Monday, September 05, 2005

Dissertation Thoughts

I'm taking a class this semester on Problem Based Learning. I took the class because one day I observed, to nobody in particular, that writing is nothing more than a series of problems. When you write you are solving problems. You solve big problems like setting, character, conflict, time line, story structure, etc. etc. etc. You also solve little problems like grammar, punctuation, dialog, etc. etc. etc.

It can be a difficult task. In fact, David Jonassen categorized this kind of problem as a 'design problem' and says they are "the most complex and ill-structured kinds of problems that are encountered in practice."

So, writing is extremely difficult problem solving, and students don't like to do it, right?

Well, look at fan fiction. There are literally tens of thousands of stories out there written not for credit but for fun. Why is fan fiction so popular? I personally think one of the reasons is that part of the "most complex and ill-structured" problem has already been solved.

Think about it. If I go and write a Seinfeld episode on Fan Fiction, the character problem has already been solved. The setting problem is solved. The conflict between George and... well, almost everybody, already exists; it's been solved. I can focus on smaller problems.

What if we found another way to help solve some of the problems of writing? We would do so in an attempt to provide scaffolding to students. One way scaffolding could be provided, a way I'm very interested in, is the wiki environment. What if creative writing was created in groups, in a wiki style environment? I'm not talking about the writing exercise where everybody writes a paragraph, and you end up with an awful story that twists, changes voice, and goes nowhere. I'm talking about an instructor or author who writes a story, (you could call it a 'kernel', though it would be a complete story, or chapter), and then let others add to it. The 'author' would have ultimate power over what stays, and would probably re-write much of what is added, to maintain a consistent voice, but I can't help but think, much like what happens over at the wikipedia, the end result would be a positive thing, or at least a fascinating one.

I'm actually quite interested in this idea, and plan to write my second book in such an environment (when I can find a wiki, or build one, that suits my needs). Who knows, maybe I can even write my dissertation on the topic. My secret dream is to write my dissertation in such an environment, but then I might not be awarded a full Ph. D. Maybe I'd only get a Ph, which we know is just the sound an F makes, which might be fitting, when you stop to think about it.

Anyway, if you would like to help write the sequel to Chickens in the Headlights, keep checking back in.


soulglo said...

I like Wiki. Wiki make me happy. Wikipedia like Wikitopia. Me write better with Wikipedia.

"Buckley", you are FAR too smart to get an "F" in "Ph".D. I think your plan is brilliant. Let me know if you ever need a few dead brain cells to add to WikiBuckley.

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous that you get to be in such a great course this semester. I will not be able to take any electives this semester, I am too busy. So, I plan to learn from you by reading your blog regularly.

Perhaps, if you have another PhD candidate to collaborate with you on WikiBuckley then we can earn the PhD together and share it. I could use it like Monday thru Wednesday and you could have it Thursday, Friday and can have it Sunday too (as my brain by Sunday doesn't represent anything PhD"ish" at all!) Anyway, hi to you all up there in COSL land.

Btw, I registered for the Open Learning Conference, I hope to see you all then.

Kami said...

That was my post that just went through as anonymous, I guess I didn't post it right.