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Vision for OneVille documentation

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None of us have done a lot of online documentation before. This website still is too wordy and feels designed for "people who like to read," as Somerville parent and OneVille participant Dave Sullivan put it. But as Dave also put it, "People want information and the wiki provides it, it's as simple as that."

Those of us who do research for a living also found this initial writing process unusually collective!

We wanted to share our overall hopes for the documentation.

Overall hopes for our documentation

Documentation should be coherent -- glued to our core research questions, throughout.

Most of all, we need basic analytic categories coherent across the project. Otherwise the project will not make a clear contribution to thinking or work.

-citations to research or other projects should go as if in footnotes (secondary for the reader).

-simple language.

-examples of ¡Ahas!, "main realizations," products with explanation (e.g., screen shot of dashboard), and “how to” take precedence so that we show what we learned and made in this work and help others tackle the same sorts of issues where they live.

-We hope to point out ¡Ahas! and "main realizations" in bold or colored text so that they strike the reader. Right now, we're trying ¡Ahas! as a label for the many realizations had throughout each working group's work.

Documentation should be visually inviting, tone should be informal, to share info with a teacher or young person or parent who might want to tackle similar efforts where they live. Use lots of visuals and photos and color.

(On that one, we've realized that we took fewer pictures and videos throughout the beginning of this project than we wish we had!)

Show individual and group photos (or short video clips) of our participants, particularly next to their voices or work.

Imagine a final product that looks like,;; (

The site should be hypertextual and particularly, should link to other projects within the OneVille Project.

The documentation should include the voices of our participants. (see below)

(More details:)

Documentation should be distributable by people; something they can email around their school.

The documentation should perhaps also include our contact info, so that people can ask questions of us and our participants.

We might offer a bibliography or index that also talks about other things to read.

Of particular concern: including participant voices

We hope that the more direct quotes, products, and videos we have from youth, parents, and educators, the better we will convey what we've been doing.

We might get quotes from participants as we co-construct the documentation, or, take them from data collected throughout the project.

We might include short video interviews that enrich the content but aren’t required by site visitors to watch if they want to understand what we've been doing.

Not all of our participants will want to work on this documentation from scratch with us. Some will and we'd love it! But some will want to comment on examples as they take shape. We should invite any version of participation.

Some prompts for getting participants' take on the work

(What communication supporting students did this working group make a bit more possible?

(if known: What new support for young people may have resulted?)

(What interested you in doing this in the first place? What did you think might be gained?)

(What are particularly thought-provoking examples or stories from your project, that say something about improving communications in public education?)

More specifically: was there some moment in the pilot (an ¡Aha!) when you realized something about who needs to share which information with whom, via which channels, to support young people in Somerville? (COMMUNICATION ¡Aha!)

(What are continuing barriers to needed communications?)

More specifically: was there some moment in the pilot when you redirected the work to make something succeed? When the project stumbled and you had to come up with a solution?[IMPLEMENTATION ¡Aha!]

(Should others do what you have been doing? What would you tell them to make that possible?)

Platform thoughts

In our Memorial Day 2011 planning meeting, we agreed that the platform needs to allow us to update it over time. We at least want the potential to grow a conversation in different locations and, to let continuing projects report out on what they are doing (texting pilot; dashboard updates, parent connector network in particular continued in 2011-12.)

The platform we have used

We've used a wiki to organize our thoughts, but the public facing website is not a wiki for anyone to edit. That's because we figured that having strangers edit our documentation would be problematic. Comments are more than welcome!

Why we used a wiki as a platform:

-googlesites are not PDFable.

-the default wiki skin is less attractive but a wiki can get just as attractive.

-wikis allow font to be consistent across. (We can find any font available on the web.)

-wikis have less technical problems.

-videos can be on YouTube, embedded.

      • the ultimate point: more easily enabling co-creation now and, possibly, later.

-a wiki can be as rich as a website.

-googlesites may at some point shut down, a la Google Translate’s recent restrictions.

In the end, we recommitted to the idea of using a wiki for this documentation, as long as it follows the vision above of being visually exciting!

Plan to set each working group free to document

Over Memorial Day weekend 2011 and in a week of work afterwards, we set basic initial categories for documentation that we wanted to hold across the project. We then honed them over the months through September 2011, tweaking what didn't work. Here's what we came up with:

   * 1 Summary
   * 2 Communication we set forth to improve
   * 3 Process
         o 3.1 Basic History
         o 3.2 Communication ahas, implementation ahas, and turning points!
   * 4 Findings/Endpoints
         o 4.1 Concrete communication improvements
         o 4.2 Main communication realizations and implementation realizations
         o 4.3 Technological how-tos
         o 4.4 Things we’d expand/do differently

The goal was for each working group to use that basic category structure to add documentation, while being creative and having fun with ways to represent the work visually and accessibly.

This plan has allowed us to brainstorm with each working group about how to make the documentation most useful to specific audiences of concern, including Somerville teachers, district staff, and community members.