Tag: Open Knowledge

Balance for Better – Teaching Matters

Wikimedian in Residence highlights how staff & students are engaging with Wikipedia to address the diversity of editors & content shared online.

“The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.” (Wadewitz, 2014)

Wikipedia, the free, online, encyclopaedia is building the largest open knowledge resource in human history. Now aged eighteen, Wikipedia ranks among the world’s top ten sites for scholarly resource lookups and is extensively used by virtually every platform used on a daily basis, receiving over 500 million views per month, from 1.5 billion unique devices. As topics on Wikipedia become more visible on Google, they receive more press coverage and become better known amongst the public.

“Wikipedia is today the gateway through which millions of people now seek access to knowledge.”- (Cronon, 2012)

At the University of Edinburgh, we have quickly generated real examples of technology-enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum and transformed our students, staff and members of the public from being passive readers and consumers to being active, engaged contributors. The result is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our teaching, research and collections.

While Wikipedia has significant reach and influence, it also has significant gaps in its coverage of topics, articles in other languages and the diversity of its editors. Most editors are white men, and topics covered reflect this with less than 18 percent of biographies on English Wikipedia about women. The Wikimedia community are committed to diversity and inclusivity and have developed, and worked with, a number of initiatives to ensure knowledge equity such as Whose Knowledge.org and WikiProject Women in Red, with Wikimedia’s campaign for 200 more biographies of female sportswomen (Levine, 2019) just one recent example of looking at ways to address this systemic bias.

 

Our Wikimedia in the Curriculum activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate impact in addressing both the diversity of editors and diversity of content shared online:

 

  • Global Health MSc students add 180-200 words to Global Health related articles e.g. their edits to the page on obesity are viewed 3,000 times per day on average.
  • Digital Sociology MSc students engage in workshops with how sociology is communicated and how knowledge is created and curated online each year as a response to the recent ASA article.
  • Reproductive Biology Honours – a student’s article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, includes 60 references and diagrams she created, has been viewed over 67,000 times since 2016.
  • Translation Studies MSc students gain meaningful published practice by translating 2,000 words to share knowledge between two different language Wikipedias on a topic of their own choosing.
  • World Christianity MSc students undertake a literature review assignment to make the subject much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives; creating new articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more.
  • Data Science for Design MSc – Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, affords students the opportunity to work practically with research datasets, like the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, and surface data to the Linked Open Data Cloud and explore the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help further discovery.

We also work with student societies (Law & Technology, History, Translation, Women in STEM, Wellcomm Kings) and have held events for Ada Lovelace Day, LGBT History Month, Black History Month and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni; working with the UncoverEd project and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

Students are addressing serious knowledge gaps and are intrinsically motivated to do so because their scholarship is published and does something lasting for the common good, for an audience of not one but millions.

Representation matters. Gender inequality in science and technology is all too real. Gaps in our shared knowledge excludes the vitally important contributions of many within our community and you can’t be what you can’t see. To date, 65% of our participating editors at the University of Edinburgh have been women. The choices being made in creating new pages and increasing the visibility of topics and the visibility of inspirational role models online can not only shape public understanding around the world for the better but also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation.

 “It’s an emotional connection… Within, I’d say, less than 2 hours of me putting her page in place it was the top hit that came back in Google when I Googled it and I just thought that’s it, that’s impact right there!” (Hood & Littlejohn, 2018)

Rosie Taylor and Isobel Cordrey from the student support group, Wellcomm Kings, co-hosted the Wikipedia Diversithon event for LGBT History Month at the Festival of Creative Learning 2019.

Bibliography

  1. Wadewitz, A. (2014). 04. Teaching with Wikipedia: the Why, What, and How. Retrieved from https://www.hastac.org/blogs/wadewitz/2014/02/21/04-teaching-wikipedia-why-what-and-how
  2. Cronon, W. (2012). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World | Perspectives on History | AHA. Retrieved from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2012/scholarly-authority-in-a-wikified-world
  3. Levine, N. (2019). A Ridiculous Gender Bias On Wikipedia Is Finally Being Corrected. Retrieved from https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/06/234873/womens-world-cup-football-wikipedia
  4. Mathewson, J., & McGrady, R. (2018). Experts Improve Public Understanding of Sociology Through Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.asanet.org/news-events/footnotes/apr-may-2018/features/experts-improve-public-understanding-sociology-through-wikipedia
  5. Hood, N., & Littlejohn, A. (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/23-1/paper784.html
  6. McAndrew, E., O’Connor, S., Thomas, S., & White, A. (2019). Women scientists being whitewashed from Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/women-scientists-being-whitewashed-from-wikipedia-ewan-mcandrew-siobhan-o-connor-dr-sara-thomas-and-dr-alice-white-1-4887048
  7. McMahon, C.; Johnson, I.; and Hecht, B. (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

 

The Wikimedia residency is a free resource available to all staff and students interested in exploring how to benefit from and contribute to the free and open Wikimedia projects.

If you would like to find out more contact ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

In the news

 

Wikimedia at the LILAC Information Literacy Conference 2019

I attended the 2019 LILAC Information Literacy Conference (Twitter hashtag: #LILAC19) at the University of Nottingham on 24-26 April 2019 with my Academic Support Librarian colleague, Donna Watson. This was my first visit to this conference and I was unsure what to expect and to what extent information professionals attending the conference would welcome and engage with discussing Wikipedia and Information Literacy.

However, I was blown away with the level of enthusiasm to discuss this subject – from discussions on Wikipedia’s role in teaching and learning; on open access; on addressing gender bias online and feminist pedagogy in information literacy instruction; to developing our understanding and a definition of data literacy further; to how better to facilitate the dissemination of accurate health information arising from Ruth Carlyle’s excellent keynote; and how to support a more robust critical information literacy when it came to combating ‘fake news’ (misinformation & disinformation) using the IF I APPLY model instead of the CRAAP Test.

IF I APPLY: Updated CRAAP Test for Evaluating Sources Presenters: Kat Phillips, Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles

I was particularly buoyed, inspired, and grateful for the advocacy and articulacy of Professor Allison Littlejohn’s keynote presentation on how information literacy needs to support innovation in pursuit of social good as it devoted time to discussing Allison’s research into Wikipedia editing and paid tribute to the leadership of Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal at the University of Edinburgh, with the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ Wikipedia editing event in 2015, our very first editathon here at the university, held up as an example of good practice.

NB: If you are interested then ‘Changing the Way Stories Are Told’ – Melissa Highton on the Edinburgh Seven has audio from her presentation at the Wikipedia Science Conference 2015, and a video presentation at the 2017 Physiological Society event).

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s keynote on ‘[Un]intended consequences of innovation in H.E. – Tensions of profitability and social mobility’.
I have many other highlights from the warm welcome I received over the three days I spent at the University of Nottingham including the conference dinner and disco at Colwick Hall (Lord Byron’s ancestral home apparently); the introduction we received and anecdotes shared on the D.H. Lawrence archival collection; and discussing with Caroline Ball and Jonathan White about their own Wikipedia in the Curriculum project at the University of Derby. Staff and student feedback does seem extraordinarily clear on the benefits of engaging with Wikipedia in teaching and learning over any abstinence-only approach. So it does seem to me that Wikipedia editing events, ‘editathons’, have indeed reached a ‘tipping point’ moment where we can have these conversations about how best to engage across the library and education sectors and beyond.

University of Derby librarians, Caroline Ball and Jonathan White, presenting on Using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.
Caroline Ball displaying the positive feedback to the Wikipedia assignment with the only negatives reportedly around the room temperature and uncomfortable chairs.

My presentation, which Donna Watson co-presented with me, is below.

Embedding Wikimedia in the Curriculum

 

Good Morning,

My name is Ewan McAndrew and I work at the University of Edinburgh as the  Wikimedian in Residence. Melissa Highton, our Director of IT at the University was to have been here today to speak about why she wanted a Wikimedian in post but she’s otherwise engaged so I’m delighted my Academic Support Librarian colleague, Donna Watson, has agreed to share her perspective on the residency.

So this presentation asserts that working with Wikipedia in the curriculum helps students to “think critically and make balanced judgements about information. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society” (CILIP Information Literacy Group, 2018).

Sound familiar?

Because that’s what we found to be the case over the last three years.

Icebreaker opening:

Can you tell me three words that come to mind when I mention Wikipedia?

Would they be Don’t Use Wikipedia?

Or have we moved away from that into a different way of thinking about Wikipedia?

 

Let’s start with a short video of staff & student reaction to the residency to see if things have moved on.

This is a video submission which was shortlisted for the 2019 LILAC Information Literacy Awards for the work of the Wikimedia Residency at the University of Edinburgh.

 

I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for over 3 years now as the Wikimedian in Residence. It has been something of an experiment, a proof of concept, the first role of its kind in the UK supporting the whole university.

But it has been a successful one. And I’m pleased to see Wikimedian roles at Oxford University, Maynooth University, Coventry University and Wiki work being taken up in unis up and down the country.

My role here today is to explain a little about what I do at the University of Edinburgh and why we think there is a need for all universities and libraries to engage. You can find more about the residency and its work by typing Wikipedia:University of Edinburgh into the search bar of Wikipedia. You can find our 254 videos and video tutorials at tinyurl.com/StudentVids and you can find some ‘need-to-know’ state of the project facts at bit.ly/Wikipedia2019

So this conference is a very timely conference for reflecting on the work we have been doing over the last 3 years. In thinking about how we support developing a more robust critical information literacy. And looking at how to do things differently in a rapidly changing digital world.

”Digital intermediaries such as Google and Facebook are seen as the new powerbrokers in online news, controlling access to consumers and with the potential even to suppress  and target messages to individuals.” (Tambini, 2016)

This is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. Not least in terms of what value we in higher education, and information professionals in general, place in students, staff and members of the public being conversant with how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and their being conversant with the big digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Particularly when one thinks “search is the way we now live”.

When you turn on a tap you expect clean water to come out and when you do a search you expect good information to come out

(Swift in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett, 2013)

Beyond this in terms of what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing and having somewhere online you can go to orientate yourself on a topic where students, staff and members of the public can all contribute their scholarship for the common good.

Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for information professionals to play in this discussion. A role based on asserting our values in order to shape the open web for the better.

So I’ll start with a bit of context.

A year ago, Tim Berners-Lee was on Channel 4 News being interviewed about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal and he said this.

