Education/Newsletter/August 2012/Project TAO at Wikimania: Promoting Wikipedia among Seniors

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Wikimania 2012, Elly Köpf presenting "Silberwissen" (Silver Knowledge)

By Beat Estermann

Engaging more older people in Wikipedia and its sister projects is the objective of several actions and projects carried out within the framework of the European research project TAO (Third Age Online) and beyond.

We took this year’s Wikimania in Washington DC as an occasion to present various approaches and to carry out brainstorming sessions to gather suggestions for outreach activities and to discuss challenges from the point of view of Wikimedia chapters (see the presentation slides).

We were happy to see that the idea of reaching out to older people to gain them as active contributors has caught on within the Wikimedia movement. In Germany, seniors outreach has become an integral part of the chapter’s education unit, which is partnering with Universities of the Third Age, adult education centers, and hobbyist groups. We were also pleased to see how the photo contest Wiki Loves Monuments proved successful in attracting large numbers of older people when promoted in cooperation with an online community for seniors as in the Netherlands.

There are however still a couple of greater challenges ahead: First, further development of existing approaches and experimentation with new approaches is needed in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of outreach activities directed at seniors. Second, documentation and dissemination of best practices need to be enhanced and systematized.

With regard to the latter point, a set of groundbreaking decisions were taken during the conference that should facilitate common efforts in the future – comprising the set-up of a regular newsletter (this newsletter) and the central documentation of approaches in the “Wikipedia in Education” section of the Wikimedia Outreach Wiki, covering various target groups (schools, universities, and seniors).

Issues raised by chapters’ representatives in our workshop in Washington for example were: “how can chapters address the lack of volunteers when it comes to implementing outreach approaches?”, or “how to scale up if an approach has proven successful?” – just to mention a couple of them. Other groups reflected on how to best approach older people and how to get support in doing this. We are looking forward to tackling these and other issues in close cooperation with the wider “Wikipedia in Education” community.