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Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia Ambassadors’

A librarian uses her expertise to improve Wikipedia


Chanitra Bishop.

Every day, students come to Chanitra Bishop for advice about information — everything from how to find certain articles, to what books will help their research projects. Ms. Bishop certainly has the right pedigree. At Indiana University Bloomington, she’s the Digital Scholarship and Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Herman B Wells Library, which contains more than 4.6 million volumes, including special collections in African Studies, Russian and East European Studies, Uralic and Altaic Studies, East Asian Studies, and West European Studies.

“I wanted to work in the library,” says Ms. Bishop, “because I enjoy working with people, doing research, and helping people find information.”

Ms. Bishop has found that same connection with Wikipedia. In the fall of 2010, she began helping IU Bloomington students who were writing articles for the Wikimedia Foundation’s Public Policy Initiative. That initiative, which evolved into the Wikipedia Education Program, had students write public-policy-oriented articles as a formal classroom assignment. As a Wikipedia Ambassador, Ms. Bishop works not just with students but with professors in the program. One of Ms. Bishop’s first realizations: While every student already read Wikipedia, few students realized they could actually edit and contribute to Wikipedia’s articles. Students also assumed that each Wikipedia article was written in full by just one person.

“When we explain Wikipedia,” says Ms. Bishop about the volunteer instructors, “we usually go in and do an initial talk, and a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I never knew all of that.’ I like to show one of the videos that is about the ‘Edit’ button and how people often just ignore it. Even though it’s there, it’s like it’s not there. I tell them, ‘If you see something that’s inaccurate on Wikipedia, you don’t have to wait for someone else to fix it. You can fix it yourself. You don’t even need an account; all you have to do is click ‘edit.’”

Ms. Bishop also shows students a Wikipedia article’s “History” function, “so they can also see that even though an article today might have several different sections and be may be many pages long, when it first started out, it may have been six sentences. Often it may just start off as a sentence, or a paragraph, and then the community kind of helps build that article. So it doesn’t always just start off with someone just writing all of the information. Just one person kind of gradually can build up to its current state. So a lot of students also are surprised to see the initial, first view of the article.”

From her initial volunteering in 2010, Ms. Bishop is now Wikipedia Regional Ambassador for Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, meaning she works with Wikipedia Education Program classes throughout those three states. Ms. Bishop, who has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, was raised in Chicago, which is just 120 miles from Bloomington. Being Wikipedia Regional Ambassador means she often connects with students online — while never having to leave Bloomington. Ms. Bishop feels like she’s part of the bigger Wikimedia community of readers, contributors and volunteers.

“The community is what really drives Wikipedia,” says Ms. Bishop, whose Wikipedia user name is “Etlib” — a derivation of “Emerging Technologies Librarian.” “There’s not one person that’s in charge and makes all the decisions about how Wikipedia works. It’s very much community driven and it’s something that anyone can be involved in. Even though anyone can be involved in it, it’s like any other community, so the more you contribute to that community, the more people will believe what you put on there, the more respect you’ll have in that community.”

Jonathan Curiel, Development Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

Can beginners write high-quality articles? Czech students prove yes again!

This post is available in 2 languages: Česky7% • English 100%


Another winter term is coming to an end at Czech universities and we can again evaluate how students of Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, succeeded in improving Wikipedia articles about Czech protected areas this year. A total of 36 enrolled students of “Nature and Landscape Protection” (6 more students than last year) took part in the cooperation between the faculty and WikiProject Protected areas, organized under patronation of Students Write Wikipedia program and Wikimedia Czech Republic.

The benefits of cooperating with a group of third-year university students of Institute for Environmental Studies have been clear since last year, as can be seen from the last year’s report. At that time, students wrote top-quality articles accompanied by lots of pictures, aiming to document corresponding protected areas and improve the topic in the Czech Wikipedia. It was this past success that was very demanding this time: Will we be able to motivate the students enough so that their articles are at least as good as they were last year?

We did not change the overall model of the project: again, students were asked to pick one protected area, pay a visit in it, take pictures, make a 15-minute talk in front of the class (including the following discussion), and, last but not least, write a detailed Wikipedia article on the subject of this protected area. However, we put more stress on the professional delivery of the talks in front of class, including punctuality and good time management, as well as sticking to basic Wikipedia rules when writing the article. The scheme did not change because it was evaluated as satisfying enough and leading to good quality articles with lots of pretty pictures. It must be noted that this model is very demanding for the Wikipedia Ambassador who goes through all the articles, corrects them, and attends the seminar each week to evaluate the speeches.

