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Preparing for the Wikimedia Serbia EduWiki Conference


Wikimedia Serbia (WMRS) is organising an EduWiki Conference which will be held in Belgrade on Monday 24 March 2013. A Learning Day, a meeting between members of the WMRS education project and Wikimedians from other chapters will also take place on Sunday 23 March, the day before the conference.

Brian Kelly will attend the conference and the learning day and will report on educational developments taking place in the UK. In this guest blog post Brian describes his involvement with Wikimedia, how it relates to his work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, University of Bolton and his suggestions for enhancing the work of Wikimedia UK. Brian also invites feedback on related educational use of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia services taking place within the UK.


Background

About Myself

In December 1992 I saw a demonstration of the World Wide Web for the first time. Convinced of its importance, in January 1993 myself and colleagues at the University of Leeds set up a Web server for the University, the first institutional Web service in the UK. At that time Gopher was growing in popularity as a freely available tool which could be used for providing information services and its simplicity helped its appeal. However I felt that the Web, even at a time before inline images were available, had the potential to be of strategic importance to higher education and delivered a series of talks and seminars about the Web across the UK.

In 1996 I began work in a new post as UK Web Focus, an advisory role based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information management located at the University of Bath. That position enabled me to continue in my advocacy work, promoting the benefits of the Web for the higher and further education sectors. After over 16 years in UKOLN in November 2013 I began work at Cetis, the Centre of Education Technology, Innovation and Standards based at the University of Bolton. As Innovation Advocate at Cetis I will be continuing my work in promoting the benefits of innovative technologies and practices. An area of particular importance is open education and open educational practices (OEP). This is an area in which I feel that Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects will have a role to play.

About My Involvement with Wikipedia

I created my Wikipedia account in 2004 and on 14 February 2004 I created my first Wikipedia article, on Rapper sword, an interest of mine. By 28 February the page had developed to include images and a map as well as additional content. The simplicity of content creation and the way in which crowd-sourcing could help to improve the quality of articles gave me an appreciation of the value which Wikipedia could play in supporting my education interests. However at that time Wikipedia was not felt to be an appropriate resource for use in higher education and so for the rest of the decade I had only limited involvement in content creation, although, like many others, I continued to read Wikipedia articles.

By 2013, however, I decided to become more actively involved in content creation and related Wikimedia activities. I attended the Queen Victoria’s Journals Editathon in May 2013 and in July 2013 returned to the University of Oxford to support the European young researchers network Wikipedia workshop. Having gained experience on how Wikipedia edit-a-thon events are organised, I submitted a proposal for a Wikipedia Editing session at the SpotOn 2013 conference for science researchers and communicators. This workshop was held in September 2013. The feedback I received motivated me to engage more with Wikimedia UK and in promoting the benefits of Wikipedia in higher education.

In addition to taking part on Wikipedia editing events over the past year I also joined Wikimedia UK and attended a number of other Wikimedia events which I will describe at the Wikimedia Serbia EduWiki conference and Learning Day event. My reflections on these events are given below

The EduWiki UK Conference 2013

Storify summary of the Eduwiki conferenceI have already published a post which gave my Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference which took place in Cardiff on 1-2 November 2013. The post highlighted a number of aspects of the conference of particular interest to me including Welsh and other minority language Wikipedia sites and ways in which higher educational institutions are making use of Wikipedia.

I’ll not repeat my observations on the conference in this post. Instead I’ll make an observation on the benefits which can be gained in encouraging use of Twitter during such events in order to have a record of observations related to the talks which were made during the conference, links to resources which were shared, the discussions which took place and the way in which Twitter enabled those with interests in Wikipedia to develop their connections with others with similar interests.

I created Storify summaries of the Twitter posts published on the first day and second day of the conference and Martin Poulter, a speaker at the conference did likewise, publishing his summaries of the first day and second day.

As can be seen from the accompanying screen shot of the archive of the tweets from day 2 of the EduWiki conference, Twitter can be used by participants to share the actions they have decided to take as a result of participation at the event. The tweet from @KatieFisher32:

Thanks to @wikimedia for a great #EduWiki conference. Even more motivated to start a monthly Wiki Wednesday met up on our #Lampeter campus

provides a good example of evidence of an action which appears to have been motivated by attendance at the conference which would not have been known about if it hadn’t been shared on Twitter.

