Wikipedia in Education summit March 2011 report

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This is a report by Cormac Lawler (User:Cormaggio on Wikimedia projects) on a 'Wikipedia in education' summit, which took place in Berlin from 9-10 March, 2011 (see ).

Overall report

Last week, I participated in a 'Wikipedia in education' summit. This event was organised by the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Germany, and aimed to get representatives of various European chapters to discuss educational initiatives that have been organised, or which could be organised in the future. I was kindly funded to attend by Wikimedia UK, and I tried as best as I could to give some feedback on what Wikimedia UK has been doing with relation to educational activities (I was briefed by Mike Peel before I went over).

A strong focus of the event was the Public Policy Initiative (PPI), and seeing what could be learned from this project. This project has had considerable success, engaging many university professors, staff, students and others, as well as developing high-quality content in Wikipedia. The PPI project will finish in September 2011, and there is now a desire to develop the programme in a global sense, building on its success, and exploring how it might be adapted to particular countries and contexts. (See )

There will be a Wikipedia in education summit in July bringing together a large number of people involved in the PPI project. There is also a possibility of a similar summit (to the one I attended) to be held in the UK, where the issues discussed in Berlin could be explored in a UK context.

The main questions I am left with are around how what was discussed fits with Wikimedia UK's education strategy:

  • What is Wikimedia UK's strategy on education-related projects? (What are WMUK's objectives?)
  • What possibilities exist for engaging university and school staff and students?
  • What kinds of projects would be appropriate?
  • How should education projects be run; would there be a role for staff (or contracted individuals), or should it be run by the board and volunteers?

I will add below my edited notes from the two days (the third day was focused on Wikimedia Germany and the Wikimedia Foundation - exploring issues and support). These are incomplete and there were several details that I missed; however, I hope they give a sense of what was discussed (and I will ask the other summit participants to edit these notes as they see fit). Some links may change - particularly those on the outreach wiki, which is undergoing work at the time of writing this report.


  1. Pavel Richter, Wikimedia Deutschland (morning of Wednesday 9th)
  2. Denis Barthel, Wikimedia Deutschland, Wikimedia Österreich
  3. Nicole Ebber, Wikimedia Deutschland (Thursday 10th)
  4. Elly Köpf, Wikimedia Deutschland
  5. Sebastian Schnettler, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  6. Cormac Lawler, Wikimedia UK
  7. Federico Leva, Wikimedia Italia
  8. Annie Lin, Wikimedia Foundation
  9. Rod Dunican, Wikimedia Foundation
  10. Frank Schulenburg, Wikimedia Foundation


Day 1

Initial introductions and thoughts

Pavel (from Wikimedia Germany) kicks off by saying if you want to make knowledge available, "universities are your natural allies". Says there has been a Wikipedia Academy in Germany every year since the first one in 2006 - these have been very successful. Feels that there should be a mutual learning relationship between Wikimedia chapters and Wikimedia foundation => therefore Public Policy project feeding into this summit.

Frank Schulenburg (WMF): "These two worlds belong to each other" (academia and wikimedia)

Annie Lin (WMF): wants to facilitate the teaching of wikipedia as a f2f activity

Sebastien Schnettler (Max Planck Institute): what can be done with making links with research organisations?

I say I'm here representing Wikimedia UK, and also that I've had a long-standing interest in Wikimedia projects and education. Will be feeding back to WM-UK board and community.

Denis Barthel and Nicole Ebber (WMDE) mention WMDE's "School project" ("Schulprojekt"), which teaches media literacy and Wikipedia, amongst other things. As well as feeding back to WMDE, Denis will be feeding back to Wikimedia Austria.

(Federico from Wikimedia Italia missed introductions - he arrived later. Rod Dunican (WMF) introduced himself, but I didn't take notes!)


Quick mention of Public Policy Initiative

  • Has been very successful, with lots of buy-in and support from US universities
  • Academics' perceptions of Wikipedia changed dramatically when WMF representatives started travelling to visit universities
  • Materials - developed/printed/produced by WMF (obviously, available for use/modification/translation)
    • 'starting to edit' sheets/brochures
    • syllabus for teachers
    • trainer handbooks
    • slideshow for campus ambassadors

Expanding PPI to Global University Programme

  • about to kick off in India and Brazil
  • does this make sense?
  • how can it be supported by WMF / chapters - what are the roles of various people/organisations?

