Research/COLKnowledge/Pedagogical Templates Report

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This report was created by Robert Kruhlak(User:Kruhly). It records the lessons learned during the research and creation of pedagogical templates for the WikiEducator wiki. The templates were used in an additional interactive science activity that can be found at: Images.

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  • Research Mediawiki template syntax and educational implementations, to develop one lesson in the natural sciences for secondary education;
  • Invite discussions from identified WikiEducator and WikiVersity members on innovative ideas for educational templates on OER_project and
  • Develop ideas for new templates that demonstrate the application of existing pedagogical templates.
  • Prepare a short 3-5 page evaluation report latest by April 20, 2007 outlining the lessons learned resulting from the experience gained while carrying out the aforementioned work.

Template Research

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  • Conduct research on mediawiki template syntax
  • Create new pedagogical templates based on current pedagogical templates

Initially, I identified three main problems on WikiEducator that are related to pedagogical templates:

  1. Templates could not be passed complex data without breaking.
  2. A multichoice question template did not exist.
  3. The flash extension for embedding flash simulations could only handle flash simulations that did not have FlashVars parameters.

The first problem above was most urgently related to my objectives and I spent the majority of my time researching a solution. I also spent significant time researching the alternatives for the multichoice question template. I believe that problem three needs to be tackled in the very near future so that it does not limit the growth of the WikiEducator community.

Passing complex data as template parameters

During my research, I was able to determine that most complex template parameters did not work with WikiEducator templates because of an "=" in the parameter passed to the template. The solution is to pass the parameters explicitly using the argument name (ie using the following syntax):

|ArgumentName= Complex parameters
}}, where ArgumentName must be used even if ArgumentName= {1,2,3,..., N}. Some examples that are currently working on WikiEducator are listed below:

1. A Tip template nested inside an Activity template:

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My Activity
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Tip: Call the parameter explicitly to eliminate problems with equal signs in argument data, even if it is a 1,2,3, etc parameter.

2. An Activity template that has a Url with an "=" in its parameter and is nested inside an Exploration Activity template:

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hi this is an embedded activity with the Exploration Activity

This problem has been resolved in all cases that I have tried since learning of the solution. I suggest that the WikiEducator community consider rewriting many of the pedagogical templates so that they have named arguments which will significantly reduce the risk of encountering this problem. I also suggest that the newbie tutorials should be updated to include information about the solution.

Multichoice Question (MCQ) Template

Searching for the best method to implement a MCQ template resulted in the creation of two MCQ templates and in locating the extension for a wikiquiz. I requested that the quiz extension be enabled. After some modifications by the creator and people at Wikiversity and a significant time lag, the extension was enabled on WikiEducator. The syntax for a single quiz question is as follows: <quiz> {This is a question} + This is a correct answer - This is an incorrect answer </quiz>

Point added for a correct answer:  
Points for a wrong answer:
Ignore the questions' coefficients:

1. This is a question

This is a correct answer
This is an incorrect answer

Your score is 0 / 0

The wikiquiz looks to be a powerful tool for self-assessment. However, it has some quirks that need to be resolved.

  1. The quiz extension disables/breaks all templates that use the javascript navigation toolbar on the page that it is used. For example see Problems with Wikiquiz
  2. The default for the quiz is to post a purple marker with a label "syntax error." This happens even when there is not problem with the syntax as far as I can tell. This is very confusing and would definitely scare away new users. A wishlist item for a "Simple" format has been added on
  3. Feedback is given when a "Correction button" is clicked by the user. However, the "correctness" is only indicated by a color scheme. This color scheme has green for correct and red for incorrect. Thus there is a significant risk that color blind technology (and persons) would not be able to indicator the correct answer.
  4. The correction button that is used to display the answers and feedback does not allow for the learner to try again with a fresh question. My preference would be to have the correction button be replaced with a try again button after the feedback for the "chosen" answer is displayed.

I am participating in an ongoing discussion to improve the extension. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to explore the use of this extension in the additional lesson. I do think that time should be spent in the future, testing its implementation, improving its implementation, and implementing it in WikiEducator. In addition to implementation there needs to be a continuous dialog between Wikiversity and WikiEducator (see OER grapevine) to ensure that modifications made to the extension on one wiki are compatible with the other wiki.

Template Creation

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Template Creation


I have created and modified many templates during this project. I record the syntax below with links to the template on WikiEducator.

