Education/News/June 2022/Wikipedia and Secondary Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Wikipedia and Secondary Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand

Author: Jetaynz

Summary: The use of Wikipedia in secondary school classrooms in Aotearoa New Zealand was examined in a research study with feedback from over 90 local teachers.

Last year Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum received funding from the Wikimedia Research Fund to examine the use of Wikipedia in secondary school classrooms in Aotearoa New Zealand. We proposed this project on the basis of the upcoming compulsory Aotearoa New Zealand Histories Curriculum, which was due to be rolled out this year but has since been delayed until next year (2023). The over-arching problem we were trying to solve was whether Wikipedia could be a viable tool for teachers to use as a resource for teaching the local history aspects of the curriculum and whether GLAM institutions could contribute to this as a way of facilitating access to their collections to a vast audience of teachers and students at scale.

This was framed as a research study, where we could essentially undertake user testing of local teachers and survey their attitudes towards Wikipedia's use in the classroom, whether they would be interested in activities such as edit-a-thons with their students, backed up by a robust literature review of the use of Wikipedia in secondary classrooms, which remains a relatively neglected topic of study.

We were delighted to bring an experienced NZ education academic, Dr Mark Sheehan, on board as the researcher for this project and undertook a mixed methodology study consisting of a literature review, an online survey and one on one interviews with teachers. While we had intended on holding in-person workshops, the deteriorating COVID situation in New Zealand precluded that, but we managed to get feedback from over 90 local teachers which resulted in rich data.

The key takeaways from the research were:

  • Most participants saw Wikipedia as a reliable resource for national Aotearoa New Zealand history content and valuable to both inform their teaching and for their students to access information for enquiry-based studies.
  • The question of reliability was a concern when it came to accessing local histories on Wikipedia. The encyclopedia was not generally seen as an accurate source of information in this area.
  • Teachers overwhelmingly trusted the information on local history in the Auckland War Memorial Museum as reliable and accurate.
  • Teachers saw Wikipedia as having the potential to contribute to how students learn to think critically about sources and develop the skills to differentiate between knowledge that is supported by reliable evidence and unverified narratives.
  • While a substantial number of participants thought articles were well written and accessible, there were some who indicated their students found the reading level of the articles too advanced.

Overall it seems that Wikipedia is being used by more teachers than we thought, by using it as a starting point for their teaching, and a smaller number using Wikipedia as a teaching resource (for example looking at the edit page or encouraging students to look at references). They also trust Wikipedia in terms of the "big" national topics and events but find it less reliable for teaching the local history aspect which is an important part of the new curriculum, and where a potential editing project, as mentioned in our project proposal, could fill an obvious need to make Wikipedia more accessible as a teaching resource.

A big thanks to the Wikimedia Foundation for supporting this research! We hope to continue this work in the coming years, and if you'd like to get in touch about any aspect of it you can email the Project Manager James Taylor: jtaylor(_AT_)aucklandmuseum.com.

You can see also
Grants:Project/Wikipedia and the Aotearoa New Zealand History Curriculum and Grants:Project/Wikipedia and the Aotearoa New Zealand History Curriculum/Final Report