As mentioned earlier, WikiProject Protected Areas has been the principal curator of this project; however, it is part of an official Students Write Wikipedia initiative that has been operating for two years now in the Czech Republic and has seen hundreds of articles being created about various topics and by students of several Czech universities. Apropos, ten Czech projects are running in the current winter term, including “Christianity I.“, “Sculpture in Czech Lands 1550-1800“, “Molecular Immunology” or “Essentials of Parasitology” (the list of all our projects can be found here). Recent changes in all these articles can be monitored real-time at a special page; the most interesting updates are regularly posted at the program’s Facebook page.

And how was the cooperation going this year? Let’s see the table below!

Image Name Before After Gallery

on Commons

Pohled na louku v PR Andelske schody3.JPG Andělské schody Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pohľad na Badínsky potok.JPG Badínsky prales Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Zarustani Barrandovy skaly vegetaci.JPG Barrandovské skály Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Blana 7.JPG Blana Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Borkovické blata - rašeliniště.jpg Borkovická blata Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Vyhlídka NPP Černé rokle (2).JPG Černé rokle Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Apalus bimaculatus.JPG Drienčanský kras Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Šupinovka kostrbatá (Pholiota squarrosa).JPG Hostivické rybníky Silver piece.png Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Louka jen.JPG Jenerálka Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Druhá strana.JPG Kalvárie v Motole Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Kapradiny.jpg Kaňon Labe Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Mohutní Karlštejn.JPG Karlštejn Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Kohoutovský ryolit.jpg Kohoutov Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Kotyz Hvozdik kartouzek.JPG Kotýz Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Rohac velky.JPG Lednické rybníky Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Přr máslovice.jpg Máslovická stráň Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Zajimavystromubotice.jpg Meandry Botiče Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
RybnikKancik.JPG Milíčovský les a rybníky Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Les u potoka v Modřanské rokli.JPG Modřanská rokle Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pohled na rozmanitost dřevin.JPG Motolský ordovik Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
PR Na Čihadle (6).JPG Na Čihadle Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Vstup do NP.JPG Na Plachtě 3 Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pohled na vychod.JPG Nový rybník u Soběslavi Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Železniční trať.JPG Polabská černava Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pravcicka brana1.JPG Pravčická brána Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Prokopské1.jpg Prokopské údolí Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Prosecke skaly 3.jpg Prosecké skály Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Lesni porost.JPG Skalka Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Vyvrácené stromy, Sokolí skála.JPG Sokolí skála Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
PR Starý Hirštejn 3.JPG Starý Hirštejn Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Třemešný vrch 2.JPG Třemešný vrch Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pohled ze severovychodni lokality na Jizni spojku.JPG U Branického pivovaru Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Kunratický les.jpg Údolí Kunratického potoka Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Údolí Únětického potoka.JPG Údolí Únětického potoka Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Pohled z cesty.JPG Vrch Hazmburk Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie
Gejzírové stalagmity.JPG Zbrašovské aragonitové jeskyně Crystal Project leftarrow.png Crystal Project rightarrow.png galerie

As you can see by comparing the corresponding page revisions in the table, the amount of text written during the course of the project was huge, and that applies to pictures as well. Like last year, one of the articles, written by a student, achieved the status of a Good Article. Specifically, it was an article dealing with a natural monument Hostivické rybníky, which is located in the vicinity of Prague. We proved again that even someone who is a Wikipedia beginner can create a high quality article when properly motivated. We also believe that the “exemplary articles” offered to students are essential for the success, as students can easily see all the templates used and just copy/paste them into their own article. We also stressed the practice of watching the work of students by experienced Wikipedians, who fix any imperfections and mistakes in the text or student’s wrong understanding of the internal wiki-rules.

Nevertheless, something did not run so smooth this year. Although we did explain the problem of copyright and stressed the importance of original writing, two students crossed the line of this essential Wikipedia rule this year. We cannot tell if it was unfamiliarity with the rule or an effort to simplify their school job, but the truth is that we recognized these violations very soon and removed the problematic pieces. Students thus experienced efficient defence mechanisms of Wikipedia, as even without the need of an Ambassador’s action, as other users promptly flagged the articles. Students were bound to rewrite the articles and explain their fault to the teacher. We believe this was an important lesson for all the students in the class, helping them to realize how important the original work is. However, we strongly warn everyone who considers starting a similar project to check all the student texts for copyright violations – this is a ubiquitous problem.

