Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Sophie Österberg

The humming teachers

At the annual meeting of Wikimedia Sweden, we decided that a video should be created about education and Wikipedia. The task of creating this video was assigned the Education Manager as a high priority. As the Education Manager then, I thought what a bliss to have such a creative task where possibilities are endless as a priority! I called up my previous drama teacher who quite recently had started up a production company with the dancing teacher and a few old pupils. They were happily to help. I was in charge of the fun (I do of course realize that we all differ in the aspect of what’s fun) aspects, such as writing a script, finding clothes to wear and playing parts.

But what was it going to be about?! Okay, I thought, people wanted it to be instructional. But all I could see blinking before my eyes was ‘BORING’. So no, no instructional video with someone simply talking or showing some Wikipedia pages (not to say that such a video may not be useful). So I began with characters. Who was going to take part in this little video? A teacher of course. And what would she be like? Ah, like someone I met at a conference who yelled at me for asking her to support the terrible Wikipedia which she knew made so much money whilst asking her poor pupils to contribute. So she was my role model.

But she also needed a savior. Someone to take her away from that negativity and to see the light and the greatness of Wikipedia. So there came the woman coming from above, and well, also in the trash can. She was just everywhere, and you couldn’t ignore her, just like Wikipedia! But then I thought, there should be something that teachers can hum, and say to each other as a jingle as to remember what to look for on Wikipedia with their pupils, and there was KÄ DI HI, which are the two first letters for references, discussion and history in Swedish. I saw in my little head a group of teachers, not totally unlike the singing von Trapp family in Sound of Music doing the Do Re Me, which had now turned into Kä, Di, Hi.

And this was the result.

We now have subtitles in English, Chinese and Portuguese for the video, with many more to come I hope. I look forward to the day when teachers and their pupils all around the world can joint the family of Wikimedia singing Kä, Di, Hi (or perhaps in English Re, Di, Hi).

Sophie Österberg, Wikipedia Education Program

Writing about a parasite? Yes, welcome to Wikipedia education programme in Sweden

Pia Palm is an Educational Developer with focus on Information and communications technology (ICT) at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, at the eastern coast of Sweden. Joining with professors at the university, she has worked to integrate Wikipedia in education, specifically with students who are studying to become biomedical health practitioners.

Pia Palm

So what are these students engaged in writing? The most recent class just presented these articles:

The LRC at Linneaus University

Pia says that they have formed a team at the university to support the students in writing on Wikipedia. Once students receive an introduction to Wikipedia, they create user accounts and try writing in sandboxes. Staff at the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) are also helping the students by teaching research and citation skills. Pia says that the foremost reason to why they are using Wikipedia in education at Linnaeus University is to have students learn about digital media and to write for a greater audience. They have been running this education programme since spring-term 2011.

The task for the students is to further their knowledge of a parasite which is not, or fairly shallowly, covered on Swedish Wikipedia. They would do this by researching and finding literature about this parasite which they then used as sources when writing on Wikipedia. Students add the article about their chosen parasite, using these references, in an understandable and encyclopedic way. The students have to research and find at least three academic references to use in their article. Students were assigned a lecturer who, with the students, looked at the articles before making them live on Wikipedia. Pia says that students always are happy to get feedback from the community on their articles. She also tells us that the students may use the articles as work to point at when applying for jobs in the future.

Sophie Österberg, Wikimedia Sweden

What’s going on in Sweden?

So, what has the Swedish education programme been up to since its founding in October last year? What’s been going on past these around 180 days? Well, let us look at some of the things that has been going on!

But hey, perhaps we should initially look at the overarching aim of an education programme in Sweden. The overall goal is to have Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects) accepted as learning tools among teachers at various educational levels in Sweden.

Employment

On 1 October, Sophie Österberg was employed as Education manager as to initiate and lead the education programme in Sweden. Then, the world’s first Wikipedian in Academy was employed the spring of 2013 by a Swedish University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. We’ve recently spoken to another university here in Sweden who is quite interested in the idea of employing a Wikipedian. So we might see another Wikipedian in Academy this autumn.

