Tag Archives: Wikipedia

And then life threw me a lesson plan

For more than a year, I have been making a transition from corporate communications to education. I have been given an opportunity to be a computer teacher at an elementary school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It’s an amazing time to be joining a profession that’s getting lots of attention. And scrutiny. From the recent schoolteachers’ walkout in Chicago, to the just out Nations Report Card, among others, the story is not exactly cheerful.

Meanwhile, as knowledge acquisition is moving an 120 miles-per-hour, pedagogy is ambling along.  I can see this through the lens of our two children, as new engagement tools emerge, and curricula change. Analog classrooms are trying to adapt to digital natives. Britannica now has an app for the iPad and other tablets. Classrooms are being ‘flipped.’ We can’t continue to do the same old, same old.

If there’s a simple lesson plan for my career, it’s this: push students to the edges. Focusing on ‘core’ areas, but also widen the aperture. Knowledge of ‘computers’ without context of where they are used, is meaningless. Often it’s the topical things we introduce in class that make planned (not canned) lessons relevant. One study last year found that students who did “science-related activities that are not for schoolwork” performed higher.

TO KICK OFF, I re-positioned the computer class as a Technology and Computer Lab, in which students will engage in subjects from space exploration to search engines.

Being the school’s robotics coach helps. This is a program established by the FIRST Lego League. Students can step out of their comfort zone and take risks, even while engaging their math and design skills.

Each day, the lens zooms in and widens…



Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Education, Robotics, Technology


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Wikis to books worth experimenting

I often make the point that we spend too much time clicking on links, rather than spending time on the meaning of what we read.

So I thought of experimenting with PediaPress, a service that lets you convert Wikipedia pages into a book.

The book? On Clark University – for my son’s graduation today.

Knowing fully well that information on the university will change, did not bother me. In fact, that’s precisely why I wanted to do it. After all, Wikipedia content is not exactly writ in stone, could be considered as relevant for a moment in time.

(If you’ve been watching how pages get edited, and the edit wars that ensue over single words or phrases, you’ll know that this ‘moment’ sometimes changes several times an hour as a result of furious edit wars!) I want the book to be a sort of  time capsule that he could one day look back on.

PediaPress is basically offering a print on demand (POD) service, but the beauty of this is how simple they have made the steps. There’s very limited customization (the cover and title, plus a preface), but the layout of pages and sections are very clean.

I would have liked a bit more customization, such as:

  • The ability to move photographs and charts into separate pages
  • Uploading my own photograph for the cover, and a few others for other pages
  • An acknowledgment or title page
  • Adding text to back cover

But as this was an experiment, I was willing to take the risk.

Other risks. For a different project, say trying to compile a short compendium of knowledge on a breaking news event, or a current topic, using Wikipedia as the source of content is more risky. While the Creative Commons license gives anyone permission to use and re-purpose content, one has to me meticulous about accuracy.

I began to wonder of there are other similar services that let you blend knowledge from multiple sources, and let you add chapters to the book. I’ve looked at Blurb, which offers a Blog-to-Book option. Lulu also has a great service. a cookbook/ A book of poetry/ Wikipedia has a rich selection.

Give it a try!


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Your Knol. Your Voice. Your ad supported wiki

Google’s joined the race to create the perfect wiki, with Knol.

And just like Wikipedia, and Britannica, it’s introducing a few new ways to create content.

There is ‘moderated collaboration,’ for instance. Which sounds a lot like the concept behind the edit pages of Wikipedia. probably less edit wars, since the author has to approve the changes for them to go live. Brave authors could however permit edits without approval. The really daring ones will be able to link their entries with advertising to earn some income via AdSense. I can see that feature alone quickly tarnish the value of this wiki as marketers rush in.

Maybe this is Google2 — a move to create a parallel search engine that pretends to be a wiki.

Check the wiki-slayer here.

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Posted by on July 25, 2008 in Social Media


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Great! Students are writing Wikipedia articles

I’m not being cynical. It’s a good sign that students are being encouraged to write feature articles on Wikipedia, instead of being asked to stay away from the wiki format in schools or in some cases ban it wholesale.

What does that bode for our future employees? Not only will they be ready to work in the read-write web, but they will begin to dismiss as irrelevant our read-only intranets and flash-y webs.

Others have tried to incorporate social media in the classroom, or rather the classroom in social media. Professor Jon Beasley-Murray of the University of British Columbia said it best: “the best way to see how it works is to actually take part.”

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Posted by on July 7, 2008 in Education



Britannica could reposition Wikipedia

The gap between the dusty reference book on your desk and the wiki you could pull up on your smart phone is being bridged as Encyclopedia Britannica appears poised to change the game.

I have been tracking wiki development for years, using wikis, and writing about them (here and more recently here), and always wondered why a third player hasn’t emerged. Wikipedia rules the roost, warts and all. It has lodged itself into the lexicon of knowledge. To “Wikipedia” something is to poke around and be somewhat informed. Other encyclopedias have not engaged us as much.

