Wikimedia for schools workshop

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This page is kept as an archival reference.
If you want to raise a point about it, please start a discussion thread on the community forum.

This page relates to work done in 2012.

This is a basic draft, not yet the product of consensus.

If you are looking for information about Wikimedia UK's work with schools, see education projects.

This is a syllabus for a training workshop that Wikimedians could deliver for teachers, learning designers and other staff, to introduce the various ways Wikimedia resources can help them in their work. It does not assume any prior knowledge of Wikimedia.

Objectives: participants will learn the principal facts about Wikipedia and Wikimedia, the breadth of ways they can be used educationally, and shall devise an outline of an activity for their subject.


  • No experience of contributing to Wikimedia projects is assumed.
  • Participants only need basic IT literacy; e.g. ability to use a web browser.
  • Ideally, this workshop could be run in a room where everyone has access to networked computers. Depending on how the programme is adapted, however, it could be run with just a presentation computer.


  • Overview (see #Goals of Wikipedia activity below)
  • Basic facts and figures about Wikipedia and Wikimedia, including the Five Pillars and how vandalism gets reverted.
  • Quality on Wikipedia: study of the evolution of an article, including how to view and interpret an article history.
  • Activity: locating quality content (Featured Articles, Good Articles and Featured Media) in a subject of interest
  • Activity: looking into article history to comparing current and old versions of an article (see #Article history below
  • Discussion: how could the development and review of Wikipedia articles be discussed in the classroom?
  • Potentially unsafe or unsuitable content on Wikipedia and Wikimedia.
  • Activity: Wikipedia in your subject (see #The Wikipedia school below)
  • Activity: Wikipedia outside the classroom (see #The Wikipedia day trip below)
  • Other possible activities:
    • Logging in to Wikipedia and creating a user profile with links to articles, policies and media of interest
    • Creating a Wikipedia Book with selected quality content, using the Book Tool

Learner resources

Attendees at the session should be pointed towards these resources:

Trainer resources

These resources may be useful to the Wikimedia UK volunteer in running the workshop:


Goals of Wikipedia

  • Divide the room in two, and separate the two groups widely, ideally in separate rooms.
  • Both groups have the task of coming up with a list of short responses. These should be written legibly on sheets of paper then which are stuck to a wall/board (post-it note might be too small to be legible in this context). Each group should use a different colour paper, or colour pen, so when their answers are brought together it's apparent at a glance which group they came from.
  • Each group could be split into pairs or trios, each of which uses the time to come up with three answers. Report from each group and gather similar answers together.
Most people's workplaces don't look like this any more: what are the implications for learning?
  • For one group, the question is, "What are the distinctive skills people need for work in the 21st Century?"
    • You can introduce this by showing an image of a factory or mill: the 19th Century workplace, and asking them to focus on how the modern world differs from that image.
  • For other group, the question is, "What skills do people need to write, edit and illustrate an online encyclopedia for the world?"
    • You might prompt this by bringing up a Wikipedia article on the projector, but it might work better to talk about "an online encyclopedia" in the abstract, without mentioning Wikipedia.
  • Monitor the discussions and steer them away from actual subjects. If they give answers such as "sciences, arts, humanities..." emphasise that the question is about skills needed.
  • Hopefully, both groups will come up with suggestions such as:
Thinking, planning, reasoning IT Skills: word processing Critical thinking
Information skills: interpreting, assessing Information skills: digesting, reporting Creative/ original thinking
Writing accessibly Attention to detail: reviewing and improving Research skills
Working in a global environment: collaborating with people from different cultures, time zones, languages
  • The two groups reassemble in front of one board. All the sheets of paper are put along the top and bottom of the board.
  • Everybody looks for - and can point out - examples where the two groups have come up with essentially the same idea. When this happens, the two slips of paper are moved to the middle of the board.
  • Ideas that were offered only by the "modern workplace" group move to the left-hand edge of the board. Ideas that were offered only by the "online encyclopedia" group move to the right-hand edge.
  • Looking at the pattern of ideas that emerges, elicit reflections. Did the participants anticipate how much overlap there would be? Do they see Wikipedia's role as relevant to the challenges they face as teachers? Did they see that relevance before?

Article history

  • The participants have just had some time to locate quality material (Good Articles or Featured Articles) in a subject of interest, and have been shown a few ways to do this. In this exercise, they concentrate on one such article.
  • Get them to view the article history. Spend some time explaining what this represents, as this can be baffling for newcomers. Explain that "diff" is short for "difference", "curr" for "current" and "prev" for "previous".
  • Look at a single diff and how the additions and removals are represented visually.
  • Explain why some diffs are marked with an "m" for "minor". Can they find such a diff in their history. What sort of edit is it?
  • Explain why some diffs are marked with a "b" for "bot". Again, can they find examples in the history of these sorts of edit? What do they tend to be? Some diffs will be hard for newcomers to interpret because of template markup. Don't explain templates in detail at this level: ask participants to judge what the point of an edit might be.
  • Use the article Talk page (ideally in a separate browser tab) to find the date and time when an article was submitted for Good Article candidacy, and the date and time when it was promoted to Good Article.
    • This is potentially complicated and needs some time and individual feedback. Normally, Article Milestones will be near the top of the Talk page, with a link to the GA Review.
  • In the Revision History tab, locate the versions corresponding to these two dates/times, and use the radio buttons to view a diff between those two versions.
    • It may be necessary to view a large number of revisions at once, and/or click "older" to view past revisions.
  • Review that participants know how to view 1) the version before review, 2) the version after review, and 3) a summary of differences between them.
  • Recap that this technique could be used to view the changes to an article during a review process, changes during a group educational project, or a set of successive changes made by one user.