“We need to rethink our attitude to the internet.

It is not enough just to keep the web open and free because we must also keep a track of what people are building on it.

Look at the systems that people are using, like the social networks and look at whether they are actually helping humanity.

Are they being constructive or are they being destructive?”

And he’s later reiterated this point that he feels the open web is at something of a crossroads and could go either way. So I do think that the time has come to talk of many things and consider how the web is working. I quite like these quotes in thinking about the pervasiveness and black box nature of the algorithms and the data gathering going on behind the scenes.

 

So you have these big digital intermediaries acting somewhat like gatekeepers. And you have Wikipedia. The free and open encyclopaedia, just turned 18 years old and the fifth most visited website on the planet. And happily, Sir Tim had cheered up a little by May 2018 when he gave his Turing Award lecture in Amsterdam.

It IS amazing that humanity has produced Wikipedia. And he’s right. That’s my experience of working with Wikipedia. People do feel they are doing something inherently good, and worthwhile in sharing verifiable open knowledge. Today it is the largest collaboratively-built encyclopaedia in history with 49 million articles in roughly 300 languages. Every month, 10 million edits are made in Wikipedia by 250,000 users.

No longer just a “weird community project” or the bane of librarians and scholars. Today, Wikipedia currently ranks among the world’s top 10 sites for scholarly resource lookups. Estimated by Crossref to be in the top five or six referrers to DOIs at least.

Because its content is open-licensed, Wikipedia is extensively used by virtually every platform you use on a daily basis from Google to Youtube to Facebook powering their search & knowledge graph backends. It informs the structure of various ontologies and categories, and it is ingested into Neuro Linguistic Programming & other Machine Learning technologies.

So, in the words of Katherine Maher, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation..

It may not be too much of a stretch to consider that Wikipedia today — with all of our imperfections — has gone from being the least trusted source in the room into perhaps among the most. Serving today as a kind of accidental epistemic backbone of the internet

So for this reason, and many more, at the University of Edinburgh, we felt working with Wikimedia UK was something we could not ignore.

Many have since told us they’d love to host a Wikimedian but they can’t afford to.

Our experience is you can’t afford not to.

Not least because Universities must invest in the development of digital skills for staff and for students. There are so many reports urging universities to pay attention to digital skills. Why? Because it is widely recognised that digital capabilities are a key component of graduate employability. “to support and drive research and innovation throughout the  economy” in order to stay competitive globally.

Universities do invest- some more than others. Some buy Ipads and give them out to students like its a cure-all. Some buy a site-wide license for Lynda.com. My residency is placed alongside our digital skills trainers as a free resource available to anyone at the university and working with free and open projects.

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, at a Wikidata workshop at the University of Edinburgh

Full disclosure, in case you’re wondering where you get Wikimedians from, I was not born a Wikimedian. Although I am interested in all the things so perhaps I was. My background is in Software Development, English & Media teaching and Information Management and the work we do at the University of Edinburgh draws on all 3 of these aspects. Other Wikimedians in Residence have come from library backgrounds, event management backgrounds and more. I was recruited not for my Wiki skills, which I learnt, but for my teaching background, and the ability to communicate how & why of contributing to the greatest open education resource the world has ever seen.

So what can I tell you about the residency itself?

I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to sharing open knowledge.

Melissa Highton, presenting at the Wikipedia Science Conference 2015

Working with Wikimedia ticked all these boxes. If Melissa was here she’d tell you that her view is that universities offer an environment in which Wikipedia can thrive. It has a higher than normal concentration of librarians and information professionals, and networks of people interested in discussing and writing about just about every topic under the sun.

But because the University of Edinburgh is a research-based institution, Professor Allison Littlejohn from the Open University was invited to come along to our first editing event in 2015 to help us make sure there was value in a collaboration with Wikimedia UK and to analyse what was going on in these editing events and what their impact actually was. And what she discovered was that there was indeed genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and she’s produced two research papers arising from that one event.

The first looked at the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in an editathon. Through Allison’s work we learned that activity did not stop after the Wikipedia editing event and participants did see it as an important part of their professional development. The second paper looked at the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor – and how participants felt editing was a form of knowledge activism and helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps. This strong evidence helped the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.

Since then we have never looked back. As the university’s new resource, I could have been twiddling my thumbs or treated as a snake oil salesman but I’ve never been busier, working closely with academic support colleagues, course leaders and student societies. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history*, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing online we found we had a lot to talk about. And this is why I’m here today, at an information literacy conference.

So the Wikipedia editing event or ‘editathon’ is a model which has found its tipping point moment. Things obviously happen slowly in higher education, but once those key people have been introduced to how rewarding an editathon can be, they are increasingly hosting them themselves.

Our experience at Edinburgh is that there are enough people who get it and been excited & motivated to run with it that we have quickly generated real examples of technology enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum which can be embedded in all sorts of disciplines.  Here are a few which have been run multiple times.

WTF here means “what teaching fun” as opposed to the other WTF that perhaps reflected historic attitudes.

Because that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, building on prior learning, using digital research skills and wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects.

As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. Both students and staff feel empowered and motivated to suggest collaborations.

Jemima (pictured above here) is an undergraduate at the School of Law and she suggested and lead an editing event for Law students.  As a result of her enthusiasm, we’ve been discussing with her course leaders which year group we should work with in the Law school – postgraduate, undergraduate, or both – because supporting digital research skills and the ability to communicate the law, medicine, what have you, and “world leading research” more generally, in an accessible lay way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do.

We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to further collaborations and other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. The number of positive quality interactions that a collaboration with Wikimedia affords makes, I think, working in this space the most exciting in academia right now, because it is so emergent but it also has so much potential to make, and I’m quoting the university’s mission here: a really “significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world”.

To make it work, I’m supported on all sides by a growing number of people all passionate for the sharing of Open Knowledge. There’s our IT Director Melissa, and Anne-Marie her deputy. Our Open Education team, our academic support librarians. The team at Wikimedia UK, course leaders from years one and two. An ever growing number of Wikimedians in Residence. And, latterly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was tweeting his support of Wikimedia UK recently too.

So far from Wikipedia being anathema in academic contexts. It really is a case of “if you build it they will come”.

Timelines of engagement

 

And it grows over time. Planting the seed and watching it grow.

Of the in-curriculum work we have done – all of these courses have been repeated because of the positive reactions of staff and students. And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc, Korean Studies MSc.

I’ll pass over to my academic support librarian colleague, Donna Watson, now to speak more on this and her experience & perspective.

The Academic Support Librarian perspective on engaging with Wikipedia:

My colleague Ruth Jenkins assists with the Reproductive Biology sessions, and this was her experiences of the process of learning and then helping to host sessions. As Ruth points out- everyone is already using it. The ‘Just say No’ approach has not worked. So do we ignore it or help students understand how to use it to best effect- understanding the pros and cons.

The journey from not knowing how to do (or even thinking it was a good idea to learn) is something I can completely agree with. Editing during the teaching sessions has developed to publishing for fun- I have yet to reach that stage, but an article about the Hob Hole pumping station in Lincolnshire is on my list!

Academic Support Librarian, Ruth Jenkins, at the Reproductive Biology Hons. Wikipedia assignment at the University of Edinburgh

I have, like Ruth, helped to prepare editathons and offered help to others during sessions- a steep learning curve, but we have Ewan there to help us help others. It is great CPD!

We took the Editathon to the EAHIL 2018 conference and the feedback was very positive. Ewan unfortunately couldn’t come with us but we had great help from the National Wikimedian from the national Library of Wales- Jason Evans. The wiki community is really supportive

So why my colleagues and I see using Wikipedia as useful

  1. It is familiar to people so more acceptable to use.
  2. It is easy to use and access- not like some databases or catalogues.
  3. Many students will enjoy the sessions as it is slightly different- some will feel more tentative.

What I see is gained:

Using Wikipedia in teaching, I’m not saying it gives you everything that other tasks would not, but I see it as a tool in the arsenal of techniques that should be available when teaching. My thought come from a healthcare perspective, but are applicable to other areas of study.

You use the same research techniques as you would when doing work in a more traditional format. It allows attendees to an opportunity to develop their research skills, which is paramount in many subjects. I have had to use material I would not usually use- for example newspapers, historical texts. This is the same for session attendees- exposing them to a wide range of literature formats, building searches, using a variety of resources, problem solving where to find literature, seeing how different resources allow searching. All of this is good practice.

I am aware that Wikipedia has been used to help find keyword or phrases for search strategies.

Once you have performed the research you need to be able to discern the relevant points and summarise these- EFFECTIVELY. The guidelines Wikipedia give means this is really important. Understanding the style of writing formally for an encyclopaedia is sometimes different to how you might write an essay or email. Picking out relevant points and knowing they should be backed up requires decision making on behalf of the writer.

As the output is for the general public it means the way the summary is written should be in plain understandable language. We need to move beyond the technical jargon and make what is said accessible and understandable to all. My thoughts are that for medics this is especially important and can help them realise what they will need to consider when conversing with patients.

One of the backbones of Wikipedia is the referencing- articles must reference thoroughly- backing up the findings and allowing others to follow the path that lead to the finished article. It also can show how to use Wikipedia for your own research- by citation tracking.

Copyright compliance is important and Wikipedia is strong on this. Learning about licenses can help in other areas work. Images and copyright can always be problematic and the access you get to licensed images is very helpful.

Producing a Wikipedia page means for many learning new skills and for the first time putting material out to the wider world. Other text based ways of teaching do not always offer the opportunity to learn technical skills and undergo a digital stretch. Healthcare professionals are having to develop their digital skills in order to enter an ever evolving landscape in the NHS. Telemedicine, e-prescribing, robotic surgery are but a few of the reasons why having a high level of digital skills is important. Putting an opinion out for public scrutiny can be daunting- but training as a healthcare professional often means putting your opinion out for all to hear and see- from patients and colleagues.

The digital stretch is not only for session attendees, but also for the trainers. I had to build my skills so I could assist others not just do my own work. The amount of work that goes into setting up a session should not be underestimated- thanks go to Ewan. So everyone has the opportunity to upskill their digital assets.

Lastly during the research and writing up stage you start to critically assess the validity and reliability of the sources you use. Ensuring the output is balanced (lacks bias), relevant, evidence based and inclusive- all important parts of the process. This can be a good place to start the critical thinking process.  

So bringing it back to the CILIP information literacy statement: The ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society.”