Funding

Wikipedia workshop in a Swedish class

The education programme managed to get funding for a quarter of the manager’s salary from an internet fund for a specific educational project. The project is a collaboration with an educational institution where we offer Wikipedia training to teachers of immigrants who are learning Swedish. When they’re on a more advanced level, a possibility is to translate a Swedish Wikipedia article about something typically Swedish and hence learn about a historical person or phenomenon, and writing this article in their native language on their Wikipedia language version. So far we’ve found, and had to meet-ups with the interested teachers who will engage their students in this the coming fall. Look at the list of examples of what to write about which is arguably typically Swedish. (What might a list look like on your language version? What are typical German, British, Spanish, Arabic articles?)

Invitations (at least a few of them)

Sophie Österberg at SETT April 2013

The education programme has kindly and generously been invited to various events around in Sweden, mostly in Stockholm and Gothenburg, our two largest cities. We’ve been talking at large conferences, exhibiting the education programme at various events, held seminars and co-hosted teachers evenings and various workshops. At the Internet days here in Sweden we participated in a panel discussion regarding digital resources in education. At SETT (yes, it’s like BETT and is the Swedish version of it) we held lectures on both the days of the huge exhibition. We were also invited to have a seat at the jury for a well-established school competition in April. These are a few of the events we’ve been invited to, and the invitations keep on coming! (It must be due to the amazingly gorgeous t-shirts!)

Collaborations

The education programme is supporting a network of teachers in Sweden who are using the flipped-classroom idea. There has been a lack of a good place to store these movies so Commons seemed as a rather splendid alternative. The dialogue was initiated between the education manager and one of the most engaged flipped-classroom teachers in Sweden, Karin Brånebäck, in the end of March, and the first movie is now up after a page has been created for this purpose on Commons.

Moreover, the Swedish Educational broadcasting radio (which also does TV) has had its largest ever TV production aiming at immigrants learning Swedish and the teachers engaged in their education. Through the Wikipedia education programme, a part of the production is to have teachers share their experiences, knowledge and ways to teach Swedish via Wikiversity which is promoted by the Swedish Educational broadcasting radio. They will also create a short movie about Wikiversity and how one may contribute to the project.

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Learning from our mistakes

I thought about writing this piece about how great the current education program is here in Sweden, how our path so far has been sprinkled by happy faces, enthusiastic teachers, students and pupils, and most importantly perhaps, how this work so amazingly wonderful has contributed to the Wikimedia projects in such a superqualitative manner. But then I realised two things.

Firstly, that it would be a lie. And secondly, had I written such a blogpost, what would it have given you, the reader? Sure, I do enjoy reading stories about prosperity and progress which may be rather inspirational, and perhaps so do you. But do we learn from them? Perhaps if they are tangible enough to be understood in terms of what worked and how it may be utilised in another context. But sometimes they’re just shared as success stories. No harm in that I presume, but I do somehow carry a hope of our organisation as a whole, all chapters, all people engaged and supporting the idea of free knowledge, also being, in itself, a learning organisation. This is the reason to why I will dedicate this blogpost not to success, but to failure, or mistakes, call it what you will. But this is what has not really worked and what mistakes we have done here in Sweden.

1. To overdo it.

We held a workshop with very interested teachers about Wikipedia, which we do, quite a bit too much perhaps, hold dearly. The teachers were all new to a talkpage or a view history tab on Wikipedia, and so far so good, as we told them about it and showed them where to find it and what to look for. Then we began to talk about the joy and extraordinary adventures of using, and contributing to Wikipedia, what one of the users had recently written on someone else’s talkpage, and how that user has come to be a bit more pleasant than earlier.

