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
Wikimedia Global Education: WMF's perspective
The Wikimedia Foundation Grantmaking Department seen in March 2014 including the Education team, the Learning and Evaluation team, and grantmaking program officers. Anasuya Sengupta is front center.
Based on email discussions with Anasuya Sengupta, Senior Director of Grantmaking for the Wikimedia Foundation
The spin-off of the United States and Canada program
What was the reason that WMF spun off the US/CAN program into a separate organization, and is there a plan to spin off other regions into separate organizations?
The US and Canada Wikipedia Education Program was spun off by the Wikimedia Foundation into a separate nonprofit foundation, the Wiki Education Foundation, formed in 2013. The decision to do this was taken, in fact, before the Narrowing Focus strategy in which WMF wished to have more programs run by local organizations or volunteers, while continuing to support these programs through resources like grants, program guidelines and evaluation support.
There is no plan to spin off other regions, instead we have focused on transitioning the Wikipedia Education Program team into a facilitative hub for programs in all regions of the world and not a global program implementer. Local leaders manage and drive the program, and WMF staff support their efforts with resources (like online training, booklets and shared learnings), infrastructure (like the education extension) and funding (through the existing grants infrastructure). For example, in the Arab world, the programs in Egypt and Jordan are now entirely run by local volunteers and supported by a Wikipedia Education Program Manager (Tighe Flanagan). As they grow, they may partner with local organizations or develop other local groups that run and manage the day-to-day of their Wikipedia Education Programs. As you will see described in more detail below, we are excited to find that there are over 60 different kinds of education programs being run currently by community members across the world; we hope to share lessons and learning from these across our movement as we go forward, and support them with appropriate tools and materials.
Has spinning off the US/CAN program achieved the intended goals of the change?
Wikipedia Education Program pre-conference at Wikimania 2013
Yes, our goal was to establish a self-sufficient independent nonprofit organization, and the Wiki Education Foundation has achieved this goal.
The spin-off of the US and Canada program is still relatively recent (late last year), so it is too early to say what the ultimate impact will be for the Wiki Education Foundation and for the Wikipedia Education Program team at the WMF.
From the WMF perspective, it has allowed the WEP team to divide its capacity more globally and focus on other high potential programs in other parts of the world. The WEP team is currently conducting outreach with more than 60 education programs in different parts of the world, and we’re learning that education programs can look quite different from one country to another in terms of scale (from just one professor in one university to a nationwide program), scope (focusing on primary or secondary school or rather on university students) and intended goals (teaching students how to use and edit Wikipedia or changing the education policy and mindset by having Wikipedia editing be part of new teacher training). For instance, Wikipedia Education Programs are quite different in the US, Israel, Mexico and Serbia, yet they are successful their own way.
The Wiki Education Foundation is now firmly established and growing, with the capacity to not only support current activities but expand its reach in US/Canada. While the spin-off has allowed both teams to focus in different ways, they continue to work together in partnership around the movement’s education goals.
The Wikipedia Education Program and WMF strategy
How does the Global Education program fit into WMF's strategic framework?
Wikipedia Education Collaborative kickoff meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, March 2014
Education is at the core of the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission. It is also in alignment with the strategic framework that guides the Foundation’s work and priorities. One major achievement of the Wikipedia Education Program globally has been to increase the diversity of community and content -- through geography, gender and language.
In particular, the programs in the Arab region have had remarkable success in increasing contributions from female students in the global south. For the Fall 2013-2014 semester (for which we have the most recent and complete statistics) women were in the majority of participants in Egypt and Jordan, 88% and 69% of total students, respectively. This has been a great trend for the program in that part of the world.
Education programs have also consistently added content to Wikipedia and sister projects in language versions that need growth and in topic areas that are not comprehensively covered (especially in the US and Canada, through targeted content contributions to the English Wikipedia).
The Wikipedia Education Program and Grantmaking
Grantmaking lunch at Wikimania 2013
Does having the Global Education program inside of the Grantmaking portfolio make sense? Global Education is not a grant program, is it?
The Grantmaking department is about much more than money. The team is fundamentally about supporting the growth of community and content in our global movement through different kinds of resources: connecting ideas, people and programs through tools, skills and funds. While we certainly support the movement through various kinds of grants designed for different needs (from online individual projects to offline group activities), it is not enough to provide money without supporting strategies for making sure these funds are effectively utilised - what does this money do, how does it help support our strategic goals? We want to make sure that we provide support to different kinds of projects and programs run by our movement in order to make them more impactful, and for our communities to learn from each other.
