Tag: Wikipedia in the Classroom

The internet’s favourite website for information

Wikipedia at 17.

  • The world’s biggest encyclopedia will turn eighteen in January 2019.
  • English Wikipedia has 5.7m articles (full list of all 302 language Wikipedias)
  • 500 million visitors per month
  • 1.5 billion monthly unique devices per month.
  • 17 billion pageviews per month.
  • Completely open process and more reliable than you think
  • All edits are recorded in the View History of a page in permanent links so pages can be rolled back to their last good state if need be. e.g. View History page for Jeremy Hunt.
  • 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 – the two highest quality levels of articles are community reviewed.
  • Information organised in categories using a category tree. These categories can help create dynamic timelines.
  • Knowledge discussed on Talk pages  and at the Wikipedia Tea House where you can ask questions.
  •  87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work (Selwyn and Gorard, 2016) in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context.
  • Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians. (Masukume, Kipersztok, Shafee, Das, and Heilmam, 2017)
  • 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
  • It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.

 

More reading

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)

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.
Own work by Stinglehammer, CC-BY-SA

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.

Six in six minutes – 3 students and 3 staff discuss Wikipedia in the Classroom

  1. Karoline Nanfeldt – 4th year Psychology undergraduate student.
  2. Tomas Sanders – 4th year History undergraduate student.
  3. Aine Kavanagh – Senior Hons. Reproductive Biology student.
  4. Ruth Jenkins – Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
  5. Dr. Jenni Garden – Christina Miller Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.
  6. Dr. Michael Seery – Reader in Education at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.

Wikipedia has a problem with systemic bias.

A 2011 survey suggests that on English Wikipedia around 90% of editors are male, and are typically formally educated, in white-collar jobs (or students) and living in the Global North.

“if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30- years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn’t actually spend much time playing games, and lives in US or Europe.”

This means that the articles within Wikipedia typically reflect this bias. For example only 17% of biographies in English Wikipedia are of women. Many articles reflect the perspective of English speakers in the northern hemisphere, and many of the topics covered reflect the interests of this relatively small group of editors. Wikipedia needs a diverse community of editors to bring diverse perspectives and interests.

Wikipedia is also a community that operates with certain expectations and social norms in mind. Sometimes new editors can have a less than positive experience when they aren’t fully aware of this.

“5 Pillars of Wikipedia” flickr photo by giulia.forsythe https://flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/21684596874 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

There are only 80,000 regular contributors to Wikipedia. Of these, only 3,000 are considered ‘very active. That’s the population of a small village like Pitlochry trying to curate the world’s knowledge.

We need to increase the diversity and number of Wikipedia editors.  One way to do that is to run edit-a-thons and other facilitated activities that introduce some of these norms and expectations at the same time learning how to technically edit 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.

By Zeromonk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia attributable to Google. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices according to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013).
  • 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% clickthrough on 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.

 

The Symbiotic Relationship between Wikipedia and Google.

Learn how to edit Wikipedia in 30 mins

More Reading

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?

 

Wikimedia at the Open Educational Resources Conference 2018

Ewan McAndrew – Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (Doug Belshaw, CC-0)

The 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy, OER18, took place at the Bristol Watershed Cinema on 18 and 19 April 2018. Its theme was ‘Open to All’ and it featured Wikimedia heavily in its programme.

 

Lorna Campbell takes the stage for her opening keynote at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

 

Anne-Marie Scott and Jason Evans supporting the EdTech Wikipedia editathon at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

OER18 further builds on the advocacy work of the last seven years when Martin Poulter first presented on ‘Wikipedia and Higher Education: beat them or join them?’ back in 2011. An overview of Wikimedia UK’s growing engagement with the OER Conference over the years can be found on the Wikimedia UK site. A playlist of the recorded talks from the conference can be found on ALT’s Youtube channel while the Wikimedia related sessions are also hosted on CC-BY licences on the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper channel along with a recently uploaded playlist of 2018 videos of interviews with staff and students about the Wikimedia residency. A roundup of blogposts since the conference can be found on OER18’s site.

