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Quebec school project improves French Wikipedia

This post is available in 2 languages: français 7% • English 100%

In English

Members of the 2009 edition of the Cégep de Chicoutimi school project. At far left stand fr:Jean-Marie Tremblay, founder of the digital library Les Classiques des sciences sociales, while Simon Villeneuve is at far right.

I am Simon Villeneuve. I have taught physics and astronomy at the Cégep de Chicoutimi, a college in Quebec (Canada), since 2005. Since the 2008 fall semester, I have used the French Wikipedia in my astronomy class and have introduced my students to the commons-based peer production principle of public wikis. I coordinate their work with the Cégep de Chicoutimi pedagogical project.

Like it or not, the free encyclopedia will take an increasing place in the education world[1]. I believe Wikipedia is a wonderful educational tool for learning a lot of stuff like critical thinking, peer production principle, ability to find and evaluate the quality of sources and, especially, production of online libre knowledge that anyone can reuse.

In this post, I discuss some results of my school project and resources we created in order to follow and frame more easily the students assignments.

A work in progress

It took me a long time to evaluate the kind of Wikipedian work I could ask my students. At first, I assigned them two tasks:

  1. Contribute 20 edits in the main space, with a minimum of 10 astronomy-related edits.
  2. In teams, significantly expand an astronomy article of your choice.

I tought the first assignment was sufficient for students to learn the ropes of the encyclopedia, enough to complete the second task. Impressed by the results of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Murder Madness and Mayhem, I wanted to lead my students in the drafting of good and featured articles. It was a disaster, plain and simple.

I came to realize that mastering the basics of MediaWiki and the encyclopedic style are very difficult to the average human being. I overestimated the degree of computer skills from my supposed digital natives digital naives, as well as their ability to master the encyclopedic genre.

This led me to develop a learning process involving six, rather than two, assignments and focus their work on brand new articles or stubs.


Here are some results:

Results from the projet pédagogique au Cégep de Chicoutimi (2008-2012)
Year[note 1] N[note 2] Editions[note 3] Creations[note 4] Octets[note 5] Articles[note 6] Octets articles[note 7] Words[note 8] · [2] Assessment[note 9]
Total 155 6,003 157 1,160,933 71 467,840 46,784 29 Start/C, 5 B
2012 36 1,301 68 249,862 14 78,856 7,886 7 Start/C, 1 B
2011 [note 10] 34 1,509 48 390,923 29 164,075 16,408 8 Start/C, 1 B
2010 32 1,356 11 210,145 18 120,563 12,056 10 Start/C, 1 B
2009 34 1,603 11 261,031 [note 11] 10 104,346 10,435 4 Start/C, 2 B
2008 19 234 19 48,972 0

The last four columns show the results of the main assignment in which I asked teams of students to significantly develop one article.[note 12]

Since 2009, I also ask students to fill a short survey at the end of the semester. The survey is far from perfect, but it gives a general idea about the perception of the project by the students, including the gender gap.

Comparison between women (blue) and men (red) for the first 7 replies issues (2009-2012). The gender gap is clear.

You can get a detailed overview of the results on (fr) Wikipédia:Projets pédagogiques/Cégep de Chicoutimi/Résultats.

Other WMF projects

My use of wikis in the classroom is not restricted to Wikipedia. I also introduce the students to other Wikimedia Foundation projects.

Some contributed to Commons[note 13] and participated in the 2012 Wiki Loves Monuments contest.

In the last weeks, the students wrote astronomy and astrophysics news items on Wikinews.[note 14] One article, (fr)fr:Le géocroiseur 2012 DA14 s’approche de la terre” was showcased on the site’s Main Page for several days.

I also introduced my students to Wikisource. One of them has started working on a French translation of the Einstein–Szilárd letter and of Churchill‘s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.[note 15]


Screenshot of the homepage of the digital library Les Classiques des sciences sociales. The educational project at the Cégep de Chicoutimi allows the coordination of multiple Quebec actors of the free culture movement by creating some activities like (fr) copyleft days.