What do we want from this summit

  • what are academics' experiences of wikipedia academies? what have they said about past or potential Wikimedia-based activities?
  • what are we expecting them to do what are realistic expectations?
  • different chapters' experiences and strategies
  • what projects etc have worked, what haven't (and why?)
  • how wikimedia projects work together, and how can they be a working space for academics and students?

Presentation from Frank

WMF Strategic goals:

  • Stabilise infrastructure (servers etc)
  • Increase participation
  • Improve quality - virtuous cycle of reach, quality, participation
  • Increase reach (e.g. Global south)
  • Encourage innovation

Frank is worried about the decline in new WP editors - there is evidence the community is stagnating or is in decline. (See, e.g.: )

Pavel thinks it's not about getting numbers of new editors - it's about the quality of people we invite to participate.

Discussion about diversity within the community, and bringing in different levels and types of expertise. Also, discussion about the various barriers to participation - the data Frank presents is probably not simply a case of all the "low-hanging fruit" being gone.

German chapter has the 'mentoring programme' - analogous to the PPI's Ambassador programme (I didn't get details)

Quality metrics on the bottom of Public Policy articles

Wikimedia UK

I gave brief feedback about Wikimedia UK

  • Frank wanted to know about Wikipedia Academies - is it about increasing numbers of editors, or is it about increasing quality (or both)?
  • What is the focus of the WP Academies, and how are they run?
  • I say there is a desire to launch an education programme - Franks thinks on the basis of what I'd said that it's about three things: quality, participation and media literacy
  • Rod - how many people are involved in Wikimedia educational activities in UK (within chapter or informally)? (Difficult to answer - circa 5-6? Mike Peel)
  • What is WMUK's educational budget? Is it as described on ? (Yes. Mike Peel)

Wikimedia Italy

Federico from Wikimedia Italy

  • All education-focused activity has been run by volunteers ; no dedicated staff
  • Have struggled with perceptions of Wikipedia amongst academics
  • Lombardy - connections with educators (and policy makers?) in the area
  • Encouraging teachers to upload teaching materials to WikiMedia (not just editing Wikipedia)
  • Teaching students to read Wikipedia critically
  • MediaWiki is considered by some educators to be too difficult to use
  • Some teachers wrote new book from scratch (Mathematics?) - used OpenOffice. Is this the best fit? Thinking how best to encourage people to write these books to make it better linked in with Wikimedia
  • Have been working with public libraries to educate the public about media literacy and Wikimedia
  • WM Italy have projects focused on libraries - have been approached from librarians in a particular area (I didn't catch where)

Wikimedia Germany

Denis Barthel and Nicole Ebber (Elly Koepf joined next day)

  • WMDE have workshops bringing together educators and Wikipedians - these workshops develop content for teaching and learning how to use/edit Wikipedia (this will go on Wikiversity eventually, but it's not felt to be good enough yet)
  • 3 or 4 workshops per year - this is part of teachers' professional development
  • Also projects that focus on media literacy for 14-19 yr old students (Schulprojekt)
  • Volunteer instructors - though they are volunteers, they are paid by the schools to run these classes

Public policy initiative

  • Started off with a research project ($20k grant)
  • Traveled around US to gauge interest - approaching top universities was useful as it had a snowballing effect (other universities getting involved on the strength of top universities already being involved)

Process for identifying potentially interested schools started with Wikipedia list of "public policy schools"

  • Then brought people in who were using WP in class to ask them what they were doing
  • Face to face contact with teachers, professors etc was key
  • Once major grant was secured, there began intensive work to build links with universities, and to develop materials and syllabi

Rod Dunican ran us through the training slides used to induct and train the people hired to work on the project

  • Did a lot of work on how to make decisions, team building etc
  • Found a decision log to be a useful tool.