Most significantly, we want to establish a spectrum of support from facilitating the growth and development of communities and content (for which we know the Global Education Program can be a powerful strategy), to funding successful programs, to analysing the impact of these programs and establishing good practices and guidelines. This is why the addition of the Global Education Program to the department makes so much sense; it’s a great opportunity to create an integrated strategy for supporting our communities with a variety of different kinds of resources. In particular, the department focuses on diversity as critical to our goal of achieving both increased participation and quality of content: 80% of our edits currently come from 20% of the world; we cannot achieve the sum of human knowledge with only a slice of human knowledge represented on the world’s biggest free knowledge platform. The Global Education Program, in partnership with our communities in the Global South and elsewhere, can help us in working towards our mission in ways that scale globally, but continue to be locally relevant.
The Wikipedia Education Program in Africa and Asia
What presence does the Global Education program have in African and Asian nations? Does WMF intend to expand the Global Education program in African and Asian nations?
Celebrations of the 12th anniversary of Nepali Wikipedia in 2014
Indonesian Wikipedians volunteering at a social media festival in 2013
”Attendees of a Wikipedia workshop. Epukiro Post 3 Junior Secondary School, Omauezonjanda, Epukiro”, Namibia, in 2013
The Wikipedia Education Program team at the Wikimedia Foundation supports local movement volunteers and community organisers who run, manage, nurture and grow their own programs so that they have a positive impact on Wikipedia and the sister projects — we are no longer program implementers (like we discussed above with the spinning off of the US and Canada program, for example). The Wikipedia Education Program is flexible and open to supporting a variety of models and initiatives, from universities to high schools, from the formal professor-led model to more GLAM-like projects that include campus edit-a-thons, wiki teach-ins and tutorials, wiki schools, wiki clubs, and wiki camps. We would love to see different kinds of education programs take off in Asia and Africa, and are eager to work with these communities to see how we can expand there, in particular by supporting and growing existing activities and interest.
Current activity in Africa and Asia can be summarized in the following snapshots:
In Africa, Egypt has had an active Wikipedia Education Program since the launch of the Cairo Pilot in January 2012. To date (Fall 2013/14 is the most recent semester for which we have complete data, as Spring 2014 is still ongoing through the summer), over 566 students have participated in the program in Egypt, and student activity on-wiki has nearly doubled from the first semester (17,180.13 bytes/student) compared to the most recently semester (33,514.93 bytes/student).
Wikimedia South Africa has been working on getting various educational activities going, working with learners at Sinenjongo High School getting a wifi Kiwix system up and running there and they have also started organising after school Wikipedia editing sessions. There is also an effort to get a Wikipedia course going at the University of Cape Town. WMZA has said that education is its next focus, especially thinking about how to integrate Wikipedia Zero as well.
In Namibia, a small education program has been running since 2010, managed by a Wikipedian, Peter Gallert.
In Asia, Nepal has been actively working on their education program. They have piloted an ingenious tool that can be used for volunteer recognition, called the Wikipedia Drivers License. Armenia, Israel and Jordan (all Western Asian countries) are also active with their respective education programs.
There is also community interest into starting an education program in Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Africa and Asia are where we’re seeing the most potential for collaboration between Wikipedia Zero and local education initiatives.
Education Program volunteers
Participants at the Arab World Education Hackathon in Jordan, May 2014
How do you plan to expand the number of trained ambassadors to meet global demand?
In general, we at the WMF support programs that are run by local members of the community. Recruiting and training of volunteers is part of most education programs, and we have developed materials to help with training and onboarding ambassadors (like the online trainings, for example). Local programs (and program leaders) are ultimately responsible for recruiting.
The future of the Education Program
How does WMF intend to evolve the global Education Program over the next few years?
Over the next few years, we want to see programs continue to grow and have a positive impact on Wikimedia projects. Currently we know there are more than 60 different education initiatives around the world that are using Wikipedia in classroom settings.
The team at the WMF is set to support these programs around the world in different capacities depending on their needs — strategic planning, sharing best practices, connecting new programs with established programs to share their knowledge and mentor each other, and using technical tools and infrastructure (including the Education Extension and Wikimetrics) as well as our growing suite of educational materials and online references.
We will work in close collaboration with the Learning and Evaluation team as the movement focuses more on measuring impact, so we can continue to have an accurate picture of the difference that student contributions are making to the projects. Having the Wikipedia Education Program as part of the diverse Grantmaking team will also — we hope — encourage community members and organizations to take advantage of the full suite of support that grantmaking offers, including financial support through grants.
A neknomination, originally an online game with a requirement that an alcoholic drinking challenge be completed in 24 hours, was adapted by some South Africans to promote random acts of kindness. In response to an open letter from Sinenjongo High School in Cape Town in South Africa and a neknomination, the cellular network provider MTN Group agreed to provide free data access to Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Zero program. This video shows the students reading their open letter and the video response from MTN.
The Signpost is written by editors like you — join in!