🌳 Skillforest

⚠️ Disclaimer: The address is subject to change and what's written here right now is intended to come true, not be true. Think "documentation-first" development strategy.

The reason it's published at all is because there is finally an implementation plan for it that might work and enough people seemed interested in the idea.

👋 Welcome to Skillforest!

Skillforest is a learning tool that guides you through complex concepts by introducing them to you piece by piece.

Since it’s a learning tool, it can explain itself!

🌳 Skillforest: Introduction

You only need a reasonably modern browser to try it out.
No accounts, no fees, no privacy policies even — the tool runs entirely in your browser.
Well, expected to be once the proof of concept is complete. There is still something there though. Have a look!

Frequently asked questions

Why use this?

If you’re learning

It should help you get familiar with complex concepts just enough while making sure you aren’t missing anything important.

If you’re teaching

It enhances the way you collaborate with fellow educators.

So this is yet another learning platform that provides courses?

Not a platform. It’s a standard that helps teachers collaborate on producing learning materials together. Because with better materials, learners can do more as well. Ownership and control over the materials remains entirely in the hands of authors and users. That includes the choice of a platform.

Learning materials for Skillforest can be published anywhere on the Web. With that comes all the power of the Web. Internal materials can be published on internal networks or distributed as files. Authors wishing to paywall their content are free to do so arbitrarily with the tools they already use. This standard supplements existing materials and facilitates their use. It does not in any way replace them.

The project also implements a browser-based tool that helps explore compatible learning materials. The technology, however, doesn’t require its use. One could feasibly build a different tool with the same capabilities (or more!).

Does it validate that knowledge in any way? Can this be used for certifications?

Not yet. The plan to start off is to build a tool that trusts the user and thus does not attempt to validate that the user actually learned anything, leaving that to them. For that to produce any useful results the learner already has to be motivated to actually learn rather than just tick boxes that signify the act. That’s not something any technology can easily solve, this is more in the realm of mentorship/coaching. (Notably, it makes the contrast between actually learning and ticking boxes very explicit and may spark some useful thought processes.)

However! Validation is something that could be added in specific applications later.

What is certification of knowledge, by definition? It’s when a trusted party asserts that somebody has certain knowledge.

In that process that trusted party could be using Skillforest on somebody’s behalf, validating that every press of the checkmark is justified either by giving them a few questions that can be checked automatically or through a live conversation. Both of these kinds of validation seem to be in the distant future right now. Individual pages can already provide “self-check” facilities if they wish, but it’ll be up to the user to use them and honor the results.

Frequently Anticipated Questions

Many of the answers here are personal (as in, from me, the author, rather than the project) since up until now I’m the only person working on this. I expect the amount of personal advocacy to decrease over time as the project gains a shape of its own.

How do I use this?

Once the MVP is ready, technologically it should be only a matter of adding annotations in form of <meta> HTML tags much like in OGP; initially by hand (thus supported wherever raw HTML is supported), in the later stages the project should work on tooling for popular publishing platforms.

But as of today, you can only help me bring this to “playable” state — if anything then by reminding me that this concept seems cool and that I should keep working on it. Motivation is important too!

What’s the status of the project?

Not even infancy yet.

The technology relies on a rock solid foundation of Semantic Web and the wider World Wide Web. It’s partially inspired by ubiquitous Open Graph Protocol.

But it lacks in the number of contributors and topic coverage and currently relies on enthusiastic and forward-looking educators to buy into the idea and give their materials a better shape for their learners to try. (It lacks a lot more than that right now.)

Where does the name come from?

It’s inspired by skill trees found in numerous videogames as a character development mechanic. As your character grows (in whatever sense) they learn to do new things, but they can’t just start pulling the fanciest stunts from the beginning, because doing something cool typically requires the character to learn to do something less cool first.

That relationship between skills of a character is often visualized as a chart on character information screen, and that chart often resembles a tree.

You could say that Skillforest is a skill tree for the real world, where skills are real. Except it’s bigger than one tree, it’s meant to be a whole bunch of trees all around the internet with occasional connections between them — thus forming a forest.

Isn’t the project completely useless without content?

It is, yeah. But even if I end up being the only person contributing for a good while, that’s fine by me.

I’ve spent years contributing answers to Stack Overflow and Stack Overflow in Russian. While I did learn a whole lot, it felt a little off-putting to see how trivial some of the questions asked there are. I felt there was a need to somehow link the knowledge expressed in the answers. But Q&A was not the right format for it. And Stack Overflow (the company) knew it’s a problem. So they introduced Stack Overflow Documentation to fill the gap. And yep, it’s dead, and it didn’t live for very long. And, frankly, it wasn’t much of an improvement over public wikis.

I’m still tired of explaining the same technical concepts over and over again in different combinations, so I have a personal stake in this kind of activity.

Does this project threaten teachers’ jobs?

Nope. At least in the initial stages its entire point is to help them.

Over time the scope of teachers’ work may shrink somewhat, allowing them to focus on other areas of their craft instead, like inspiring their students to learn in the first place or helping students in their class get along with each other. Areas that are difficult to handle remotely.

But we have a very long way to go before we’re even at that point and a lot can happen as we’re getting there.