There are very few French resources and appropriate tools to help teachers to achieve educational activities using Wikipedia.

With the help of Wikipedians like Lilyu and Benoit Rochon, we created several templates and specialized categories to help us identifying students activities as well as articles they worked on. To get an idea of ​​these resources, see the (fr) Catégorie:Projet:Cégep de Chicoutimi.

Over time, I was able to gather a core of education stakeholders interested in creating open educational resources by organizing various activities, such as the (fr) 2011 copyleft day. Thus, with the help of such fellow Wikipedians/Science and Mathematics teachers Cantons-de-l’Est and Letartean, we have created a number of exercises.[note 16]. While still very sketchy at this stage, I believe that this approach can serve as a guide to create a turnkey approach for an educational use of Wikipedia by fellow teachers.

Our latest initiative is the establishment of a partnership with the digital library Les Classiques des sciences sociales with the launch, in February 2013, of a new collection dedicated to natural sciences[3]. We have taken this initiative because the eligibility policy on French WikiSource is much more restrictive than what is acceptable under Canadian law. The new collection, with free texts in 5 formats (.html, .pdf, .doc, .rtf, and .epub), provides access to the French text from renowned scientists such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, René Descartes, Albert Einstein, Gregor Mendel, and Ernest Rutherford.

That’s about all I can tell you for now. If my Wikimania 2013 presentation is accepted, I’ll be able tell you more face to face. Wink.png

Simon Villeneuve, Cégep de Chicoutimi


Wikimedia Argentina’s educational booklet now also in Guarani language

This post is available in 2 languages: Español 7% • English 100%


“Vikipetã mbo’eha kotýpe”, the new Guarani version of Wikipedia in the classroom

Wikimedia Argentina, the first Wikimedia chapter in Latin America to be founded, has a long history of activities related with promoting the use of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in education, mainly in secondary schools and universities.

In 2010, it published a booklet entitled “Wikipedia en el aula” (Wikipedia in the classroom in Spanish), aimed at teachers and other education professionals. A significant number of students in Argentina currently use Wikipedia as their main source of information, so the booklet tries to answer several questions a teacher has about Wikipedia, such as “Is it reliable?” or “What can I do if my students use Wikipedia?”. “Wikipedia en el aula” not only addresses these questions but also presents several cases of teachers who have used Wikipedia as a learning tool within their own classrooms. The booklet presents simple examples illustrating how the online encyclopedia can be used as a place to develop writing and debating abilities and to motivate participation and engagement within a community.

The booklet has been distributed to several schools in Argentina and has inspired the Argentine government to create a space about Wikipedia within its own education portal,

Wikimedia Argentina has organized several workshops and presentations for Argentine students and teachers.

Following other of its own strategic pillars, Wikimedia Argentina developed the first edition of “Wikipedia en el aula” in an indigenous language, with the goal of promoting the usage and development of the historically displaced native languages of the current Argentine territory. In its first edition, “Wikipedia en el aula” was translated into Guarani (“Vikipetã mbo’eha kotýpe”), spoken not only in Northeastern Argentina but also in an area encompassing Southern Brazil, Western Bolivia, and Paraguay, where it is one of the two official languages. Wikimedia Argentina will publish a first edition with 500 printed copies to be distributed in schools and other educational institutions, and it expects to broaden the number of languages in the future.

Yet, Wikimedia Argentina’s Educational activities are not limited to “Wikipedia en el aula”. The chapter has already delivered in the past presentations and workshops to students and teachers. Wikimedia Argentina’s goal for 2013 is to articulate all of these activities in an Educational Master Plan. It will be created together with local and foreign experts on Education and will act as a guide for Wikimedia Argentina’s work in the years to come.

Osmar Valdebenito G.
Executive Director
A. C. Wikimedia Argentina


New Case Studies brochure highlights how professors teach with Wikipedia

Juliana Bastos Marques

Juliana Bastos Marques

A new brochure released by the Wikimedia Foundation on-wiki and in PDF contains case studies of how university instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool. The brochure features 15 professors from 6 different countries, including 9 different assignments professors have used and 5 different ways of grading the assignments.

