Education/Ideal workshop

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This page is a translated version of the page Education/Warsztat idealny and the translation is 100% complete.

This syllabus, or workshop organisation guide if you please, is an effect of work of a task force created within Wikimedia Poland. During a meeting in February 2016 our group has come with a plan of a "minimal workshop". Some of our ideas we shamelessly stole from presentations and discussions at Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2015, Wikimedia Conference 2015, Wikimedia Poland conference 2015 and 2016, as well as the Winter Meeting of 2016.

Kamil Śliwowski teaching free licenses during WikiWarszawa workshop

TL;DR version


A workshop explaining the basics of Wikipedia and the bare minimum a new user needs in order to start contributing content.


Will to take part, interest in the topic


The most important effect is for the attendee to be able to see his or hers article in Mainspace. It's a powerful motivating factor.

When the workshop is over, the attendee should also be able to write a simple article, complete with a lead, internal links, sections, images and citations.

The attendee should also be able to find help should he or she need it (help pages, newbie-related pages, Wikipedia guides and so on).

Content of the workshop




Teaching methods

  • inquiry learning: discussion, rounds of questions, practical tasks (wandering posters and such)
  • collaborative: projects (wandering posters)
  • lecturing: conversational sessions, elements of a lecture
  • demonstrating: chat of two or more tutors

Full version

Why not a lecture?

"Wandering posters" is a great way to show the attendees, that they already know the rules of Wikimedia projects.

Wikipedia is a complex project. The learning curve is very steep, as at first sight it seems there is plenty of hard knowledge to explain before a new editor even tries to write his or hers first article. Experienced editors know the project enough to speak about it for hours. However, for a green editor most of that hard knowledge is not only hard to understand, but also useless. That is why it is important to limit the lecturing to a bare minimum.

The idea of a wikiworkshop is not to transfer as much knowledge of the Wikimedia projects in the shortest time possible. It is to transfer the bare minimum needed by a new volunteer to write his or hers first article, and to show him or her places where they could find help should they need it. Most of us did not become Wikipedians at Wikipedia 101 classes or "Semester with Wikipedia" series of lectures. We learned it gradually, one mistake at a time and one conflict at a time. The role of the tutors is to show the basic tools to the audience; they will learn the rest on their own.

Try to simulate the situations that lead you through the world of Wikipedia to the place you are now. Say, notability: it is always a matter of dispute, it is not established once and for all, it is being forged by discussions, over and over again. If so, let the group have a discussion on what is notable and what is not. That way not only will they internalise the hard knowledge, they will also realise they knew it from the start.


Wikiworkshops are actually easy to organise. The minimal technical prerequisites are:

  • a hall or room with a projector or a large enough tv
  • at least one computer with internet access (for the tutor)
  • at least one computer per 4 attendees (one per person is ideal, but working in groups works wonders as well)

The number of attendees should not exceed 7/8 people per one tutor. If there's two tutors, the number should not exceed 20 people at most. Larger crowds are hardly manageable: not all people will be able to ask questions, the tutors will not have enough time to address all issues.

The seats at the venue can have any configuration. It's important to reserve (or make) enough room for the students/attendees to work on their group activities. A floor, or perhaps larger tables, if there's enough space around them to accommodate 4 or 5 people. The tables have to be large enough for a poster to fit on them.

During parts of the workshop devoted to work on particular articles, the configuration doesn't matter as long as the tutor can approach the attendees should they have any questions.

Before the workshop








Day D

Remember to show up (!) and show up at least half an hour early. This will give you time to check the projector, set your presentation, print the Wi-Fi password and post it on a wall, check the internet connection and so on.


The workshop needs a clear time structure. Prepare a simple schedule and announce it to the attendees. What will you be doing first, when is the break. Remember to add some buffers in case some of the modules take more time than anticipated. The plan doesn't have to be that precise, it is important to draw at least a sketch of it.

For starters

  • Introduce yourself, tell the group something about yourself as a wikimedian. What articles do you write, when did you join, why and so on.
  • Present the basic timetable to the group. You might also mention that initially the computers are not needed, and that the list will be distributed during the break. Also mention that it is a workshop, not a lecture, and that you actually await questions at all times.
  • Remind the group that the user list will be available during the break (passing it on during the workshop itself, as is usual at universities, makes it hard for everyone to focus). Also tell them the break will be a good time to register an account, should they need one. There is a 6 accounts per IP limit, but it's easily avoidable by registering on other Wikimedia projects, or from mobile phones with a data plan.

Module 1: The Rules

"Draw me a hamster" class activity: sorting drawings according to their license. See also: Class activities database.
Your average internet user knows Wikipedia and her rules, even if not their names or abbreviations. Try to make them "invent them", it's easier than preaching them ex cathaedra.

We Wikipedians love our abbreviations. WP:OR, NPOV, WP:UE, NGN, PSiA... None of us know them all, but we know enough of them to shame a newbie. The purpose of this module however is not to explain all the abbreviations you remember. It is to explain the most important rules of all Wikipedia projects.