I think Wikipedia can help achieve these aspects.

[Donna handed back to myself to continue presenting at this point.]


 

In the field of medicine our best estimates indicate that the nearly 200,000 articles about health & medical topics accessed on desktop across over 200 Wikipedia languages… attract more traffic than the US National Institutes of Health websites, or WebMD.

Contributing accurate up-to-date health information is therefore vitally important. Wikipedia played a major role in providing access in local languages on medical information on Ebola, extracted from often paywalled literature, during the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. Receiving more local readership than CDC, CNN and WHO.

 

Of course, if it’s on Wikipedia it must be true” is sometimes scoffed. But that makes me a little cross when you think of volunteers giving up their time to scrupulously research and share open knowledge for the benefit of the world. There are some excellent articles on Wikipedia. I know because our students and staff helped create and improve them. There are also some missing articles and some needing lots of improvement. Wikipedia is always going to be a work in progress but if everyone contributed even a little then would be an even more amazing resource than it is today.

By way of example of our work with students, Reproductive Biology Hons. student, Áine Kavanagh scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, high grade serous carcinoma, backing up her work with over sixty references and creating her own openly-licensed diagram in Photoshop to help illustrate the article. The article has now been viewed over 60,000 times since 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research. Áine benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship is published, lasting long beyond the assignment and doing something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.

The reason being: “Search is the way we live now”.

Wikipedia Community cartoon – Giulia Forsythe, redrawn by Asiyeh Ghayour, Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Seyyedalith [CC0]
Google and Wikipedia have been shown to have something of a symbiotic relationship where they depend on one another. Google is the #1 search engine and Wikipedia is the go-to information site, powering Google’s Knowledge Graph. So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring. They become knowledge activists.

And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the new Visual Editor interface and all the little fun things you can do to add images, links and more –learning through play, particularly citations which autogenerate from a url, stable DOI, Pubmed IDs or ISBN numbers –– while it’s also never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place.

The View History page of Jeremy Hunt’s Wikipedia page – screengrab

University of Glasgow researchers published research last year which found that:

Preliminary analysis reveals (∼90%) of the vandalism or foul edits are done by unregistered users… community reaction seemed to be immediate: most vandalisms were reverted within 5 mins on average” –  Alkharashi, A. and Jose, J. (2018)

We also do need to talk about diversity. Gender inequality in science and technology is real.

We host Women in Red editing events every single month – where we turn red-linked articles about notable women which don’t yet exist into blue clickable ones that do. This has motivated many to become involved with 69% of our attendees being women. Bucking Wikipedia’s normal 10% average. Creating pages and increasing the visibility of inspirational female role models online that can also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation. You can’t be what you can’t see.

There is now a commitment to keep this going in ten disciplines for the next four years written into our Athena Swan plan to inspire more women to enter STEM fields. Higher Education shares addressing gender inequality with Wikipedia. It is not enough to say that the world of Wikipedia- and science in general- is ‘neutral and fact driven’ and thus free from bias.

Representation matters.

Diversity matters.

This has been a key part and a key motivator during the residency to date.

Students on the World Christianity MSc were motivated to make the subject of World Christianity much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives and created articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more. Students on the Translation Studies Masters similarly have been motivated for the last 3 years to gain meaningful published practice ahead of the world of work by sharing knowledge from one language Wikipedia to another. We’ve also hosted events for LGBT History Month, Black History Month and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni.

The Data Fair on the Data Science for Design MSc, University of Edinburgh

But it’s not just Wikipedia. The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum, Wikipedia’s sister project, presents a massive opportunity for student learners, educators, researchers, repository managers and data scientists alike. Especially when there is a pressing need to meet the demands of our digital economy for developing a data literate workforce.

“A common critique of data science classes is that examples are static and student group work is embedded in an ‘artificial’ and ‘academic’ context. We look at how we can make teaching data science classes more relevant to real-world problems. Student engagement with real problems—and not just ‘real-world data sets’—has the potential to stimulate learning, exchange, and serendipity on all sides, and on different levels: noticing unexpected things in the data, developing surprising skills, finding new ways to communicate, and, lastly, in the development of new strategies for teaching, learning and practice“.Corneli, J, Murray-Rust, D & Bach, B 2018, Towards Open-World Scenarios: Teaching the Social Side of Data Science.

A Wikidata assignment, of the kind we have done over the last two years on the Data Science for Design MSc, allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge.

This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.

And it’s all free. Wikimedia’s suite of open knowledge projects are all free, open and powered by volunteers around the world, giving of their free time and passionate to share open knowledge with the rest of the world for the benefit of the world.

So there is lots to talk about in terms of Wikimedia in education… not least in developing the skills and experiences we want to see our students come out with, in terms of collaborative working, digital research and developing a critical information literacy, and I really like this quote from a paper on developing Political Literacy, which came out of a project at the University of Strathclyde Library to support political literacy during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum.

The challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.”  Abram, 2016. Political literacy can be learned.

Only I think this challenge is too big, too vitally important, to leave solely in the lap of librarians when higher education, and education as a whole, can play a central and pivotal role here too.

Lots to talk about. But we need to be talking. Our staff and students are clear, we can’t go on pretending Wikipedia does not have SO MUCH to offer in teaching and learning. We need to consider how well the open web is working, how we can best support developing a critical information literacy, and how well this current abstinence-only approach has served us. Especially when there is a great love affair between Wikipedia and Education in the offing.

And yes, I am comparing Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day to the (hopefully) historic abstinence-only approach when thinking of Wikipedia in education.

If you’re interested we have produced interviews and video tutorials at tinyurl.com/WikiHopper and resources at tinyurl.com/timeforopen.

As to the future, we are publishing our first booklet of case studies of UK examples of Wikipedia in the Classroom which include numerous examples from the University of Edinburgh along with case studies of Wikipedia in secondary education as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate and Jewish Studies MSc students at the University of Glasgow collaboratively researching, writing  & illustrating the Wikipedia article on the Garnethill Synagogue. So there are many opportunities for secondary schools, universities, and libraries to benefit from and contribute to the knowledge available online through Wikimedia’s free and open projects.

Shaping the open web for the better, constructively.

Many Thanks

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, 26 April 2019.

ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

Dr. Mia Spiro at the University of Glasgow and Aaron Morris, WiciMôn Project Officer supporting school children in Anglesey to learn about Wikipedia.

 

Footnote

 

* Everything about Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent so here is its ‘warts & all’ history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia

Danah Boyd also wrote some articles back in 2005 on academia & wikipedia which make for interesting reading… if for nothing other than Jimmy Wales’s ‘Wikipedia as steakhouse’ analogy which deserves to be read:

Danah also wrote an article entitled Did Media Literacy backfire? last year which has a very pertinent point to the discussion of Wikipedia in academic contexts:

“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”

How useful has this approach been to date?

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Please also read ‘Leveraging Wikipedia’ if you’d like to find out more.

Wikipedia in Higher Education: How students are shaping the open web

This post is the third in a series of blog posts for Open Education Week.

By Jemima John, Digital Skills Intern and undergraduate, School of Law, and Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh.

Since the early 2000’s, Wikipedia has acquired somewhat of a negative reputation for being unreliable. Educators are normally wary of allowing Wikipedia as a source that anyone can edit. This is due to believing it to be a source of misinformation, going directly against their role to reduce misinformation in the world.

However, what if the contrary is true?

What if Wikipedia can be used to reduce misinformation in the world, an often-highlighted problem of our current times. This is the very mission of Wikimedia organisation. The Wikimedia projects exist to combat misinformation[1]. Indeed, Wikipedians have been combating fake news for years as source evaluation is a core skill of a Wikipedian[2]. Researchers found that only 7 percent of all Wikipedia edits are considered vandalism[3] and nearly all vandalism edits are reverted instantly by automated programs (bots) which help to patrol Wikipedia for copyright violation, plagiarism and vandalism. If a page is targeted for vandalism it can also be ‘semi-protected’ (essentially locking the page so new edits are reviewed before being added) for one day, two days or longer as required while accounts or IP addresses repeating vandalism can be blocked indefinitely. While Wikipedia is still the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, a recent implementation is new users cannot create new pages until their account has been active for four days and accrued at least ten edits. Within the first four days, however, new users can submit their new pages for review by another editor who quality checks it is sufficiently neutral, notable and well-referenced for inclusion in Wikipedia’s live space.

Wikipedia Editathon with University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, CC BY SA, Mihaela Bodlovic, Wikimedia Commons

Due to open licensing of Wikipedia content, it is more visible across the Internet. For example, Google scrapes from Wikipedia biographies to feature as sidebar profiles as part of its ‘Knowledge Graph’ answer engine results for notable people; among many other topics. Wikipedia articles also happen to be within the top five search results due to its preferential status in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Today Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website[8] on the Internet and sometimes more trusted than traditional news publications, according to a recent YouGov poll[9]. This poll indicated that Wikipedia was trusted by the British people more than such reputable news sites as the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph, the Times and others. Wikipedia relies on these sources, and other similar sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, so would not necessarily advocate trusting a Wikipedia article over these other sites.

However, Wikipedia’s policies on Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and identifying reliable sources do help police its content and plainly increases trust in its content. Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers”.[10] More than this, it is worth considering what value one would place on having somewhere online like Wikipedia – and unlike many other of the world’s top ten websites – where it is completely, ruthlessly transparent in how pages are put together so that you can see: when edits were made; and by whom; and so that edits can always be checked, challenged and corrected if need be. After all, all edits to a Wikipedia page are recorded in its View History which includes which account or IP address made the edit along with a date, time and edit summary. Importantly, these entries in the View History are all permanent links so that different versions of the page can be compared and, ultimately, so a page can always be reverted back to its last good state if any unhelpful edits are ever made.