Data Science for Design MSc students’ feedback on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database import into Wikidata. (Own work, CC-0)

 

Wikimedia UK at OER18 – Jason Evans (National Wikimedian for Wales), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Oxford) and Hannah Evans, Programme Co-ordinator at Wikimedia UK. (Own work, CC-0)
Wikipedia's front page 11 May 2017

Did you know – Mary Susan McIntosh

Did you know that that sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights Mary Susan McIntosh was deported from the U.S. in 1960 for speaking out against the House Un-American Activities Committee?

Mary Susan McIntosh (1936–2013) sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK. A 1974 colour photograph from her time as a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. CC-BY-SA
Mary Susan McIntosh (1936–2013) sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK. A 1974 colour photograph from her time as a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. CC-BY-SA

Yesterday this ‘Did You Know‘ fact was on Wikipedia’s front page. The front page is viewed, on average, 25 million times a day.

Mary’s page was only written in March during our International Women’s Day event here at the University of Edinburgh by one of our attendees, Lorna Campbell (read Lorna’s blog article on Mary here).

While her page has only been live on Wikipedia for two months, Mary’s page has now been viewed in excess of 7000 times because a) editors were motivated to address Wikipedia’s gender gap problem where less than 15% of editors are female and less than 17% of biographies are of notable women and b) we felt Mary’s story was important enough that it should be shared on Wikipedia’s front page and introduced to an audience of up to 25 million.

Did you know you could do that? Nominate a page newly created in the last seven days, or significantly expanded on, to be included on Wikipedia’s front page in this way?

View the guidelines for Did You Know here.

The Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh has been as much about demystifying the largest reference work on the internet as anything else so here are some other things I feel are worth knowing in the spirit of ‘did you know‘?:

 

