Knowing that I Don’t Know What I Need to Know

Fork the Fedwiki

This is learning … and I can feel it in the pull in the back of my brain. I dove into something called the Federated Wiki, as part of a Happening that is taking place in March around Teaching Machines, with Audrey Watters. I won’t do justice to explaining a Federated Wiki (this is part of what is making my brain work overtime), but it is, as I understand it, a series of connected wikis hosted on different servers that intersect with each other. You can “fork” other people’s pages and make them your own, and you can view the “history” of the fork of your own page to see if anyone adds anything that you can use to make your entry better. My friend, Maha, noted that this allows for “multiple versions of knowledge” as opposed to one single Truth created collectively, as is the case is most wikis. (i.e., we all edit the same page.)

Listen: I don’t know what I am doing.

I barely know the questions to ask about what I am doing in the Federated Wiki that has been set up for me by the Happening folks (thanks!). But I am in there, absorbing the tutorials that Mike Caulfield has embedded, digging in here and there, and I can feel my mind grasping to understand the larger picture. I’d appreciate a visual map of what a Happening is, and what the nodes of a Federated Wiki looks like, and yet, I am perfectly happy that there is no map. I’m making my own mental map as I go.

(Ward Cunningham, who originated wikis, is behind the idea of Federated Wiki)

Because, this is learning. This is how you encounter something new and try to make sense of it. There’s confusion. There’s grappling. There’s the little moments of “aha” followed by more moments of “what the @##$%%” as something you think you had a handle on suddenly falls apart. Hopefully, that is followed by another “aha” moment. Or maybe you turn to others in the community and ask the question: how did you do that? And, how do I do that? Help. Help me to understand.

This is what it means to be a learner again, and to be frank, teachers like myself (if I am honest about it) sometimes forget that very intense and uncomfortable feeling of being lost. A good learning experience, however, helps you find your way, and guides you to the other end not just smarter for the struggle, but more expansive in your knowledge of the world. We forget our students might experience this on a regular basis.

My learning process has been laid bare this weekend. I am learning about how I learn. Yes, I am interested in reading about and contributing to the topic of Teaching Machines, with Audrey Watters and others. I am also interested in learning something completely new, something outside my regular comfort zone. I am wading into unknown terrain with this Federated Wiki Happening and it is both driving me a bit nutty (not in a bad way) and pushing me to make sense of the unknown.

The gears are turning. I’m learning.

Peace (in the think),

  1. It’s been a while since anything ed techie has challenged me to want to “read the directions”…and of course there aren’t any really. Just suggested courses of action. I agree. A little uncomfortable but wholly in my wheelhouse of “well, what happens if I click this?”

    Here’s to not breaking anything too badly in the next few weeks, fellow Fedwikian!

  2. This is the aspect that had me thinking of the first time I was dropped in Minecraft (or, reaching further back, SecondLife). There’s a period of puzzled stumbling, and going in circles, and thinking: wait is that the same tree? There are pitfalls, and resources, and above all there are other people in there. You can hear them rustling around, and see signs that they have just gone past.

    Returning after a short pause I found that I really had learned what I needed to get about. And when I look at myself in Minecraft now, this is also true. I can find things, build things, mix things together and invent things, and generally set up quite a capable life for myself. I also learned a lot about how Minecraft uses time as a force to manage change.

    What I think I was feeling in both is the tug of learning within the passing of time itself.

  3. With ya, brother. And there really are directions here. I think that is part of the difficulty. One cannot just fake it till one makes it. Nope. You gotta know how to navigate and you have to know how to manipulate. And that is just the ante here. I have stumbled across some hybrid coolities that have arisen from just being introduced to neat tools like JSON, not like I can write in JSON, but the fact that JSON is like coding fractal and that it is sorta like HTML5 and that Dave Winer has this cool piece of code that will turn a JSON file into a post that looks like Medium. OK, this is the part where I admit that this is just a spinning maelstrom in the wastebin of my mind, but…it is mine and I wouldn’t have had it without the trying to understand SFW. Good to be humbled in a safe place. Although…this thing is supposed to be starting in March but it already seems to be getting redhot in the goog group and twitter.

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