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Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia Education Program Brazil’

Physics professor assigns students to edit Portuguese Wikipedia

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

In English:

Professor Rafael Pezzi

Professor Rafael Pezzi, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, read about a new program to support university faculty members in Brazil who were interested in incorporating Wikipedia editing into students’ assignments. Rafael was intrigued by the idea, and thought it might be a good idea for his physics course for engineering students.

“Wikipedia makes it explicit how knowledge is built: a never-ending dynamic process with conflicting opinions in a lively discussion,” he says. “Although this process is fundamental, it is ignored in the standard textbook-based class where knowledge is just given, considered as an absolute truth.”

Rafael was impressed with the level of support he received in the program, both from colleagues and from the Wikipedia community. Fabio Azevedo and Israel Rocha served as Wikipedia Ambassadors for his class. They introduced Wikipedia and motivated the students to participate in the assignment. They were also very supportive on-line, clarifying technicalities of the Wikipedia interface and introducing the participants to the Wikipedia community.

Professor Rafael Pezzi and his Campus Ambassador, Fabio Azevedo

For Fabio, an editor since 2007, becoming a Wikipedia Ambassador and supporting Rafael’s class was a natural choice.

“I was motivated by using a modern teaching technique at my university, improving free content in my language, and helping Wikipedia to grow,” Fabio says. “I gave a talk on Wikipedia editing for his students in the first or second week of class. After, I replied to some emails, helping students with editing question and uploading images.”

“I must say that the help of the Ambassadors was key to making it happen,” Rafael says. “Without them it would not have happened, as I am not an experienced editor and created my Wikipedia account for this project.”

Rafael’s students really took to editing, creating or significantly expanding several important articles about physics related topics on the Portuguese Wikipedia, including articles such as Thermometer, Supercritical fluid and Interference of waves. In fact, five of Rafael’s students enjoyed the assignment so much that they volunteered to be Ambassadors for the current term.

“Basically traditional writing assignments are read once or twice and then sits in a drawer or folder archive in the professor computer,” Rafael says. “It is of limited value and does not really motivate the student apart from getting a good grade. With Wikipedia, the students have the real publishing experience and the feeling that what they write can help others understand what they are studying. Some get really motivated by this challenge.”

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

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Improving computer science articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia

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

In English:

In 2005, Professor Ruy de Queiroz of the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) in Brazil was browsing articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia in logic and the theory of computation, his speciality. Ruy found them disappointingly lacking — but when he browsed the same articles on the English Wikipedia, he realized that they were quite good.

So Ruy set out to change the Portuguese Wikipedia’s coverage of these areas, by engaging his students at UFPE in the efforts. Since 2005, he’s asked students in his “Logic for Computer Science” and “Theoretical Informatics” courses to translate or write articles on the topics for extra credit.

Professor Ruy de Queiroz

“This has worked very well, and we have produced a reasonable amount of articles in Portuguese,” Ruy says. He’s being modest; that “reasonable amount” is more than 125 computer science and technology related articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia contributed through his coursework.

He then assigns his current students to read the Wikipedia articles his students from previous terms have contributed as a supplement to their normal reading.

“The articles were an updated source into the specific areas, with good pointers to the bibliography,” Ruy says.

Ruy says that Wikipedia cannot and should not replace a traditional reading assignment, but it’s a way of keeping students informed with more up-to-date material and accessible explanations of complex topics. He assigned Wikipedia assignments as reading in two courses he taught in the 2005-06 academic year at Stanford University in the United States as well, because they were the perfect supplement to the traditional textbook reading.

The feedback Ruy has received from students and professors has all been positive, and he looks forward to the continuing development of the Portuguese Wikipedia, so that it can be as good of a resource as the English Wikipedia is.

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

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Design professor encourages students to improve Portuguese Wikipedia

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

In English:

Iara Camargo had one term of teaching experience when a professor in her Ph.D. program at the University of São Paulo forwarded her an open call from the Wikipedia Education Program in Brazil. The program was looking for faculty members who were interested in assigning students to write Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. Iara, excited by the prospect, signed up.

Professora Iara Camargo

“I got very excited about the idea of writing articles with my students on Wikipedia,” she says. “I think most academics have a little prejudice about Wikipedia, saying that some information could be not quite real. But I’ve always used Wikipedia as a starting point to research a subject. The idea is not to use it as a reference, only to have some idea about the subject. Then, when I started to look at it more critically, I found many good articles in my research field… and of course some poor ones.”

