Diverse approaches to Wikipedia in Education
Good morning students, please open your textbooks to Chapter 1 and follow along as best you can. "Our great forebear the Public Policy Initiative came to light in the 2010–2011 academic year as a tiny sapling, knowing little of the forest that would sprout after it. The Wikipedia Education Program, supported by the Wikipedia Ambassador Program, is becoming increasingly global and increasingly volunteer-run. The Education desk should be your first point of contact for participation as the Signpost becomes the program's primary chronicler. Class is in session – it has been for 2 years now.
The View from Mexico: beyond article writing
This section is a personal perspective from Thelmadatter
of Wikimedia México
, and does not necessarily represent the views of the Signpost or its staff.
Most Wikipedia/Wikimedia projects tied to education have been linked to the writing of articles, especially as an alternative to writing research papers, which are traditional in universities in the United States, Canada and some other countries. However, doing research and writing original (i.e. not plagiarized) texts is unknown in more than a few educational systems in the world. In these cases, it is probably not the best idea to have prospective Wikipedians start with writing articles from scratch.
Fortunately, participating in the "wiki-world" is not limited to writing new articles or expanding them, where skills such as research, assessing sources, synthesis and paraphrasing must all be used to avoid plagiarism. There are other ways to get students involved. The first is the translation of articles and other documents "in-wiki", which is acceptable as long as the text in the original language is credited. This is a good first introduction for many students, especially those for whom bilingualism is a very necessary component for their future careers. At my school, ITESM-Ciudad de México, all students are required to obtain a certain score on a standardized test (TOEFL) in English to graduate. No exceptions. For students capable in foreign languages, translation provides a near-immediate way to begin contributing significant content in their own language, and a way to teach how Wikipedia articles should be structured for those who do go on to write new articles. It also gives language teachers a handy way to teach rhetoric – especially comparative rhetoric – as students make decisions as to how to appropriately express ideas from one language in another.
Wikimedia projects do not need to be confined to classroom activities. For the Spring 2012 semester, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at ITESM-CCM in Mexico City began a pilot program to have selected students work with Wikipedia as part of the "CAS" requirement. IB requires all of its students to fulfill a number of hours of activities outside of the classroom related to community service, creativity, and physical activity. The many opportunities that Wikipedia and its sister projects offer can be applied to all three of these criteria, which are broadly defined. The seven students who were selected for the pilot are Laloreed22, Jeanny Mos, LeValedush, CarlaFlores25, K.fontecha, Rob dvr and Carlosharo17. For training and initial introduction into the wider Wikipedia community, we decided to take advantage of the Teylers Museum Multilingual Challenge, running concurrently with the semester, working on translating articles related to the challenge into Spanish. While we are working in translation as an introduction, the students are not limited to this activity to fulfill their CAS requirement. Other activities such as photography, working with galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), and just about anything else that any Wikipedian can do, these students can do as well—it all depends on their interests and abilities.
With a bit of creativity, we can work with teachers to provide a wide variety of options: GLAM activities for those in fields such as library science and archeology; law and political science students can delve into questions about copyright, open culture and how these apply in their countries; and we should not forget those in the information technology and communications fields. For many of these students, these activities open doors and help them stand apart from their peers, perhaps the greatest gift working with Wikimedia can give.
Princeton's Mudd Library edit-a-thon
Mudd Library Edit-a-thon participants; see Commons
for further media from the event
Another alternative educational approach has been a focus on work with university libraries (the "L" in GLAM) outside of the context of a specific class.
On Saturday, 18 February 2012, a group of sixteen enthusiastic volunteers—including Princeton University undergraduates, Wikipedians from the Wikimedia New York City chapter, Princeton community members, and Mudd Library staff—gathered for an edit-a-thon at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. The event was organized by Princeton senior and technical services student worker Q Miceli, with the goal of introducing students and community members to the Wikipedia editing process through writing and updating Wikipedia articles about the university. Miceli subsequently wrote an entry on the Mudd Manuscript Library blog as well as an edit-a-thon how-to, which serves as a guide to those interested in emulating the event.
By the numbers, there were 16 attendees, six user accounts registered, four articles created, and nine articles expanded. Mudd Library is considering hosting another edit-a-thon around Princeton’s Reunions in late May. Feedback from University Library staff has been favorable, and participants and Princeton alumni who could not attend were eager to be notified if another edit-a-thon was scheduled.
Notes in chalk
- Tools for tracking: A new Wikipedia Education Program MediaWiki extension is in development with the express purpose of improving management of the program, particularly the monitoring of participating students and their contributions.
- Welcome to the academical village: This week saw the creation of WikiProject Academical Village, an effort in draft form intended to help standardise the educational outreach initiative by coordinating participants' activities "in the traditional and idiosyncratic WikiProject style."
- Education Program hires a liaison: Rob Schnautz, who will be better known to readers as Bob the Wikipedian, has been hired to fill the position of Global Education Program Online Communications Contractor (likely the longest Foundation title yet created). In his new position, Schnautz will be responsible for "support and direct online communications around Wikimedia's Global Education Program ... [helping to] ensure effective communication with the Wikipedia community regarding the Program working closely with Online Ambassadors as well as the WMF staff involved". For further insight into what this might mean for the project, see the Signpost's in-depth interview with the Foundation's latest recruit.