Indeed, the process of researching and writing a Wikipedia article demonstrates ‘how the sausage is made’ – how knowledge is created, curated and contested online – and asks students as part of their research to consider what constitutes a reliable source. In this way, students can be introduced to the pros and cons of searching a variety of databases as part of discussions on information and media literacy[11]. Ultimately, whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article one should always evaluate what one is reading. That much has always been true. Wikipedia, for its part, has as its policy that no Wikipedia page should be cited in an academic paper. Rather Wikipedia considers itself a tertiary source; an encyclopedia of articles made up from citations from high quality published secondary sources. If one cites anything it is these sources that one should cite, not Wikipedia itself. In this way, Wikipedia reframes itself as useful place for pre-researching a topic in order to orientate oneself before delving into the scholarly literature. Hence, it is not the endpoint of research but the beginning; the digital gateway to academic research. In this way, it can then be seen as a valuable resource in itself. 2016 research confirmed that 87.5% of students were using it in this way; in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context[12]. Now in its seventeenth year, Wikipedia has approaching 5.7 million articles in English[13] with about ten edits per second across all Wikimedia projects and nearly 500 articles created each day[14]. As the largest reference work on the internet, it is simply too big to fail now and too important a source of information for the world. Consequently, Wikipedia has realized this and has taken out an endowment to ensure it exists it perpetuity.

Within the boundaries of Wikipedia editing guidelines of notability, reliability, and verifiability, it can prove to be a valuable resource in education. Editing Wikipedia articles builds a number of key skills. It encourages digital creation and digital collaboration skills. It builds legal research skills through finding relevant sources. Most of all, the ability to synthesize the research in an accessible manner for a non-legal audience is an unique but incredibly valuable skill for any law student. What is amazing about editing and creating Wikipedia articles is that the articles it allows for dialogue and improvement over the article through collaboration with other editors.

Indeed, it was the ‘realness’ and collaborative element of the assignment that appealed to students on the Reproductive Biology Hons. programme along with seizing a rare opportunity to communicate medical knowledge to a lay audience[15][16]. Being able to communicate to a non-specialist audience is a key skill for new medics just as communicating legal knowledge is a key skill for new entrants to the legal profession.

Reproductive Biomedicine Wikipedia Education assignment, CC BY SA, Stinglehammer, September 2017

For History undergraduates, it was the opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of history in a way that was active and not just passively receiving knowledge. More than this, it was recognizing that people’s understanding of the diversity of history would not be improved until staff and students actively engaged with addressing these gaps in representation; particularly in underrepresented areas such as social history, gender history and queer history.[17]

A Wikipedia assignment isn’t just another essay or presentation that students may never return to, but something that has actually been created; a way of demonstrating the relevance of a student’s degree and communicating their scholarship in a real-world application of teaching and learning. Beyond this, the experience of a Wikipedia assignment at Bucknell University was that:

at the close of the semester, students said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed and as they were[18].

Once the article becomes live on Wikipedia and indexed in Google’s top five results, students realise that there is agency to sharing their scholarship with the world. By way of example, Reproductive Biology Honours student Áine Kavanagh’s scrupulously researched a brand new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most deadly and most common forms of ovarian cancer[19]. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams Áine herself created, has now been viewed almost 60,000 times since it was published in September 2016[20]; adding a well-referenced source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community. Hence, rather than students’ work being disposed of at the end of an assignment, it can become a community project that can then be added to and improved over time; either by the students themselves or by other editors anywhere around the world. This has been a key motivator for students taking part in Wikipedia projects at the University of Edinburgh.

Of these other editors, there are some 2000+ WikiProjects on Wikipedia where editors come together to focus on a particular area of Wikipedia because they are passionate about the subject and/or have expertise in that area. If you check the Talk page of an article on Wikipedia you will see the WikiProject that has been assigned to ‘look after’ the article. In this way, content on Wikipedia is monitored and curated by a team of subject specialists; amateur enthusiasts and professionals alike. WikiProject Law aims to organise the law-related articles that consist of defining concepts spanning jurisdictions. There is a need for more articles focused on Scots law and there is scope to start a WikiProject to organise articles regarding Scots law.

There can be a number of applications within the law school. A Wikipedia assignment can be run in a single afternoon or over the course of an entire semester. It can be done as individual work, paired work or group work. Starting small and building up over time has proven a sensible methodology although best practice has been developed over a number of years at the university and elsewhere if bolder approaches are warranted.

Jemima John presenting at the University of Edinburgh Law Editathon, CC BY Ewan McAndrew, May 2018

 

It can be a formative assessed from a student perspective, it should be noted that if software seems too difficult to learn, students may feel like it is not worth the formative assessment and that it should be summative in nature. Indeed, recent experience is that students have been enthused to take part in Wikipedia assignments and put great efforts in to complete the assignment so receiving some feedback on their efforts always goes some way to ensuring they are fully satisfied by the experience: be it a group discussion; using a Wikipedia marking rubric; individual assessment; peer assessment; blogging their reflections on the project; or providing an oral presentation. The timing of the assignment may also help ensure its success. If it is assigned during a time of the term where other summative assessments may be due then the students may be more strategic in where they place their priorities.

Hence, past experience at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that a Wikipedia assignment incorporating such elements as students having discussions around information literacy and learning how to edit/ how to use a new form of educational technology may work best in the first semester as part of inducting the students into good digital research habits for the rest of the year before the course programme becomes busier in the second and third semesters. World Christianity MSc students and Psychology undergraduate students have also reported in recent interviews how the experience of adding references to Wikipedia was both a motivating and “very exciting”[21] moment for them; partly because of the “slick” way Wikipedia allows you to add citations easily and partly because of the fact they were able to draw from relevant news articles and bring them together with books and journal articles (and more) to holistically convey the subject they were writing about.[22]

In terms of how hard or difficult Wikipedia editing now is, Wikipedia has a new WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Visual Editor interface which is easy to learn in an hour and just takes a little practice. It makes use of dropdown menus much like one experiences in word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and WordPress blogging and has been described variously as “super easy”, “fun”, “really intuitive” and “addictive as hell.”

There is also scope for a Wikipedia assignment to form a proportion of the summative element of the course as they have done on the World Christianity MSc.[23] It should be noted that contributions made to Wikipedia are not static, but rather they are picked up by other Wikipedia editors to improve the reliability of the site. In educational contexts, this could be seen negatively but students have intimated that they like their work surviving beyond the life of the assignment and becoming a community project that can be added to over time. Beyond this, students can download their finished pages as a pdf, create books of their finished articles and, because all edits are recorded as permanent links in the View History of a page, they will always have a permanent link to their version of the page, no matter what changes are made to improve or expand it by other editors.

Wikipedia is an useful source but it can never replace formal legal education which teaches specialist knowledge, analytical skills, ethical standards, and importantly impart a love of democracy and justice. Wikipedia in legal education will only supplement these activities.

References

[1] Kamenetz, Anya (2017). “What Students Can Learn By Writing For Wikipedia”. NPR.org.

[2] Davis, LiAnna (2016). “Why Wiki Education’s work combats fake news — and how you can help”. Wiki Education.

[3] Adler B.T., de Alfaro L., Mola-Velasco S.M., Rosso P., West A.G. (2011) Wikipedia Vandalism Detection: Combining Natural Language, Metadata, and Reputation Features.

[4] Hillis, Ken; Petit, Michael; Jarrett, Kylie (2012). Google and the Culture of Search. Routledge. ISBN9781136933066.

[5] Beel, J.; Gipp, B. (2009). “Google Scholar’s ranking algorithm: The impact of citation counts (An empirical study)”. 2009 Third International Conference on Research Challenges in Information Science: 439–446. doi:1109/RCIS.2009.5089308.

[6] McMahon, Connor; Johnson, Isaac; and Hecht, Brent (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

[7] Thompson, Neil; Hanley, Douglas (2018). “Science Is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence From a Randomized Control Trial”. Rochester, NY.

[8] https://www.alexa.com/topsites

[9]https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/08/09/more-british-people-trust-wikipedia-trust-news/

[10] Guo, Jeff (2016). “Wikipedia is fixing one of the Internet’s biggest flaws”. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.

[11] “Wikipedia and Information Literacy – Academic Support Librarian Ruth Jenkins”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[12] Selwyn, Neil; Gorard, Stephen (2016). “Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource — Patterns of use and perceptions of usefulness”. The Internet and Higher Education. 28: 28–34. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.08.004ISSN 1096-7516.

[13] “Wikipedia:Statistics”. Wikipedia.

[14]https://tools.wmflabs.org/wmcharts/wmchart0002.php

[15] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Aine Kavanagh (Reproductive Biology Hons. student)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[16] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Eve Sealy, Senior Honours student on the Reproductive Honours programme”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[17] “Wikipedia and History – Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[18] Stuhl, Andrew (2014-10-14). “Wikipedia and Student Writing”. Wiki Education.

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[20] https://tools.wmflabs.org/pageviews/?project=en.wikipedia.org&platform=all-access&agent=user&range=all-time&pages=High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[21] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Psychology student Karoline Nanfeldt”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[22] “World Christianity MSc students on the Wikipedia literature review assignment”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[23] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Dr. Alex Chow (World Christianity MTh/MSc programme)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

About the authors

Jemima John is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of  Law, and Digital Skills Intern.

Ewan McAndrew is Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.

JISC case study – Wikimedia in the curriculum

Addressing the challenges of digital and information literacy, digital scholarship and open knowledge at the University of Edinburgh

Summary

The University of Edinburgh is the first university in the UK to appoint a university-wide Wikimedian in Residence as part of its institutional strategy to develop information and digital literacy skills for staff and students, and contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge.

The role of the Wikimedian in Residence is to work with course teams and students across the University, to demonstrate how learning to contribute to Wikipedia can enhance staff and students’ understanding of how knowledge is constructed, curated and contested online. Editing Wikipedia also provides valuable opportunities for students to develop their digital research and communication skills, and enables them to make a lasting contribution to the global pool of open knowledge.

The residency also focuses on redressing the gender balance of Wikipedia articles and has been hugely successful in encouraging more women to become Wikipedia editors.

A growing number of courses at undergraduate and Masters level have successfully incorporated Wikipedia editing activities in the curriculum, and student societies have also developed their own Wikipedia projects.  The University is also engaging with Wikipedia’s newest sister project, Wikidata, in the context of the growing importance of data literacy and open data initiatives.

A number of other UK universities are learning from the Edinburgh experience, and are developing their own projects with Wikimedia UK, the UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A strategy for digital and information literacy

Wikimedia UK is the UK chapter of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which supports a range of open knowledge projects, of which Wikipedia is the best known. Wikimedia UK fosters engagement with these projects through the placement of Wikimedians in Residence within institutions in the education and cultural sectors.

Having seen the potential of the Wikimedian in Residence model, Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, identified how such a placement could help improve information literacy and digital skills at the University.

