New Wiki Education Foundation directs program in U.S., Canada

In the Wikipedia Education Program, educators assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their coursework. Education efforts are underway in more than 60 countries worldwide. One of the pilot education programs, run by the Wikimedia Foundation, was in the United States and Canada. As part of Wikimedia’s goal to have the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada directed by volunteers, the program will formally move to a new nonprofit organization, the Wiki Education Foundation, beginning this month.

Existing participants, both educators and editors, should not be concerned that the new organization will bring dramatic changes. We’re interested in hearing about what has worked and what hasn’t, and using that feedback to improve the program in future semesters, but for now we’re committed to supporting the program as it currently exists—until better ideas come along.

The Wikimedia Foundation worked with a group of educators and Wikipedia editors to design a new organization to take over the Wikimedia Foundation’s role and provide continued support to professors teaching classes in the U.S. and Canada. Jami Mathewson, who is currently US/Canada Program Associate, will become the Wiki Education Foundation Program Manager and will continue her role as coordinator and liaison to the educational community.

The Wiki Education Foundation, a non-profit organization, was incorporated earlier this year. The board chair is Diana Strassmann, Carolyn and Fred McManis Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Humanities at Rice University, and the founding editor of the journal Feminist Economics. The Wiki Education Foundation will be a completely separate organization from the Wikimedia Foundation. The initial funds for the Wiki Education Foundation operation are coming from a grant from the Grant Advisory Committee. The Wiki Education Foundation plans to apply for thematic organization status and subsequently is likely to apply for funds from the Funds Dissemination Committee, but also plans to raise funding independently, from outside donors and grantmaking organizations. In addition to the Program Manager position, a second position, the Executive Director, will be opened for job applications soon. Those interested can contact any member of the Wiki Education Foundation directly, or send an email to mike@wikiedfoundation.org for more information.

The Wiki Education Foundation’s goals are broader than just supporting the education program in the U.S. and Canada: “I think that the quality of Wikipedia content can certainly be improved by the integration of courses in higher education…The best way to achieve high quality contributions from higher education courses involves finding educators who have the right motives, training them on Wikipedia’s expectations and culture(s), supporting them in designing realistic units of contribution which reinforce their course learning outcomes, and providing support for faculty and students as they contribute, as well as when things go off track,” wrote University of Mississippi Professor Bob Cummings, a fellow board member of the Wiki Education Foundation, in a recent discussion about the new organization. “If we can help a generation of learners understand Wikipedia as contributors, they are more likely…to promote better cultural understanding of Wikipedia writ large. If we can train a generation of faculty to use Wikipedia productively in their teaching missions, we are then also preparing them to better understand the connections between specialized and public knowledge, and how their disciplines can play a role in improving the accuracy of information in Wikipedia.”

The new organization’s website is under construction, but public documents such as minutes of board meetings can be found on the public page of the Wiki Education Foundation’s internal wiki.

Mike Christie
Board Member, Wiki Education Foundation

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