I think we lost them somewhere in a discussion about the structure of a biographical article: Should the date of the person’s birth be told before his or her reason for being in an encyclopedia? They could not have cared less. We were so excited though, that we, for quite a long time, missed that these teachers did not know the usernames of the people we spoke about, nor if they had been more or less pleasant to work with. We simply thought that they were so much in love with this huge group that they wanted to know it all, every little tiny detail of it.

How wrong we were. If nothing else, I think they were somewhat smitten with our enthusiasm, rather than the quality of content of the workshop. We lose ourselves in the excitement of Wikipedia and in our joy to share to the world the greatness of the phenomenon. But the teachers were at a conference and needed and longed for tangible, easily understood tools to use with their pupils. So, next time, I will not cut down on the enthusiasm per se, but find ways to channel this energy into something useful and more easily understandable for a group of people who have previously done nothing apart from reading articles redirected from Google.

2. From abstract to tangible.

Wikimedia Sverige members at a talk on Wikipedia.

Students in Sweden present on their contributions to Wikipedia.

In the past four months since I have had the honour to be employed as an education manager at Wikimedia Sverige, I have held quite a lot of lectures and talks. About Wikipedia, and more specifically, Wikipedia in education. And I have spoken myself warm of the greatness of the world’s largest groupwork, the philosophy that underpins Wikipedia, the beauty in assuming good faith and how great that is for our synapses movement in finding these patterns so that we may view people we meet, generally, with this assumption of good faith. I hardly get people who disagree when I tell them of this: The greatness of the contributors who write, categorise, care for, clean, and structure Wikipedia, all voluntarily. People, just as I am, seem to be warmed with hope for humanity and hope for a bright future full of free knowledge, accessible to all.

So all good? No. Definitely not. They walk away with this joy, and perhaps a bit of fulfillment from the knowledge of people contributing their knowledge, jointly, without a direct tangible reward. So they’re happy. But then they seem to think, “Hmm. Wikipedia is great.” Okay, that is great. “I like Wikipedia.” Okay, even better. “I would like to contribute to Wikipedia.” Ah, lovely! “I would like to do it with my pupils or students.” Super great! But then, have I given them any tools to do so? No.

They’re happy, but without tools to learn how to contribute themselves. I realised that I had an idea about people simply having to be eager, passionate and excited enough, to find their own way into actually taking part in this spectacular thing. Let me tell you, if this is not already clear to all of you but me, it is not. They still have no idea what to do or how to do it. So less talking about Wikipedia’s abstract greatness and underlying philosophy, and more about the examples, the hands-on ways of using Wikipedia in education. And perhaps even this in bullet points, or better, steps! I guess I was quite wrong in believing that curiosity and eagerness would drive people to get to know Wikipedia themselves as long as I came along and sparked their curiosity a bit more.

And well, yes, they asked and do ask plenty of questions, and love to hear stories about controversial subjects, famous people who have written about themselves, what has gone wrong and who actually does rule Wikipedia. But perhaps solely as passive listeners, who enjoy the entertainment of listening to a talk about a phenomenon they know. Not as active and eager to start to use contributors. Perhaps for that, hands-on examples are simply needed.

As with creativity, it is born and fostered not in a vacuum, but within a set of frames. If the examples of education and Wikipedia are the frames, they may wonder their own paths in their brain, connecting these examples to their current situation. Writing this out on a sheet of paper makes me think that this should have been so super obvious to me. So, if this is, and was, only me. Do feel free to think that this was a rather stupid non-working way of getting people interested in actually contributing.

3. To find a balance.

Sometimes in workshops, students, pupils, and teachers complain about the syntax. Oh it is simply so difficult and almost impossible to learn. Others find it quite easy and intriguing. Sooner or later they seem to either get to enjoy it, or at least learn to use it. Another aspect seems to be a bit more difficult: what to choose to write about or contribute to. May I here dare say that people are, in various ways, quite beloved with their own ideas, hobbies, and lives in general? This has a great effect on what people tend to want to write about. There’s nothing weird in that, but I do find it is quite a balance to have teachers who just want to start to contribute and are oh so eager to have their students or pupils write, and then ask if they could start by writing about the horse stable which they like that is around the corner from their school. Or if they could possibly add the picture of them standing in front of the museum in the article about the museum. Well, probably not a great idea, but I had said contributing was easy. And now, all of a sudden, it’s not. I’ve given them a tool that I am now trying to wrench from them. They were eager and keen to initiate their enthusiastic first contributions to Wikipedia, which I had energetically supported them in, then contrary to that, told them that most of their ideas from articles and contributions would fall outside the frames of relevance.

