Chapters meeting 2010/Documentation/Working Groups/Educational institutions

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Participants in workgroup[edit]


"Education" necessarily involves consideration of two very different types of education, each of which requires a different set of strategies and approaches from Wikimedia chapters:

  1. Universities/tertiary institutions, where the staff are professors or lecturers who may be experts in their field and engage in extensive research work, and the students are undergraduate or postgraduate scholars with a motivation to learn.
  2. Schools (mainly high schools) where the staff are teachers with a diploma and/or undergraduate degree and whose primary focus is the teaching itself, while the students are school students, some of whom are motivated to learn, others of whom are required to be there. The content is often prescribed by the government and outcomes are measured (and can be political.)

Institutions and higher learning[edit]

  • Our group decided early on that outreach to educational institutions is critical. From the point of view of WM/WP project development, there is lots of potential in educational institutions, but we are not doing well at utilising these resources. The relationship can be collaborative - they can help us improve, while we can help them participate/share their knowledge.
  • Lecturers need a congenial, welcoming environment moreso than other people - they are busy people, working for free, who know their topic and are of use to us if we can engage with them correctly.
  • Previous experience has largely been negative - some of this is cross-cultural issues between the free culture movement and higher learning environment, while some is a subset of the experience of newcomers to WM projects generally. An added dimension with lecturers is amateur vs professional issues, which reinforce the idea in some experts' minds of a "credibility gap" on Wikimedia projects.
  • We either need to improve the environment, or, probably more likely, improve the interface (provide a bridge of sorts) between professional contributors and the environment. Are there alternate ways to participate?

Possibilities and considerations[edit]


  • rewarding in a non-monetary sense;
  • inter-chapter collaboration. One possibility raised was that students (especially in non-Western countries where not many textbooks are published) get help from other chapters in getting books in foreign languages, and in return, the student uses sources to improve coverage of areas on Wikipedia.
  • teach professors and students about dynamic of Wikipedia so as to avoid well-intentioned messes (eg classes editing Wikipedia for a grade!)
  • workshops, booklets, handouts;
  • (from Frank's talk) campus contacts for universities (may be a Wikimedian and/or university employee)
  • The Polish Wikimedia has created training and tests on Wiki policies/etc, as well as step-by-step instructions and tools for beginners. We should seek translation of these into English so they can be spread around/retranslated into other languages. More widely, chapters producing resources which other chapters may use is a good way to fulfil Wikimedia's mission and achieve our goals.
  • "Checkpointing" - have diff links on articles akin to Feature Article revisions which have been reviewed by a named expert in the field. This allows expert knowledge to be recognised, while still allowing free and open editing on Wikipedia. (There could be more than one "checkpoint" with different experts disagreeing - this is the way the real world works, too.) Issues:
    • Credentialling - how do we establish expert status
    • Expert may wish to remain publicly anonymous
    • The expert may wish to review on their own website and us to link them rather than do it on WP.
  • Solicit reviews by experts of "weaker" articles - this does not require the expert to edit, but they can produce an analysis saying what our article lacks or is missing (or is incorrect in) so that our own editors can improve them.

Why should professors/lecturers participate? They are busy people.

  • An understanding of the hierarchy in tertiary institutions and how staff rise within it (reviewed works, a sort of "point" system) may be of use to Wikimedia - can we help them reach their goals in return for them helping us? For example, inviting them to be keynote speaker at conferences so they can get their conference papers published in specialist magazines.
  • research articles are not encyclopedia articles (different structure, different purpose, can be abstract). However, literature reviews *can* be good wiki articles.
  • Value of other Wikipedia projects such as Commons, Wikisource, Wikiversity which may appeal more to experts depending on their field - they may have good source material to contribute to these projects.

Schools and secondary education[edit]

  • One problem identified was the complexity / depth of articles - especially in mathematics and scientific topics, they are well above the level of students and sometimes even of teachers. Style notes for these areas on articles likely to be useful should use the lead and introduction more effectively to provide essential, clear information before an "exit point" which precedes more technical or detailed information.
  • The poor reputation of wiki in schools (due mainly to adverse publicity, both in the media and amongst educators) needs to be addressed.
  • How to handle plagiarism by students from Wikipedia articles;
    • educating teachers - WM does not see Wiki as the ultimate source of student knowledge - it should be the starting point for research, not the end;
    • don't want to replace other sources. One good quote from a participant: "We are not replacing the library with a web site."
    • how to tell a good wiki article from a weaker one: references, etc;
    • teachers use wikipedia "key articles" with classes/workgroups who may improve the article or give feedback which can be used to improve.
    • WM chapters could offer professional development days for teachers in countries/jurisdictions where teachers are required to attend such days. Teachers get "points" for attending these and write a report for their school, so there is a "magnifier" effect.
  • Effective use of media
  • Surveys to establish scope of problem - what do they think?
  • Value of other projects, esp Wikisource to social science students.