The Wikipedia school

  • On the whiteboard, make a schematic drawing of departments in a school. This could be just words in boxes, or you could be more artistic and make them look like buildings. Start with half a dozen boxes labelled "C&IT", "Modern Languages", "Religious studies" and your own suggestions, plus half a dozen other boxes that are blank.
  • Ask the participants to suggest labels for the blank boxes: what departments do they have in their schools?
  • Present them with the question (put it on a slide/ flip chart as well as reading it) "In which departments could pupils benefit from seeing how Wikipedia is written?" Stress that this is a different question from "What can you learn about by reading Wikipedia?"
  • An obvious answer is Information Technology/ C&IT/ whatever it's called. Tick that box as soon as it's mentioned.
  • For other connections, throw out prompts such as "Wikipedia is multilingual". Tick off the different departments as you find connections to Wikipedia. Here are some suggested connections:
Subject Suggested classroom discussion
Modern languages Compare different Wikipedias, or articles in different language versions. Can you find articles that are long and detailed in the other language, but short or scant in English? Are the different language versions translations of the same content, or are they separate creations?
Religious studies Some language versions of Wikipedia's Muhammad article are illustrated with depictions of the Prophet: others aren't. (Be warned that the English version does contain classical depictions. The Arabic version does not.) Why is this? Should Wikipedia authors use depictions of the Prophet to illustrate the articles?
Humanities / general studies Wikipedia is free and is part of Creative Commons. Wikimedia can only use material where there are appropriate rights. This is a way to introduce concepts of law, ownership, rights, and public benefit versus private benefit. Why does the law restrict the use of certain images and text to certain people? Why would people do things that benefit people they will never meet? Would you use Wikipedia differently if you had to pay to see each article?
Citizenship Wikipedia has processes to undo vandalism or damage. What should count as vandalism? What should happen to people who vandalise? If you ran Wikipedia, how would you discourage vandalism in the first place? Should there be a democratic vote to decide which contributions to remove, and who to ban? (NB don't disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point)
Mathematics Find a simple example of an equation, formula or numerical example: what alternative way of writing that equation or formula would be equivalent? What different numerical example would make the same point? For example, look at the equations and approximations in the article on the Rule of 72. Could the Wikipedia authors have written them in a different way? Would it help to rearrange the equations?
Art and Design Images on Wikimedia are ideally expected to have aesthetic, technical and educational merit. What do these things mean in practice? If a photograph "lacks technical merit", what might be wrong with it? Look at the Featured Media of the Day on Commons, or the Picture of the Day on Wikipedia: why did the Wikimedia contributors select those images above others? Import a Commons image into image editing software: can you make it more readable, more interesting to look at? Can you combine multiple images to show something new?
  • Elicit more of these suggestions and note them down, perhaps to develop further in a separate exercise. If you find some really good examples, edit the above table to include them.
    • Critical thinking is a topic that applies across all the departments and which deserves a mention in itself.
  • Hopefully through discussion you can identify connections with the majority of the departments in your list.

The Wikipedia day trip

  • Collect ideas for "destinations for school trips/ days out". Write up at the front a list of locations, which might be places people have been or would like to go. These will be things like "a museum", "a historic town", "a zoo", "a stately home", "a city farm" or "a coastal path".
  • Divide participants into pairs and allocate each pair a location.
  • Each pair has to make their suggestion specific. If they've been given "a museum", think of a named museum they might visit. If it's "the coast", think of a specific coastal site.
  • Each pair has to answer:
    • What is there to look at in that place? In a nature reserve: plants, butterflies, birds. In a stately home: paintings of a historical figure, pieces of armour, servants' quarters. At a beach: shells, landmarks, the Sun's reflection on the water.
    • What could you use to expand pupils' involvement in this trip, either in advance or afterwards?
      • Put up a slide reminding the room of the types of resource there are across Wikimedia: articles, maps, portraits, photographs, quotations, species facts, lists, timelines and so on.
    • What could pupils put into Wikimedia as a result of their visit? E.g. take a photograph and upload it to Commons; take a measurement of a geographical feature and add it to a Wikipedia article.
      • Show photographs from a similar educational project as a prompt.
  • Get each pair to feed back the idea they have developed. If a pair is stuck on a difficult example, throw it open to the group and get suggestions.
  • Back in pairs, they go online and work on developing their idea into an outline of a "treasure hunt" activity. In a document, they assemble a list things that pupils should look out for on the trip, with associated facts, questions, quotations or images drawn from Wikimedia projects.
  • If possible, get them to email the draft to themselves, as a prompt to develop it after the workshop.

See also