If a third player IS emerging, it’s from within the bowels of Encyclopedia Britannica. Many have been quick to suggest that Britannica is biting the bullet and going all wiki. I think this is too simplistic. Maybe Britannica is responding to pressure and facing up to the reality that on-demand knowledge has to be more collaborative and accessible. But they seem to be moving in new directions, too.

Let’s take Collaboration. Britannica is making a very interesting point of differentiation, because it forces people to look at the back room edit wars that go on in Wikipedia (that Wikipedia calls a ‘breach of wikiquette’) as confrontation, not collaboration. Britannica plans to put contributors in touch with its ‘community of scholars’ and still allow individuals to retain control of their work.

Access. As far as following Wikipedia’s open source model, access isn’t the only value up for grabs–it’s accuracy. Britannica puts it this way:

Encyclopaedia Britannica itself will continue to be edited according to the most rigorous standards and will bear the imprimatur “Britannica Checked” to distinguish it from material on the site for which Britannica editors are not responsible.

Trust. This week I interviewed Tom Panelas, Encyclopedia Britannica’s director of corporate communications for an upcoming article, and he stresses the value of “editorial stewardship.” While reaching out to a wider audience it will not compromise on trust.

The battle over knowledge platforms has always been bitter and not so easy to predict. Think of how Google dethroned Yahoo, and Intranets are being made obsolete by internal blogs. How we access these knowledge repositories could determine how much we value accuracy and trust. Done right and delivered right Britannica could quickly reposition Wikipedia.



Encyclopedia Britannica’s social media play

Lest you think Encyclopedia Britannica is to Wikipedia what moleskin notebooks are to blogs, check out what Britannica has been up to. It embraced widgets, Twitter, RSS, and is now introducing WebShare –a way for for bloggers and editors to link to content in the paid areas of Britannica, letting the blog’s or publication’s readers access that piece of content free. It’s still in a soft launch mode.

Why free, when everyone else is paying ($ 69.95) for the privilege? Britannica says it wants to give a blogger’s readers “background.” And no, the service is not aimed at A-list bloggers –those with low traffic qualify. Meaning, I suppose, that EB has realized the value of social media and has moved past the Wikipedia vs Britannica debate.

If you’re a content manager for your agency, give it a shot. Register here.

Britannica’s own blog and forum are very well managed. It covers topics such as Web 2.0, books, media, etc. I found an interesting piece on its nemesis, Wikipedia, titled Am I my brother’s Web 2.0 gatekeeper (the truth about Wikipedia.) OK, so it’s forcing the comparison, but it is really good to know that knowledge seekers now have two strong choices.

We don’t have to choose between old media and new media, between a flawed one and a poor also ran.


Posted by on April 24, 2008 in Social Media


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The scarlet letter in PR: B for bias

Let’s talk bias. Who deems something one-sided, slanted, and sometimes even libelous?

How about your press release? What’s that you just said about your CEO? Is your product really a “the world’s most advanced…?” (insert “battery,” “fiber optic solution,” “online file-sharing…”) Is your corporate blog verging on spin, and do you let people join the conversation?

And then there’s what you’d like to maintain on Wikipedia, if not for those pesky editors.

Solomon Trujillo’s PR people are not happy. You probably may not have heard of Mr. Trujillo, unless you were in the telecom space, or peeked behind the curtain on Wikipedia now and then. On the Wikipedia entry for the new Telstra boss, there is what we now call an ‘edit war’. Someone seems to have an axe to grind about Trujillo, going back a year. “It’s hard not to have a NPOV when he has not done nothing positive,” the person says. NPOV refers to Wikipedia’s ‘Neutral Point of View’ policy. Meaning, you cannot slip in hyperbolic statements or snide attacks. If they find out you get called out. In Wikipedia’s terms, the statement:

“This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards.”

It’s the equivalent of the scarlet letter that screams “Bias!” I have found many Wikipedia entries with these stamps of disapproval.

Two weeks ago Tarnya Dunning, a senior PR person at Telstra tried to fix the mess, staying away from the edit war mentality saying: “I’m here to contribute information that will improve the quality of Telstra-related pages. I am aware of Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines and I will abide by them. My edits will be restricted to talk pages, and I will not engage in editing directly any Telstra-related page. Instead, I would volunteer information on the talk pages, and ask for Wikipedians’ help.”

So far no one in Wikipedia has responded. Is Wikipedia the ultimate arbiter of what’s neutral, and what’s biased?

On the other side of the coin, Telstra has had its share of social media criticism. Its blog, Nowwearetalking, which encourages a “lively informed debate” is a moderated blog. They do have a wikipedia-like policy, though which says.

“If you object to a moderator modifying your posting then it may be rejected.”

Which sound a lot like “your post may need some cleanup to meet our quality standards.”


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