that are beyond their control. How can a short man learn to stand tall? How can a jungle native learn to develop a fashion sense and table manners? Through education. Education is the key by which these individuals can open access to experiences beyond their reach. But if education as a system is designed to only serve the needs of individuals who are properly prepared, it has failed in its responsibility to society. It has become an inaccessible outcome rather than a process of preparation. The question I am left with from this week is how to create an environment of education in which individuals from any background can prepare to succeed in the real world?

Using Wikis in Education

As part of my class on learning and technology, I had the objective of creating a learning experience for my classmates that introduced them to wikis and blogs. With this wiki project, my partner and I wanted to give students the chance to experience building a wiki. If someone decides to use a wiki in their teaching field, we thought it would be important for them to understand what their students will go through.  After working together building the wiki, we can understand the process our students go through in using wikis for their learning.

After choosing a popular wiki platform, the challenge was how to design a week of learning that would be both accessible, but also valuable. We also wanted the project to have residual value to encourage a deeper level of participation. This reflection demonstrates the difficulties and hurdles we encountered in making this a successful project and includes some suggestions for future projects.

Looking back on the learning experience, I think it is possible that we made the project a little bit too complicated for the week-long time frame. Additionally, we were not necessarily prepared for the psychological hurdles that individuals would have to overcome to participate.

There are plenty of details on how to build a wiki, but very few on the thought process behind it. Participants in developing the wiki project incorporated information on how to create a successful wiki-building culture. However, this was an aspect that first escaped our notice. This is one benefit of the wiki: that it can expand organically in ways outside the scope of the initial authors.

Another challenge turned out to be that individuals have a very difficult time relying on their own judgement to delete the work of someone else and replace it with something better. It is difficult to create  a strong enough objective to empower individuals to do this.

Another challenge of using a wiki is that it forces every individual to take ownership of leading the project. There is no one individual who has more editing and creative power than anyone else. This may indicate that before a wiki can be successful individual class members need to be comfortable with their ability to work together toward a common goal.

Because of this, our class easily learned how to navigate the new platform for discussion, but did not have the necessary cultural background or thought process to make the most of the wiki functions. Yet despite this hurdle, everyone became familiar with the challenges and benefits of using a wiki for teaching.

To view the wiki project, please click here.