First off, happy holidays to everyone.
What Are These Ideas? has gone through a semester’s worth of posting (with a ton of ideas and problems left to post up and explore on my end). So I figure, it is time to evaluate the progress of this ‘open-source’ education project:
A Brief History: Starting out, I did not have any very clear goals other than that I’d be making a blog to post online and share for free what I spent tens of thousands of dollars to learn. I mean, I don’t even have that much money but I decided to give it away for free anyway. All of it — papers, readings, ideas, notes… all of it would go under the name of “What Are These Ideas” and “Open-Source Education” (originally, the name was going to be “IdeaSpace” but that was taken already).
Then, after creating a basic draft of the site, I called up Rostislav, who is really good at turning ideas into interactive things, and told him, “Hey, lets share. Help me out with this.” He agreed. (I called up Meher and other people as well, but many were hesitant about contributing at first). Rostislav was very important in the creation of this site as a serious project, in that he pointed out academic rules we could not break (syllabi are school intellectual property), as well giving a few directions in which this site could grow.
Thus what originally began as almost an organized dump of school related materials turned into an attempt at a place for discussing the ideas we learn in school. That further turned into an attempt to use that knowledge and apply it towards real life– interact with your learning in a way meaningful for both yourself and people reading it.
The Content: Slava and I went in slightly different directions with this. His posts were both informative and covered extracurricular school activities: he would write about talks he came upon outside of class, books he had read, situations his friends had gotten themselves into and how that all applied to what he was learning. His posts were a place for classroom discussion of events outside of the classroom. Recently, he moved in another direction: discussing what education is, focusing less on informative posts and more on trying to elicit a response from readers. The series of elements of a classroom is a major step in that direction. Slava’s writing has become themed to understanding education and how it works and what can thus be done with it.
I, meanwhile, worked in a more academic direction, filling in gaps my professors had left, or organizing lectures and readings into shorter and more understandable and readable posts. I attempted to take literately the idea of an ‘open education’ — “here is what I learned, and you can now learn it too.” Some feedback I got on that was that despite being simplified, people outside of the field I was writing about still had a hard time grasping the concepts (thus it failed as an introduction/lesson), while classmates reading my posts considered it a big help (thus it succeeded as a supplement to whatever I was learning). Afterwards, I took a bit of Slava’s approach in tackling something outside of my academic classroom stuff and exploring related issues. Of course, education, the theme of this blog, came up as well. (Meher, third and late contributor, signed on as simply that– a contributor. With one essay posted, I cannot analyses her role yet, but…)
However, this did not give any clear ideas about what the blog was, the goals and purpose. The methods are unorganized, the content uneven, and the contributions (unfortunately) sporadic. However, we’ve also all covered a wide area of experimentation with this quarter-year, and we do have some results to show:
The Data: Going through the admin sections of WordPress, I am able to track data for this blog: I can tell how many unique visits there were on any day (and if I could install the damn Google Analytics, I’d be able to track geographically as well). I am able to track search engine terms that lead to this site. Of course, comments, likes, individual-post visits, etc, are available. I can also tell if other wordpress blogs link back to this site. And so forth. So what does the data show:
Search Terms: this one is the most interesting and revealing for me, in terms of how people-with-whom-I-have-no-connection-with see my site: these are unique visitors who find our site on google or something else, looking for a something. Below is a list of the top searches:
|augusto boal aristotle||3|
|scicore academy review||3|
|what study directly measures incidence||2|
|10- ajka, hungary- october 04, 2010||2|
|yash gupta dean||2|
|national geographic crowdsourcing albert lin tedxmidatlantic||2|
|tedx midatlantic 2010 fefferman||2|
|“charlie hailey” camps 2010||2|
|explain barthes innoculation||2|
|ted diana laufenburg||2|
|divergent thinking chess||2|
|barthes’ main arguments in myth today||2|
|berlin isaiah on good political judgement||2|
|three epidemiological measures of disease frequency||2|
|roland barthes inoculation||2|
|“myth today” symplified||2|
|boal on aristotle||1|
|epidermiology + measures of disease frequency||1|
|coping with the media in disasters: some predictable problems||1|
|natural resource economics, disaster||1|
|john taylor gatto against school summary||1|
|charles limb rap ted||1|
|anthropological research on hazards and disasters||1|
|how disaster affects modern society||1|
|sectors in societies affected by disasters||1|
|preconditions to a disaster||1|
|how to make idea worth spreading||1|
|games for divergent thinking||1|
|barthes the world as object||1|
|barthes on myth||1|
|introduction to epidemiology, open source||1|
|ted mid atlantic laufenberg||1|
|aristotle ideas on art||1|
|tedx laufenberg diana||1|
|roland barthes myth today||1|
|divergent thinking and concentration||1|
|sir joseph lister contributions to epidemiology||1|
|art politics aristotle||1|
|divergent thinking tedx||1|
|frequency measure in epidemiology||1|
|the myth today||1|
|ideas korea socio political||1|
|diana laufenberg tedx midatlantic||1|
|storm cunningham tedx||1|
|roman kudryashov ideas||1|
|divergent thinking game||1|
|boal on art and politics||1|
|diana laufenberg speech at tedx||1|
|epidemiological observational studies measure of disease frequency and risk||1|
|ideas worth debating||1|
|otis rolley quote tedx||1|
|how 2010 disasters affect economy||1|
|measures of disease frequency epidemiology||1|
|divergent thinking games||1|
|what data is used to measure the frequency of disease||1|
|idea spreading projects||1|
|augusto boal poetry||1|
|inoculation roland barthes||1|
|drawing first perception||1|
|boal quote art||1|
|train divergent thinking||1|
|measure of disease frequency||1|
|language is artificial barthes||1|
|barthes main arguments in myth today||1|
|what are the threeepidemiological measure of diseas frequency||1|
|the economics of disasters||1|
|impacts of disasters in different sectors in the societies||1|
|theatre of the oppressed all ideas are perfect||1|
|north korean slave state||1|
A lot of search terms are repeated and/or phrased slightly differently. The real numbers would be around 10-20 about Roland Barthes – Myth Today, about 20-30 for TEDx MidAtlantic, maybe 5-15 for Economics of Disasters, another 5-15 for Augusto Boal on Aristotle, maybe 5-15 for North Korea as well.