Apart from this issue that must be addressed, I would recommend all the Wikimedia projects to try to involve students as much as possible. Their positive value is indisputable and if you dedicate enough of your free time, they sure will produce excellent results, as our students did. The Czech “Students Write Wikipedia” program has once again proved its viability and the diversity it brings into Czech Wikipedia. This is a project when otherwise non-existent articles on protected areas and pictures are created and I personally hope that the next term will be again blooming with gifted students and their beautiful articles.

I’d like to hereby thank to Mgr. Jiří Reif PhD., the Associate Professor at Charles University in Prague, who once again allowed me to cooperate with his students and join them into the development of Czech Wikipedia. Also, I would love to thank to all students, who took part in this project and gave a lot of their energy in it. Thank you all!

Petr Brož (Chmee2), translated by Vojtech.Dostal, Wikimedia Czech Republic


Wikipedia and university beyond the classroom

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

In English:

In August 2011, I offered a course called Wikipedia in Roman History for an undergraduate History course at UNIRIO, Brazil. This was the first experiment in teaching with Wikipedia supported by the Wikipedia Education Program in Brazil. Now the program is well established and new courses are added each term, all of them incorporating graded assignments with Wikipedia though a variety of university courses.

This year I thought of something different. I realized that assignments with grades were not the only thing we could do. The university can act as a starting point to present students – or, for that matter, anyone – with a deeper view of what Wikipedia is, what it can do, its restrictions and possibilities for sharing knowledge (I like to call it “wiki-literacy”). This has been done before, by teams of volunteers all over the world, with or without Wikimedia Foundation support. But universities have as one of their three branches of action something we call “extension,” or activities that connect academia with society as a whole (the other branches are, naturally, teaching and research). So, isn’t working with Wikipedia totally fitting with the definition of extension?

Participants in the workshop at UNIRIO.

On October 16, together with Campus Ambassador OTAVIO1981, I offered a 4-hour workshop for students during the UNIRIO Extension Week. Twelve people participated, including students from other universities as well. We introduced the 5 pillars, with discussion on the meaning and use of encyclopedias, reliability, authorship, copyrights and collaborative writing, all through examples taken from Wikipedia sections, navigation, and good and bad articles.

With the presentation of the last two pillars, the students started editing: they created their userpages; they learned how to insert userboxes (this pre-social network device motivates them a lot); and they learned how to send messages through each other’s talk pages. We had previously selected five small articles from the English Wikipedia that were not available in Portuguese, translated the text and distributed them to the students. It was important that the articles were about topics of the lecturer’s knowledge, so additional information could be readily supplied.

The students then learned some basic formatting, such as how to insert internal and external links, references, images and categories. Choosing the best images was an important activity on itself. At the end of the workshop, they all had their shiny new (and correct) articles to show everyone. Furthermore, the workshop counted as additional working hours for their graduating requirements, which is important and motivational for them as well.

Editing workshops are not new. Nowadays, neither is teaching with Wikipedia. This packed format, however, opened some new possibilities. The ultimate goal here was not training new editors, or even improving Wikipedia content. These are consequences, because we must not forget that editing is essentially a voluntary act. These students may never edit again, but they will have become better users, more conscientious about processing and even creating information. This is a pressing necessity for today, and on Wikipedia, wiki-literacy is one of the best possible tools to achieve that.

Juliana Bastos Marques is User:Domusaurea.


Ambassador program: Students document protected areas in the Czech Republic

Students are widely using Wikipedia as a source for their school projects and as a learning tool. However, what happens if we change this procedure of just “using Wikipedia” and also engage students in writing Wikipedia? This is the main idea behind the worldwide spreading of Ambassador programs on Wikipedia projects all over the world. One promising method for an Ambassador program was tested by students who participated in cooperation with Czech WikiProject Protected areas.

The Czech WikiProject Protected areas represented by Chmee2 ran in winter semester 2011/2012 in cooperation with Jiří Reif, university teacher at Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science at the Charles University in Prague. For the project, 30 bachelor’s students participated in writing articles on the Czech Wikipedia. Students had to visit one protected area of their choice, take several pictures of the area, write an article for the Czech Wikipedia and give a public presentation for other students in the class. The presented task was comprehensive, varied and focused on individual work of participating students. We did not just want to attempt to enrich Wikipedia projects with new articles and images, but we also wanted to prepare students for future scientific work and give them the opportunity to try creative writing and critical work with references. This knowledge will soon come in handy when they start writing their bachelor’s work and prepare the defense of their bachelor’s academic degree.