For example, Professor Juliana Bastos Marques of Brazil shares how she assigns her students to write Wikipedia articles for class. The 13-week assignment encourages students to critically analyze existing Portuguese Wikipedia articles on the course topic, then suggest improvements in a sandbox, with feedback from the professor and Ambassadors, and finally move their articles to the article namespace. More information about Professor Juliana’s assignment is available on the wiki version of the Case Studies brochure.

Dalia Mohamed El Toukhy

Dalia Mohamed El Toukhy

In another assignment featured in the brochure, Professor Dalia Mohamed El Toukhy of Egypt explains how she has used translations successfully in her course. Students are learning to be professional translators for French and Arabic, so she has students select high-quality articles from the French Wikipedia that are not available on the Arabic Wikipedia, and the students translate the French into Arabic. In this assignment, Professor Dalia explains, her students get real-world translation examples while improving the quality of the Arabic Wikipedia. See more information about this idea.

Read more ideas of Wikipedia assignments and how to grade them at

Another aspect of the on-wiki version of the brochure allows any other professor who has done a unique assignment with a Wikimedia project to create his or her own profile on wiki. Using a guided template, professors can include information about what they did with their students and how successful the project was, including rankings of how the assignment met learning objectives. Professors from around the world are encouraged to add yourself to the on-wiki version of the brochure!

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

Wikipedia Education Program pilot kicks off in Brazilian universities

Even before the Wikimedia Foundation launched its pilot Wikipedia Education Program in Brazil, professor Juliana Bastos Marques, together with Campus Ambassador Otavio Louvem, demonstrated successful work using Wikipedia inside a university. Through their work, they engaged more than 20 students and considerably improved the quality of articles about Roman history. This course was a example of a successful group working together with Online Ambassadors and with students in a university to improve Portuguese Wikipedia articles.

The quality contributions made by Juliana’s students, along with the lessons we learned from other Wikipedia in higher education programs around the world, led us to a few questions for the Brazilian community: Should we scale the Wikipedia Education Program throughout Brazil? And if so, how can we do in a sustainable and community-driven way?

Professors and ambassadors training

Professors and Wikipedia Ambassadors at an orientation for pilot program participants.

To begin answering these questions, we decided to run a pilot education program in Brazil, customizing the model of classroom incorporation that has been used globally by professors. At the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, we talked to professors from universities in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro with the hopes of forming a small pilot. Overall, professors had a positive response about the idea of using Wikipedia as a pedagogical tool in their classes. After much thinking on the best way to create a good pilot, we opted to keep it small for a better understanding of how to expand the program in the second semester. We also agreed to work with five carefully selected professors from traditional universities in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (see the detailed Brazil pilot program plan). History, sociology, physics, and public policy are the fields of knowledge that will be covered, with about 150 students working to improve existing articles, or create new ones.

Professors have been creative in deciding what sort of a classroom model would work best to meet the purposes of their specific coursework and students’ abilities and interests, and we will be closely following the outcome of the different models.

At the University of São Paulo (USP), the largest university in South America and one of the most traditional in Brazil, professor Pablo Ortellado has asked his students to form groups and collaboratively write encyclopedic articles on Cultural Policy. From the 11 proposed articles, only one already exists. At Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), professor Edivaldo Moura, a particle physics researcher, has adopted another strategy for his students studying electromagnetism. Each of his thirteen students has chosen an article related to electromagnetism, from Gauss Law to Maxwell Equations. Another USP physicist joining the program, Professor Vera Henriques, will have her graduate students of biological systems improving Wikipedia. Professor Heloisa Pait, from UNESP, is giving tasks on Wikipedia for her sociology students explore their cultural memories. Finally, Professor Juliana Bastos Marques will encourage her 60 freshman students to explore concepts around Wikipedia in her history class, and they can attend an extension program she has created together with Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO), where she teaches.