|Title=My Activity Title
|Content= My content goes here
}}, where Content can be very complex data including URL's, other templates, etc, and TOCdepth is a number ={0,1,2,3,4,5,6} -- it indicates where and when the template should appear in a table of contents (0 is the default if the argument is not included and means that the template should not be included in the TOC).
|text=My reflection text
|answer= My answer goes here
|TOCdepth=3}}, where the answer is initially hidden and can be accessed using a javascript Navigation Bar.
  • I have attempted two Multichoice Question templates in WikiEducator.They are built around NavHead, NavFrame, NavContent, etc which are used heavily in Template:ABCD . Template:ABCD is a monolithic 4 choice MCQ that Brent Simpson learned about at Wikiversity.
My first attempt at an eXe like MCQ was: Template:MultiChoice_Question
It is very limited in that it only allows a 4 choice question, but it does have some decoration and a tip parameter. Adding content to it could be considered a nightmare ...
My second attempt at an eXe like MCQ is a collection of templates:
Template:MCQ, Template:MC_Question, Template:MC_Answer, and Template:Hint.
Template:MCQ is the decoration or container, which should use one or more (Template:MC_Question)s for the content. Each Template:MC_Question should then use two or more (Template:MC_Answer)s to provide the choices and feedback. Template:Hint is integrated into Template:MC_Question for providing an eXe like hint. My second attempt is considerably more flexible in that, as far as I can tell any number of questions can be added to the container, and each question can have as many or few choices as they want so it could "stand-in" for a quiz.
If we could replace the Expand/Collapse feature with radio buttons, it might even be usable from a learner's point of view, and I don't think it would be difficult to convert to radio buttons if we had them available.
I have used the Template:MCQ in the Images lesson to show a "proof of concept" . To see both of them in action go to: User:Kruhly#Current_Activities Current Activities.
I expect that the MC_Question and MC_Answer templates will be need to be upgraded once the wikiquiz extension has been improved. This will make the implementation of MCQ templates significantly easy for alll users of WikiEducator. It expect that it would take one day to upgrade the templates and another day or two to incorporate into the four existing interactive sciences lessons.

The following templates were modified so that they could be included in a Table of Contents using the PutInTOC template above.


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  • Resolved the problem where complex data passed to a template caused the template to break.
  • Found a wikiquiz extension that can potentially be used in MCQ templates.
  • Created more than ten new pedagogical templates
  • Improved two existing pedagogical templates

Future Activities

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Future Activities

  • Push for the latest version of the flash extension to be enabled because it can handle FlashVars. If this is not robust enough, research refinements to the extension and implement them so that it meets WikiEducators needs.
  • Continue discussion about wikiquiz to make sure future improvements meet WikiEducators needs.
  • Create a “Flash with text” template (about one day).
  • Implement future improvements to wikiquiz on WikiEducator.
  • Discuss template meta-data syntax and implement so that exporting to eXe is simplified.
  • Improve aforementioned templates (about on day).
  • Update newbie tutorials so that they reflect the lessons learned in this research (about one day).
  • Investigate cross-browser compatibility of pedagogical templates.

OER Grapevine Discussion

A discussion has been started at OER grapevine: MediaWiki Pedagogical Templates. Currently there is a listing of several activities at Wikiversity and Wikieducator but no significant discussion to date. Hopefully, this will change in the near future.

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Future Activity


Important issues that could be resolved/improved through this discussion in the future are:

  • Wikiversity/WikiEducator license compatibility
  • Template compatibility -- there is currently an Activity template at Wikiversity which in not completely compatible with the one on WikiEducator. The authors have been asked to join the discussion at OER grapevine.
  • Wikiquiz: It is currently enabled on both Wikiversity and WikiEducator. There has been little work done on either wiki with this extension so it is a great opportunity to develop a continuous dialog so that work done on each wiki is cross compatible.

Additional Lesson

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Create Lesson


The additional lesson was created using the new pedagogical templates in the templates section. It is currently located at Images on WikiEducator and uses the Geometric Optics Flash simulation produced by the PhET team at the University of Colorado.

The Images lesson is a significant improvement over the initial three lessons in terms of look and feel. The newly developed templates improve the lesson design and usability. Breaking the lesson into subpages similar to the Newbie Tutorials has also been a signficant change. Each subpage is now much easier to edit individually in comparison to finding the section in one long article. There are several templates that need to be created or improved to complete the transformation. Suggestions for new templates are:

  • Overview
  • What do I need?
  • Resources
  • Cloze Activity

and suggestions for templates that need to be improved:

  • Wikipedia Article
  • Reflection2
  • MCQ
  • Hint
  • Discussion

In addition to the new and improved templates mentioned above, I believe that it is important to enable the "Labeled Section Transclusion" extension so that an environment exists where lessons can be quickly and easily be re-contextualized. Adding a newbie tutorial about this subject should also be considered a high priority.

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Future Activities

  • I estimate it would take 2-3 days to create the aforementioned templates and another day to improve the aforementioned existing templates. This project could be combined with developing meta-data syntax and characteristics for the pedagogical templates.
  • Once the "Labeled Section Transclusion" extension is enabled, examples and tutorials should be created. I estimate that this would take on the order of 3-4 days.


This research has made large strides in improving the resources available for educators on WikiEducator for creating rich media tutorials and lessons. As the future activity boxes in the previous sections suggest, the work is not complete. In addition to the future activities previously mentioned, there are several activities that need attention and the time spent on them depends on the resources available. They involve research and discussion, and the time devoted to them would best be determined by Commonwealth of Learning.

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Future Activities

  • Research into existing extensions to determine what is available and what still needs to be developed.
  • Continue dialog on the development of the wikiquiz extension.
  • Continue the dialog with Wikiversity with regards to pedagogical templates.
  • Discuss meta-data syntax and data for newly developed templates.

If you have any questions about this report do not hesitate to contact me at my talk page.

-- Kruhly 08:26, 18 April 2007 (CEST)