In conclusion, I feel that just as the quality of Wikipedia articles is enhanced by the crowd-sourcing of contributions, the experiences gained in conferences can be enhanced by what is sometimes referred to as ‘amplified conference‘; a term coined to describe use of networked technologies to amplify discussions which take place at conferences and to enable participants who may not be physically present to join in the discussions. In particular online discussions which make use of Twitter can provide ‘real-time peer-reviewing at conferences‘ and facilitate the sharing of ideas raised at conferences.

I’m pleased that such approaches were also used at the Anybody but Burns edit-a-thon which took place at the National Library of Scotland on Burn’s night on 25 January 2014. Incidentally the term amplified conference has been coined to describe use of networked technologies to amplify discussions which take place at conferences and to enable participants who may not be physically present to join in the discussions.

Use of Wikipedia in the UK Higher Education Sector

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

When I first started making use of Wikipedia it was felt by many that its use was inappropriate in a higher education context: authoritative content should be created by experts in a highly managed environment rather than crowd-sourced in what appeared to be an unmanaged environment. However this perception is now changing. The value of Wikipedia in higher education can be gauged from the funding provided by Jisc (the Joint Information Systems Committee) for a Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador. As described in the initial call for submissions for this post:

The purpose of the training is to disseminate skills and knowledge leading to improved coverage and accuracy of articles relating to information produced by Jisc funded programmes presented on Wikimedia projects. The purpose of the coordination project is to promote open knowledge and to increase the uptake and use of Wikimedia tools for the dissemination of academic knowledge and content.

A post on the Jisc Digitisation blog highlighted some of the challenges which the post-holder will face:

In academic circles there has been considerable debate about the use of Wikipedia by students when they are preparing essays. Clearly there is an issue with students seeing it as a place to get easy information, rather than as a starting point for enquiry. The project will examine if, by becoming more involved in contributing to articles, academics can improve information students first encounter, making sure that it draws on the most up to-date-knowledge. Equally, if educators start to use Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in their own work, they may be able to encourage more informed use amongst their students .

Martin Poulter, who was appointed as the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador, has provided a summary of the Jisc Ambassador activities. In addition to this resource hosted by Wikimedia UK, a blog about the work of the Jisc Wikimedian Ambassador is also available.

Other Activities in the UK Higher Education Sector

The collaboration between Wikimedia UK and the Jisc demonstrates a leadership role in encouraging more active participation in Wikipedia in higher education. In addition we are now starting to see Wikipedia activities being funded within higher educational institutions themselves.

On 28 January 2014 Robin Owain, Wikimedia UK’s Wales Manager, announced that Coleg Cymraeg was to employ Wikipedian in Residence. The article went on to describe how “This is one of the first full time Wikimedians in Residence who will be employed by a university“.

Might this lead to further Wikipedia in Residence posts being funded? On 5 February 2014 the WikiMedia UK blog announced that We’re looking for Wikimedian in Residence projects! I hope to be able to report on developments at the Wikimedia Serbia EduWiki Conference and Learning Day in March.

Training the Wikipedia Trainer

But if we are seeing greater interest in hosting Wikipedia edit-a-thon sessions and related events, how is the Wikimedia UK community ensuring that those who organise such events and deliver training in use of Wikipedia are delivering effectives forms of training, which is relevant to the learning styles of the participants? Wikimedia UK are providing Training for the Trainer events. A session was held in Cardiff on 1-2 February 2014 which had the aims of ensuring that Wikipedia users with interests in training others trainers were able to:

  • Get accredited and receive detailed feedback about your presenting and training skills
  • Get general trainer skills which could be applied when delivering specific Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons workshops etc.
  • Share skills with others
  • Develop the ability to help design a training programme that serves Wikimedia UK in the long term

By the end of the course the participants should be able to:

  • Set training objectives and structure a session with appropriate material to meet those objectives
  • Present information clearly to different audiences and use visual aids effectively
  • Identify ways to make the sessions interactive and participative and deal with questions

I attended this workshop. I felt it did achieve its goals and, in addition, helped to develop links with others with interests in running Wikipedia sessions.

