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Wikipedia Trainers

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Wikipedia Trainers: online course "Wikipedia in internet cafés for older people"

About the course[edit]

The idea behind[edit]

Internet use of people between 55 and 74 years of age in Europe (Source: Eurostats)

On 9 June 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation started a "Wikipedia trainers" qualification program to train senior citizens of the 50-plus age group. The future Wikipedia trainers will be qualified to run their own Wikipedia workshops for older people in internet cafés. The long-term goal is to raise contributions from older people, who are still underrepresented in the Wikimedia Foundation's projects.

The qualification program will last six weeks. During the first phase, participants will learn the basics of how to edit Wikipedia articles. In the second phase, participants will work collaboratively to develop a concept for Wikipedia courses for senior citizens. Subsequently, the participants should be able to act as Wikipedia evangelists and motivate other people of their age to contribute to Wikipedia.

The qualification program is part of the Foundation's attempt to encourage contributions from targeted underrepresented groups.

The people behind[edit]

  • Frank Schulenburg is the Wikimedia Foundation's public outreach coordinator. Among his tasks is to encourage contributions from targeted underrepresented groups like older people. He first contributed to Wikipedia in 2005 and joined the Foundation in mid-March 2008.
  • Alice Wiegand contributes to the German-language Wikipedia since November 2004 and has joined the board of Wikimedia Deutschland in June 2008.
  • Christian Carls is a social pedagogist working for the "Diakonisches Werk Rheinland", the social service arm of the Protestant church in the Rhineland, Germany. Between 2003 and 2005 he was one of the driving forces behind the project "Internet cafés for older people".
  • Stefan Zollondz is living in Bielefeld, Germany, where he established in 1999 the first training classroom for "best agers". He is an experienced coach for personality development and offers courses for stress management and work-life-balance.

The technical environment[edit]

The course takes place on the Moodle platform of the "Forum Seniorenarbeit", run by the "Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe" and funded by the Ministry for Generations, Family, Women, and Integration of North Rhine-Westphalia. Moodle is a free software e-learning platform designed to help educators create online courses with opportunities for rich interaction.

Opening of the course[edit]

Participants of the online course

The goal of the opening session was to get to know each other and to give the participants a short introduction to Wikipedia and the Moodle learning platform.

Time Topic Instructor / speaker
10.00 – 11.00am Lecture "Wikipedia – a look behind the scenes" Frank
11.00am – 0.00pm Reporter game (group work) Participants
0.00 – 0.30pm Coffee break
0.30 – 1.30pm Workshop A: introduction to Moodle Christian, Stefan
Workshop B: working with Wikipedia Alice, Frank
1.30 – 2.30pm Workshop C: introduction to Moodle Christian, Stefan
Workshop D: working with Wikipedia Alice, Frank
2.30 – 3.00pm Roundup
The lecture "Wikipedia – a look behind the scenes"
The lecture

Instead of showing a number of powerpoint slides (what tends to be boring) the introductory lecture was more or less a dialogue between the speaker and the participants. The participants had been invited to ask questions at every time. In general, participants of these kind of lectures tend to ask always the same questions. Thereby you will be able to easily answer them if you have some experience in holding Wikipedia introductory lectures.

The most common questions are:

  • How comes that Wikipedia doesn't contain nonsense if everyone (logged in or not) is allowed to edit pages? (Answer: → Demonstrate the concept of recent changes patrol and watchlists. To show people the recent changes is a good starting point as people normally are very impressed by the huge number of changes that take place within a short amount of time. Explain the history pages ("nothing gets lost") and the "compare selected versions"-feature. Usually, people are very impressed by examples that show how articles evolved over time (our prime example is the article "Nordsee" (engl. North sea), one of the oldest articles in the German-language Wikipedia. Compare the first version with the current one.)
  • Who is responsible for the topic XYZ? (Answer: There is no formal responsibility. People work in informal workgroups. These workgroups feel responsible for a certain topic → Talk about the community and your own experiences to make the lecture more lively. In general the audience loves to hear stories and is impressed by examples of people who devote much of their time to Wikipedia as volunteers)
  • What about bad quality articles? (Answer: Not all articles are on the same quality level. To use Wikipedia as a reader requires a above-average level of media literacy → Be open. Don't defend Wikipedia too narrow-minded. Bad articles exist. Show people how to differentiate between good and bad articles. Example: Schottische Faltohrkatze (one of worst articles on cats in the German-language Wikipedia: bad introduction, text incomprehensible, no sources) vs. Abessinierkatze (the only featured article on a cat breed in the German-language Wikipedia). Explain the differences between these two. This is a good occasion to show the audience how featured articles evolve and to present the review system and featured article candidatures)
The reporter game
People at the reporter game

The reporter game is intended to get the participants to know each other better. We formed small groups and asked the participants to interview each other about their life, their hobbies etc. Afterwards each participant had to present his interview partner on the Moodle learning platform. → Please have in mind that the participants have to work online for a certain number of weeks. Don't forget the social component. The collaboration on Moodle will be much more lively when people know each other.


The photos of the opening on Wikimedia Commons give a nice impression of the day at Düsseldorf.

Lessons learnt[edit]

What the participants learned

During the first week the participants learned how to

  • create a new page
  • handle the Wiki markup
  • use a signature

Their task was to design their own user page and to sign the list of participants of the online course (subpage of the new page for people of the 50-plus age group on the German Wikipedia).

What we learned
Das kleine Wikipedia-Einmaleins
Das kleine Wikipedia-Einmaleins

Even if some of us were long-time Wikipedia contributors we learned a lot about Wikipedia:

  • the longer Wikipedians contribute to Wikipedia the more they forget that Wikipedia is a very complex system. Newcomers are overwhelmed by this complexity and often don't know where to start.
  • Wikipedia's help pages are confusing. The printed brochure "Das kleine Wikipedia-Einmaleins" we distributed at the opening (see the picture on the right hand; click on the picture to download the PDF) was much more useful as older people prefer printed material to online material.

Other things we learned:

  • most of the participants are experienced internet users. Those who have their own blogs were used to upload pictures. "How do I upload pictures" was one of the most common questions the participants asked.
  • the participants created their user accounts during the workshops at Düsseldorf and signed the list of participants (see above) within the first week of the online course. Due to this time gap we had for a couple of days no idea what account name they had chosen and if they started to contribute to Wikipedia. Next time, the participants should be asked to sign the list of participants already during the opening. This makes it easier for the trainers to react if problems occur on Wikipedia.

See also[edit]


Media coverage
  • Linktipps im Juli (Ursula Fritzle), in: LernCafe – Online-Journal zur allgemeinen Weiterbildung