In addition to professors, we also began to recruit Ambassadors, a complex task considering the geographic logistics of all classes that joined the program. Wikipedians who are already involved with Wikipedia Education Program were incredibly helpful in recruiting new Ambassadors, and the local Wikimedia Brasil meet-ups were essential to spread awareness about the project and explain opportunities for involvement. In addition, Wikipedians from Portugal stepped up to help support the Brazilian classes virtually and they are helping also organize the project page. They have even started outreach about the program in their country!

These Brazilian Wikimedians and Portuguese language Wikipedians from around the world have asked tough questions, strategized about implementation and volunteered to serve as Online and Campus Ambassadors. We are thrilled to be working with a great group of Ambassador volunteers alongside the professors.

We are eagerly anticipating the outcomes of this semester! These different models will provide ample opportunity for reflection at the end of semester, and we will be tracking student contributions and motivations to gauge the effectiveness of the program. If you are interested in supporting the program, please reach out and introduce yourself on the Ambassador page or send an email to wu-suporte AT googlegroups DOT com!

Everton Zanella Alvarenga (also known as Tom)
Consultant for the Wikipedia Education Program in Brazil and Wikimedia Brasil volunteer

From My Dirty Little Secret to My Favorite Tool for E-Pedagogy: How One University Professor Learned to Love Wikipedia

Jonathan Obar

Professor Jonathan Obar

I was never a fan of Wikipedia. In fact, I was quite skeptical when I first heard about the Wikipedia Global Education Program. How things have changed.

About a year ago, I remember hearing that some folks from the Wikimedia Foundation were planning to visit our College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University to try to recruit faculty for the Wikipedia Education Program. I remember walking to the meeting thinking, hmm, well I guess as a professor in a communication school it’ll be cool to meet some people who work for a major social media site. I’m not a fan of Wikipedia though, I don’t trust it… (puff up chest here) I’m an academic after all; my work is well-researched, credible, trustworthy, not like that amateurish stuff on Wikipedia. Just let me find one of my students citing Wikipedia in a paper so that I can write on their submission in big, red letters YOU DO NOT CITE WIKIPEDIA IN MY CLASS.

The dirty little secret of course was that I was using Wikipedia all the time. Whenever I would begin a research project I would type a concept into Google and of course a Wikipedia article would come up. I’d take a quick look, check out the references, begin to map the concept in my mind, all the while feeling unsure that I could trust what I was reading. I did this all the time. As an academic, this was my dirty little secret.

One year later and how things have changed. I am now a Wikipedia Teaching Fellow as well as a volunteer member of the Wikipedia Education Program’s outreach team helping to connect universities in Canada to the initiative, determined to change the minds of skeptics all over the world who see Wikipedia as I once did.

So what’s changed? Look, I’ve used Facebook in the classroom, I’ve used Twitter. I’ve used closed wikis, blogs and other new media technologies and I am convinced (and I don’t think I’m overstating things here) that Wikipedia is among the most innovative tools for e-pedagogy and e-learning currently available.

This “Wikipedia in the classroom” project begins where most “traditional” research assignments leave off. Students are still researching topics related to course content, they’re still synthesizing sources, they’re still writing; that’s where most “traditional” research projects leave off. What the Wikipedia project then adds is new media literacy development. Students learn the technical and social skills needed to work with wiki-technology, they’re pushed to collaborate and engage with Wikipedia’s social network, they are thrust into a thriving open-source movement, and they are exposed to a growing and increasingly relevant wiki-culture. Students experience all of this, while simultaneously learning course content.

That’s just the beginning.

As I teach my students about new media literacy, I often refer to new perspectives that I’ve been exposed to while working with the Wikimedia Foundation. Lessons about what it means to understand the nature of the evolving information source, how knowledge is generated through debate (some would go so far as to say that we’re working with a dialectic process here… perhaps an overstatement) and most importantly, how it is essential the we be critical of our information sources, no matter what they are or where we find them. You are not safe anywhere when it comes to information sources. There is bias everywhere. There are mistakes everywhere. No information source is the source. Research widely and research often. Be an informed consumer of information.

