To start using the Internet as an adult can be hard. In 2013 Wikimedia Sverige decided to reach out to a very underrepresented group of people – immigrants. In Sweden, research has shown that immigrants learning Swedish as a new language are very interested in learning how to use the internet and incorporating that into their education. However, teachers find it tricky to integrate web participation into the curriculum. We figured (surprise surprise) that multilingual Wikipedia would make a great tool for teachers to use! Both to teach the students basic Swedish language skills and to naturally integrate computer use into their education.
We partnered up with GR Utbildning and managed to find external funding from the Internet Infrastructure Foundation (.SE) for a project aiming at changing the current curriculum, one teacher at the time. (We strongly suggest that you look around for funds available in your country too – feel free to ask us for pointers). We teamed up with three Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) teachers in two different schools and started teaching them about Wikipedia.
In order to work efficiently on Wikipedia, it’s necessary to know the basics of writing. After a discussion with the teachers, we decided focus on students who possessed academic backgrounds. It turned out these students were still more proficient in reading than writing Swedish. We decided that the most suitable way for them to contribute would be to have them translate from Swedish into their respective native languages.
What we liked most about contributing to other versions of Wikipedia was that immigrants who do not yet speak Swedish or English could still find relevant information about Sweden in Wikipedia articles in their own language. Strangely enough, there hasn’t been an extensive amount of well updated texts covering Sweden in Swahili, Tagalog Somali – or most languages in the world for that matter. This project, we figured, could help change that! The fact that many people in developing countries (through the awesome work of the Wikipedia Zero project) could access this information without cost, thrilled everybody!
We asked volunteers to support us by guiding the students to the right help pages and provide proofreading assistance. We had a fantastic response and created an international list of mentors on Meta. In the future we will guide teachers to this resource, so please add yourself to the list if you are willing to help out!
Over the course of the project, 23 students were involved in creating 23 articles in 12 different languages. On average, each student contributed 384 words of encyclopedic content.
Thanks to the bold teachers, who were not only brave enough to try this but also had to endure a number of surveys and interviews in an effort to gather input from their experiences. Ultimately we were able to identify what they needed help with the most and what they thought worked the best. This knowledge is the foundation for our current work in finalizing a set of instruction pages and assignments to make it as easy as possible for more teachers to use Wikipedia in their teaching.
John Andersson, Project Manager for Wikimedia Sverige. John.Anderssonwikimedia.se
Sara Mörtsell, Education Manager for Wikimedia Sverige. Sara.Mortsellwikimedia.se