Dr. Abeer El Hafez teaches Spanish to undergraduate and master’s students at Cairo University, but she understands the importance of making information available to her students on Wikipedia in their native language of Arabic. So she jumped at the chance to participate in the Wikimedia Foundation’s Cairo Pilot of the Wikipedia Education Program. Dr. Abeer received support from trained Wikipedia Ambassadors in exchange for having her students edit Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework.
With 13 students who all added significant information to Wikipedia, Dr. Abeer’s course ranked at the top of pilot participants in terms of contributions. Her students worked on a total of 31 articles on the Arabic Wikipedia, with some students making edits to the corresponding Spanish Wikipedia entries as well. To teach students the subject matter, Dr. Abeer told students to pick a writer from Latin America or Spain who had a high quality article on the Spanish Wikipedia. Students translated the article from the Spanish Wikipedia into Arabic.
In a few cases, when articles weren’t available on the Spanish Wikipedia, students researched and wrote articles from scratch for the Arabic Wikipedia, then updated the Spanish Wikipedia versions of the articles. One such example is the article on Laura Restrepo (in Arabic) (in Spanish), an author and journalist from Colombia. The article on the Spanish Wikipedia was a stub article, so Dr. Abeer’s student researched more information and expanded the article on the Spanish Wikipedia and created the article on the Arabic Wikipedia.
“The students were very motivated to do something practical,” Dr. Abeer said. “They got a chance to enhance the knowledge available to Arabic readers. The Wikipedia assignment is a great way to visualize their text for all of the Arabic world.”
Dr. Abeer says the traditional knowledge production at the university level can be mechanistic for some students, and mixing it up with an assignment like contributing to Wikipedia is a good way of challenging students. She looks forward to using Wikipedia with her undergraduates next term.
LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager