Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Wikipedia editing workshop reflections

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Last week, I invited local Egyptian Wikipedia folks (Wikimedians?) to give my students a workshop on Wikipedia editing. 

Before the workshop happened, I asked around on Twitter about resources and such, and I’m including most of what I found near the bottom of this post.

My plan 

It is pretty vague 🙂

Two volunteers from Wikipedia Egypt came and gave the 3-hour workshop in a lab.

I was thinking the goal is to explore the process of knowledge construction on Wikipedia, to see the backend of it and how decisions get made on what stays, what does not, and also what counts as credible references for Wikipedia and what doesn’t.

Because my goal is like that, I was planning to give students choice of which topics to edit and which language (English, Arabic, maybe French).

I wanted students experiment with

  • Adding citations to citations needed articles
  • Editing existing articles
  • Creating new articles (knowing this is harder, especially in English)
  • I was thinking assessment would include reflection on process with screenshots of what they did. I realized later that I could create a course page, have students join it, and therefore see what they did directly (screenshots not necessary, reflection still important) 

How the Workshop Went

First, some context. At the American University in Cairo, we study in English; some students are better at writing in English, some are good at both, a few aren’t very strong in English. In this particular class, for some odd reason, all the students seem to be fluent in English and comfortable only in writing in English. 

More context: I am personally interested in two things: increasing Arabic content on Wikipedia (online in general) and including non-Western perspectives on Wikipedia (online in general) even in English. I could elaborate on this but I won’t here.

Last piece of context; the main trainer here was an extremely passionate University professor who teaches Spanish Literature and edits Wikipedia in Arabic and Spanish. English was not her stronghold.

This meant that while (thankfully) all my students understood the workshop facilitator (they all speak Arabic) there was a lot of talk about Wikipedia Arabic and lots of showing things in Arabic and I think this made some of them uncomfortable. It’s difficult to explain this, but Arabic text is a little exhausting to look at. It’s like… It feels like it always needs to be larger and wider or bold or something. It is hard to look at on a screen. But anyway. 

The other issue is that a whole 90 minutes or so was lecture/demonstration on how Wikipedia works, and students started to get engaged more only in the hands-on part. I learned A LOT from this first part. She also did me a great favor in that she moved me up as an instructor so I could have a Wikipedia course page students could join. I could not have done that without her.

But students were probably itching to practice at this point, so I decided to take over so we could use an English view. Also, I think the facilitator underestimated my students’ tech skills and was going to use the old editing interface, whereas the new visual interface is pretty intuitive and I just asked students to go ahead and try some things on their sandbox (play with bold, links and references) then to move to a live page and edit something small when they were ready. I worked in parallel with them and talked aloud in case they would benefit from that, and I commented on the Wikipedia page of our university and we did a fun thing where we would all decide to make an edit and we would see who did it first. Once they got going on the editing, about half of them did some really interesting stuff. Some were watching over others’ shoulders. We looked at talk pages and such. We discussed what a good reference would be and how to cross-link within Wikipedia. We looked at how to know if a page existed in other languages. We considered if someone could do a Wikimedia images assignment instead of text editing.

Overall I’m ready to start planning a Wikipedia editing assignment but I am still vague. Got lots of great ideas from resources below, but also need to give students opportunities to choose what interests them.

I may participate In the upcoming Wikipedia conference in October. Depends how this goes. Turns out lots of Wikipedia Arabic comes out of translation courses in Egyptian universities 🙂 cool.

In future, I think I will ask students to use tutorials to learn about Wikipedia and start using it, then bring in an expert for an hour to ask questions and share some trade secrets. But not a 3-hour workshop like this time. 

But I can  only say that because so many useful resources were shared with me, so I have a lot to back me up on this.

Resources shared with me – thanks to all who offered help or pointed me to others 🙂

I asked on Twitter

I got all these treasures 

    Useful for finding articles that need work:

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