Wikimedia Education SAARC conference/Report

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Wikimedia Education SAARC
20-22 June 2019
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CIS-A2K is working with various universities and educational institutions to develop content in Wikimedia projects. One such institutional partner, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru has taken the initiative to organise Wikimedia Education SAARC conference in association with CIS-A2K and Wikipedia & Education User Group. The conference was held between 20 to 22 June 2019 in Christ University, Bengaluru. Total of 49 Wikimedians from four countries participated in this conference. These include one member from Sri Lanka, four members from Nepal, seven members from Bangladesh and 37 members from India. In all 14 language communities were represented.

The broad objectives of the conference were - to know the nature of education programs being conducted, to share the best practices, discuss the challenges like retention and quality, explore the methodologies to evaluate & measure the work being done and also enhancing the community involvement in the education programs.

The applications for participation and thematic submissions were invited from Wikimedians of SAARC countries. The selection committee comprised of representatives from Wikimedia Foundation and community conducted the scrutiny. The scholarships were provided to 49 selected participants. In all 12 submissions on diverse topics were received from different language communities. Wikimedia Foundation’s Partnerships & Global reach team member Praveen Das, Trust & Safety team member Neha Nair and advisor for this conference Tanveer Hasan were also present for some of the sessions during the conference.

The following report gives a summary of all the deliberations at the conference.

20 June 2019

The inaugural session was graced by Chief guest Dr Ramesh Sharma, an expert in open education and Associate Professor of Instructional Design at Ambedkar University Delhi along with Dr Anil Pinto Registrar of CHRIST (Deemed to be University), who was instrumental in launching an Wikipedia in education for the students. The other persons on the dais were Tito Dutta, Program Manager CIS-A2K, Dr Mallika Krishnaswami, Dr John Joseph Kennedy, and Dr Sebastian K A.

In this session the speakers stressed upon the advancement of language, to adopt latest knowledge sharing technologies, innovation in education programs and collaborations with multifaceted institutions to actualize new ideas. The journey of CHRIST (Deemed to be University) regarding the Wikimedia education program during the last six years was also elaborated.

The inaugural session was followed by a session on Code of Conduct and Friendly space policies by the Response Team of CIS-A2K. The objectives, diversity statement, general community guidelines, unacceptable behaviour and process of reporting described in CoC were discussed. To explain the motivation and hierarchy of Wikipedia in Education at Wikimedia movement the following sessions were conducted during the conference.

In the keynote address, Dr Ramesh Sharma revealed many facets of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of academic courses, science, mathematics, music, multimedia etc. He shared many experiences of working with Open Education Resource University (OERu) and appealed for future collaborations. He also deliberated upon some wider topics like Government education policies, licenses and quality improvement framework for OERs.

In a remote session with Nichole Saad, Senior Programme Manager (Wikipedia Education Program) from Wikimedia Foundation, she explained the rationale behind the Education in Wikimedia projects and the execution process.

Then the session on Wikipedia & Education User Group was about the global user group that supports the workaround Wikimedia and Education in various capacities. One of the Board members of user group, Krishna Chaitanya Velaga gave an introduction to the user group, its background, vision, and objectives. Later the functioning of the group was explained, it included the membership process and also the governance. The three focus areas of the group were explained in detail—community, resources, and outreach. Later, the participants were briefed on various ways in which they can get involved with the group. These included joining the newly formed working groups for each focus area, taking up membership, and also attending the monthly open meetings held by the group, and share their stories to the broader community. The session ended with a brief upon areas where community members could seek the support of the group, such as mentorship, securing resources, advocacy, etc.

The participants were introduced to each other through their work. Session on sharing of various programmes being conducted, it’s learning, challenges and way ahead were very informative and stimulating. The participants from different language communities explained the present status of the education programmes being conducted with institutions. The challenges like lack of initiative, the paucity of resources, trust in Wikipedia and consistency were discussed collectively. Taking this ahead, the new & innovative ideas not tried so far were put forth by the members. It was an interesting brainstorming session.

The last session of the day one was group work on the theme - ' कल आज और कल ' : Past Present Future. The participants were divided into 8 groups. Enthusiasm was very high during discussions on the past, present & future of education programmes with the community. The groups collectively worked on the poster presentations.

21 June 2019

The second day started with an interactive session on the topic - The interesting ways of Introducing Wikimedia projects (Wikidata, Wikisource etc) into classrooms. The participants shared their experiences with different entry point events other than Wikipedia. Many felt that Wikipedia is complicated to start with. The community also reacted strongly sometimes due to the quality of the articles. This discussion was followed by promoting planned growth process for bridging the gender gap.

The conference submissions on education projects were presented in two parallel tracks. According to interest, the members attended the various sessions. The highlights of the presentations are given below.

The session started off by asking participants about why they do an education program, and what else can we include as the goals for any EduWiki activity. Different approaches for achieving each of these goals, and how each of these goals affects the rest was discussed. This included a quick brainstorming on how communities should collaborate with the EduWiki activities so that it adds value to its goals. Eventually, the presenter along with the participants realized that retention of users should be prioritized over the other two goals to easily reach all the three goals. Caution points regarding assignments like copyvio, reliable references were also discussed. The scale of the activity and scoping student interest are also an important criterion.