  • Did you know that Wikipedia works with Turnitin to address issues of plagiarism and copyright violation using the Copyvio tool and that the Dashboard for managing assignments now offers Authorship Highlighting of students’ edits thereby making it easier to visualize and evaluate student work.
  • Did you know that Wikipedia does not want you to cite it? It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles with facts backed up from reliable published secondary sources. You can’t cite Wikipedia but you can cite the references it uses. In this way it is reframed as the digital gateway to further research sources.
  • Did you know that Wikipedia editing teaches source evaluation as a core skill hence Wikipedia education assignments help students combat fake news?
  • Did you know that Dr. Alex Chow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity has developed a script to help assess the word count of Wikipedia articles for use with student assignments?
  • Did you know that only 7% of edits to Wikipedia areconsidered vandalism and that research has found that, unlike other parts of the internet, Wikipedia editing actually de-radicalises its editors of partisan political leanings?
  • Did you know you can learn:
  • Did you know that you can upload openly-licensed longer texts to Wikisource (the free content library) which are transcribed into 100% searchable HTML so that works such as Thomas Jehu’s digitised PhD thesis can be linked to, one click away, from his Wikipedia article or out-of-copyright texts such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s book on ‘Edinburgh’ (1914) can be enjoyed by new audiences?
  • Did you know that Wikidata, Wikimedia’s repository of structured open data, now has 3 million linked citations added to it which can be queried using the new Scholia tool – a tool to handle scientific bibliographic information? (The Scholia Web service creates on-the-fly scholarly profiles for researchers, organizations, journals, publishers, individual scholarly works, and for research topics. To collect the data, it queries the SPARQL-based Wikidata Query Service).
  • Did you know that you can now add automatically generated citations to millions of books on Wikipedia? Wikipedia editors can now draw on WorldCat, the world’s largest database of books, to generate citations on Wikipedia thanks to a collaboration between OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library program.
  • Did you know that the latest estimates by Crossref show that Wikipedia has risen from the 8th most prolific referrer to DOIs to the 5th. And this is thought to be a gross underestimate of its actual position?
  • Did you know that Altmetric include Wikipedia citations in their impact metrics and that Altmetric automatically picks up on citations through Wikipedia’s citation generator?
  • Did you know that Wikimedia has received a $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to make a ‘Structured Commons’ to make freely-licensed images accessible and reusable across the web?
  • Did you know that releasing images through Wikimedia Commons can result in a huge increase in views with detailed metrics about the number of views these images are accruing? E.g. Images released by the Bodleian Library have accrued 218,460,571 views to date.
  • Did you know about the WikiCite initiative? Tidying up the citations on Wikipedia to make a consistent, queryable bibliographic repository enhancing the visibility and impact of research.
  • Did you know that thanks to the new I4OC initiative (April 2017) there exists a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data? Before I4OC started, publishers releasing references in the open accounted for just 1% of citation metadata collected annually by Crossref. Following discussions over the past months, several subscription-access and open-access publishers have recently made the decision to release reference list metadata publicly. These include: American Geophysical Union, Association for Computing Machinery, BMJ, Cambridge University Press, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, EMBO Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, SAGE Publishing, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley. These publishers join other publishers who have been opening their references through Crossref for some time.
  • Did you know that thanks to Wikidata you can now query, analyse & visualise the largest reference work on the internet? You can also add your research data to combine datasets on Wikidata.
  • Did you know that the University of Portsmouth have been running a Wikipedia assignment called Human Geography for the last five years where each student is assigned a different short stub article for a village in England and Wales, and asked to expand it to provide a rounded description of the place and, in particular, an account of its historical development?
  • Did you know that, so far, they have left Scotland untouched and so there will be many villages and towns in Scotland ripe to have articles created and improved?
  • Did you know that Wikivoyage is Wikipedia’s sister project and a Lonely Planet-esque travel guide? Students can write articles about their hometown area with bullet-pointed sections on ‘Things to do’, ‘Things to See’, ‘Things to Buy’, ‘Places to stay’ with Open Street Maps included and images added from Wikimedia Commons.
  • Did you know how students and staff at the University of Edinburgh have reacted to the Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments we have run this year? You can view a compilation of their feedback in this video.
  • Did you know that students can create entire textbooks, chapters of textbooks, on Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikibooks?
  • Did you know that every September the world’s largest photography competition takes place, Wiki Loves Monuments? Participants are encouraged to photograph and upload images of listed buildings and monuments to document our cultural heritage.
  • Did you know that the WikiShootme tool helps identify notable buildings in your area that require an image uploading?
  • Did you know that taking part in Wikimedia activities does not always require a heavy time component and that short, fun activities can also help: adding a citation through the Citation Hunt tool (“Whack-a-mole for citations”), playing the Wikidata game, adding images through WikiShootMe and FIST; taking part in fun Wiki Races (6 degrees of separation for Wiki links between articles).
  • Did you know that you can become a Wikipedia trainer with our new lesson plan and slide deck (available on Tes.com)?
  • Did you know that you can learn how to edit at our 90 minute training sessions and how to become a trainer at our 3 hour Train the Trainer events?
  • Did you know that I can deliver presentations and training as you require; be it on Wikisource (the free content library), Wikidata (the free and open respository of structured data), Wikimedia Commons (the free media respository), the Wikicite initiative, WikiVoyage (the free travel guide), writing articles for Wikipedia, adding your research to Wikipedia or something else entirely?

If you would like to find out more then feel free to contact me at ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

 

  • Want to become a Wikipedia editor?
  • Want to become a Wikipedia trainer?
  • Want to run a Wikipedia course assignment?
  • Want to contribute images to Wikimedia Commons?
  • Want to learn more about Wikisource?
  • Want to contribute your research to Wikipedia?
  • Want to contribute your research data to Wikidata?

Wikipedia in Education: If not now then when? #OER17

Last week I attended the eighth Open Educational Resources conference (OER17) at Resource for London. Themed on ‘the Politics of Open‘. Little did we know when these themes were announced this time last year just how timely this conference would be.

I presented 4 sessions at the conference:

This last presentation outlined the work the Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh over the last fifteen months; the lessons learnt and the recommendations.

It was not recorded so here’s what I said:

Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected Campus

The Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh began in January 2016 so I am about to write my 15th month report this week. An infographic for the first 12 months is available to view at tinyurl.com/WikiResidency.

