Education/Newsletter/October 2014/9th grade students in Be'er Sheva, Israel conclude a year-long project on Wikipedia
Snippet: 9th grade students in Be'er Sheva, Israel write Wikipedia articles about their city and region to strengthen their sense of belonging and responsibility.
About a year ago, a Wikipedian who works in the Be'er Sheva municipality proposed an ambitious educational project: to encourage promising 9th grade students from Be’er Sheva to write articles about the city and its surrounding areas. The goal of the project was to strengthen the students’ sense of belonging and responsibility for their city. To achieve this, the project aimed to create articles about Be'er Sheva. Our partners were the Municipal Education Director, the Supervisor for Hebrew Studies at the Ministry of Education, the Executive Director of Wikimedia Israel, the senior teachers from all of the secondary schools in the city, and two senior Wikipedians. The pilot ran from September 2013 through June 2014. The first year of the project has concluded, and we are happy to share our conclusions.
- Students: 350 excelling/advanced students.
- Classes: 10 9th grade classes taken from all Be’er Sheva secondary schools.
- Workshops: 12 lectures and editing workshops.
- Articles: 25 articles + 10 drafts ready for the mainspace.
- A meeting of a steering committee to green-light the project and its integration within the city’s education system.
- The creation of lessons plans for the Wikipedia project, in accordance with material taught in the 9th grade classes participating in the project.
- A workshop and lecture for the teachers of the participating classes.
- The creation of a portal in the Hebrew Wikipedia.
- An introductory lecture on Wikipedia to all classes participating in the project (separate lectures were held for each class).
- Selection of subjects for articles, subject to approval by the Wikipedians leading the project.
- Recruitment of volunteers to facilitate workshops and tutor pupils.
- Twelve editing workshops.
- The creation of articles in draft pages by the students, and follow-up by the Wikipedians leading the project.
- Follow-up meetings with students, according to need.
- Uploading most of the articles to the mainspace.
- Collaboration with the local education department is essential.
- Adjusting the project's lesson plans to the current material was crucial. Editing on Wikipedia did not come across as just another school chore, and the concurring syllabus made the work easier and more fruitful for both teachers and students.
- The teachers in our projects underwent a four-hour lecture on Wikipedia and a short crash-course editing workshop. We believe that preparing teachers prior to their work with the students should be more thorough. Teachers are crucial to the project’s success, and it is important that their knowledge of Wikipedia goes beyond the scope of the average user (talk pages, view history, categories, etc.). Though, in our opinion, it is not necessary that they learn to edit articles.
- Create a schedule and adhere to it. We were not always on schedule this last year, and consequently, we have failed to reach our goal of 40 articles.
- Students’ enthusiasm: students must feel that they contribute to the expansion of knowledge in a field they relate to by writing articles, and that many people will eventually read the content they have created.
- Students with the potential and will to continue editing Wikipedia should be identified, and a volunteer assigned to follow-up and encourage future Wikipedia work.
- Students who excel in the project should be given the option to tutor others in the following school year.
- Two volunteers led and managed the project, but the amount of work to be done during the project is substantial – coordinating with the different schools, editing articles, facilitating the workshops and participating in school activities. Ways must be found to ease the volunteers’ workload, and we would welcome any suggestions.