Education/Newsletter/May 2017/A pilot project in Greece, a videoconference in Israel and a tool for all educators
A pilot project in Greece, a videoconference in Israel and a tool for all educators
Author: Mina Theofilatou, Computer Science teacher (User:Saintfevrier)
Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece
Summary: Wikipedia editing was introduced for the first time to a core curriculum class in a Middle School in Kefalonia, Greece. Meanwhile, a versatile sandbox tool developed by Manos Kefalas of the Wikipedia Community Schools Association Greece is now available in Greek and English. These two exciting developments were communicated to an audience of school teachers in Israel via a video-conference organized by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
Mina Theofilatou has been using the Wikimedia projects as a teaching tool for the past ten years; she has communicated her students' accomplishments at the Argostoli Evening School in Kefalonia, Greece on numerous occasions. Adults and working students may be a difficult group to work with, but teenagers are even more challenging: how do you get 14-year-old students in the age of smartphones, Facebook and YouTube to appreciate the merits of contributing to an encyclopaedia? More so, how do you undertake such an endeavour in the limited timeframe of a core curriculum to be taught in one 45-minute class per week over the two semesters of a school year? Surprisingly, the whole idea started after yet another sad instance of the Greek Ministry of Education downgrading the Computer Science class in public Middle Schools across the country. Instead of despairing, she went out-of-the-box and discerned that she was now free of restrictions in terms of exams and grading: the perfect opportunity to blend Wikipedia editing into the curriculum!
During the first semester she covered the main chapters of the school book, with the last 15 minutes of each class dedicated to linking the curriculum to an aspect of Wikipedia. After finishing with her compacted version of the school curriculum in the middle of the second semester, the classes then “fully immersed” in Wikipedia editing: either in groups or individually, the students were free to choose a topic of their preference and produce at least a stub. Most students preferred to look up their favorite hobbies - video games, football, music, TV – on English Wikipedia and translate the articles into Greek.
Here is where the amazing sandbox tool steps in: Manos Kefalas, founder of the Wikipedia Community Schools Association Greece, has created a sandbox template like no other. Instead of working on a plain empty page, Manos's tool enables users to create multiple draft pages in their sandbox, with the typical paragraph headings in the typical order and useful hints. The interface also comprises a handy toolbox full of valuable editing resources. When the article is ready it can be moved to mainspace Wikipedia by the mere click of a button.
Mina's students worked in their sandboxes for several weeks and on Wednesday 10 May the first article went live: it was no more than a five-line stub about five-a-side football translated from the English article... but in the process the teenagers who created it had entered a completely different world of online activity, while also honing their language skills in two languages. Plus of course the fact that they had created something that was “here to stay”, not e.g. a Facebook post which is “here today, gone tomorrow”. A total of seven new articles were produced, two existing articles were improved and a dozen photos uploaded to Commons. But perhaps the students' most notable accomplishment was expanding and adding references to one of the most viewed articles worldwide on their last day of class: the Manchester Arena bombing. Getting students involved in current news on Wikipedia and understanding the importance of neutral and reliable sources - as opposed to the sensationalism so often propagated by mainstream media - may help teenagers better deal with the more tragic aspects of our troubled world...
Around the same time this pilot was in progress at Argostoli 1st Gymnasium, Shai Katz of Wikimedia Israel extended another invitation to Mina for an interview with Guy Bresler, Instructional Designer at CET (Center for Educational Technology) in Israel. Footage of their discussion was included in a web-conference on 10 May by the Israeli Ministry of Education: approx. 140 teachers attended the session on how to introduce Wikipedia editing to their teaching by demonstrating the multiple benefits for their students. Mina, Manos and Shai are in close collaboration for yet another exciting launch... more news to follow in an upcoming newsletter!
Read more about the Wikipedia Education Program in Greece here.
See Mina's week-by-week lesson plans for 8th Grade Computer Science in Greece here (2nd Semester to be added soon)
Learn about Manos's new sandbox tool on English Wikipedia here