Who are our technology evangelists
- Andrius and everyone.
I am interested in your post on "technology evangelists" and the
discussion you and Jeff had regarding the Wiki (especially the different
potential aspects of the wiki). Your concerns of simplicity/complexity
etc are similar to the issues we faced with the Teachers Talking (TT)wiki.
I want to respond to your posting by sharing some of the experiences and
thinking related to the TT wiki, to see how you feel it (and I) best
relate to your technology evangelists theme. The TT wiki was created by
"wiki evangelists" in the CawdTeachersTalking yahoo group. There is
additional information about TT and the start of the wiki in my posting
[learningfromeachother] Ebook, FF and TT
The TT yahoo group was generating good content and it was obvious that
the content needed to be collected up and presented in some more
organised and accessible way.
However although it is "not that difficult" to learn to use a wiki it
remained "a step to far" for most of us and we tended to continue
offering resources via the group not direct to the wiki. The
evangelists found that they were acting as intermediaries between the
emails of the group and the wiki, taking responsibility for
re-presenting the information.
When it came to course presentation the evangelists were once again
disappointed. The evangelists had anticipated that I would guide course
participants to the "resource cupboard" where the participants would
find resources to explore and use independently. In fact it was not
that easy. The skill level of the participants was too low. They were
meeting computers for the first time. The systems they were using did
not make it any easier for them - low specification refurbished
computers and monitors; insufficient bandwidth for the number of people
online together; frequent interruptions to the power supply.
What happened in practice was that during the course the participants
exchanged greetings with the bandwidth rich members who had decided to
take part. A lively community of interest developed. The bandwidth
rich used their knowledge of the content of the "resource cupboard" to
suggest wiki urls to the participants.
During reflection and analyis following the course Lorraine and I
started to consider more carefully the differing situations and
expectations of members of the group. We came up with a rough but
helpful classification: -
- Bandwidth rich - the kind of people active in contributing to the
- Bandwidth challenged - people working in places like Fantsuam
Foundation (FF) Community Learning Centre (CLC).
- Bandwidth poor - people like the teachers who had participated in the
Obviously personal skill levels do influence participation - but skill
level is less important than "bandwidth level". Someone who is
bandwidth rich but with poor skills can participate well, if motivated
to do so. Someone who is bandwidth poor with good skills is severely
limited. Usually someone who is bandwidth poor will be using a communal
system so someone with poor skills is likley to find someone around with
better skills who will be available to help.
Our attempts to tackle the problem of varying access (and the resulting
varing expectations of frequency and levels of involvement) lead to
further work with Ross Gardler. We used something that we called the
"friendly wiki". It was an experiment in adapting an existing knowledge
management system to serve the needs of people in our network. Ross
worked on the software side, making adaptations to an existing FOSS
system. Lorraine and I worked on the "logistics" side - deciding what
content needed to be where; who needed to see what; how groups might
best work together; what information should be pushed and what should
simply be available to be pulled, and so on.
It was a rich learning experiment for all three of us and as a result we
understood the problems better, but we had not found the solution.
At that point Pam had the opportunity to play with Moodle. Ross agreed
it might well serve Cawdnet's purpose better than the friendly wiki. Omo
Oaiya offered to host Moodle for Cawdnet.
We have gone down some blind alleys with our Moodle experiments - but
that is okay. Within our network, Cawdnet, we value project based
learning, and "trial and improvement" and as long as we come out of
blind alleys having learned something then the blind alley experience
hasn't been a complete waste of time.
Lorraine and I are developing confidence in the way that we can use
Moodle to serve Cawdnet needs. To date it is working mostly for
internal admin of various special interest group - but given what we
know of our needs, and of the information flows that we want to enable,
we begin to feel more confident about our way forward.
I would not describe myself as a "Moodle evangelist" - my concern is to
communicate effectively within the network where I learn and teach - and
to learn to make the most of whatever ICT tools are available. I know
that Moodle, and the way we are using it, is just a part of the answer
we need to find. We have a lot to learn about other tools that enable
collaboration. I am grateful to have become part of Andrius' lab, which
seems the ideal place to learn more.