Looking into the Future

So far I have reflected on educational activities which have taken place in the UK which I am familiar with. But what else is taking place this year?

Interests from the Library Sector

Back in April 2012 as part of a series of guest blog posts on the UK Web Focus blog which described how the UK higher education sector is engaging with various aspects of openness Simon Bains, the Head of Research and Learning Support and Deputy Librarian, The John Rylands University Library at University of Manchester, described how the university library is engaging with Wikipedia. His post on Librarians meet Wikipedians: collaboration not competition! which provided information on how Wikimedia UK are looking to encourage take-up of Wikimedia within the higher education sector, including participation from librarians. The post concluded:

Of course there are concerns about Wikipedia: it may not be reliable; it can be used as an easy substitute for comprehensive research and study; it can be difficult to change erroneous content, etc. But to ignore it or dissuade students from its use reminds me of the approach that was sometimes taken in the face of the rapid rise of Google in the late 1990s. It is a battle we are unlikely to win, and so much more could be achieved by working with, not against, the new information providers, especially when so much of what we are about has synergy: open access, collaboration, no profit motive, etc.

The importance of engaging academic librarians in the creation and maintenance of Wikipedia articles has been recognised by the organisers of the annual LILAC conference on information literacy. This year’s event, LILAC 2014, which will take place in Sheffield on 23-25 April 2014. The conference includes an hour-long session on Getting to grips with Wikipedia: a practical session which will be followed by an afternoon which will be spent on Improving the Information Literacy entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s first edit-a-thon!.

WikiMania 2014

The Wikimania London 2014 event takes place on 6-10 August 2014. The event Web site describes how:

Wikimania is a 4000 person conference, unconference, festival, meetup, workshop, hackathon, and party, spread over five days in August 2014, preceded and followed by fringe events. It’s the official annual event of the Wikimedia movement, where you’ll discover all kinds of projects that people are making with wikis and open content, as well as meet the community that produced the most famous wiki of all, Wikipedia!

A key theme of the event will consider the Future of Education. This includes the following areas:

Overcoming Friction: Changing the culture in education institutions from one in which students are advised against using Wikipedia to an environment in which “librarians and educators … teach students how they can use Wikipedia effectively“.

Knowledge is Produced, not Consumed: The goal here is that “instead of being passive receivers of information, students become the creators and curators of knowledge“.

Response to MOOCs?: The interest surrounding MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) which we have seen over the past 18 months can lead to opportunities for the Wikimedia community, through the Wikipedia Education Program to explore ways for encouraging the open-education/MOOC movement to incorporate contributions to Wikipedia within the learning-design of open-access courses.

Shiny tech?: Ironically the success of Wikipedia in crowd-sourcing the creation of a large amount of content (currently 4,453,006 articles have been created and there are 132,291 active registered users) can lead educationalists who are looking digital technologies community to fail to appreciate the value of Wikipedia in education.

… or new forms of practice: The Free and Open-Source Software movement helped in the development of an educational environment in which students no longer accepted the role of passive consumer of knowledge but took part in sharing intellectual property as a process which intertwined collective learning and collective innovation. Following the growth in popularity of content creation in Wikipedia as are finding that such new forms of educational practice are becoming mainstream.

The event seems very interesting. It should be noted that the call for submissions is currently open and proposals for presentations, panel talks, workshop sessions, tutorials or posters can be made up to 31 March.

What Else is Happening?

In this post I have summarised my involvement in Wikipedia and various educational activities which are taking place in the UK. But before I begin work on my presentation for the conference in Serbia I would love to hear about other Wikipedia activities which are taking place in the UK, particularly in the higher and further education sectors. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch .

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2 Responses to “Preparing for the Wikimedia Serbia EduWiki Conference”

  1. […] else is happening in the sector? I have to admit to a personal interest in this question as, as described on the Wikimedia UK blog, on 23 March I will be giving a talk at the EduWiki Serbia 2014 conference on educational use […]

  2. […] a post entitled Preparing for the Wikimedia Serbia EduWiki Conference published on this blog on 20 February Brian Kelly described how he would attend the Eduwiki Serbia […]

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