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[seul-edu] wikis in education (was: SEUL/edu wiki test)


Being rather short-sighted, dim-witted, new to wikis and interested in
a specific topic (computers in education), I have some concerns about
this whole wiki- and zope- business in education.

Don't get me wrong:  Wikis seem to be an incredibly efficient way of
setting up and maintaining dynamic web pages.  Similarly, Harvey
appears to solve a number of issues deemed very important by others
and there is no doubt in my mind that Bruno's approach is a huge step
forwards in defining on-line quizzes - and should probably form the
basis for how we do those in the future.  But...

In an old-fashioned class, eduation is centered around what the
teacher says. At university (or kindergarten), the teacher or lecturer
concentrates learning along a certain route.  The student can not go
on arbitrary tangents at any time they deem that to be of importance.
Of course the current educational system is to narrow and does not let
individual students find their appropriate niche, but every student
needs some hand-holding in order to learn rather than muddle around.
This applies to good and bad students of all ages.

For this reason I would have thought that for on-line
courses/tutorials/quizzes one needs to try to coordinate those around
some directed line.  In particular, the web concept is a bit
inappropriate since the student should be discouraged from deviating
too much from what (s)he is studying at the moment - or rather:
encouraged to finish what (s)he is doing rather than jump around

I don't really see the point of chat-rooms or equivalents at all --
Usenet can be used for that (using local distributions) if it is at
all needed.  Nor do I see the need for general repositories of
information in arbitrary format -- ftp directories can be used for
that.  Netscape can be used to access either.

What I do see a need for is something one can use for the following:

* 0 A database-style definition of course information
* 1 transparencies (slides) to be used when introducing a topic in class
* 2 a natural flow from one slide to the next - easy flip-buttons
* 3 student access to the slides
* 4 (a) detailed material (to replace the textbook)
*   (b) slides naturally embedded or linked to the detailed material
* 5 (a) quiz questions
*   (b) questions linked to each slide (or vice versa)
* 6 on-line grading
* 7 links to alternate sources of information on the same topic
* 8 an easy way for teachers to insert their material in this form
* 9 an easy way to print the whole course

What I need for my teaching is something which combines all of this.
Lecturers around me have been using PowerPoint for (1) and (2).  The
few who have tried to use ordinary web pages for (1) have given up
because of (2).  PowerPoint does a lousy job of (3).  (4a) is handled
well with the wikis, but not (4b).  Bruno's approach is great for (5a)
but I do not see anything anywhere which links somehow together what
the student is currently studying to the quiz question.  Of course (7)
is in regular web pages and therefore wikis are good for this - but
I'd like to see new browser windows opened when a deviant turn is
taken, so that the regular line of study is not lost.  Similarly wikis
solve (8) - but not for this particular form of course information.  I
have not seen any possibilities for unified printing of slides and
other course material (except PowerPoint handouts which is so limited
it doesn't really count).

Finally I come to (0): This is really very important.  If the course
information is in some (hierarchical) structure (course or
tutorial->lecture->slide) without specific inclusion of formatting
(html or otherwise) then these can be stored in data bases and output
format can be modified later (html, postscript, palm-held devices etc
etc). For this to work one needs to separate titles, content,
examples, detailed additional material etc - this can not simply be
all in one bundle.

Why the separation of content?  Fast students should never have to
muddle through mundane detail looking for quiz questions.  Slow
students should be able to.

The exception to this is the quiz: This should probably be done using
exactly the format which Bruno has specified - it is enough for this
to be available on-line and we probably do not need to be able to
reformat it e.g. for printing the quiz questions or changing their
layout etc.

Basically, I would like a program which works like a wiki except on
very structured content.  Rather than the one sandbox window I believe 
we need several smaller windows:  One for the title, one for the main
slide text, one for footnote-style text, one for detailed additional
information, one for the quiz question and one for each possible
answer to the quiz.  And this is just for a single slide - they need
to be categorized into lectures and courses.

Can this be done using existing stuff?