Personal tools


Greenwood et al workshop

Experiments in Building Participatory Learning Communities on the Internet: Language Learning and Teaching, Collaborative Dictionaries, and Municipal Services

Davydd Greenwood Cornell University

Carla Shafer Municipal Exchange (MUNEX)

Bob Parks Elmira College

Catherine Ingold and Richard Brecht National Foreign Language Center


Thematic statement:

The concept behind this submission is to share a related body of work that is being discussed by an interacting network of people. Davydd Greenwood, Carla Shafer, and Bob Parks are linked through the Cornell Participatory Action Research Network and have been interacting for some time about interactive uses of the internet to create collaborative intellectual communities. Each has independent projects in this field, but are also engaged in a dialog about them. Carla Shafer is the CEO of Municipal Exchange, a webpage provider that focuses on the construction of participatory websites for the purpose of enhancing collaboration in all kinds of communities, including municipal and county governments, as well as websites like PARNET.ORG. Richard Brecht and Catherine Ingold are respectively the Director and Deputy Director of the National Foreign Language Center Project Director for LangNet and co-directors of the LangNet project. LangNet is a FIPSE funded initiative to create internet-based teacher and learner resources that are evaluated by boards of national experts in language pedagogy. Davydd Greenwood is the program evaluator for the LangNet project and Carla Shafer has just become the provider of web application design and services for LangNet. Bob Parks has a long history of work on participatory building of dictionaries and other reference devices on the internet, including a long period of work supported by IBM. Thus, this interacting group has a number of central themes that link it and yet also diverse experiences. We would like to share these in a 4 paper session that leaves time for both demonstration and interaction.


Carla Shafer, "Social Change: the missing link in star schemas and OO models?"

The objective of this presentation is to define and demonstrate a "learning application" and then illustrate through stories how social change needs to become part of our definition of a network application. In this paper, I will tell the story of my experience in developing PARnet, and how my vision for it changed from a shared information "collection" --> documentation of the current status of social thought --> need to capture history and allow for complexity of interpretation --> a tool for generating social knowledge. Show how the site's failures have been both technical and social. I will point out how the same failure is common to many network applications that aim to elicit a high level of participation. ...and this genre is huge, ranging from commercial Web sites, to Intranets, to educational applications. I will suggest that the failure is not necessarily the result of not including users in the design process, but may be because we mistakenly fix the design process itself in time and space -- a thing we do at the beginning of a contract with participants that exist at that moment of time.

Bob Parks,

"The Participatory Glossaurus Process"


The "Participatory Glossaurus Process" defines a method of structuring and representing knowledge claims in electronic environments. The project focuses on the task of defining terms of discourse and marking a range of agreements and disagreements about terminology, conceptualization and theory building. The internet provides both syncronous and asyncronous modes of communication, but we don’t yet know what impact computer mediated representations of knowledge may have on the quality and viability of these modes of communication for knowledge aggregation. Computer mediated communication environments may promote consensus through communication, but may also promote exploration of differences, and may precipitate conflict and controversy. Methods of knowledge representation suitable to a knowledge building community must preserve and respect differences while identifying and facilitating agreements. Both visual and textual methods of knowledge representation are explored. In the initial phases of the project, participants will use and critique the available software environments, in a participatory design process. The results, we hope, will be a new form of interactive knowledge development and publication.

Richard Brecht and Catherine Ingold, "Using the Internet to Link Expert Communities to Teachers and Learners for Learning Languages: The LangNet Project and Its Promise for the Future"

The LangNet project is a program of the National Foreign Language Center in Washington and has received substantial funding from the federal government to link editorial boards of language teaching experts with each other on teams and to collectively create a site with a searchable database providing access to fully evaluated learning and teaching resources for all people anywhere who can link to the internet. The development of both the editorial board structures through alliances with language teaching professional groups and of the structure and software strategy for the project have required unprecedented innovations from all participants. We want to present a "state of the project" report and enlist the PDC members in conversations about ways to improve it and deepen our thinking about it.

Davydd Greenwood "Formative Program Evaluation on the Internet: How to Evaluate a Virtual Project in a Participatory Manner"

As the evaluator to the LangNet project, it has been my responsibility to try to both oversee the project’s execution and ongoing redesign and to contribute group process observations as well as technical advice to the project directors. In the process of doing a participatory evaluation of participatory, internet-based project, I have found myself stepping beyond the edge of the state of the art in formative program evaluation in a complex partnership with the participants and yet responsible also for monitoring and helping the staff calibrate their efforts. The participatory evaluation of participatory information technology projects presents new challenges I would like to discuss and to receive advice about.

Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

I want to use my expertise to try to change the way the public sees the whole voting machine mess.