Iara asked her students in her Editorial Design course at Faculdades Integradas Rio Branco to improve those poor articles. Her students researched and wrote articles ranging from famous designers like Bea Feitler to concepts like legibility to publishers like Penguin Books. Iara even started an article herself, on book design.

“I like incorporating Wikipedia in my class for these reasons,” she says. “First, to stimulate the students to read and write more. Second, I believe that is good because they are actually publishing something, it is not a paper that they are writing just to me to have an evaluation. Third, they have to be conscious and judicious to write well, because a lot of people might use it in the future.”

Students in Iara’s classroom work on their Wikipedia assignments.

In particular, Iara says, her students get more from the Wikipedia assignment than they would from many traditional assignments in the design field. Since design is mostly a visual medium, students do not have the chance to develop as much researching and writing skills, but those are critical skills for their careers. Iara believes the Wikipedia assignment helps students learn these skills while teaching them the fundamentals of the discipline.

“It is great in terms of writing, you have to be impartial and write objectively, which is in some ways scientific writing because you cannot add subjective writing to Wikipedia,” she says. “And I think it is great because they really have to find reliable sources instead of using the argument ‘I’ve heard it is like that’ or ‘I thought it was like that’.”

A Campus Ambassador helps one of Iara’s students.

Iara’s department head Professor Paulo Durão enthusiastically supported her and her students as they worked on the Wikipedia assignments. In fact, the institution’s academic director Professor Alexandre Uehara liked the idea so much that Iara and her Campus Ambassadors, Cauê Henrique Rodrigues, Denise Akemi Matsuda, and Maira Rodrigues, were featured in a video shown in the school cafeteria for one month. Iara and her students also had help from two Portuguese Wikipedians serving as Online Ambassadors, Vitor Mazuco and Gabryelsl. The wikicode was initially scary for Iara, but with the help of the Ambassadors, she learned how to edit Wikipedia and is even excited about using her wikicode skills.

“My favorite part was the challenge of working with it!” Iara says. “It’s a wonderful tool and Wikipedia is not only a website, it is a very important cultural phenomenon. We are in a different time and maybe learning and studying nowadays has to be integrated with this new Internet life we are living.”

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

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Improving evolution articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia through class: Professor Yuri Leite

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

In English:

Yuri Leite

Yuri Leite

“I think that the knowledge produced by high-qualified college students should be available to anyone,” Professor Yuri Leite says. That’s why he has encouraged his biology students at the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo in Vitória, Brazil, to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their course assignments.

The idea came to him one day in 2009, when he was coordinating a graduate level seminar on the Charles Darwin book “The Origin of Species.” Each week, the class discussed a chapter of the book and improved the article on the Portuguese Wikipedia about Darwin’s book as they went along. Before Yuri’s class began work, the article was what’s known as a stub — a short article without much content. By the end of the term, his class had transformed the article, with extensive descriptions of each chapter.

“I think it is a waste of time, energy, knowledge, and often paper to have highly skilled undergraduate or graduate students write term papers that will be read only by the teacher and sometimes a TA, and will eventually end up in the trash can,” Yuri says.

He had always been interested in using the Internet as a teaching tool. As a teaching assistant at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1990s, Yuri found the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web and Berkeley’s Understanding Evolution portals inspirational.

Vitoria, Brazil

A beautiful view of Vitória city, where Professor Yuri Leite teaches.

He started using Wikipedia in his undergraduate Evolution course since August 2011. The course is mandatory for all biology students, and Yuri has about 30 students enroll each term. He says it will only take a few years to have his students make hundreds of contributions to free, high-quality knowledge available in Portuguese about the topics. He also sees better learning for students with a Wikipedia assignment in comparison to a traditional term paper.

“I believe they learn more, especially regarding proper citation, and what is original research and what is not. Both of these concepts are very important in science,” he says. “Wikipedia does a great job in terms of defining what an encyclopedia is, and how one should write an article citing appropriate sources, and this is a very important skill for students.”

And Yuri says his students feel more responsibility to produce high-quality work because they know their writing will be available to anyone on Wikipedia. He’s excited about the Wikipedia Education Program in Brazil, and he hopes that more professors will join the program and develop more teaching resources to stimulate the use of Wikipedia in the classroom. In fact, professor Aureo Banhos, one of his former biology students, has joined the program through an open call Wikimedia Foundation made in Brazil for the second school term of 2012 and is excited to collaborate with Yuri.

“I love reading the assignments and feeling like my students made a significant contribution by posting high-quality information on the web,” Yuri says.

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

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