Wikipedia shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but rather a way to change the way students engage with their work says Phoebe Yu. A report on the Wiki Education Program from the Wikimania 2014 conference in London on that hotly debated issue!
Wikimania 2014 attendees gathered in a packed room at the Barbican Centre to hear just how educators and students engage with Wikipedia in their classrooms.
One of this year’s Wikimania themes revolves around the question of what is the future of education and open scholarship. The idea behind Wiki Education is to get learners and teachers around the world to engage with Wikipedia in an academic setting. They can do this by editing Wikipedia content or contributing to it.
At Middlesex University, for example, students are being trained to edit Wikipedia, using Cybersalon’s Stefan Lutschinger’s method of using collaborative writing to introduce new students to editing.
Toni Sant, Wikimedia UK Education Organiser, explains that the Wikimedia UK chapter reaches out to institutions to promote the use of Wikipedia as an educational resource and a tool for learning.
The program involves the academic community in various ways, with workshops, conferences and residencies, to name a few. The UK chapter also partners with expert-run organizations, like the Royal Geographic Society for the expert outreach programs.
They also provide support for students involved in Wiki Education.
Raya Sherbain is a student ambassador for the Wiki program at University College London. She first stumbled upon the idea of using Wikipedia as part of her university course when she read about a professor in California who instructed his students to fix the medical articles on Wikipedia.
As a student of information management for business, Raya thought that the Wiki program would fit well with her course. She then emailed her professor about integrating Wikipedia into the classroom.
“It’s a matter of moral responsibility,” she says. Raya believes Wikipedia is like an information ‘doctor’, wherein the ‘health’ of information should be checked.
Sant suggests that educators and students alike may benefit from Wikipedia in education and change the way students learn. Sant has observed that students have been constantly viewed as consumers rather than producers of knowledge.
“We now live in a time where, in many cultures, students have much to teach each other, as well as those who are there employed to teach them,” says Sant.
Rather than seeing Wikipedia as a problem, Sant believes that the students could produce and contribute to it instead. Raya also points out that having students write or edit for Wikipedia prepares them for work in the international arena.
“You get an audience, criticism from your work by an international audience. So you’re kind of pressured, which really prepares you for work in the international scene,” she says.
At Wikimania 2014, there are two different but complementary tracks to be discussed and explored. One is about the future of education – examining the use of Wikipedia or Wikimedia projects in educational institutions and policy in the future.
The second track is exploring the idea of open scholarship and open educational resources – whether there are measurable impacts in the community using tools that are already available and accessible to the public.
But for now, Raya and Sant are focusing on growing the student ambassador program in the UK.
In the long run, Sant hopes to embed Wikipedia in national educational policies for digital literacy.