Natural monument Břestecká skála, one of chosen protected areas. Students documented damage by growing tourism at this location.

Natural monument Břestecká skála, one of chosen protected areas. Students documented damage by growing tourism at this location.

The project enjoyed high popularity among students, according to the results of a survey. A full report with results from this cooperation is available on Czech Wikipedia in English. Here we present only a short summary of this cooperation and main lessons that we learned.

Unlike other ambassador projects where ambassador is supporting students mainly virtually in the Wikipedia environment, our ambassador was personally present at each class. This gave us the opportunity to directly interact with students, easily giving feedback about articles and answering their questions about Wikipedia. And of course, the ambassador was active also on Czech Wikipedia, correcting student’s edits. We realized that this in-person approach is more time-consuming for an ambassador than virtual assistance is. But it is better for the community on Wikipedia and for students. The ambassadors are able to help students understand all standards and rules of Czech Wikipedia without relying on the greater Wikipedia community. As a result, Wikipedia was enriched with high-quality articles containing references with only minor effort from the community. And students were able to directly and easily ask questions and get their answers.


Results from first Wikipedia Ambassador survey

The first generation of Wikipedia Ambassadors participated in a survey when the Public Policy Initiative wrapped up this summer. More than 80 respondents (over half of the 2010-2011 Ambassadors!) provided input about their experiences and how to improve the program. Many Wikimedia Foundation blog followers are probably familiar with the Initiative’s development of the Ambassador Program to open Wikipedia to the academic community. Ambassadors come in two flavors: Campus Ambassadors, who provide a face for Wikipedia on university campuses, and Online Ambassadors, who support the new student editors on wiki as they make their first contributions.

The graphs illustrate the Ambassadors’ role and motivations, based on the survey results.
Ambassador Roles 








Ambassador Motivations
While both Campus and Online Ambassadors identified their role as helping newcomers, their motivations diverged. Online Ambassadors were strongly motivated by helping newcomers, and Campus Ambassadors were strongly motivated by increasing Wikipedia credibility and use on university campuses. Both Campus and Online Ambassadors felt responsible first to the students they were working with and second to the Wikipedia community. Ambassadors agreed on the Public Policy Initiative outcomes:

  1. Wikipedia content improved.
  2. Use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool increased.
  3. Ambassadors provided support for college-educated newcomers.
  4. There was an increase of Wikipedia’s credibility among academia.

Through the survey, many Ambassadors shared their most memorable experiences in the program. Some of the highlights include:

  • I showed a student how to check the page view statistics. Hundreds of people had seen his article since he created it. What an immediate impact he had! He was blown away.”
  • For me it was an honor to have a student participant who was also a US Congressman and to help improve his Wikipedia article.”
  • My favorite story is of a non-traditional age student telling me that her son’s 8th grade teacher told the class not to use Wikipedia because it can not be trusted. Our student told her son what she had learned about neutral-voice and verifiability and community scholarship. At the end of the semester her son told her that his middle-school teacher now says it’s okay to use Wikipedia as a place to start looking for information… I sure would like to know what that 8th grader told his teacher about his Mom’s academic Wikipedia experience.”

Check out the pages for the Wikipedia Ambassador Program and Global Education Program to find out more about our program.

Amy Roth
Research Analyst, Public Policy Initiative 

It’s all about openness

In June, I travelled to India to kick off the Global Education Program‘s pilot in Pune. There, I met people who said: “I am a big fan of Wikipedia, but I am not good at writing. I always wondered if there are other ways I could help Wikipedia to improve.”

Ram Shankar Yadav

Ram Shankar Yadav volunteered to be the Campus Ambassador Coordinator in Pune.

We invited those people to become Wikipedia Ambassadors to teach others how to start editing. The beauty of the Wikipedia Ambassador Program is that it provides Wikipedia volunteer opportunities that don’t involve editing. People who aren’t article writers might be good at teaching others. They might have skills that we desperately need to get more people excited about Wikipedia and to fill the many gaps in content that still exist. Just look at the enthusiasm of the new Pune Campus Ambassadors that comes through in these video interviews.

Ram Shankar Yadav is a great example. Ram had never edited Wikipedia before. He was always a fan of the free encyclopedia, but he wasn’t drawn to editing the content. When he heard about the opportunity to become a Campus Ambassador, he jumped at the chance to volunteer his teaching skills in support of the encyclopedia he loved. Now, Ram has stepped into a leadership role in the India Education Program, serving as a key on-the-ground organizer of the Pune Ambassadors.

