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),