I should say that the reason for the title of the talk, Lo and Behold, is because I am massive fan of Werner Herzog and the film that bears the name. Potentially the subtitle for this talk could have been ‘a year of chaos, hostility and murder’. Thankfully, the reverse was true.

A year of chaos, hostility and murder? Au contraire…

But the residency has also, at its heart, been about making connections. Both across the university’s three teaching colleges and beyond; with the city of Edinburgh itself. Demonstrating how staff, students and members of the public can most benefit from and contribute to the development of the huge open knowledge resource that are the Wikimedia projects. And we made some significant connections over the last year in all of these areas.

 

But first some context as to how this came to be. In 1583 the University of Edinburgh came to be then a short time later in 2001 Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia was established.

Today, Wikipedia is the number one information site in the world with 500 million visitors a month; the place that students and staff consult for pre-research on a topic. And considered, according to a 2014 Yougov survey, to be trusted more than the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph and Times. Perhaps because unlike the secret algorithms of Google and Facebook, on Wikipedia everything is out in the open. Its commitment to transparency is an implicit promise of trust to its users where everything on it can be checked, challenged and corrected.

In 2011, ten years after Wikipedia first launched, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by the vice president of Oxford University of Press acclaiming that ‘Wikipedia had come of age and that it was time Wikipedia played “a vital role in formal education settings“.

A timeline of Wikimedia residencies in Scotland (and Martin Poulter’s work at the University of Oxford).

 

In 2013, two years after this article was published, Scotland got its first ever Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland, Ally Crockford. Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching & Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, invited both Ally Crockford and the newly installed Wikimedian in Residence at the Museums and Galleries Scotland, Sara Thomas, to hold an editathon during the university’s February 2015 term break. This editathon, themed on Women, Science and Scottish History was to help recognise and celebrate the achievements of the Edinburgh 7, the first female medical students in Britain, with new and improved Wikipedia pages. At the event, Melissa Highton invited Professor Allison Littlejohn to conduct some research to see if there was actually some formal and informal learning going on at these Wikipedia editing events. This research was then shared later that year at the Wikipedia Science Conference organised by the Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Library, Martin Poulter.

Happily the research bore out that there was real merit in having a Wikimedian in an education setting because there was indeed informal and formal learning going on at editathon events. Up until this point all the residencies had tended to be GLAM oriented (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) so Melissa was quite bold in arguing for a Wikimedian on a university-wide remit. And I’m pleased to say that calculated risk worked out.

The University of Edinburgh residency began in January 2016 and its remit was threefold:

  • To raise awareness of Wikipedia and its sister projects
  • To design and deliver digital skills engagement events such as editathons (groups of staff & student editors coming together to edit Wikipedia pages on a focused theme – both inside and outside the curriculum)
  • To work with colleagues all across the institution to find ways in which the University – as a knowledge creation organisation – can most benefit and contribute to the development of this huge open knowledge resource.

But how to go about serving the university as their newest resource? Wikipedia in education is well established elsewhere but we were in slightly uncharted territory at the university so I could have been sat twiddling my thumbs for the year; waiting for take-up that may never have come (although I don’t think for a moment this would have happened). I could also have been treated as a snake oil salesman peddling the educational equivalent of fast food.

If I had been I would have been given short shrift. Thankfully, this ancient university is a thoroughly innovative modern one and among its 36,000 students and 13,000 staff there are a great many proponents of Open Knowledge.

I have never been busier.

Shared missions

 

The trick, if there was one, was to get colleagues to see there was a link between the Wikimedia projects and the work they were doing; to see there was a shared mission; to recognise that both were knowledge producers and, for want of a better word, ‘ideas factories’. And that collaborations between the university and Wikimedia could be fruitful for both sides. More than the sum of their parts. That involved engaging people in the conversation. Getting in the room. Because once in the room, colleagues could see the connections and did start to look at Wikipedia differently.

The Visual Editor interface

 

One of the biggest factors in the residency’s success was the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface, making editing so much easier and more akin to using WordPress and Ms Word through its drop-down menus.

