How are Wikipedia/Wikimedia projects uniquely positioned to help student learning?
Overall, educators saw the value of Wikimedia projects as contributing to a shift in pedagogy from teacher centred to student centered by getting students to critically engage with the information they consume. In Taiwan, they found that using Wikimedia projects in the classroom led to students being more motivated since their work can continuously be revised and can be seen indefinitely. Global collaboration was another point that educators found motivating for students.
|It is our job to move into digital pedagogies and Wikipedia is the best tool for that.” --Educator at Christ University, Bangalore, India
In India, educators mentioned the value students get from being able to access information in their own languages. They said that Wikipedia improves access to research, and provides opportunities to supplement the resources they get at school which they said are too exam oriented.
Educators in Nepal also emphasized that using Wikimedia projects in the classroom improved student motivation. One educator responded, “When the teachers had their training alongside the students, the students were teaching the teachers what to do. It was empowering to everyone.” Information literacy also emerged as a strong value. Another educator responded, “After learning how to edit, students started to understand how to better read Wikipedia articles, and see where content was missing or could be improved.” The educators also said that the Wikipedia elective class was the elective that students enjoyed the most, which was surprising to them. It was after this first pilot elective class that the teachers asked to be trained so that they could make the program more sustainable.
What are the challenges?
It was clear that in each country, educators found that using Wikimedia projects to enhance classroom learning led to significant outcomes like increased student motivation, improved information literacy, and further access to learning resources. However, they also mentioned significant challenges. First, educators in every country mentioned the need for training. Using Wikimedia projects in the classroom is a shift in pedagogy for educators. They need help to change mindsets and upskill educators who might even lack digital skills themselves. Other pedagogical challenges include finding space in the curriculum, or designing the activities so that they fit into the mandated curriculum. One educator in Nepal said, “I need to cover the computer class curriculum and the full weight of the Nepali government curriculum is so dense, it was hard for me to find space for a Wikipedia assignment.” Teachers need support and training to be able to do this.
Another significant challenge is infrastructure. Educators in every country spoke of how students did not have access to technology outside of school, and sometimes even access to it at school was severely limited. Opportunities to become proficient are lacking, because the time available to practice is limited.
Lastly, educators mentioned cultural and linguistic challenges. In Taiwan, educators reported that concepts like “sharing knowledge” seem to be incompatible with the local culture. Students don’t understand the right to revise their work or others' work. They also mentioned that the Wikimedia community isn’t welcoming to students. Students need time and space to learn the rules and some empathy when they make mistakes. Linguistic challenges include a lack of resources in local languages, and even difficulty writing in local languages. In India, students haven’t learned how to type in their mother languages. So before they can learn how to edit, they need to learn how to type.
What resources and support do you need?
To help solve some of these challenges, educators described the kind of support and resources they are looking for. Support for motivating students was mentioned, especially in India and Taiwan. Educators theorized that more motivated students will make higher quality contributions. Relying on grades to motivate students to edit has not been successful in getting high quality contributions from students.
Better relationships between educators, students, and the Wikimedia community was brought up as another area for increased support and attention. They want access to clear information and processes in local languages. Some educators even mentioned wanting a “safe space” for education activities.
|It wasn’t a viable solution to just train the students. So, we asked to be trained so we could continue the class. --Educator at Deerwalk Sifal School, Kathmandu, Nepal
Training was something mentioned by all educators who participated in the discussions. They need training on two fronts: wiki related skills, and pedagogical skills. The Nepali educators asked Wikimedians for this training after their students were taught how to edit.Similarly, an educator in India said, “We need teacher training so that teachers can manage on their own.” It is clear that this is something educators are looking for.
Finally, educators asked for infrastructural support. Schools around the world are not equally equipped to be able to carry out these types of activities. Ideally, students would also have technology available to them at home, but in most cases, the educators we spoke to said that students only have access to computers at school and that access is limited. Supporting schools to upgrade the technology available to students will benefit everyone involved.