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Toru Iiyoshi: Technology-Enhanced Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Represent, Share and Build Pedagogical Knowledge Online

Abstract,
Knowledge Media Laboratory
(KML)
, Zulah and I are both inspired.

Some teacher do a lot of work trying to figure out
how to teach a particular subject. But they have neither the means to share nor
know how to best present their work so that others become interested. KML is
trying to change that. What started out as just a hierarchical dump of material
that made stuff accessible but not interesting turned into a very interesting
web site where teacher not only learned how to structure and present their work
but also started to compete with colleagues in providing the best
presentation.

The breakthrough of KML’s
effort came with the introduction of a web publishing tool called “Snapshots”
that provided to teacher a number of layout templates that they could easily
fill with their material and adapt to their needs. A more advanced version is
now available for free and is called KEEP
(this effort is coordinated with OSPI, however the KEEP toolkit is
only available as a demo website but will be available as a download
soon).

At this point of the talk it
suddenly occurred to me that one could explain the success of the Web and the
more recent success of blogs by providing people with useful and usable
communication (and thought?) templates. In both cases one could publish very
easily in an acceptable format (at least initially according to personal taste,
later adopting emerging designs). While the Web takes care of basic publishing,
a blog provides a more restricted format but takes care of a lot of things that
otherwise would require knowledge about HTML, stylesheets, and RSS, and a lot of
work to keep a collection of web pages consistent. One of the very early
problems of creating a “Home Page” was to decide what content to include and how
to present it. Once some home pages were available, one could copy and modify
existing ones. Very quickly, some common formats emerged and, later, many books
were published and sold on web page design. My point is that people really
looked for templates that not only organized the layout but also helped them
decide on what information to include. For example, a weblog template provides
prompts for a title, abstract, body, and category for each entry. Somebody who
has no experience in keeping a public diary can now with minimal overhead create
appealing content that is easy to navigate.

And see what happened: people all over
the world created first home pages and now web logs. There seems to be a
threshold at which point people realize that a new medium can be used to express
something that was difficult to express before but that allows them to somehow
enhance their identity (home pages: “Here is my resume”, “I’m cool”; blogs: “I
lead an interesting life”, “Check out my writing”). Once a medium is adopted as
an “identity enhancer”, people start to compete in their creative use of the new
medium and the content/communication of this medium
explodes.

There is another potential
role of templates that I think has been underestimated: structuring of thought
and communication. This was very evident in this talk where portfolio templates
included research questions that prompted for specific content within the
layout. How useful would it be for butting graduate students to write their
first research paper using a template that prompts them for elements of a good
abstract, experimental framework, data, etc. A few years ago during my summer
internship at NSL in Palo Alto, Tom Kroeger showed me a template for systems
experiments. There are many other
examples.

Wouldn’t it be cool if one
could take a famous research paper and extract its template? This would solve
the problem of finding the right template and it also provides for an
environment in which successful templates evolve — just like the evolution of
web page structures.

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