Hello - I'm doing research for a newsletter article on the use of
wikis by instructional designers (trainers, instructors, etc.).
I'd be very interested in talking to anyone who has used a Wikibook
(or any other wiki, actually) in a training program or college course.
I'm eager to hear why you used a wiki, how you used it, and what the
If interested in assisting, please e-mail me directly.
atypicaluser (at) gmail (dot) com
Ryan, (and Laurent),
On 10/5/05, rpenner(a)mail.utexas.edu <rpenner(a)mail.utexas.edu> wrote:
> I'm not sure if my last message went through, so I'll try again. If you got my
> other questions, disregard them and respond to this email instead. I'd like to
> start the interview through email, and I'll call you if I have any follow up
> questions. If you could answer any or all of these questions, I would really
> appreciate it!
> First, how did you get started with Wikibooks, and why? Was the site mostly your
> idea, or was it a collaboration?
The one who opened his mouth was me, but the idea seems pretty obvious
and I am sure that someone else would have said something soon if I
hadn't. It has been a collaboration from the very beginning, with the
faceless tech guys at Wikipedia who set up the software to Maveric149
who bought the domain name space to each person who has dedicated time
to writing and editing textbook modules, and especially Jimmy Wales
who got Wikipedia started and was the one who gave the go-ahead for
the Wikibooks project.
> To get some sort of time frame, when did the idea for Wikibooks come about, and
> when did the site actually go up?
I started writing my OChem book on Wikipedia at the beginning of the
summer 03 quarter at Cleveland State University, and on July 10, 2003
the new site went up. The delay was probably a month.
> How big was the site when it was started, and how big is it now? What do you
> hope to accomplish with Wikibooks in the future?
When the site started it had no content, and now it has 11,600+
modules in English and several thousand more in other languages,
although like Wikipedia, English has the most developed content.
The vision that I had when I started Wikibooks was that we would
eventually have free versions of textbooks in all subjects at all
levels from preschool to the most advanced postgraduate, any and every
subject that traditional textbooks currently serve. My idea is that
when there is a good base of information for a book, that is, a decent
book all developed and online at the site, teachers and students can
use that information online, people can print out hard copies to
distribute and sell, but that individuals can also take the content
and modify it for their very private uses. A teacher can decide which
modules to use, what order to use them in, pick between different
modules that serve more or less the same purpose, etc. And of course,
for the person who is already well served by a traditional textbook,
he or she can use the wikitext just as it is, without those laborious
My dream is that when any book is finished and online, new
developments can be included as they happen, and the texts can avoid
the problem of traditional texts that get outdated fast. Also the fact
that it is all online means that you can use multimedia right there in
your computer and otherwise interact more than with a printed book.
Another great thing about it all is that errors are corrected in real
time so, unlike traditional books, when errors are there they can be
pointed out and corrected. Also, students can take an active part in
their own education by writing about the things that they are learning
about, especially while the project is relatively new and there are
huge holes in content still. Teachers can work together and decide as
a team what material to include and how to present it, and even have
different options for students with different learning styles. We now
know that different learners have quite different preferences for
their own learning, and having alternative modules customized for a
couple of different styles of learners, with localized examples,
cultural sensitivity according to the end user, the list goes on and
> This is the most important question for me: is there a possible application of
> Wikibooks at the university level? If so, to what extent can Wikibooks be used
> in a college classroom?
Part of the answer is above. The answer is absolutely YES. In fact, it
was a university level book that was the first to be started. I think
that study guides are a natural first step, and a study guide fleshed
out could become the outline of a whole textbook.
> Is there a problem with the open-source nature of the site? Specifically, it
> seems like since anybody can write whatever they want on any subject, there may
> be credibility or authenticity issues. Also, might authors with good intentions
> mistakenly take information from bad sources and use it for their
> contributions? Do any of these issues limit in any way the usability of
> Wikibooks in colleges?
The material will depend on the quality of the contributions made. The
more teachers, professors, involved students, and other experts we can
have involved, the better the quality of the books and other teaching
materials. Jimmy Wales has focused in on the benefits for the
developing world and I agree, but I also think these texts can make
learning better for users in the developed world, too. My original,
immediate goal was to work with and help out other pre-med students in
the US developing college-level science texts. I think that the more
the students are involved in the process, and the teachers, the better
the final product can be.
> That's it for now. Thanks a lot for all of your help.
No problem, I hope that these answers help you out! Have a great day,
> -Ryan Penner
> Daily Texan
At zanimum's request, a new domain name for Wikijunior was discussed
at a Wikimedia meeting
September 18 (which was attended by the board, people with official
positions, and local chapter reps).
I asked at that whether Wikijunior should move to its own domain name.
Anthere said that she does not consider it the board's decision alone
and suggested the Wikibooks community should decide this, thinking a
new domain meant a new project. I felt the project was already
approved (since it's running on Wikibooks and we have a grant for it),
and said that I didn't see the move to a new domain as a huge issue.
Jimmy clarified that the proposal is for Wikijunior be a place to put
'finished' work, with Wikibooks still being the development community,
so it would be a 'view' on the work, not a new project per se. I asked
whether there had been any objection to it moving, but this wasn't
clear. Jimmy proposed that we notify the Wikibooks community that
we're saying yes to this, but giving a week or two for people to voice
objections, and if there are none then we can approve it and let the
Wikibooks community work out how to proceed.
So, if there are any objections to moving the finished Wikijunior
texts to Wikijunior.org and keeping the editing processes on
Wikibooks.org, please raise those, either here, or at the Wikibooks
Staff lounge (<http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Staff_lounge>).
I am a reporter at the Daily Texan in Austin, and I am looking for somebody
involved with the site to interview for a story on wikibooks. Is there anybody
out there? Please reply to my email address with phone contact information.