The choice of rules you mention depends on your local context. The Five pillars of Wikipedia, with a special focus on the last one (WP:BOLD), are a good choice. Alternatively you can focus on what comes out of WP:5F, for instance the WP:VERIFY, WP:NOTABILITY and WP:NPOV instead.

Regardless of the choice of rules, instead of presenting them ex cathaedra, try to ask the group for them. Unless they were hiding under a stone for the last 15 years, the people in the audience usually know the rules of Wikipedia, they simply don't know they do.

For example for a Five pillars module, you can ask the audience how would they solve this or that problem through a set of classroom activities, such as wandering posters, a Q&A session or an open discussion. When they are ready, you can show them that this already is part of Wikipedia, and that we followed the same way of thinking when establishing the rules 15 years ago.



  • Case studies
    • Jack Andraka
    • Henryk Batuta
    • particular users (why not show them a teenage Wikipedia editor as a proof one doesn't have to be a renown expert in order to share knowledge)
  • Wandering posters
    • What should and what shouldn't be mentioned in an article (a question of both the structure, and contents); four groups: two work on wanted and two on unwanted elements.


The break is a good time to fill in the list of attendees, permission to use their photos (if you need them), reconfigure the tables and help anyone who hasn't registered their account on Wikipedia yet. It's also a good time to power up the computers.

Module 2: Community

It is always good to do some activity after a break, to wake people up and set them in the right mood. A good starter: ask the audience what motivates Wikipedians. What propels them to write articles or edit them or add pictures instead of, say, watching a tv show on a couch, or whatever it is normal people do after work ;D

A good activity in this instance is the wandering posters: even high school kids can come up with a better list than most Wikimedians.

  • When evaluating this task, you can mention all the other important things that come with motivation. That the input into Wikipedia is permanent, that it's useful to many, that it is so much more than a FB status or a Snapchat that live only a couple of seconds, or a homework that only one person would profit from (at most). You can also mention the re-usability: that their pictures from Commons could illustrate Wikipedia, but also a newspaper article, or become a piece of art.
  • It's a perfect moment to tell the group of your own history as a Wikipedian: what makes you tick, what made you start and so on. Wikipedia has a million faces, yours is important too. Just make it quick, they're not there to look at you.
  • You can also show the history tab and readership statistics of particular articles: you never know who will read your article, look at what happens with it after you're done editing it.

As a summary of this module you could remind the group of the WP:BOLD. Nobody taught us how to become Wikipedians, we learned it through our own mistakes, now go and commit your own :D Everything is revertable, the newcomers won't destroy anything permanently, it's ok to experiment (even if some of the members of our community might not be happy about it). Plus the real-life benefits: scholarships, grant programs, CV entry and so on.

Module 3: Editing

This is the first part of the workshop that actually needs computers to be turned on, during earlier modules they would only be a distraction.

The purpose of this module is for each of the attendees (or each group, if there is not enough computers at hand) to publish an article in main space.

From your place as a tutor you only need to show the group the most basic elements:

  • a typical article (Good&Featured Articles serve as a great example)
  • how to make a simple edit: just pick an article from Category:Wikipedia maintenance and correct a typo.
  • You need to show the group the code editor because when it comes to talk pages it's usually the only option. However, don't go into details, just show the group the basic stuff (where the Save button is and how to switch to Visual Editor).
  • In Visual Editor you might show the user interface: how to add a picture, where to click in order to add a citation, how Citoid works. However, most of the attendees have used a text editor in the past, so VE would be very intuitive for them and you don't have to show too much. If the group has questions - they will ask them in the practical part of the module.

After this short introduction - throw the users into the water: ask them to click "Edit" and start their own article. If they have questions, they can ask questions and the tutors are to approach them and offer assistance.

Ideally, the attendees should be greeted by the community already during the workshop. Any interaction works good, even if the message is not really positive (moving the article to draft space, tagging {{fact}} tags and whatnot).


When the time is up, remember to leave your contact data with the students: e-mail, your Wikipedia username, business cards if you have them, whatever works. You should also tell the group that you will contact them again in a couple of weeks or months in order to evaluate your meeting and check in on them.

As always, it is essential that you sum the workshop up. Ask the attendees to present what they learned, to present their articles and what happened to them. Ask them also what articles could the attendees start when they get home.What's their drug, what keeps them awake at nights. Perhaps they're experts on Indian cinema or Lithuanian printers from 19th century? Whatever is their favourite passtime - is also most likely missing from your wiki.

After the workshop

Contact the group immediately after the workshop, preferably both on-wiki and through an email. Send them a short list of links summing up the topic of your meeting, also you might show them what happened to their articles in the hours and days since the workshop took place. Also include links to basic help and assistance pages.

It pays to curate the newly-born Wikipedians, look after their edits and contact them from time to time. Unfortunately, our community has a tendency to bite newcomers, so your role as the tutor of new users is to defend their input, and remind or fend-off the most aggressive biters.