An initial Wikipedia editathon, a facilitated event that brings people together to edit the encyclopaedia, was held at the University in 2015, on the topic of women, science and Scottish history.  This editathon was independently evaluated by Professor Alison Littlejohn of the Open University, in order to establish its impact and explore the value of collaboration with Wikimedia UK. Professor Littlejohn found that both formal and informal learning and knowledge creation took place at the editathon.  In two research papers,[i],[ii]she analysed the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in editathons, with sufficient momentum generated to sustain engagement after the event itself, and participants valuing it as an important part of their professional development. She also found that, in becoming an active Wikipedia editor, participants engaged in important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online, and the positive impact that Wikipedia can have in sharing knowledge and addressing knowledge gaps.

As a research-based institution, this evidence of the benefits of engaging with Wikipedia helped to make the business case for integrating Wikipedia editing as part of the University of Edinburgh’s information literacy and digital skills strategy. The following year, the University appointed a new Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. This was the first residency in the UK with a remit to work right across a university, rather than within a specific area such as a library. Based in the Digital Skills team within the University’s Information Services Group, the Wikimedian in Residence provides a centrally supported service accessible to all staff across the institution. Initially a one-year, part-time appointment, the residency focused on helping colleagues to make connections between their teaching and research and the Wikimedia projects, in order to explore areas of mutual benefit. As a result of the positive response to this service, the Wikimedian in Residence has since become a full-time permanent post.

In addition to providing educational opportunities, the residency supports a number of key institutional missions, including open knowledge and open science; the Scottish Government initiative on creating a data literate workforce; commitments on gender equality including the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) charter; and public and community engagement. The residency provides opportunities for the University to expand its civic mission, through new forms of collaboration with city-wide and Scottish national bodies.  

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK – shared missions.

Wikimedia in the Curriculum

Wikipedia is integrated into the curriculum at the University of Edinburgh by engaging students in the creation of original Wikipedia articles, on topics that are not currently covered by the encyclopaedia. These included articles of particular relevance to Scotland, e.g. Scottish women in STEM, often created in collaboration with local external partners, and those of more general interest. Students are provided with training on how to edit Wikipedia and how to undertake relevant research, enabling them to write informed articles that are fully and accurately referenced. Writing articles that will be publicly accessible and live on after the end of their assignment has proved to be highly motivating for students, and provides an incentive for them to think more deeply about their research. It encourages them to ensure they are synthesising all the reliable information available, and to think about how they can communicate their scholarship to a general audience. Students can see that their contribution will benefit the huge audience that consults Wikipedia, plugging gaps in coverage, and bringing to light hidden histories, significant figures, and important concepts and ideas. This makes for a valuable and inspiring teaching and learning experience, that enhances the digital literacy, research and communication skills of both staff and students.

Wikimedia curriculum assignments supported by the Wikimedian in Residence have now been incorporated into a number of different disciplines including:

  • Reproductive Biology Honours
  • Translation Studies MSc
  • World Christianity MSc
  • Online History MSc
  • Data Science for Design MSc
  • Global Health Masters courses
  • Intellectual Humility MOOC
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.

Discussions are also underway to incorporate Wikipedia editing into the curriculum for postgraduate and undergraduate students at the School of Law, and into Masters courses in Digital Society, Psychology in Action, and Digital Education.

Supporting Equality and Diversity

Another significant remit of the University of Edinburgh’s Wikimedia residency has been to support the institution’s commitment to Athena SWAN.  Many of the editathons facilitated by the Wikimedian in Residence focus on addressing the under-representation of women on Wikipedia and encouraging more women to become editors.  A 2011 survey[3]showed that around 90% of English language Wikipedia editors were male.  Since then Wikimedia has made a concerted effort to improve the gender diversity of its community, however women editors are still a minority. In contrast, 69% of participants at University of Edinburgh editathons are women.

These events also help to address the fact that only 17.73% of English Wikipedia biographies are about notable women[4]. To help combat this systemic bias, a range of editathons have focused on women in science and Scottish history, history of medicine, history of veterinary medicine, history of nursing, women in espionage, women and religion, art and feminism, women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), reproductive biology, Gothic literature, and celebrations of Ada Lovelace Day.

Promoting Data Literacy with Wikidata

In line with new open data initiatives supported by government and research councils, there has been growing interest in working other Wikimedia projects such as Wikibooks and Wikidata. The University of Edinburgh has recently been awarded additional public funding to lead the development of a data-literate workforce of the future over the next ten years, equipping them with the data skills necessary to meet the needs of Scotland’s growing digital economy, and helping the city of Edinburgh to become an international centre for data-driven innovation. In order to support this initiative, the University has been exploring the introduction of Wikidata activities in the curriculum.

This provides students with an opportunity to:

  • Engage with issues of data completeness, data processing and analysis, and data ethics.
  • Learn to make practical use of a large range of tools and data visualisation techniques.
  • Work with linked open data on the semantic web, across disciplines ranging from science to digital humanities and cultural heritage.

Initial curriculum activities have focused on converting existing datasets from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft (1563–1736) database into structured, machine-readable open data and adding it to Wikidata.  This data is then enriched by linking it with other complementary datasets in Wikidata to help build up a semantic open web of knowledge.

Student reaction: formal and informal learning

“It’s a really good exercise in critical thinking … It’s a motivating thing to do to use the knowledge you’ve learnt, to see how it is relevant to the real world and to contribute … Knowing people are finding the article useful is really gratifying.” – University of Edinburgh Reproductive Biology student, Áine Kavanagh, reflecting on a Wikipedia editing exercise

Wikipedia belongs in education.

 

The vast majority of students have reacted extremely positively to engaging with Wikimedia, seeing it as enjoyable and with the added reward of contributing to the common good. Most students quickly become technically adept at using the new Wikipedia Visual Editor interface, which they described as making editing ‘super easy’, ‘fun’, ‘really intuitive’ and ‘addictive as hell’.  A few felt that Wikipedia editing wasn’t for them, but they too benefited from greater understanding of how knowledge is constructed online, and are now well placed to make informed choices about whether or not to actively contribute to its creation in the future.

Reproductive Biology students who took part in an assignment writing Wikipedia articles for previously unpublished medical terms found it provided valuable training in communicating scientific ideas to a lay audience, something they will have to do in their professional careers. One student wrote an article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most serious and deadly forms of ovarian cancer; this addressed a significant knowledge gap on the encyclopaedia using high-quality scholarly research communicated in non-specialist terms. The high-grade serous carcinoma article, which has now been viewed over 50,000 times, represents a perceptible and lasting contribution to the common good. At the same time, the article has contributed to the student’s professional development, and become a source of lasting satisfaction for them.

The Wikimedia residency has also had a significant impact on students outwith the curriculum. Several student societies, including History, Women in STEM, Law and Technology, Translation, and International Development, have seen the potential for Wikipedia editing to enhance their activities, and have approached the Wikimedian in Residence for help, support and training.  The student History Society held an editathon as part of its programme of activities for Black History Month, adding entries for notable black women not previously represented on Wikipedia.  A key motivator for History Society students was contributing to public understanding of history by improving the coverage of under-represented areas such as social history, women’s history, the history of people of colour, and queer history.

Meanwhile the Law and Technology Society ran a Wikipedia editathon focused on improving coverage of technology law and intellectual property rights. The success of this editathon led to discussions with course leaders at the School of Law, initiated by students themselves, about including Wikipedia editing in the course curriculum as a collaborative exercise involving undergraduate and postgraduate students researching and editing topics related to Scottish law for a lay audience.

Digital skills development

Digital skills that the collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK has helped to develop include:

  • Critical information literacy
  • Digital literacy
  • Academic writing and referencing
  • Critical thinking
  • Literature review
  • Writing for different audiences
  • Research skills
  • Communication skills
  • Community building
  • Online citizenship
  • Collaboration

Course leaders experience

Course leaders who have engaged with the University’s Wikipedia in the Curriculum initiatives have found the exercise to be popular with students and successful in achieving desired learning outcomes.  Students learn valuable research and communication skills that contribute to their learning and help prepare them for future careers.  In addition, they are better able to evaluate the quality of Wikipedia articles and the veracity of information they encounter online.

Wikipedia assignments are not presented as an additional overhead for already time-poor course leaders, but rather as an approach that can be used to enhance learning outcomes where they are not being meaningfully achieved by existing course elements.  This has been an important factor in encouraging uptake. For example, the MSc in World Christianity, introduced a successful Wikipedia assignment in place of an existing oral assessment.

Several courses have now run Wikipedia assignments over successive years and the number of departments involved is expanding, in line with the evolution of course planning, and as awareness of the opportunities grows. For academic staff, in addition to the teaching and learning benefits, engaging with Wikimedia has provided useful insight into the editorial process of how Wikipedia pages are created, and information and knowledge is constructed online.

Building sustainability

Sustainability and capacity for expansion has been built into the University of Edinburgh’s Wikimedia residency since its inception.  By focusing on digital skills development and employing a ‘train the trainers’ approach, the Wikimedian in Residence has been able train a large number of staff and students to support Wikipedia editathons and course assignments.  Staff, including learning technologists, digital skills trainers, academic support librarians, digital curators, open educational resource advisors, and deputy directors of IT are now able to lead training across the University.

The Wikimedian in Residence has also developed and curated a wide range of training resources, including:

  • A lesson plan for how to lead a Wikipedia editing workshop, available to download under open licence from TES (https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/how-to-conduct-wikipedia-editing-training-11548391).
  • Over 250 open licensed educational videos and tutorials
  • A growing number of self-directed online tutorials using easy to navigate WordPress SPLOT sites.

The residency is helping the University of Edinburgh to expand and enhance its civic mission, with many opportunities for collaboration with city-wide and Scottish national bodies arising both inside or outside the curriculum.  In order to support growing engagement with Wikipedia in Scotland, Wikimedia UK recruited a Scotland Programme Co-ordinator in April 2018.  Other Scottish institutions that have employed Wikimedians in Residence include the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Library & Information Council, Museums Galleries Scotland and, most recently, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.  Wales, meanwhile, has a permanent National Wikimedian based at the National Library of Wales.

Lessons learned and wider impact

With interest increasing among academic staff and course leaders in exploring how Wikimedia can be incorporated into their curricula, and appreciation growing of the opportunities Wikipedia offers to engage with the creation and dissemination of open knowledge, the University of Edinburgh’s Wikimedia residency, has successfully demonstrated that engaging with Wikipedia and its sister projects can enhance teaching and learning and benefit the institution’s civic mission.

