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.
“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