The Wikimedia Education Program currently spans 60 programs around the world. Students and instructors participate at almost every level of education. Subjects covered include law, medicine, arts, literature, information science, biology, history, psychology, and many others. This Signpost series presents a snapshot of the Wikimedia Global Education Program as it exists in 2014. We interviewed participants and facilitators from the United States and Canada, Serbia, Israel, the Arab World, and Mexico, in addition to the Wikimedia Foundation.
Education presentation by Dr. Martin Poulter of Wikimedia UK
From left: Itzik Edri, Chair of Wikimedia Israel Board; Michal Lester, Executive Director of Wikimedia Israel; Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees; Rabbi Shai Piron, Israel's Education Minister
Workshop for teachers in June 2014
Wikimedia Israel recently announced that the Israeli Minister of Education had given verbal approval to including Wikipedia training in the instruction of teachers for high school students. Now Wikimedia Israel is looking for ways to implement this training by finding willing collaborators within the Ministry of Education. During the past eighteen months relationships have been created with schools throughout Israel. WMIL conducted workshops and lectures for teachers. The last workshop was few months ago and after that five school principals or teachers have had meetings with Wikimedia Israel volunteers or staff about including Wikipedia education in their schools. Michal indicates that these principals understand the potential of Wikipedia for their schools. The approval of the Minister of Education is an important milestone in the development of the education program and much more collaboration between Wikipedia and high school teachers is likely in the future.
The willingness of high school teachers to learn Wikipedia editing varies. Some teachers are reluctant, while others find it to be a good tool, especially for teaching prose writing which is done less frequently by students in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Students are often very willing to write for Hebrew Wikipedia, sometimes more so than teachers are.
Currently eleven high schools include Wikipedia education for gifted students. One school is near Tel Aviv in Herzliya, and the others are in Be'er Sheva.
In Herzliya, there are two classes involved, which to date have many articles in their sandboxes but not many have moved to article space. As of the time of this writing, approximately 15 articles are in sandboxes and 6 are in article space.
In Be'er Sheva, two Wikipedia volunteers help to instruct 10 classes of 35 to 40 students each. Initially, several volunteers came to help give each class a single workshop in Wikipedia editing, but the single workshops did not convey enough information, so two volunteers have repeatedly worked with the students during the term. Students have been well motivated by making Wikipedia articles an important part of their grades. A total of approximately 40 articles have been produced by the classes this year concerning the geographic area in the vicinity of Be'er Sheva.
Wikipedia Education in colleges and universities
Haifa University editing marathon in 2012
At the university level, there is great success with the Wikipedia Education Program in Israel. Students have written hundreds of articles. Wikipedia editors who volunteer to assist students can be very generous with their time, volunteering to take phone calls and visit classes frequently. The volunteers do this because they feel that this is a good way of expanding the content on Hebrew Wikipedia and the hope that a small number of students will become long-term Wikipedians.
Currently, four universities and one college use Wikipedia in the classroom: Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and Sha'arei Mishpat College. A total of five volunteer Wikimedians mentor one or two classes each. Students are highly motivated because a large portion of their grades depend on their Wikipedia contributions.
At Technion, one instructor especially wanted to have more articles about women professors on Hebrew Wikipedia to inspire women students to consider careers in science. 20 articles have been produced about women researchers.
At Haifa University, 20 courses have participated in the Wikipedia Education Program since 2011. 167 articles have been created.
At Tel Aviv University, there was a course in the medical school in the first semester of academic year 2013-2014. Twelve class sessions involved adding medical content to Hebrew Wikipedia. See the Wikimedia Blog entry here. 64 new articles were created and 64 stubs were expanded. The course received good reviews from the students and was well received in the Hebrew Wikipedia volunteer community. The course also had unplanned beneficial outcomes including media stories from Israeli radio stations and newspapers, Israeli-Arab participants holding a subsequent editing workshop for Arabic-speaking high school students in their hometown, and a new collaboration between Tel Aviv University's External Relations office and Hebrew Wikipedia.
The first graduating class from the Wiki-Med course at Tel-Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. 62 participants completed the course including 37 medical students, 22 dentistry students, 1 PhD life sciences student, 1 academic staff member, and 1 administrative staff member. The native languages of the students were Hebrew (30), Arabic (29), and Russian (3).