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# Use of the Wiki + Forum (or the blog), for collaborative work on problem sets

Hi, The Wiki + Forum is a great technology combination for the working out of problem sets.

Are there already examples of where this is done on the Wiki, and how do you use the category system towards this end?

What I'm picturing is a Wiki page for each Book that is to be worked through. Since I'm getting the Sudbery book, I would start a page on that. Then post selected problems, along with whatever solutions I could work out. The page would be developed by the group, and discussions would take place in an associated Forum thread.

Would this go under an "Experiments " page. And do we have a category for such an animal. If there's no convention already, I suggest using a prefix other than Experiments, it could be "Problem Sets," which is different from the idea of an Experiments page.

In theory we could also work out problems in the setting of a blog, which has the advantage of larger readership and more participants. There could be a blog "header" article that announces e.g. that I will be going through the Sudbery book, and will be posting some problems and solutions in location ABC. A big drawback of this is that our blog setup does not provide Wiki capabilities. Though it could contain postings that describe individual problems, and have a URL that points to the page on the Azimuth wiki.

Another technical issue is that the blog could then generate too much traffic for the general readers of the blog. According to the scheme I just described (which is growing on me), I would make a post for every problem that I want to work on. That could be a lot of little posts, which would be annoying, and would wipe out the limited history buffer that the Wordpress blog is maintaining.

To reduce posts, there could just be the header blog article, that points to the Wiki page. But then there would be no notification mechanism, for people who want to follow the progress of the problem sets that are being worked out.

Maybe a companion blog for the working out of problem sets?

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edited October 2012

I thought about it some more, and decided to streamline it, as per the following.

I created a wiki page called "Homework problems." This is a stub, with a simple. There is one section for each textbook (or other source of problems), and each section consists of a list of problem statements, followed by zero or more solutions, which each include an author's name. I will create Wiki thread for discussing this page.

This takes care of the issue of there being a proliferation of pages and discussions, one for each textbook -- which each could turn out to be sparse and inactive. But as a single page it is more focussed and has a chance to grow. The links in the table of contents will the key to navigating to the problem set of interest.

It would be cool to do something like this with the blog readership, but it would be stretching the Wordpress technology beyond its comfortable range of application. As an aside, does anyone have suggestions for a more Wiki-like blog technology? Note that I'm not advocating that we change ships today, I'm just trying to get a picture of what the range of options is.

Comment Source:I thought about it some more, and decided to streamline it, as per the following. I created a wiki page called "Homework problems." This is a stub, with a simple. There is one section for each textbook (or other source of problems), and each section consists of a list of problem statements, followed by zero or more solutions, which each include an author's name. I will create Wiki thread for discussing this page. This takes care of the issue of there being a proliferation of pages and discussions, one for each textbook -- which each could turn out to be sparse and inactive. But as a single page it is more focussed and has a chance to grow. The links in the table of contents will the key to navigating to the problem set of interest. It would be cool to do something like this with the blog readership, but it would be stretching the Wordpress technology beyond its comfortable range of application. As an aside, does anyone have suggestions for a more Wiki-like blog technology? Note that I'm not advocating that we change ships today, I'm just trying to get a picture of what the range of options is.
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As an aside, does anyone have suggestions for a more Wiki-like blog technology?

What do you have in mind? This place is pretty flexible in terms of capabilities of software.

Comment Source:> As an aside, does anyone have suggestions for a more Wiki-like blog technology? What do you have in mind? This place is pretty flexible in terms of capabilities of software.
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edited October 2012

Andrew, that's a good question. I will post later a description of the features I have in mind.

But now another question has come to mind, on a social aspect of solving online.

Wouldn't it be great if textbook publishers would contribute their problem sets to an online repository of problems, that could then be worked out in the open. It could be a badge of honor, that the publisher is contributing to science and education. And for textbooks in general, a nice collection of worked problems could be great advertisement for the book itself. A good set of problems is an invitation to the book that explains the concepts behind them.

What lurks here is the question of to what extent the quotation of math problems falls under the Fair Use exception to the copyright law. Here are a series of examples, which, to my mind, become more and more clear instances of Fair Use.

1. Imagine a website which posts all of the questions in a textbook, verbatim. The purpose is solely educational, to promote the progress of scientific thinking. Everything is cited fairly. To what extent is this a fair use (juridically speaking).

2. How about a Homework page, where people choose individual problems, and then proceed to solve them.

3. How about a Homework page, where people choose individual problems, but post them in a creatively transformed way. This is the transformation I am thinking of. You read the problem, you assimilate it's meaning, and then you restate it in your own terms. So the only thing that is retained from the original is the idea, not the form of expression. (Which, by the way, is a useful cognitive step in the problem-solving process.)

p.s. At least to me, these questions are unpleasant to consider -- but that doesn't make them go away.

