Course Management Workflow in Federated Wiki

One of the persistent issues in using a networked learning approach to things is the workflow. I’m a couple weeks into using Federated Wiki in my edtech course, and I thought I’d share my methods.

Visualizing Participation

Currently, I load up students into the neighborhood by clicking on group pages, and then hit the Recent Changes link to see what’s going on. When you do this, you start to see the beauty of the gradient chiclet design.


I can look at this an immediately see some patterns. First, the student with the blue chiclet (left corner gradient) has made a pass through a bunch of articles. I hover over the chiclet to get the student’s site ID — here it’s jeju.

I can tell a couple things about jeju. Today she (presumably) read through her group’s other materials and forked them to her site. Then she wrote four articles of her own.

How do I know she wrote four articles of her own? Because there are four where she is the first (and only author). How do I know that she forked some from others? Because there’s a bunch of articles where she is the latest author of a series of authors that started with someone else (now if there was a lot of fast back and forth, we wouldn’t know for sure that she didn’t start the article and then fork later efforts, but for this class that’s not an issue yet).



How do we know it’s forked within her group? It’s a guess, but you see how the stuff that she is forking tends to have the same set of authors? I’m guessing those are members of her seven-person group. A quick hover confirms this.

This is good. What I’ve asked students to do in the class is to use forking kind of like a “like” button. You see something you like, you pull it into your space. Here’s the rules I’ve given to my class:

  • Your site has to contain the work of others on it. If you’re picky about what is on your site, look around for good stuff or edit questionable stuff.
  • If you haven’t forked anything to your site we’re going to assume you haven’t read your classmates work, but also
  • Expect to be called on to summarize stuff you’ve forked to your site in class — don’t fork blindly.

We don’t know if jeju is forking blindly, but she is doing everything else right. As a bonus, we can call on her in class, knowing she’s read and forked the “Framing Essential Questions” and asked what she liked about that piece by kemc (another hover).

I’m curious whether the forking contains any editing. I told them they don’t need to edit for the moment, but I’m hoping some can’t help themselves. Let’s click one of these pages and take a look at the journal — say, How To Take Notes:


So this ends up being a good example. On the left you see the original poster’s version, and on the right the latest version. Now, I actually added the comment and video-fied the video here for the student, but you can see below my yellow comment another student added a comment on this. Again, in the super neat way this works not only does the comment go on the site of the person commenting, but the page gets stored there too, in the form it was when they commenting.

I’m interested in who put that comment there, so I click on the fork associated with it and find it’s kemc. I’ll have to remember to call on him next class and thank him for leaving this comment which ties together a notetaking method with some principles in instructional design.


I’ve already commented on this one, but I should find new ones and encourage the students.

Commenting is a work in progress, but there’s already a number of features that support the larger workflow. For instance, a persistent thing that teachers want to do is find the new stuff by students that they haven’t commented on yet.

That’s easy here, because when I comment, it forks the page to my site. To find the sites I haven’t commented on, I just look for pages not yet in my site.  Below is a list of sites with my icon, hence I’ve commented/forked those:


Further up the crawl, though are a bunch without my icon — I need to look at these:


Note that a side of effect of this is that in each instance I am capturing a snapshot of the student material at the time I provided the formative feedback, which may be important if you have policies that are agressive about preservation of digital assignments.

The whole feel of the tool reminds me of Tufte’s take on interfaces (unfortunately rarely seen): at a glance, the interface allows you to spot trends, but when you look closer, all the supporting detail is there.

Speaking of Tufte, the newer version of federated wiki contains an additional sparkline visualization (a Tufte invention) for all pages in the lineup (currently loaded pages). This allows you to see at a glance the distribution of activity on a page (or pages) over time.


Since it’s easy to shift-click and load up multiple pages quickly from Recent Changes, you could choose the pages you are interesting in comparing, then launch this tool on them. More on that when I get it installed.

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