Wikipedia is so many things. It’s an encyclopedia, it’s a social network, and it’s also an idea. When I first began using Wikipedia in the classroom as a tool for innovative e-pedagogy, I quickly realized that not only was I teaching students new media literacy, not only would I be providing them with a unique opportunity to collaborate online and receive feedback from a multitude of individuals, forcing them to reflect on their work from a variety of perspectives. Not only would students be leaving something behind, contributing to the amount of information available online about their area of interest – have you heard about the Georgetown student’s Wikipedia article – National Democratic Party (Egypt) – that’s received more than 100,000 hits since the “paper” was turned in? Not bad for a term paper that would in years past end up in the file cabinet or the garbage, seemingly lost forever. When we introduce Wikipedia into the classroom as a teaching tool, not only do our students enjoy these benefits, we provide them with a space to reflect and learn about the nature of knowledge, how it is created, built, shaped, learned, and how it evolves. Taken a step further, perhaps we are also providing them with a place to question the normative ideals of participatory, direct democracy, and how our information sources contribute to our societal system of knowledge.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is this Wikipedia project anyways? How does it work? Well, for more information, have a look at the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Global Education Program outreach page. To put it simply, professors replace “traditional” writing assignments with the Wikipedia assignment, requiring students to research and write material that then gets placed in Wikipedia articles. At the same time that students conduct research and edit Wikipedia (learning the social and technical components of the site), students also learn about wiki-culture as they connect to Wikipedia’s social network. This all happens while professors simultaneously teach course content. It’s two-courses in one in many respects.

Clearly I’m gushing, clearly my views have changed, and for good reason. As an educator I’m being given a tremendous opportunity to offer my students something relevant, cutting-edge, intellectually challenging and fun. Oh and by the way, did I mention that it’s free?

Come check out what the Wikimedia Foundation has put together, I promise that you’ll never feel dirty about your Wikipedia use again.

-Jonathan Obar
Michigan State University

Global Education Program A–Z

Our new Global Education Program brings with it a lot of new terminology. What better way to organize an overview than in A–Z?

Ambassadors: When we started thinking about how to involve universities in the improvement of Wikipedia articles back in 2009, it became clear that we won’t be successful without offering various kinds of support. We decided to create a new role for people who are both eager and qualified to help new contributors to get around the many difficulties of editing Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Ambassador Program started in the summer of 2010, when we recruited the first Campus and Online Ambassadors for the English Wikipedia. Today it’s a great way for people to become engaged even if they don’t have a long history of Wikipedia editing. All you need is an affinity to teaching, the willingness to help others and a friendly attitude. That opens the Wikipedia movement up for people who are eager to help and who had few opportunities for doing so in the past.

Bookshelf: Teaching students how to use Wikipedia is hard without instructional materials. Back in 2006 we only had the “Wikipedia Cheatsheet,” a one-pager that listed the most common wiki markup tags. That’s why we started the Bookshelf Project in 2009. Now, it contains a wide variety of brochures and videos that explain how to start editing. Most popular among teachers are the “Welcome to Wikipedia” and “Evaluating Wikipedia article quality” brochures. By the way: all printed materials have been created with Scribus, an open source desktop publishing application, so they can be translated and adapted by people all over the world.

Campus Ambassadors: Campus Ambassadors provide in-person support on the university campus. They get a 2-day training to learn all the nuts and bolts of what they have to teach. Our Campus Ambassadors come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some of them are librarians, some are students, and some are teachers. They all share a common goal: to help newcomers with their first steps on Wikipedia.

Fellows: We started a Wikipedia Teaching Fellows Program for educators participating in the Public Policy Initiative in 2011. Professors who fulfill the Teaching Fellow requirements are able to put the distinction on their C.V. to indicate the work they’ve done with Wikipedia in their classrooms. At our Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit in July 2011, we were able to honor the first 20 official Wikipedia Teaching Fellows.

Global Education Program: The class-based university program as explored in the Public Policy Initiative has been highly successful in turning students into Wikipedia contributors. We have built a strong knowledge base about running a class-based program as well as the tools needed to implement it (training handbooks, brochures on how to start editing, how-to videos, sample syllabi, etc.) We are now at a point to make these investments pay off. That’s why we are starting a Global Education Program. The Global Education Program will support the Foundation’s strategic goal to grow and strengthen the Wikipedia editor community.