This tell us a couple of things: we were getting a lot of hits on the TEDx post because it featured content that was not available anywhere else: notes on the TEDx event before the videos have gone up. We even had another science blog link to us concerning that post as a “more information” link. The Roland Barthes topic drew many visitors for the same reason as why I put it up: its a damn confusing piece. I summarized it mainly for myself, secondary for class, and third for the blog, but it seemed to be the blog’s biggest draw for a long time, continually cropping up in top read article for the week. Its popularity did not diminish on search engines. Similarly was with Augosto Boal, Economics, Epidemiology: people came expecting a review or better understanding of the work. North Korea continually cropped up because of it’s political celebrity status, with everyone hoping for some sort of additional information on a country they know very little about.
How about the comments though?
|Learning Part 2||1|
|Ideas Worth Spreading||11|
|Learning Part 1||2|
The most comments were on my posts “Ideas Worth Spreading” and “Cultural Imperialism”. I assume this is because I set out a goal to describe a problem and offered a discussion of ways of getting a solution. These were either interesting ideas or relevant topic and people contributed to discussion. Following this, Slava’s different posts about the various aspects of education consistently gathered a few responses: once again, here are relevant topics that offer room for discussion. (Note: the Barthes post did not have any comments but it had two ‘likes’, which no other post had).
Anything under 5 views I discounted. This means our homepage was being visited most (obviously), followed by a tie between purely informative posts (TEDx, Barthes, Epidemiology) and discussion-oriented ones (Cultural Imperialism, Ideas Worth Spreading, Education). Posts that straddled the line between being informative and being discussion oriented seemed to fare midway for both comments and visits, and poorly concerning search terms. Also: the blog received the most visitors when a post was published, and the numbers slowly decreased after that. This is because new content lured new people to read it, and because with each new post, I would advertise the blog again.
Analysis: As mentioned last paragraph, the content seemed to be divided very evenly along two lines: purely academic and informative posts, giving a background or an analysis of a subject, or discussion oriented posts, where there was little academic discussion but a lot of personal idea development and room to debate afterwards. Academic posts received almost no comments but a lot of visits and were a big draw in terms of unique visits from search engines, while discussion oriented posts received all the comments, developing a reader/commenter base and a count of recurring visits.
This seems pretty self explanatory as to why: people came to read the academic posts as a source of information– there was no room for comment except to say “thank you” or “roland barthes sucks”. People got the info they were looking for and left the site.
Meanwhile, a reader base kept coming back to comment on discussion worthy posts, pointing out flaws in arguments, or egging the writer to develop the ideas further, or discussion the presented problems. Posts that attempted to do both– provide an academic base and provoke discussion consistently provoked a response or two and a mid-range amount of page views. I am assuming that this has something to do with the academic rigor holding back a comment-provoking discussion, and the development of personal ideas holding it back from being used as a source of pure information.
Essays, on the other hand, consistently gathered low views and no comments. I am assuming this is because no one wants to read a dry essay– it fails in that it is too limited by its academic requirements to be fun to read or develop any great or interesting personal ideas.
Conclusions: Thus, the experiment yields some results: people come here as for a source of information (reliable or not), and to discuss ideas. So we are left to make something out of these results.
Personally, I plan on continuing the split we have going between academic and comment-provoking writing. Both extremes seem to do well in terms of gathering some sort of reactions.
Moreover, this lets us take the goal of “open-source education” into serious consideration: open-sourced means that it is created by people, for people. The content created by us must be relevant in some way to readers, and also create an interactive experience with the knowledge. I feel as if this is being accomplished in that ideas are being presented academically and then being followed through with posts concerning their applications and developments. However, I would emphasis this two step process more to see which elicits which response– that is to say, where many topics both presented information and put it into use and discussion in the same post, I would split that into two. For example, a topic of “Active Design” may be split into a rigorous definition of the topic, followed by a post showing it in action, or how it applies to real life. Based on the discussions elicited by the second post, a third post could follow through to revise the topic into a coherent synthesis of definition and discussion.
Another experiment I want to try comes out of my extracurricular studying and that certain classes do not exist. I wanted to take a self-designed study class with an advisor in the University, but did not have time to do so. Instead, I am proposing to design our own courses of study here, tying into the theme of “open sourced education”. There are a few topics I have meant to explore, and I hope to use the blog as tool to explore them with feedback, and then follow through in the end to create a syllabus and a path of study and conclusion about a topic.
So there is it: a semester’s worth of study, writing, and analysis. I hope this is enlightening for both readers and commenter and contributers. I will be adding a follow up post (hopefully following a discussion here) to create a clear guideline of what the blog is about, what its aims are, and how we should be trying to achieve them.
The discussion is open to anyone who would like to participate; the data I used is all here, or can be found by browsing the posts. I encourage anyone to disagree with me or offer new ideas or paths to follow, as well as conducting an analysis of their own: for example, I did not include an analysis of posts by topics or themes, or the usefulness of tags/categories.
But in any case, I hope for a response from everybody to make this site better.
Best, RK.Read More