The residency has also shown how the process of editing Wikimedia can be demystified and made accessible and enjoyable for students through a range of activities and events that provide a variety of opportunities for collaboration and sharing good practice, with scaffolded support and training. Activities such as ‘train the trainer’ workshops expand understanding of how to engage with Wikipedia and support colleagues and students to become editors.

Reaction to the residency has been positive among both staff and students, and has increased understanding of the important role Wikipedia, and increasingly Wikidata, can play in Higher Education and in knowledge creation and sharing more generally.

In order to share their expertise, the Wikimedian in Residence is now developing open educational resources for staff and students that explain quickly and easily how and why to engage with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.   Wikipedia training is now embedded in University’s Digital Skills training programme, with introductory ‘How to get started editing Wikipedia’ workshops led by staff within the Digital Skills team. This approach fosters greater sustainability in the longer term, and enables the Wikimedian in Residence to deliver more specialised workshops including:

  • Teaching with Wikipedia
  • Introduction to open data with Wikidata
  • Introduction to Wikisource: The digital hyperlibrary
  • Sharing research on Wikipedia and Wikidata
  • Wiki games: Learning through play
  • Histropedia: The timeline of everything.

The success of the University of Edinburgh residency has helped Wikimedia UK to build new collaborations with education institutions across the UK, and has led the chapter to develop its first Wikipedia in the Classroom publication. This forthcoming booklet of UK case studies will help demonstrate how universities can engage meaningfully with Wikimedia projects, to support their institutional missions and enhance learners’ digital skills. Happily, a growing number of universities across the UK have sought to learn from the Edinburgh experience and have begun exploring their own Wikipedia projects with Wikimedia UK.

 

Find out more

Contact: Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.

Email: ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

Web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:University_of_Edinburgh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:University_of_Edinburgh/Two_year_review#Working_collaboratively_and_building_sustainability

References

[1]Rehm A, Littlejohn A and Rienties B (2017). Does a formal wiki event contribute to the formation of a network of practice? A social capital perspective on the potential for informal learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 26 (3). tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10494820.2017.1324495

[2]LittlejohnA and Hood N (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Information Research, 23 (1). informationr.net/ir/23-1/paper784.html

[3]Wikipedia editors study: results from the editor survey, April 2011. wikimedia.org. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Editor_Survey_Report_-_April_2011.pdf

[4]Figure as of 18 February 2019, WikiProject Women In Red, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Women_in_Red

 

 

Reproductive Medicine Honours undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

 

Attribution

This case study was edited by Lorna M. Campbell, University of Edinburgh, from a case study produced by Jisc in November 2018.  Education consultancy Sero HE was commissioned by Jisc to interview Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University.

CC BY SA, Jisc, Sero HE, and the University of Edinburgh.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

University wins Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year award

The University of Edinburgh has won Partnership of the Year at Wikimedia UK’s AGM.

On Saturday 14 July 2018, Wikimedia UK, the national chapter for the global Wikimedia movement, held its Annual General Meeting at the Natural History Museum in London.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services.

Each year the AGM recognises individuals of the Wikimedia UK community who have made a recognisable impact and this year there were 4 categories open to nomination:

  • UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018
  • UK Partnership of the Year
  • Positive Wikimedian of the Year
  • Up and Coming: Wikimedian to Watch 2018

It was announced at this year’s event that the University of Edinburgh had been nominated and won for UK Partnership of the Year, as the institution which had stood out in the past year as ‘the most effective Wikimedia and Open Knowledge Advocate’.

This is the second time the university has won this accolade following its win in 2016 for hosting the Open Educational Resources conference (OER16) and follows Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, being named UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2017.

The UK Partnership of the Year award recognises the leadership of Melissa Highton and Anne-Marie Scott in supporting the Wikimedia residency and fostering an Open Knowledge community within the university and beyond. It also recognises the fantastic work of our Open Education team; Wikipedia in the Classroom course leaders; our student interns; colleagues in Digital Skills; in Library & University Collections, in Digital Learning Applications and Media (DLAM); and colleagues all across Information Services and the university’s three teaching Colleges in furthering the sharing of open knowledge through the Wikimedia projects.

“The work done by the University of Edinburgh continues to lead the way in Scotland in terms of Higher Education engagement with Wikimedia, and has prompted enquiries from a number of other universities and organisations… showing impact within and outwith Scotland.”

“Their success is absolutely key to the development of the Wikimedia community and its work in Scotland – and I feel it’s right and proper that they be recognised for that.” – Wikimedia UK

Fittingly, the award was collected by Lorna Campbell, who works for the University’s OER Service, and is also a Wikimedia UK Board Member.

Overall, it was a good day for the growing ScotWiki community with other award winners including Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Library & Information Council, who won Up and Coming Wikimedian of the Year and Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK, who received an honourable mention for UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018.

Read more about the nominations on Wikimedia UK’s website.

Academia and Wikipedia – a presentation at Maynooth University on 18 June 2018

Below is what I said at the Academia and Wikipedia Conference held at Maynooth University on 18 June 2018. My slides are here.

I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for two and a half years now in this rather strange sounding role of Wikimedian in Residence. My role here today is to explain a little about what I do at the University of Edinburgh and why we think there is a need for all universities to engage with Wikimedia.

So the Academia and Wikipedia conference is a very timely conference for the work we have been doing.

Academia and Wikipedia. This is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. Not least in terms of what value we as higher education institutions place in students, staff and members of the public being conversant with how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and with the digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Beyond this in terms of what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing and having somewhere online you can go to orientate yourself on a topic and students can contribute their scholarship for the common good.

Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for universities to play in this discussion.

Full disclosure, I was not born a Wikimedian. Although I am interested in all the things so perhaps I was. My background is in Software Development, English & Media teaching and Information Management and the work we do at the University of Edinburgh draws on all 3 of these aspects.

So what can I tell you about the residency itself?

I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked at the time what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to sharing open knowledge.

Working with Wikimedia ticked all these boxes.

But because the University of Edinburgh is a research-based institution, Professor Allison Littlejohn from the Open University was invited to come along to our first editing event in 2015 to help us make sure there was value in a collaboration with Wikimedia UK and to analyse what was going on in these editing events and what their impact actually was. And what she discovered was that there was indeed genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and she’s produced two research papers arising from that 1 event.

The first looked at the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in an editathon. Through Allison’s work we learned that activity did not stop after the editathon event and participants did see it as an important part of their professional development. The second paper looked at the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor – and how participants felt editing was a form of knowledge activism and helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps. So we had strong evidence there was real merit in universities engaging with Wikipedia editing because of this. This made the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.

Since then we have never looked back. As the university’s new resource, I could have been twiddling my thumbs or treated as a snake oil salesman but I’ve never been busier. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history*, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing, we found we had a lot to talk about.

And that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects. As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to further collaborations and other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. The number of connections and positive quality interactions that a collaboration with Wikimedia affords makes, I think, working in this space finding areas of mutual benefit makes this the most exciting in academia right now, because it is so emergent but it has so much potential to make a really “significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world”.

I’m supported on all sides by a growing number of people all passionate for the sharing of Open Knowledge. There’s our IT Director Melissa, and Anne-Marie her deputy. Our Open Education team, our digital curator, our academic support librarians. Our course leaders from year one in Translation studies, World Christianity and Reproductive Biology. The team at Wikimedia UK, course leaders from year two. Course leaders in Digital Sociology, Reproductive Biology, Anthropology, English Literature, Design Informatics, Data Science for Design. A growing number of Wikimedians in Residence. And, latterly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was tweeting his support of Wikimedia UK recently too.

So “if you build it they will come”.

And it grows over time.

Timelines of engagement

Of the in-curriculum work we have done – all of these courses have been repeated because of the positive reactions of staff and students. And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc. We’re also now discussing which year group we should work with in the Law school – postgraduate, undergraduate, or both – because supporting digital research skills and the ability to communicate their scholarship an accessible way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do.

By way of example of our work with students , Reproductive Biology Hons. student, Áine Kavanagh scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, backing up her work with over sixty references and creating her own openly-licensed diagram in Photoshop to help illustrate the article. The artice has now been viewed over 40,000 times since 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research. Áine benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship lasted beyond the assignment and did something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.

The reason being: “Search is the way we live now”.

Google and Wikipedia have a symbiotic relationship where they depend on one another. Google is the #1 search engine and Wikipedia is the go-to information site, powering Google’s Knowledge Graph. So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring. They become an activist for knowledge.

And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the new Visual Editor interface and all the little fun things you can do to add citations, images, links and more – while it’s also never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place.

So there is lots to talk about in terms of Wikimedia in education… but I’ll let our students and staff speak to this and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

* Everything about Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent so here is its ‘warts & all’ history:

Danah Boyd also wrote some articles back in 2005 on academia & wikipedia which make for interesting reading… if for nothing other than Jimmy Wales’s ‘Wikipedia as steakhouse’ analogy which deserves to be read:

Danah also wrote an article entitled Did Media Literacy backfire? last year which has a very pertinent point to the discussion of Wikipedia in academic contexts:

“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”

How useful has  this approach been to date?

 

Use of Wikipedia in higher education

Jemima John, 4th year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law.

This post was co-authored with Jemima John (pictured above), 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law and a Digital Skills intern in Information Services. It was written with a focus on Wikipedia and legal education but speaks to Wikipedia’s role in tertiary education more generally. You can watch an interview with Jemima John on Media Hopper.

 

Uses of Wikipedia in higher education

Since the early 2000’s, Wikipedia has acquired somewhat of a negative reputation for being unreliable. Educators are normally wary of allowing Wikipedia as a source that anyone can edit. This is due to believing it to be a source of misinformation, going directly against their role to reduce misinformation in the world.

However, what if the contrary is true?

What if Wikipedia can be used to reduce misinformation in the world, an often-highlighted problem of our current times. This is the very mission of Wikimedia organization. The Wikimedia projects exist to combat misinformation[1]. Indeed, Wikipedians have been combating fake news for years as source evaluation is a core skill of a Wikipedian[2]. Researchers found that only 7 percent of all Wikipedia edits are considered vandalism[3] and nearly all vandalism edits are reverted instantly by automated programs (bots) which help to patrol Wikipedia for copyright violation, plagiarism and vandalism. If a page is targeted for vandalism it can also be ‘semi-protected’ (essentially locking the page so new edits are reviewed before being added) for one day, two days or longer as required while accounts or IP addresses repeating vandalism can be blocked indefinitely. While Wikipedia is still the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, a recent implementation is new users cannot create new pages until their account has been active for four days and accrued at least ten edits. Within the first four days, however, new users can submit their new pages for review by another editor who quality checks it is sufficiently neutral, notable and well-referenced for inclusion in Wikipedia’s live space.

