By Lucy Crompton-Reid, Wikimedia UK Chief Executive
I was delighted to be part of planning and delivering Wikimedia UK’s Education Summit in partnership with Middlesex University in February and wanted to share some notes, insights and presentations from that event with a broader audience than the 45 or so students, educators, academics and Wikimedians that were able to attend in person. This is something of a long read so please feel free to dip in and out, to look at the tweets from the day and to explore the excellent slides produced by a range of speakers.
Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services and Assistant Principal for Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh, gave a rousing start to the summit, using her keynote speech to advocate for Wikimedians in Residence at universities. With digital capabilities now a key component in student employability, and driving innovation in the economy, Melissa’s argument was that higher education institutions can’t afford not to have a Wikimedian on their team! The work in Edinburgh has improved the quality and quantity of open knowledge, embedded information literacy skills in the curriculum and made it easier to develop authentic learning experiences for larger bodies of students. For Edinburgh undergraduates, the opportunity to edit Wikipedia means that they are part of a worldwide open source software project, which Melissa sees as a significant authentic learning opportunity. The work enables students to understand sources and copyright and also “leads into discussions about the privilege and geography of knowledge”, as well as questions about neutrality.
Melissa also spoke about gender inequality in science and technology, and the role that working with Wikimedia can play in tackling structural barriers for women working in academia, particularly in relation to Athena Swann initiatives. She noted that the kind of work a Wikimedian in Residence will do can deliver successful, measurable outcomes on gender equality; and added that she feels “academics are missing a trick if they are not factoring Wikipedia into public engagement and understanding”.
To close, Melissa touched on some of the challenges inherent in working with the Wikimedia community, and the need for a resident to help negotiate and navigate the challenges of editing Wikipedia as a structured group activity. As she put it, “Wikimedians will save you from Wikimedians.”
Melissa’s high-level overview of the university wide impact of and strategic case for a Wikimedian in Residence was complemented brilliantly by Stefan Lutschinger’s more practical but no less compelling keynote speech focused on his own approach to Wikipedia in the curriculum. Stefan is Associate Lecturer in Digital Publishing at Middlesex University with whom Wikimedia UK worked closely in planning the event. He gave a detailed account of how the module he has developed and run for three years – with input from volunteers Ed Hands and Fabian Tompsett – is building digital literacy and confidence amongst his students and enhancing academic practice. He also touched upon Wikidata, as a resource that enables undergraduates to “understand the architecture, the anatomy, of data”, and ended his speech by sharing his ambition to make editing Wikipedia a mandatory part of the curriculum for first year students at Middlesex.
Following these excellent speeches the summit broke into three workshop spaces, with the volunteer Nav Evans and Wikimedian in Residence at Edinburgh University, Ewan McAndrew, running a practical workshop on Wikidata; Wikimedia UK’s Richard Nevell and Hephzibah Israel, Lecturer in Translation Studies at Edinburgh, giving a presentation on Wikipedia in the Classroom and the use of the Outreach Dashboard; and an unconference space facilitated by Andy Mabbett. I attended the latter and participated in a wide-ranging discussion with a group of established Wikimedians and one or two people from the university sector, which explored instructional design and materials for developing editing skills, the challenges of adapting resources for different learning styles and the need to be explicit about the benefit of editing in terms of research and analytical skills, plus next steps and potential partners for the UK Chapter.
After the morning workshops we moved into Lightning Talks, with Fabian Tompsett kicking us off by talking about his residency at the May Day Room. In particular he highlighted the potential offered by Wikisource. This is sometimes seen as a repository for older materials but we should be encouraging more academics to upload their materials and papers.
It was fantastic to have a number of presentations from Stefan’s students, including Behlul, Adrianna and Lauryna, who talked about their experiences of working on Wikimedia as part of their Media Studies course. Behlul shared the creation of a pirate pad to edit articles as a group, and noted that he now views Wikimedia as a platform for different learning opportunities rather than just somewhere to gain information. Adrianna focused on Fake news vs Wikipedia and was “fascinated by what a reliable source of information Wikipedia actually turns out to be…contributions can be traced and authors are accountable. Tens of thousands of Wikipedia editors act as watch dogs”. She also quoted the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director, Katherine Maher, who describes the projects as a “public park for knowledge.”