In this session, challenges before Bangla Wikipedia were discussed. There is a need to collaborate with institutions and capacity building of editors to improve the quality of articles.

The formal approaches like giving compulsory tasks for students will not work in the Wikimedia movement. We can expect better outcomes by adopting non-formal methods like digital skills development and team building through collaborative work.

Proper awareness and detailed planning of resources are the key aspects of outreach programmes.

State government education department of Kerala has developed School Wiki with Wikimedians in Kerala. In all 15000 articles of schools have been created with their history, location details, alumni, maps, cultural activities, photos and creative works of students like stories, poems and paintings. The innovative project - Folk encyclopedia is also shaping up. The linkages with Malayalam Wikipedia are being established slowly. As the students are now aware of the Wiki environment, there are chances of getting good editors in future.

  • Wikipedia in School

The state government of Tamilnadu took the initiative to organise capacity building programme for teachers through the EDUSAT on a mass scale. This Wikipedia training started in 2016 and till now 40,000 teachers are trained. Due to this, teachers became active on Wikipedia.

Karavali Wikimedians user group is active in the coastal part of Southern Karnataka and Northern Kerala. It is focusing on the preservation of language & culture. They have started the first physical Wiki library with 650 books. Other innovative activities are ‘Karavali Wikimedians to Home’ and Text-Performance-Documentation and Reconstruction of rare Folk Performing art Sidda Vesha.

The coordinators of Wikiclub presented the activities conducted in the last two years. The focus is on capacity building of active students, leadership development, quality of content and retention. According to the scoping of students’ interest, various events were conducted like Edit-a-thons, Photowalks, Wikidata workshop, 1lib1ref session, Wikimedia Strategy Salon, Mini Media Wiki training, Thematic workshops etc. The user survey was also done to get the feedback of students.

The regular Wiki activities have resulted in active Students’ Association at Alva’s College. The major activities are publishing of wall magazine - Wiki Suddi : Mundu & newspaper - Wiki Samachaara, Wikicamp and internship by Dept of Journalism.

The coordinator presented the journey of six years programme at Christ. The process of engaging students from day one to the last day of the second semester was explained. The students learn digital skills, language typing, writing articles on the topic of interest and respective stream. From writing in the sandbox, they even progress up to documenting case study on research related to Wikipedia. The structure of monitoring & evaluation systems within the department was elaborated. The community engagement aspect was also discussed in detail. The challenges and the preparations for the next curve of Wikipedia in Education at Christ were presented.

In the last session of the day, groups presented their work through posters visualising ‘Past, Present & Future’ of the education programmes. The interaction and loud thinking provided many ideas to be taken further for implementation.

The second day ended with Cultural programme by Christ University students. The vibrant performances of music and dance were enjoyed by the participants.

22 June 2019

The day started with early morning ‘Bird Walk’ at the university campus with rich biodiversity. Seven enthusiasts joined this walk and captured images of 22 different species of birds which is documented on eBird portal.

The last day of the conference started with a remote presentation on OER by Wayne Mackintosh, PhD (Director OER Foundation, and UNESCO - ICDE Chair in OER). Wayne started with an overview of demand for education vis-a-vis the infrastructure available in the global south. The fundamentals of OERs, OER Foundation and OER University were elaborated. He stressed the need to start at least two OER courses by every Indian University. They can join the OERu network for free to host the courses. The credit system for various micro courses was explained through examples. He also discussed the WikiEducator programme and appealed Wikimedians to join this evolving community as all courses run using media-wiki software. Regulatory issues for universities to adopt OER courses are to be looked into in Indian context. Dr Ramesh Sharma assured to facilitate in this matter.

The next session, ‘Strategy in Wikimedia and Education’ by Pavan Santhosh intended to help participants understand the importance brewing Strategy and figuring out a Big dream in their programs. This session started with demystifying the word strategy. With examples from the Wikimedia movement that participants can relate, the presenter explained how can a Big dream help prioritizing activities and programs. Later in an interactive part of the session, participants came up with ideas to run a strategy process in their programs and communities.

Lively group activity - ‘Revolving cafe’ happened after the strategy session. The activity was planned around five themes - Program and Events Dashboard, Wikidata, Communication & Blogging, GLAM in Education and Support structures (WMF grants and CIS Requests page). As the groups were small, the participants utilised this opportunity to clear doubts through one to one dialogue. The session was mutually beneficial for group leaders as well as participants.

After the cafe activity, Wikimedia Education Staff member Sailesh Patnaik deliberated upon the outreach and communications aspects. He stressed on using social media effectively and give publicity to innovative activities through newsletters. He also explained about upcoming Greenhouse pilot.

The last session, ‘Wikisource in education’ was conducted by Jayanta Nath. He explained how Wikisource activity is complementary to the qualitative growth of Wikipedia. The basics of Wikisource like licenses and workflow were discussed in detail. Various ways to combine the education programme with Wikisource were explored in interaction.

The conference closing ceremony was meaningful with spontaneous feedback from the participants.

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