Due to open licensing of Wikipedia content, it is more visible across the Internet. For example, Google scrapes from Wikipedia biographies to feature as sidebar profiles as part of its ‘Knowledge Graph’ answer engine results for notable people; among many other topics. Wikipedia articles also happen to be within the top five search results due to its preferential status in Google’s ranking algorithm. This is important when one considers ‘search is the way we live now’. According to 2011 figures, Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices[4]. Google has also been found to have a funneling effect whereby the sources clicked upon the first page of results are clicked on 90% of the time with 42% click through on the first choice alone[5]. Indeed, more recently, research published in 2017 found that Wikipedia and Google have a symbiotic relationship whereby Google depends on Wikipedia – click through rates decrease by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed – and Wikipedia depends on Google – 84.5% of the visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google[6]. While, just this year, researchers at MIT and the University of Pittsburgh published a paper that evidenced that science is actually shaped by Wikipedia; demonstrating the free encyclopedia’s influence. The randomised control trial the researchers undertook evidenced a strong causal impact that, as one of the most accessed websites in the world, incorporating ideas into Wikipedia leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature. [7]

Today Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website[8] on the Internet and sometimes more trusted than traditional news publications, according to a recent YouGov poll[9]. This poll indicated that Wikipedia was trusted by the British people more than such reputable news sites as the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph, the Times and others. Wikipedia relies on these sources, and other similar sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, so would not necessarily advocate trusting a Wikipedia article over these other sites.

However, Wikipedia’s policies on Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and identifying reliable sources do help police its content and plainly increases trust in its content. Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers”.[10] More than this, it is worth considering what value one would place on having somewhere online like Wikipedia – and unlike many other of the world’s top ten websites – where it is completely, ruthlessly transparent in how pages are put together so that you can see: when edits were made; and by whom; and so that edits can always be checked, challenged and corrected if need be. After all, all edits to a Wikipedia page are recorded in its View History which includes which account or IP address made the edit along with a date, time and edit summary. Importantly, these entries in the View History are all permanent links so that different versions of the page can be compared and, ultimately, so a page can always be reverted back to its last good state if any unhelpful edits are ever made.

Indeed, the process of researching and writing a Wikipedia article demonstrates ‘how the sausage is made’ – how knowledge is created, curated and contested online – and asks students as part of their research to consider what constitutes a reliable source. In this way, students can be introduced to the pros and cons of searching a variety of databases as part of discussions on information and media literacy[11]. Ultimately, whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article one should always evaluate what one is reading. That much has always been true. Wikipedia, for its part, has as its policy that no Wikipedia page should be cited in an academic paper. Rather Wikipedia considers itself a tertiary source; an encyclopedia of articles made up from citations from high quality published secondary sources. If one cites anything it is these sources that one should cite, not Wikipedia itself. In this way, Wikipedia reframes itself as useful place for pre-researching a topic in order to orientate oneself before delving into the scholarly literature. Hence, it is not the endpoint of research but the beginning; the digital gateway to academic research. In this way, it can then be seen as a valuable resource in itself. 2016 research confirmed that 87.5% of students were using it in this way; in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context[12]. Now in its seventeenth year, Wikipedia has approaching 5.7 million articles in English[13] with about ten edits per second across all Wikimedia projects and nearly 500 articles created each day[14]. As the largest reference work on the internet, it is simply too big to fail now and too important a source of information for the world. Consequently, Wikipedia has realized this and has taken out an endowment to ensure it exists it perpetuity.

Within the boundaries of Wikipedia editing guidelines of notability, reliability, and verifiability, it can prove to be a valuable resource in education. Editing Wikipedia articles builds a number of key skills. It encourages digital creation and digital collaboration skills. It builds legal research skills through finding relevant sources. Most of all, the ability to synthesize the research in an accessible manner for a non-legal audience is an unique but incredibly valuable skill for any law student. What is amazing about editing and creating Wikipedia articles is that the articles it allows for dialogue and improvement over the article through collaboration with other editors.

Indeed, it was the ‘realness’ and collaborative element of the assignment that appealed to students on the Reproductive Biology Hons. programme along with seizing a rare opportunity to communicate medical knowledge to a lay audience[15][16]. Being able to communicate to a non-specialist audience is a key skill for new medics just as communicating legal knowledge is a key skill for new entrants to the legal profession.

For History undergraduates, it was the opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of history in a way that was active and not just passively receiving knowledge. More than this, it was recognizing that people’s understanding of the diversity of history would not be improved until staff and students actively engaged with addressing these gaps in representation; particularly in underrepresented areas such as social history, gender history and queer history.[17]

A Wikipedia assignment isn’t just another essay or presentation that students may never return to, but something that has actually been created; a way of demonstrating the relevance of a student’s degree and communicating their scholarship in a real-world application of teaching and learning. Beyond this, the experience of a Wikipedia assignment at Bucknell University was that:

at the close of the semester, students said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed and as they were[18].

Once the article becomes live on Wikipedia and indexed in Google’s top five results, students realise that there is agency to sharing their scholarship with the world. By way of example, Reproductive Biology Honours student Áine Kavanagh’s scrupulously researched a brand new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most deadly and most common forms of ovarian cancer[19]. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams Áine herself created, has now been viewed over 33,000 times since it was published in September 2016[20]; adding a well-referenced source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community. Hence, rather than students’ work being disposed of at the end of an assignment, it can become a community project that can then be added to and improved over time; either by the students themselves or by other editors anywhere around the world. This has been a key motivator for students taking part in Wikipedia projects at the University of Edinburgh.

Of these other editors, there are some 2000+ WikiProjects on Wikipedia where editors come together to focus on a particular area of Wikipedia because they are passionate about the subject and/or have expertise in that area. If you check the Talk page of an article on Wikipedia you will see the WikiProject that has been assigned to ‘look after’ the article. In this way, content on Wikipedia is monitored and curated by a team of subject specialists; amateur enthusiasts and professionals alike. WikiProject Law aims to organise the law-related articles that consist of defining concepts spanning jurisdictions. There is a need for more articles focused on Scots law and there is scope to start a WikiProject to organise articles regarding Scots law.

There can be a number of applications within the law school. A Wikipedia assignment can be run in a single afternoon or over the course of an entire semester. It can be done as individual work, paired work or group work. Starting small and building up over time has proven a sensible methodology although best practice has been developed over a number of years at the university and elsewhere if bolder approaches are warranted.

It can be a formative assessed from a student perspective, it should be noted that if software seems too difficult to learn, students may feel like it is not worth the formative assessment and that it should be summative in nature. Indeed, recent experience is that students have been enthused to take part in Wikipedia assignments and put great efforts in to complete the assignment so receiving some feedback on their efforts always goes some way to ensuring they are fully satisfied by the experience: be it a group discussion; using a Wikipedia marking rubric; individual assessment; peer assessment; blogging their reflections on the project; or providing an oral presentation. The timing of the assignment may also help ensure its success. If it is assigned during a time of the term where other summative assessments may be due then the students may be more strategic in where they place their priorities.

Hence, past experience at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that a Wikipedia assignment incorporating such elements as students having discussions around information literacy and learning how to edit/ how to use a new form of educational technology may work best in the first semester as part of inducting the students into good digital research habits for the rest of the year before the course programme becomes busier in the second and third semesters. World Christianity MSc students and Psychology undergraduate students have also reported in recent interviews how the experience of adding references to Wikipedia was both a motivating and “very exciting”[21] moment for them; partly because of the “slick” way Wikipedia allows you to add citations easily and partly because of the fact they were able to draw from relevant news articles and bring them together with books and journal articles (and more) to holistically convey the subject they were writing about.[22]

In terms of how hard or difficult Wikipedia editing now is, Wikipedia has a new WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Visual Editor interface which is easy to learn in an hour and just takes a little practice. It makes use of dropdown menus much like one experiences in word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and WordPress blogging and has been described variously as “super easy”, “fun”, “really intuitive” and “addictive as hell.”

There is also scope for a Wikipedia assignment to form a proportion of the summative element of the course as they have done on the World Christianity MSc.[23] It should be noted that contributions made to Wikipedia are not static, but rather they are picked up by other Wikipedia editors to improve the reliability of the site. In educational contexts, this could be seen negatively but students have intimated that they like their work surviving beyond the life of the assignment and becoming a community project that can be added to over time. Beyond this, students can download their finished pages as a pdf, create books of their finished articles and, because all edits are recorded as permanent links in the View History of a page, they will always have a permanent link to their version of the page, no matter what changes are made to improve or expand it by other editors.

Wikipedia is an useful source but it can never replace formal legal education which teaches specialist knowledge, analytical skills, ethical standards, and importantly impart a love of democracy and justice. Wikipedia in legal education will only supplement these activities.

For further information – refer to:  

References

[1] Kamenetz, Anya (2017). “What Students Can Learn By Writing For Wikipedia”. NPR.org.

[2] Davis, LiAnna (2016). “Why Wiki Education’s work combats fake news — and how you can help”. Wiki Education.

[3] Adler B.T., de Alfaro L., Mola-Velasco S.M., Rosso P., West A.G. (2011) Wikipedia Vandalism Detection: Combining Natural Language, Metadata, and Reputation Features.

[4] Hillis, Ken; Petit, Michael; Jarrett, Kylie (2012). Google and the Culture of Search. Routledge. ISBN9781136933066.

[5] Beel, J.; Gipp, B. (2009). “Google Scholar’s ranking algorithm: The impact of citation counts (An empirical study)”. 2009 Third International Conference on Research Challenges in Information Science: 439–446. doi:1109/RCIS.2009.5089308.

[6] McMahon, Connor; Johnson, Isaac; and Hecht, Brent (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

[7] Thompson, Neil; Hanley, Douglas (2018). “Science Is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence From a Randomized Control Trial”. Rochester, NY.

[8] https://www.alexa.com/topsites

[9]https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/08/09/more-british-people-trust-wikipedia-trust-news/

[10] Guo, Jeff (2016). “Wikipedia is fixing one of the Internet’s biggest flaws”. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.

