As I wrote in a Wikimedia blog post last week, WikiSkills is a part of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme, and its purpose is to train teachers how to use collaborative tools like wikis for teaching. Wikimedia Sverige, the official Wikimedia chapter in Sweden, is one of eight partners involved in WikiSkills. As a representative of Wikimedia Sverige, I felt it was important to present the experiences of some teachers who participated in the WikiSkills courses that we arranged in Sweden to make wiki and Wikipedia a part of pedagogy.
In the last post, we met Sten Sundin. This week we’ll meet four other participants.
Bia Rask, teacher of media and Swedish at Guldstadsgymnasiet, did not waste any time and did a one-click installation of MediaWiki on her school’s site on the first day’s course in Skellefteå. During the course, she laid the foundation for her lecture sessions.
Bia knew “absolutely nothing about wiki before. All I know today comes from the course. Wikipedia content is no surprise, but how to edit and how to see what is done on the talk page and the history. I was fascinated by how it is designed from a technical point of view. ”
Bia has made a flying start and has already used the pedagogical scenario that she has been involved in developing – a lecture series that started on April 17. “Together, you shall make a basic photography course. It shall be so clear that even a beginner understands the content. Use both text and explanatory images (your own or from Wikimedia Commons).”
Bia’s students (roughly 16-20 years old) are in their second year of a program focusing on aesthetics and media. What is so great about Bia’s scenario is that it is closely linked to the course plan and it is a course requirement to allow students to work in virtual communities.
According to Bia, the lecture series was successful and they will keep the wiki for other lessons in the future. “I’ve never worked like this before. Students and teachers work together towards a common goal and edit each other’s pages,” she says. “Although the wiki is built together, it is still possible to see what edits are made by each student when it is going to be assessed.”
Everything was of course not a bed of roses. “The challenge that I see directly is to get the less motivated students to develop themselves further: It is easy to start a wiki page but not to improve those already started,” she says. “It might be about confidence. It is about being able to commend and get them to develop themselves through pep talks. They may need help to find information, how they can learn things, and show that it need not to be so fancy.”
Overall Bia thought that “useful things came up during the course. It felt so all the way.” Bia will hold lessons where she and her students use a wiki again, and also, more specifically, use Wikimedia Commons, the free image database behind Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. “The other day a student needed music for a film. I referred them to Wikimedia Commons, which I would never have done before.”
Jörgen, Nils, and Susanna
Jörgen Qvartsenklint is the project leader at Glokala Folkhögskolan. There he works with flexible learning locally and nationally, and in the capacity of an IT coordinator. Jörgen is already an experienced wiki user and initiator of Folkbildningsnätets Wikifarm (administrated by The Swedish National Council of Adult Education), but says he still learned some technical stuff valuable to him, such as how to generate templates with lists of all users.
“I took the courses in order to find more opportunities for collaboration. How do you encourage people to contribute, how to get people to start? I wanted to meet others for input.” He thought that “the meetings between the participants were good; people got inspired and developed ideas together; everyone had their own personal ideas; it became meetings based on participants’ own experiences. It was good that the process lasted for two days, so that one could get feedback.”
Learnings from the course will be handy when Glokala Folkhögskolan (Jörgen’s workplace) starts a wiki for their projects in the fall. “Project progress communicated in internal meetings needs to be documented, communicated and disseminated. We have divided the activities into tracks and thoughts around organizational development that we will put into the wiki. We’ll also consider maybe publishing a course in citizen journalism on Wikiversity to get more feedback and further development by new people. ”
According to Jörgen, the challenge is to get people to participate. As the initiator of a wiki, one needs to be “stubborn, but not in a nagging way, encourage, find openings, needs, moments,” he says.
Nils Olov Ahlgren teaches Swedish as a second language for newly arrived immigrants. In addition, he calls himself an IT demagogue trying to spread the good word. Wiki is one of those words. Nils thinks that WikiSkills has made him more familiar with Wikipedia and editing wikis. He now knows more about markup language and citations, and he has gained a deeper insight in how to spread information and how to use a wiki, particularly how to use it in education.
Nils plans to start a wiki during the fall, first on his own site, which is easier than through the municipality and its IT department. The purpose of the wiki is to provide an additional dimension to the learning of the Swedish language. The wiki will work as a wordlist that is illustrated and explained by photos, illustrations, animations and videos. The wordlist is going to be built up by both teachers and students. He hopes different groups of students are going to contribute over a longer period with visual explanations to both concrete and abstract words.
Nils predicts he’ll be challenged by the fact that the student group will be beginners in both Swedish and on wikis. But similar challenges have been overcome where beginners learned Swedish while they also learned to script, record and edit film. He hopes and believes that students who are more advanced in their language can go to the wiki to help and teach new students.
Susanne Antell is a teacher educator at Dalarna University who participated in the WikiSkills course in Helsingborg. She will continue to work with and use her scenario Human’s Anatomy and Physiology at the DU-wiki this fall.
Susanne thought it was very good that we raised the issue of free licenses, (Wikipedia’s third pillar): “There is material which is produced at universities, but owned by companies and which is not published freely. Copyright may hinder. If instead we could have a generous attitude, we can achieve so much more,” she says. “However, we must have a dialogue with the students about what they think is ok to pass on. It is an ethical question. How we relate to the material is a question of democracy and might require a change of attitude. Is it mine and yours, or ours? The world might be ripe for change.”
After the WikiSkills course, Susanne presented wikis to 10 of her colleagues. “All were inspired with the idea and we’ll go further.” This fall Susanne will hold a teaching session in a course aimed at student teachers. Susanne, along with a teacher colleague, has decided to use a wiki. The course aims to get students to be active in working with Internet-based educational resources.
“We have distance students who then will continually be active on the wiki that will be available throughout the semester,” she says. “We will tell the students that we are beginners. It can take twists and turns that are not anticipated, but it may well be fun!”
Other initiatives planned by the students include a course on Wikipedia aimed at companies, a study circle on Wikipedia, a course on digital media (including Wikipedia) for union representatives, a course in digital creation in the folk high school where the collaboration platform may be a wiki, information on Wikipedia targeting older internet users and visitors of SeniorNet‘s internet cafés, etc.
So, dear participants – well done! While the knowledge you gain, you obtain yourself, you can benefit from collaborating with the Wikimedia movement on the way.
Anna Bauer, Wikimedia Sverige
Project leader, WikiSkills