Educator and Wikimedian Charles Matthews gave a presentation on a new online learning resource that he is currently developing, with input from Wikimedia UK trustee Doug Taylor, based on the idea of questions as data. He is interested in annotation, collaboration and translation of educational materials, with robust metadata that tells you more about the resource such as to what extent it has been tested in the classroom and how has it been used successfully. To make this project work will require a big database of questions that Charles and Doug are hoping to crowd source, with the aim of having a link to relevant questions from the sidebar on any given Wikipedia article.
Clem Rutter also highlighted the potential to make better use of existing technologies to support the use of Wikimedia as a tool for teaching and learning. He gave a short introduction to his Portal for Learning, which draws on his substantial experience as a secondary school teacher and his existing links and relationships with the formal education community.
Ewan McAndrew gave an energetic and comprehensive account of his work at Edinburgh University, focusing on the successful introduction of Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments in a number of departments. He sees Wikipedia as a powerful tool for educators and not something that has to be additional to their practice and described the work of Translation Studies MA students contributing in one language and translating into a different language using the content translation tool, noting how allowing students to take ownership of this work was a critical motivating factor. He also shared outcomes from the World Christianity course, in which students edited Wikipedia to present a more holistic, broader worldview of Christianity, which otherwise tends to be written about with a western bias.
Ewan is very pleased that 65% of event attendees have been women, a key target audience for his events given the gender gap highlighted by Melissa earlier in the day. He feels that “we need to demystify Wikipedia and make it accessible, share good practice and not reinvent the wheel” when working across universities. With this in mind Ewan is in the process of creating and sharing resources, videos and lesson plans for educators.
Judith Scammell closed the lightning talks by giving her perspective as a librarian based at St George’s University in London. She is in the early stages of getting staff and students to use Wikipedia but feels that it is ideal for building the 21st century learning skills of enquiry, creativity, participation and digital Literacy. Judith has been inspired by fellow librarian Natalie Lafferty, based at Dundee university, who is involving technology in learning and shares her insights through her blog e-LiME.
Following lunch and networking, the attendees of the summit again broke into three workshop sessions, with another unconference space, a presentation by Dr Martin Poulter and Liz McCarthy on working together on a Wikimedian in Residence programme at Bodleian Libraries and now across the University of Oxford, and Josie Taylor and Lorna Campbell leading a session on curating Wikimedia’s educational resources. I very much enjoyed hearing from Wikimedian in Resident Martin and Liz – Web and Digital Media Manager at Bodleian Libraries – about the success of the residency in terms of correcting bias. In his initial residency, Martin focused on sharing the 8000 files that he felt were of most interest and that represented hidden histories, with these now having had nearly 50 million page views. In the new phase of the residency he is working across the whole university, building relationships at an early stage with a dozen big research projects to build in openness from the start, and linking research outputs and educational materials. They are now thinking more about interdisciplinary practice and feel there is potential benefit for every department of the university, with Liz commenting that hosting a Wikimedian in Residence is “an obvious path on the way to public engagement”.
Finally, we gathered together at the end of the day in a plenary discussion to share key points from each session, and to start thinking about future developments. Martin Poulter encouraged everyone to take the next step in implementing any new ideas that have emerged from the summit, and Nav Evans encouraged people to create their own Histropedia timeline. I hope that everyone who attended was able to take away at least one thing that they can do at an individual level and that those in positions of influence are thinking about how they can create change at an institutional level. For Wikimedia UK, some key action points emerged, including the need to:
- Develop and share our thinking in terms of education, particularly how we prioritise this work and what support we can offer teachers and learners
Support existing Wikimedia education projects and nurture new ideas.
- Build on the work that’s been started in terms of curating and creating resources and redeveloping the education pages on the Wikimedia UK site.
- Continue to provide opportunities for people working within education and Wikimedia to come together virtually and in person to share practice.
- Share models of good practice, case studies and learning.
If you’re interested in how Wikimedia can play in role in education and support learners to contribute to the Wikimedia projects, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.