[11] “Wikipedia and Information Literacy – Academic Support Librarian Ruth Jenkins”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[12] Selwyn, Neil; Gorard, Stephen (2016). “Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource — Patterns of use and perceptions of usefulness”. The Internet and Higher Education. 28: 28–34. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.08.004. ISSN 1096-7516.

[13] “Wikipedia:Statistics”. Wikipedia.

[14]https://tools.wmflabs.org/wmcharts/wmchart0002.php

[15] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Aine Kavanagh (Reproductive Biology Hons. student)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[16] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Eve Sealy, Senior Honours student on the Reproductive Honours programme”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[17] “Wikipedia and History – Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[18] Stuhl, Andrew (2014-10-14). “Wikipedia and Student Writing”. Wiki Education.

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[20] https://tools.wmflabs.org/pageviews/?project=en.wikipedia.org&platform=all-access&agent=user&range=all-time&pages=High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[21] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Psychology student Karoline Nanfeldt”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[22] “World Christianity MSc students on the Wikipedia literature review assignment”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[23] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Dr. Alex Chow (World Christianity MTh/MSc programme)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

 

 

Wikipedia at 17 – Facts matter.

Wikipedia: the internet’s favourite website for information

As Wikipedia celebrates its 17th birthday this month, we are once again asking our colleagues to help share some fact-checked knowledge to Wikipedia as part of the global #1Lib1Ref campaign (1 Librarian adding 1 Reference) and help assert that facts, not alternative facts, matter.

The campaign runs from January 15th to February 3rd 2018. Everyone is welcome to participate (it is a global open platform after all).

Wikipedia is already the 5th most visited website, the largest reference work on the internet and the single greatest open education resource in existence today. And that’s with only 120,000 regular contributors. Of whom, only around 3455 are considered ‘very active‘ Wikipedians.

That’s the population of a village like Pitlochry curating the world’s knowledge.

  1. Imagine if the 13,000 staff and 36,000 at the University of Edinburgh all contributed a little of their time and expertise to improving the free encyclopedia.
  2. Imagine if ALL universities contributed.
  3. Imagine if ALL libraries contributed.

While Pitlochry is near the famous 18ftSoldier’s Leap’ at Killiecrankie (worth a visit) #1Lib1Ref is your invitation to take a small step to find out how everyone can help improve Wikipedia.  Simply add 1 citation to 1 fact on Wikipedia that has been tagged as needing verified with a ‘Citation Needed‘ tag between now and February 3rd 2018.

The Citation Hunt tool makes it so easy to help share fact-checked knowledge in 5 mins or less. Watch how you can take part (5 mins).

  1. Read more about #1Lib1Ref campaign.
  2. Learn about the Citation Hunt tool.
  3. Step by step guide to taking part from the Biodiversity Library

Oh and don’t forget to save your edits with an edit summary of #1Lib1Ref and #1Lib1RefEdUni if you’re participating at the University of Edinburgh so we can track how many edits are being made.

Let’s see if we can’t add 101 citations to Wikipedia by February 3rd!

Own work by Stinglehammer, CC-BY-SA.

Wikipedia at 17 – some facts

  • The world’s biggest encyclopedia turned 17 on January 15th 2018.
  • English Wikipedia has 5.5m articles (full list of all 299 language Wikipedias)
  • 500 million visitors per month
  • 1.5 billion monthly unique devices per month.
  • 17 billion pageviews per month.
  • More reliable than you think
  • Vandalism removed more quickly than you think (only 7% of edits are considered vandalism).
  • Used in schools & universities to teach information literacy & help combat fake news.
  • Guidelines around use of reliable sources, conflict of interest, verifiability, and neutral point of view.
  • Articles ‘looked after’ (monitored and maintained) by editors from 2000+ WikiProjects.
  • Includes a quality and ratings scale
  • 87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work.
  • Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians.
  • It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.

Did Media Literacy backfire?

“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.” (Boyd, 2017)

Search is the way we live now” – Google and Wikipedia

  • Google depends on Wikipedia. Click through rate decreases by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed.
  • Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google.
  • According to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013), Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices.
  • Google’s ranking algorithm also has a ‘funnelling effect’ according to Beel & Gipp (2009); narrowing the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results with a 42% click through on the first choice alone.
  • This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top ten results and increase clickthrough and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can therefore be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.
  • Did you know that you can nominate Wikipedia pages to be included on Wikipedia’s front page (viewed 25 million times a day on average)? We did just that for the noted sociologist Mary Susan McIntosh‘s Wikipedia page which was created for International Women’s Day in March 2017. From not having a Wikipedia page at all to 7000 views in 1 single day.

More Did You Know facts about Wikipedia.

 

Don’t cite Wikipedia, write Wikipedia.

  • Wikipedia does not want you to cite it. It considers itself a tertiary resource; an online encyclopedia built from articles which in turn are based on reliable, published, secondary sources.
  • Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent. Everything on Wikipedia can be checked, challenged and corrected. Cite the sources Wikipedia uses, not Wikipedia itself.

Wikipedia does need more subject specialists to engage with it to improve its coverage, however. More eyes on a page helps address omissions and improves the content.

Feedback from staff and students who have engaged with editing Wikipedia:

Isn’t editing Wikipedia hard?

Maybe it was a little hard once but not now. It’s all dropdown menus now with the Visual Editor interface. So super easy, intuitive and “addictive as hell“!

Do you need a quick overview of what all the buttons and menu options on Wikimedia do? Luckily we have just the very thing for you.

Want to get started?

More reading

OER17 – Less goat and More (empathetic) bear

I attended OER16, my first OER conference, but did not present. I had my own side room, just off the main drag, where I could provide respite from the main programme and entertain the Wiki curious.

Mostly I fired out tweets, recorded sessions and observed. And, it has to be said, had a great time doing so.

This year’s OER17 Conference was a different kettle of fish. I felt there was a lot to say, and be said, so I ill-advisedly submitted four sessions (I retracted a fifth on ‘Wikimedia vs. the Right to Forgotten‘).

Martin Poulter: Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)
Martin Poulter: Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

Thankfully, my colleague Martin Poulter came to my aid to assist, and improve, on two of these sessions (one about goats and one about Wikimedia games) and in the end I’m glad we went for it this year because, between Lucy Crompton-Reid’s brilliant keynote and fab sessions from Alice White, Stefan Lutschinger, Sara Mörtsell, Martin Poulter and Navino Evans, I think the Wikimedia presentations played a really positive role in this year’s conference after what has been such a low year in politics. But maybe I’m just biased.

And our biases were laid out in the open this year, I think, because the theme was ‘The Politics of Open‘ and politics is, no getting away from it, deeply personal. ‘Shouting from the heart‘ was the mot juste. Perhaps because of this, or the steady supply of coffee and biscuits, the conference did seem that much fuller of warm embraces, smiles and laughter as much as critical discourse. People being good-natured with one another, huddling together in dark times, espousing what they held to be true. And this was not so much bonhomie as ‘bonfemie’ (doubtful this will catch on) because the conference had such a surfeit of brilliant articulate women forming its backbone with an all-female list of keynotes and plenary speakers. (The Arsenal fans in the pub next door would have appreciated such a strong backbone to their side no doubt.)

Lorna Campbell - The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration (Own work, CC-BY-SA)
Lorna Campbell – The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

I still need to catch up on Thursday’s talks but here’s what I observed:

I observed passion (Lorna Campbell’s blistering first talk on UK Open Education policy left scorched earth in her wake and her second ‘Shouting from the Heart’, invoking the Declaration of Arbroath, had her choked and us fair greetin’).

I observed cool logic (because logic is cool and, from what I observed, there are no greater purveyors of undeniable reasoning than the three M’s: Martin Poulter, Martin Weller and Melissa Highton).

Handy definitions from Melissa Highton's talk - 'Brexit, praxis and OER redux – why not being open now costs us money in the future.' (Own work, CC-BY-SA)
Handy definitions from Melissa Highton’s talk – ‘Brexit, praxis and OER redux – why not being open now costs us money in the future.’ (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

I observed fun and playfulness in our Wikimedia Games session (which exposed Lucy’s competitive side) and Charlie Farley’s Board Game Jam. The #LILAC17 Credo Digital Literacy award-winning Charlie Farley no less.

Passion. Logic. Playfulness. Qualities that, to my mind, are what education should be about.

Godwin’s Law (redefined) meant that Trexit had to be discussed at some point during the conference while calls to action and calls for solidarity were also asked and answered (Let’s make copyright right right now“,Repeal the 8th” and “#IWill” for instance).

'Get your smart phone out!' - Lisette Kalshoven, and Alek Tarkwoski fixing copyright for teachers and students at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)
‘Get your smart phone out!’ – Lisette Kalshoven, and Alek Tarkwoski fixing copyright for teachers and students at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

And we came out of the two days feeling pretty upbeat that there may actually be a way through the woods, out of the “unenlightenment” and into the bright future of a Viv Rolfe and David Kernoghan chaired #OER18.

(I could be wrong but there may even have been a moment of demob happiness around the room watching David rise out his seat to announce we could call him #OER18 co-chair).

No mean feat anyway after a grim year.

In this respect, I think Maha Bali’s keynote was an inspired choice and really set the tone for the whole two days. If politics is personal then the act of gift-giving is personal too; imposing your choices on someone else; whether it is the ‘gift’ of an open educational resource or the ‘gift’ of your elder brother buying you a Pixies CD for your birthday when he had the only CD player in the house and you’d never heard of the Pixies at that point. (He gave me a cassette copy in the end and kept the CD).

I’m grateful to Maha for the reminder of my brother’s wiliness but also that the best quality an educator has (beyond passion, logic and playfulness) is empathy.

Being able to empathise with other learners and considering how they can best access learning materials and the kinds of barriers they come up against is critical in OEP. You may think you’re being inclusive but we are too often trapped in our own worldview, traveling those same over-trammelled thought pathways; unable to see that our solutions aren’t really solutions at all or understand, or even acknowledge, the challenges of access or licensing others face; the obstacles they may have to overcome; the risks they may have to take.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

So that’s my takeaway:

Be less goat.

Be more empathetic bear.

Cheers to Josie, Alek, Maren and the rest of the ALT team.

Link to the summary of the Wikimedia related sessions at the Open Education Conference.

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