It was openness that made Wikipedia a success story. With a simple click on the edit button, you could change its content. That’s what distinguished Wikipedia from Nupedia back in 2001 and that’s how it became the biggest encyclopedia ever. Openness is critical for our future, too.

To stay successful, I firmly believe Wikipedia needs to be open and welcoming to newcomers who want to edit, but also to people who fill in other roles in our movement. People who are not part of the editing community, but who are eager to help Wikipedia in other ways – people like Ram.

Frank Schulenburg
Global Education Program Director

Regional Ambassadors recruit new Education Program participants

As we make the transition from the Public Policy Initiative to the Global Education Program, we are relying more on volunteers to keep our project sustainable. In the United States, some of the Global Education Program’s most hard-working volunteers this summer are the Regional Ambassadors.

As we expand the U.S.-based offerings in the Global Education Program, the Regional Ambassadors play the critical role of recruiting for campus-based activities. They help instructors interested in having their students edit Wikipedia for class learn more about what the program can offer, and they work to recruit people for the Campus Ambassador role and also coordinate getting the Campus Ambassadors all adequately trained. At the moment, Regional Ambassadors are taking the main leadership role in planning nine different Campus Ambassador trainings that will happen across the United States over the next few weeks.

Regional Ambassadors

Regional Ambassadors plan activities to encourage professors in their regions to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education classrooms.

Meet the current crop of Regional Ambassadors:

  • Chanitra Bishop (User:Etlib) is the Instruction & Emerging Technologies Librarian at Indiana University Bloomington and an experienced Campus Ambassador who has helped with two terms of classes at Indiana University Bloomington. She is a co-leader of the Great Lakes region.
  • Tom Cloyd (User:Tomcloyd) is an experienced Wikipedian with professional training in human psychology (which he has found highly useful in his recruitment efforts!). He leads the Great West region.
  • Derrick Coetzee (User:Dcoetzee) is an experienced Wikimedian, a Campus Ambassador who supports San Francisco Bay Area classes, and the unofficial photographer for recent Wikipedia Global Education Program events. He is a co-leader of the Pacifica region.
  • Bryan Cox (User:Manumitany) is a law student with extensive experience in community/political organizing and in coordinating volunteers. Bryan leads the Skyplains region.
  • Max Klein (User:Maximilianklein) participated in the Public Policy Initiative as both a course instructor and a Campus Ambassador in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has contributed many creative ideas to the program. He leads the New England region.
  • Richard Knipel (User:Pharos) is actively involved with the Wikimedia New York chapter, and served as a Campus Ambassador to New York University in spring 2011. He leads the Metropolis region.
  • Rob Pongsajapan (User:Pongr) is a new media designer at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University, where he has also been a Campus Ambassador for two terms. He leads the Nation’s Capital region.
  • Rob Schnautz (User:Bob_the_Wikipedian) is an experienced Wikipedian with stunning organization abilities. He’s a co-leader of the Great Lakes region.
  • Matt Senate (User:Mattsenate) has, like Max, served as both a course instructor and a Campus Ambassador in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is very active in the free culture movement. Matt co-leads the Pacifica region.
  • Dylan Staley (User:Dylanstaley) is a peer mentor at Louisiana State University’s Communication Across the Curriculum office, while also serving as a Campus Ambassador at that university. Dylan leads the Texarkana region and is serving as the interim Regional Ambassador for the South as well.
  • Alex Stinson (User:Sadads) is an experienced Campus Ambassador at James Madison University, a longtime Wikipedian, an Online Ambassador, the founder of a Wikipedia student club at James Madison University, and a key player in outreach activities to universities in the U.K. He leads the Greater Chesapeake region.

We honestly couldn’t do it without them, so a HUGE round of thanks to our Regional Ambassadors!

The Regional Ambassador model is debuting with the United States, but as we start to grow our programs in CanadaIndia, Germany, Brazil, the U.K., and other countries around the globe, we anticipate developing Regional Ambassadors for those locations as well. In the U.S., the plan is to gradually reduce the size of each region so that activities in each region are more local and less time-intensive.

If you’re interested in learning more about using Wikipedia in higher education classrooms, fill out this interest form and the appropriate Regional Ambassador will get in touch. Fill out the form, too, if you’re interested in becoming a Regional Ambassador yourself.

LiAnna Davis
Global Education Program Communications Manager