So, lesson learned. Do not be too enthusiastic, Sophie (memo to self), remember not to ‘sell’ Wikipedia as an easy to use tool for everybody. Perhaps it is not. This lesson, which I am not so sure about, is about balance. I know that. What I am not sure about though, is what this balance looks like. The cultural bar to start to contribute should not be too high, but not so low such that people experience a huge disappointment when their contributions are removed.

Hopefully this may help you make fewer mistakes, or at least different mistakes than these mentioned above. When you do, please share them.

Sophie Österberg, Wikimedia Sverige

Wikipedia Education Program Sweden kicks off

Herein will follow an update from the Swedish education program. Perhaps to call it an update would be to overestimate its size and current importance. A first glimpse of what is to hopefully become something rather exciting is perhaps a more appropriate label.

Workshop with pupils about Wikipedia, democracy, free knowledge, gender issues where they presented various ideas and perspectives.

To actually have as a part of the Swedish Wikimedia organisation an education program is a rather new and thrilling idea. The year of 2012 is the year where the Swedish education program has seen the light of day and where the first goals were set as to what should be regarded a good result for a first step in creating and shaping an education program.

I, Sophie Österberg, became engaged in Wikimedia Sverige as an intern undergoing a six-week internship which led to the great opportunity of being offered a job as education manager. With pride and great joy I commenced this position in the beginning of October. Let me though tell you that these two months have felt rather more like a year, be it the intensive work, the conferences, the bright ideas thrown at my table, the inspiration from beautiful minds all over Sweden and foremost, the joint motivation to create something worthwhile, lasting and qualitative, not for Wikipedia or Wikimedia solely, nor for only students or their teachers. But for us all, as a great global society. Well. That might perhaps be a goal to far-fetched to reach, but at least there is a vision in place.

We have looked at the current programs in place around the world to learn from their experiences and to gain knowledge in what we could reuse here in a Swedish context. We have mostly spoken to and looked at the German and the American examples of education programs, but we have been flirting a bit with the Indian and Egyptian as well.

To date we have met teachers at conferences, had individual meetings, lunches, coffees (coffee is huge in Sweden, read more about this here), held workshops, shared ideas to teachers about how to use Wikipedia, met public institutions, held lectures, been part of public debates, created and translated material, thought about how a program should best be organised, read about current trends in education in Sweden, been open to learn about the new Swedish curricula and find out how best to match Wikipedia in education with it.

Our Wikipedia in education t-shirts which we use at workshops, conferences and various other events. Orange is the theme colour of the educational program.

But most importantly, wee have given ourselves a face. We have become people who actually exists. It may sound ridiculous, but let me tell you that the most common comment we have been met by is ‘Wow, do you guys actually exist?”. Yes we do. We have simply been rather silent about it. But this is the end to that silence!

Hello world and at the moment, Hello Sweden! This may sound trivial, but it is not. People have found that there is someone, there are people, with whom they can build trust and communication. We exist, we are real and we are to be trusted. Let us not forget that this is the strongest currency there is between humans, no material or other physical resources may ever be as important as the intangible trust which we build between and in relation to one another.

Let me though share the more practical aspects of what have been done, in a rather sincere and honest tone. I do think that this programme initially did lack some confidence; read more about the Swedish mentality here. We didn’t have an understating of how many teachers and professors would be interested. This has led us in a rather interesting direction, which is now to be turned into something more long-lasting and fruitful.

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