Higher Education Summit: Our first Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit took place on July 7–9, 2011. More than 120 teachers, librarians, Wikipedia Ambassadors, and Foundation staff members came together in Boston to celebrate the successes of the Public Policy Initiative. For the participants, the three days were a great opportunity to share their skills, best practices and success stories with each other. We received a lot of positive feedback and we hope that this was the first of many Wikipedia Higher Education Summits to be held in different countries around the globe.

India Education Program: In June 2011, we started our India Education Program in Pune, Maharashtra. Pune is a vibrant university city with more than a hundred educational institutes. We quickly learned that the interest from Indian teachers in our program is as big as the interest in the U.S. That’s why we are estimating that more than 700 students will participate in Wikipedia-editing activities in the first semester. Most of them will edit the English Wikipedia, but some of them are also planning to write articles on the Maharati Wikipedia.

K-12: We know that university students make great contributors to Wikipedia. Some say, “students are the fuel of Wikipedia.” But what about high school students? We’ve received some inquiries from high school teachers who would like to adopt our model and let their students edit Wikipedia as part of the classroom activities. That’s why we will run a small pilot in the spring term 2012 to see whether this idea is worth further exploration.

Numbers: In the first two semesters of our educational program activities, more than 800 students contributed about 5,600 pages of high quality content to the English Wikipedia. Our research has shown that Wikipedia articles written by those students improved by an average of 140 percent. By 2013, we are planning to have more than 10,000 students enrolled in our Education Program.

Online Ambassadors: Whereas the Campus Ambassadors provide in-person support, the Online Ambassadors help students on wiki and on a dedicated IRC channel. Most of our Online Ambassadors are long-term Wikipedians who can answer almost every question related to the technical aspects of editing, Wikipedia culture and processes. Students have told us that the mentoring from Online Ambassadors has been “tremendously helpful” for understanding Wikipedia and for making the first edits.

Public Policy Initiative: A 17-month experimental pilot program that started in the summer of 2010. We decided to run our pilot with a narrow topical focus (“If we can do it with public policy, we will be able to do it with any other topic as well”) and limited to U.S. universities. Now, as we are flooded with requests from educators outside of public policy, and we have a model that works effectively, we are transitioning the Public Policy Initiative to the new Global Education Program. Our goal is to apply our learnings in the U.S. to other disciplines and countries and to expand the use of Wikipedia in higher education globally. We see this as a continuous effort to strengthen and diversify Wikipedia’s editing community.

Regional Ambassadors: When we started the Public Policy Initiative, one of our main goals was to make the program self-sustainable. That’s why we created the role of Regional Ambassadors. Whereas Foundation staff members recruited professors and Campus Ambassadors in the beginning, it’s now up to the volunteers. The Regional Ambassador role is a leadership role with great opportunities for developing team management, community organizing, and public outreach skills. It also provides participants with significant professional-networking opportunities, especially in the education community and the open-source community.

Student clubs: Wikipedia student clubs pretty much emerged without the Foundation being involved. The first student club in the U.S. started at the University of Michigan in June 2010. Most student clubs hold monthly meetings where students can have a place to both learn and teach each other how to edit Wikimedia projects, and to discuss their edits with each other.

Trainers: Some of our Campus Ambassadors get an additional 2-day training so they can train the next generation of Campus Ambassadors. Those Campus Ambassador Trainers play an important role in our program activities: as volunteers they organize and lead local training events to ensure that the next cohort of Ambassadors acquires the same skills as they did. They also provide valuable feedback that helps improve the training.

Women: One of our strategic goals is to encourage more women to start editing Wikipedia. Our activities at universities offer a great opportunity to do so: more than half of the students in the U.S. (as well as in a large number of other countries) are female. And, of course, we are proud that more than 45% of our Campus Ambassadors are women as well.

Join the discussion about Wikimedia and education by subscribing to the Education listserv.

Frank Schulenburg
Global Education Program Director