Comment Source:Andrew, that's a good question. I will post later a description of the features I have in mind. But now another question has come to mind, on a social aspect of solving online. Wouldn't it be great if textbook publishers would contribute their problem sets to an online repository of problems, that could then be worked out in the open. It could be a badge of honor, that the publisher is contributing to science and education. And for textbooks in general, a nice collection of worked problems could be great advertisement for the book itself. A good set of problems is an invitation to the book that explains the concepts behind them. What lurks here is the question of to what extent the quotation of math problems falls under the Fair Use exception to the copyright law. Here are a series of examples, which, to my mind, become more and more clear instances of Fair Use. 1. Imagine a website which posts all of the questions in a textbook, verbatim. The purpose is solely educational, to promote the progress of scientific thinking. Everything is cited fairly. To what extent is this a fair use (juridically speaking). 2. How about a Homework page, where people choose individual problems, and then proceed to solve them. 3. How about a Homework page, where people choose individual problems, but post them in a creatively transformed way. This is the transformation I am thinking of. You read the problem, you assimilate it's meaning, and then you restate it in your own terms. So the only thing that is retained from the original is the idea, not the form of expression. (Which, by the way, is a useful cognitive step in the problem-solving process.) p.s. At least to me, these questions are unpleasant to consider -- but that doesn't make them go away.
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edited October 2012

David wrote:

Hi,The Wiki + Forum is a great technology combination for the working out of problem sets.

Are there already examples of where this is done on the Wiki, and how do you use the category system towards this end?

I don't think we've done that. It's a nice idea. I imagine starting a page on a given book would be the easiest way.

Since I’m getting the Sudbery book, I would start a page on that.

Hmm. Azimuth is trying to be

I'd love to have people here working out solutions to homework problems related to climate physics, ecology, population biology, photovoltaic power, nuclear power, etc. Quantum physics? - not quite so much.

I don't mean to be discouraging, but I believe the planet, or at least the life on it, is in peril. Though I'm not doing a great job, I want to keep us focused on this.

On the other hand, a page on Sudbery's book won't hurt anyone.

Comment Source:David wrote: > Hi,The Wiki + Forum is a great technology combination for the working out of problem sets. > Are there already examples of where this is done on the Wiki, and how do you use the category system towards this end? I don't think we've done that. It's a nice idea. I imagine starting a page on a given book would be the easiest way. > Since I’m getting the Sudbery book, I would start a page on that. Hmm. Azimuth is trying to be > [an international collaboration to create a focal point for scientists and engineers interested in saving the planet](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/HomePage). I'd love to have people here working out solutions to homework problems related to climate physics, ecology, population biology, photovoltaic power, nuclear power, etc. Quantum physics? - not quite so much. I don't mean to be discouraging, but I believe the planet, or at least the life on it, is in peril. Though I'm not doing a great job, I want to keep us focused on this. On the other hand, a page on Sudbery's book won't hurt anyone.
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edited October 2012

David, I don't know wether you had heard about p2pu.org. (see also list of supporters) You could also eventually organize a learning group there. You may eventually also find research about lesson planning etc. at wikiversity

Comment Source:David, I don't know wether you had heard about <a href="https://p2pu.org/en/">p2pu.org</a>. (see also <a href="http://info.p2pu.org/about/org/">list of supporters</a>) You could also eventually organize a learning group there. You may eventually also find research about lesson planning etc. at <a href="http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/User:Arided/ParagogyPaper">wikiversity</a>
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Andrew wrote:

What do you have in mind? This place is pretty flexible in terms of capabilities of software.

Here is my picture, in the abstract, of a Wiki + blog system.

You have a bunch of nodes, that hold text, and for each of which a revision history can be maintained. Each node has a set of parent nodes. Each node gets created by an author, either as a new root, or with some set of parents. The author can specify who has access to edit the node, and who can add children to it. These policies control whether you get WIki-like, or blog-like behavior, or some hybrid between them. For a blog, only the author can edit the new root node, but the general public can add child nodes to it. When X from the public adds a child node Y, only they can edit Y, but the public can still add child nodes to Y. For a public Wiki behavior, clearly, anyone can create a node, and anyone can edit them.

Here is the hybrid behavior I am picturing for a shared mathbook application. Anyone can create a new root node, for their workbook, and then build a web of nodes for theorems, etc. under that node. In a blog-like way, they are the sole author, and it is under their control. Then if they wanted to present some problems and invite people to join in on solving them, they could create "challenge" nodes that have shared, wiki policies: anyone can edit them, and revisions are tracked.

By the way, I setup Instiki on a Linode server, so I can fiddle around with various tools and ideas, without cluttering the Azimuth wiki with experimental stuff.

Comment Source:Andrew wrote: > What do you have in mind? This place is pretty flexible in terms of capabilities of software. Here is my picture, in the abstract, of a Wiki + blog system. You have a bunch of nodes, that hold text, and for each of which a revision history can be maintained. Each node has a set of parent nodes. Each node gets created by an author, either as a new root, or with some set of parents. The author can specify who has access to edit the node, and who can add children to it. These policies control whether you get WIki-like, or blog-like behavior, or some hybrid between them. For a blog, only the author can edit the new root node, but the general public can add child nodes to it. When X from the public adds a child node Y, only they can edit Y, but the public can still add child nodes to Y. For a public Wiki behavior, clearly, anyone can create a node, and anyone can edit them. Here is the hybrid behavior I am picturing for a shared mathbook application. Anyone can create a new root node, for their workbook, and then build a web of nodes for theorems, etc. under that node. In a blog-like way, they are the sole author, and it is under their control. Then if they wanted to present some problems and invite people to join in on solving them, they could create "challenge" nodes that have shared, wiki policies: anyone can edit them, and revisions are tracked. By the way, I setup Instiki on a Linode server, so I can fiddle around with various tools and ideas, without cluttering the Azimuth wiki with experimental stuff.