CEE/Newsletter/October 2018/Contents/Slovenia report

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Slovenia report: Wikimedia projects in education[edit]

By Miran Hladnik (also User:Mhladnik)

I've just returned from the Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2018 in Lviv, which stimulated me to write this report; I should have done it before and present it already in Lviv.

Slovene Wikimedians haven't tried yet to establish their own User Group or Chapter.[1] Slovene Wikipedia (Slovene Wikipedija, prosta enciklopedija) appeared in 2002 and contains approximately 162.500 articles at the moment, ranking 45th considering this number, 43rd considering active users. 22nd regarding the number of documents digitized, 9th regarding the number of users at Wikisource (Slovene Wikivir), 14th on Wikiversity (Wikiverza) and 53rd on Wikibooks (Wikiknjige). At the moment, 16 active administrators along with 350 active users keep things running on the Slovene Wikipedia. It is not bad at all for the total of 2 million Slovene language speakers.

It seems Wikiversity and Wikisource are the specificity of the Slovene Wikimedian's activities. As I am an admin at the Slovene Wikiversity and Wikisource projects I am going to limit my report on these two projects. I am a Slovene literature professor at the University of Ljubljana and I started the first school project in 2006 (see the report about it in Slovene student projects in Wikipedia and Wikisource), writing entries on Slovene literary historians. Later the use of Wikimedia projects in class became a daily necessity. Some colleagues at my department and some from other educational institutions (Pedagogical faculty, Humanities at the University of Nova Gorica, grammar school philosophy teachers) followed the example, however far from describing this endeavour as common. Nevertheless, I organise wikiworkshops for teachers and spread the wiki message wherever possible (Wikipedija live), teachers prefer to stick to commercial educational platforms instead.

Slovene Wikiversity starts with the list of subject pages, predominantly for Slovene literature subjects. Students enrol into the seminar schedule, they create their personal portfolios and summarize their readings and experience. They build their personal dictionary of the new words they have encountered. Students document their activities on their Wikiversity userpages, they report about their assignments and exchange information with teachers and others. The students who exceed the expectations, get a smiley or another sign of my admiration, adjacent to their names on the list. Teachers publish links to their educational resources and instructions. There are additional task lists for those who want to achieve a higher grade and for those who want to compensate their absence. It is very important that the teacher or the assistant regularly check their work, correct it and comment.

We use Wikiversity as a sandbox to sketch encyclopedic entries for Wikipedia. From the standpoint of traditional school, the weak point of Wikiversity is grading. Wikiversity as an open platform doesn't allow »publishing« students' grades. On the other hand, after GDPR, Wikiversity has become one of a few platforms where students' names appear at all, because it enables the students to put down their names adjacent to the assessment list by themselves. No, I haven't experienced anything bad using Wikiversity in class, disregarding one or two minor vandalisms. More than 100 students finish their assignments on Wikiversity, resulting in Wikipedia articles or Wikisource texts, each year.

We use Wikiversity for research projects and pre-publications of academic papers as well. Among projects Slovene partisan monuments at Geopedia (Geopedia is an open map where users can add their layers) deserves special attention. The project's page at Wikiversity brings the description of the project, literature to use, hints, publications in the frames of the project, a counter of entries, etc. 3400 monuments have been already mapped and described by some 30 volunteers.

On the Slovene Wikiversity you can also find a list of hundreds of diplomas from the Slovene studies field, with links to the full texts uploaded elsewhere. This is because the University repository wasn't ready to accept them, though it should be obligatory for every diploma or master's degree.

Freshmen (and freshwomen :) begin their serious work on Wikisource, which is the place where they upload literary texts found in the national digital library, correct the mistakes, caused by OCR, and equip the texts with metadata and categories. Everybody is supposed to write her name (my students are predominantly female) on the assignment list with short literary texts published in newspapers that are already in public domain. It is hard to say how much of the total of public domain literature in Slovene language has been already put onto Wikisource, though our plan is to include all of it. What is considered classics (be it for school, anthologies or popular classics), is already there. Tens of diplomas bring excerpts of the literature published in the old newspapers and publish them on Wikisource.

I'd like the students to accept Wikiversity as their »academic facebook«, however, only about 10 % of them continue using wikis on a voluntary basis. They enter the student project Slovene classics on Wikisource, which I lead and which has been financed by the Ministry of culture already for ten years. Every year, 20 students or so edit more than 100 lengthy works consisting of at least 2 million words on Wikisource and thus earn some money for Summer holidays.

Wikipedia. In the second class I start lessons checking the today's date on Wikipedia: who of the writers was born or who died on that day, what happened that day and it is somehow connected with literature.

The students write all possilbe articles on Wikipedia: in the first year everyone in the class is supposed to encyclopedize one Slovene novel: a short introductory description, metadata in the infobox (also reprints, translations, film adaptations, awards), a plot, criticism, literature used, categories. In the following years biographical articles follow and articles about the topics colored red among the links. The exchange students from abroad translate and localise Slovene entries for their local Wikipedias. Over the last two years, the lists of locally important persons have proved to be interesting for students, everyone in the class covering his own community.

Personally, I discovered Wikibooks to be very useful for my publication plans. I've written the vademecum Nova pisarija (New scripture) as a textbook for freshmen on how to write and behave on the Web. The students are encouraged to correct eventual typos in the book or comment the ideas expressed. And I am composing the local history as another Wikibook: Dobrave, the chronical of the village, which brings me a lot of pleasure.

I am convinced that Wikimedia projects with ther basic principles (cooperation, counter-authoritarian attitude, openness, sharing principle etc.) are an important vehicle for the cultural paradigm shift. They sweep with cultural pessimism and open promising social aspirations. Concerning the educational system, wikis force the users to exit the school ghetto and enter the realm of their discipline through the participatory establishing its sustainable digital infrastructure. Wikis make the students do their assessments not to satisfy the teacher's on parents' expectation, but to satisfy the cultural needs of the society, thus making them more responsible. I regard the University as an incubator or a social lab, where alternative forms of social existence are tested, instead of chewing and recycling the old-fashioned cultural values. Who else could write Wikipedia articles better than students, in the world where their teachers avoid this task, because it doesn't help them climb on the academic ladders. Let me express my belief that writing Wikipedia entries should be taken into the account in the evaluation of academic careers.

Conclusion. Considering the valuable potential of wikis in the paradigm shift in which competition retreats, while participating and sharing win, wikis are alas insufficiently represented in education, as in Slovenia as in other countries. How to raise public awareness about the cultural importance of wikis for the necessary radical change of our worldview? How to convince our colleagues to join? How to achieve that wikis become a students' daily working environment and not only one of the educational tools? Please, help with suggestions.

  1. Meanwhile, the proposal for establishing the Slovenian User Group has been sent to the Affiliations Committee.