  • Also, put Geonotice on Wikipedia - with aim of targeting students in particular universities that 'We are recruiting here'
  • There were robust selection criteria for recruiting both online and campus ambassadors (particularly the latter). Not all candidates were selected - many turned away - but tried to find ways of keeping interested people engaged.
  • Set expectations clearly for project staff/participants

  • Mainly paired campus ambassadors with professors

  • 5 points of focus for PPI project: 1) writing skills, 2) media literacy, 3) critical thinking, 4) collaboration & teamwork, 5) communities of practice

  • Professors' interest piqued by the impact that the articles had - how many page views articles had.
    • Frank gave example of WP article on 'Egypt National Democratic Party' - looking at the spike in use around time of Egyptian protests

  • Sebastien asked - was there any work done on evaluating what was the impact on the student's learning on being involved?
    • Have qualitative data (videos) to show the students positive evaluations of their own involvement
  • Project people created a leaderboard - schools competing with each other (e.g. how many characters did Harvard contribute in comparison to Syracuse?) This seemed to generate/sustain momentum in project.

  • Created a WikiProject to identify public policy articles that needed work

  • Question of academic credit - whether/how work done by students was tied with their graded/accredited coursework.
    • Depended on the class, and the tutor - what were their expectations, demands
    • Some projects were assessed as collaborations; some as individual work
  • Also, question of culture - would other similar projects in other countries work in the same way as this one? How did PPI leverage or exploit particular aspects of US university culture ; how would this translate (or not) into other contexts?
  • Thinking about making the project sustainable
  • Ambassador steering committee - made up of volunteers, getting them to think about how the project would run in the long run

Day 2

More detail on PPI

Annie led first discussion about Public Policy Initiative

  • Project started with extensive meetings with professors - listening to their concerns and ideas, facilitating discussions on how they could use Wikipedia in their class.
  • From conversations with professors who had already worked with Wikipedia, all of them had had teaching assistants guiding students through editing process, etc.

Started to recruit campus and online ambassadors

Recruiting ambassadors

Role of Campus Ambassadors

  • help students edit Wikipedia
  • help professors develop Wikipedia-appropriate assignments (guide them on Wikipedia policies, eg NPOV, NOR, etc)

Recruited from

  • 'Teaching and learning centres' within universities
  • Libraries
  • (staff members were more likely to remain connected with university, therefore be a sustainable

students can be more enthusiastic about doing outreach activities, organising Student clubs etc)

  • Students (undergraduate & postgraduate
  • Local residents

Had to have technical skills and speaking skills - speaking skills more important, as technical skills

There was much more of a gender parity within campus ambasssadors than amongst the Wikipedia community - i.e. roughly equal numbers of female and male CAs.

Made sense to have geographical clusters of campus ambassadors - aided building of team spirit - thus, tried to recruit CAs from geographically close areas.

Some Campus Ambassadors have started filling in for other CA's if one can't make it

For submitted/graded work, students would create a portfolio of their work on Wikipedia - containing text they added, their commentary about why they added it, whether it remained on Wikipedia (and why it might have been removed)

CAs are mostly paired with a professor in a university close to them.

However, also recruited CAs at universities where there wasn't a participating professor - some CAs could help recruit professors and/or organise outreach activities

PPI project always thinking how would this project scale - hence some returning Campus ambassadors become trainers for CAs in next semester.

There are Campus Ambassadors and Online Ambassadors - CAs go into class, whereas OAs support online.

Ambassadors (Campus and Online) provided support for students in various ways - not only in class, but also via phone, or Google Group.

Link on WP to IRC chat support:

Online Ambassadors have all been Wikipedians; not all Campus Ambassadors are Wikipedians (more important for CAs to be good at communicating and teaching).

Some CAs in 2nd (Spring) semester had done a WP assignment in the 1st (Fall).

CAs went through recruitment process

  • filling out paper application, including question about how they could use WP in education
  • skype interview (including an impromptu 'teach me something, anything" activity
  • in-person interview (if possible)

Have developed hoodies that are given to Campus Ambassadors

Training ambassadors

  • Major part of the training was to build team spirit amongst ambassadors
  • Did first session in Washington DC all together
  • Subsequently, sessions were distributed - but attempted to have some meetups of CAs happen at the same time, connected through Skype

Before coming to Training, they had to do "homework" (e.g. getting started with editing Wikipedia)

Induction: Welcome to Wikipedia / Wikimedia

  • Included video on Why Wikipedians are the weirdest people on the Internet (Link to Youtube)
  • What is the Public Policy Initiative

Principles and Expectations for CAs

  • Always be friendly ; exude passion for wikipedia ; act as advocate for new users ; communicate clearly ; listen and share openly
  • Not CAs job to write assignments for professors - simply to work with the professor
  • Had to be careful about their editing of students' articles - as they were seen as teachers to an extent (i.e. not to create power issues)

  • Each CA given folder/binder with printed materials and slides
  • CAs practiced presenting these materials to other CAs on the training session
  • CAs were free to use the slides in their own teaching as they wished - gave them structure if they wanted, but gave them room to adapt
  • Encouraged CAs to feedback/upload modified presentations to WMF (where?)

Wikimedia Germany's Schulprojekt

Denis and Elly gave presentation on WMDE's Schulprojekt:

  • pilot 1 focused on Media literacy - how to evaluate sources
  • pilot 2 focused on helping teachers use and discuss the use of Wikipedia
  • arising from pilot, developed network of teachers
  • instructors get paid from schools
  • WMDE offers training and support
  • There is a wiki for WMDE members - instructors have a namespace for the content they develop
  • Instructors are responsible for their content
  • WMDE responsible for infrastructure
  • 2011 - questions of how to recruit teachers
  • 20 active instructors
  • about 100 interested schools
  • looking for new ways of contacting teachers

  • Instructors - how are they sharing their content, and how do they work as a community?
  • Seems to be a good idea to facilitate community-building amongst instructors, sharing ideas for how to use materials, etc

  • Feedback from Rod : on materials produced for teachers/students/volunteers (copies were circulated), it's good to have quotes from those who have previously participated in the project or similar activities. This makes materials seem like they are part of the project community, rather than from Wikimedia.

  • Frank mentioned nascent idea for WMF creating an education portal - e.g
  • This would make it easier for educators to find content, also finding other people interested in similar activities in local area
  • This would be larger in scope than
  • May use tools other than a wiki - e.g. ways for people to find other people in their area who are interested in Wikimedia & education

Outreach aspects of PPI

Talking about why would teachers/professors etc get involved with a Wikipedia in teaching' programme

On incentives

WMF have created a 'Wikipedia Teaching Fellow' - in order to help lecturers get tenure:

  • WTFs (!) are obliged to use Wikipedia in half of their classes
  • (This may be a US-specific thing - "teaching fellow" - unsure if there is an analogous role/term in UK)
  • Essentially, this is targeted at getting some career credit (my phrase) for using or working on Wikipedia

Organising Wikimedia/Education projects could lead to publishing a paper about new innovative teaching methods

List of incentives for teachers and students are reasonably substantial - those for universities/institutions are smaller. However, point made that universities stand to get media exposure from participating in such projects.

Future projects

PPI is ending in September 2011 - thereafter it is hoped to lead into a general education programme, not focused on US or public policy

From the PPI project, there is a desire to expand project to global contexts

On above page, scroll down to graphs of projections for education programme (55,000 students involved)

Have developed a set of documentation about how various programmes could be set up (e.g. class-based university: )

Short discussion on Open Educational Resources (OER):

  • The OER movement does not have universal awareness (not all participants here were aware of it), but it is a growing movement, with lots of funding being funneled in its direction
  • How can we leverage Wikimedia's position within the the OER movement?
  • What opportunities are there for supporting universities / schools in their OER activities?

Then discussed the viability of Wikimedia's 'Global University' initiative - or 'education initiative' (whatever it's called)

PPI-like initiative to run soon in India - people in India already working on this

  • What is the role of the Wikimedia Foundation in such initiatives?
  • Frank shared a structure for what roles (staff) might need to exist at the Foundation level, and what need to be in operation at a national/chapter level. (This was in a personal document, but he will share with participants and their chapters.)
  • There was debate about whether there needs to be such a staffing infrastructure for each country
  • We would need to think about what is appropriate for each country - what is needed there? how would it best work in this context?
  • (Would the materials developed by WMF for PPI - in English - be sufficient for supporting similar UK initiative?)

  • Education Initiative seems to remain focused on Wikipedia, rather than the full range of Wikimedia projects. This is linked to WMF strategy, which remains largely focused on Wikipedia. However, there is still scope to broaden definition of Wikimedia-related education projects according to each chapter's strategy.