But we had to get people in the room first of all to give it a go.  That’s why the ‘edit-a-thon’ model proved particularly successful. Hosting an event on a particular theme for editors to come together and create or improve Wikipedia articles on that theme.

The Edinburgh editathons

 

So we’d fit in with other events already happening in the academic calendar and stage our own when people were likely to be able to attend. Be it a Women in Espionage themed editathon for Spy Week; a Festival of Samhuinn event for Halloween to improve articles about those passed away; or Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate Women in STEM; inviting colleagues from STEM subjects, English, History, Scottish Studies and more to come take part in these events.

We’d also draw in other institutions like the National Library of Scotland and the University of Sheffield’s Centre for the Gothic in our Robert Louis Stevenson Day event themed on Gothic writers.

Edinburgh Gothic – Pic my Mihaela Bodlovic (CC-BY-SA)

And in our third year of running the History of Medicine we have colleagues sharing Open Knowledge from across the university and beyond including the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow), the Surgeons’ Hall Museums, the Lothian Health Service Archives and more.

So once people were engaged and their curiosity piqued then we could begin to show how the other Wikimedia projects link with Wikipedia and how information literacy is improved through engagement with Wikipedia.

Ultimately, what you wanted attendees to get from the experience was this; the idea that knowledge is most useful when it is used; engaged with; built upon.

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK – shared missions.

 

And that housing knowledge in silos, of any kind, be they Wikimedia projects or university repositories, is missing a trick when that knowledge could be engaged with and built upon.

RLS and the Web of Knowledge

That’s why in the Wikimedia universe, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wikipedia article has a link to his out-of-copyright longer works on Wikisource, the free content library. It also links to images related to RLS hosted on Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. And it has a link to the Wikidata page on RLS where all the machine-readable structured linked data about RLS is kept.

And, in terms of raising awareness of these sister projects, we have had a showcase about Wikisource, the free content library, which has resulted in some digitised PhD theses being uploaded and linked to from Wikipedia, just one click away. Sharing open knowledge.

Thomas Jehu’s PhD thesis is now digitised and transcribed to Wikisource, one click away from his Wikipedia page.

 

We have also had a number of Wikidata showcase events as Wikidata represents the bright future of the Wikimedia projects. Machine-readable, language independent, this central hub acts as a repository of linked structured data for all the Wikimedia projects and the wider internet beyond. This means the data from the largest reference work on the internet can be queried, analysed & visualised as never before.

Further, by tidying up and putting citation data in Wikidata, as 2 million plus citations now are, it means we can also have a central bibliographic repository of linked citation data allowing the data to be queried in any number of ways.

And that’s the thing. Wikipedia doesn’t want you to cite it. It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles built on citations from reliable secondary sources. In this way it is reframing itself as the front matter to all research. And should be understood as such.

The Front Matter to All Research

Another important factor is the work Wikipedia is doing with Altmetric and Crossref to ensure more permanent DOIs are used as citations which can then be tracked for impact. Wikipedia is now the number 5 most prolific DOI referrer according to Crossref… and even that is thought to be a gross underestimate of its actual standing.

The new Content Translation tool, developed in the last two years, has made a big impact as it allows one Wikipedia article to be translated, using machine translation to take all the formatting across paragraph by paragraph to create a new article in a different language Wikipedia. Thereby building understanding.

And this is something our Translation Studies MSc students were motivated to address as they could see exactly how knowledge was unevenly spread throughout the different language Wikipedias.

The uneven spread of knowledge between the 295 different language Wikipedias

Similarly, one really important factor was this idea of taking ownership to help redress areas of under-representation and systemic bias on Wikipedia. In this way many of our Wikipedia events focused on addressing the gender gap.

Redressing the Gender Gap

Less than 15% of women edit Wikipedia and this skews the content in much the same way with only 16.85% of biographies about notable women. Given that the gender gap is real and that a lot of institutions will be undertaking initiatives as part of  their commitment to Athena Swan, the creating of new role models for young and old alike goes a long way to engage people in helping to address this issue.

Role models like Janet Anne Galloway, advocate for higher education for women in Scotland, Helen Archdale (suffragette), sociologist and LGBT campaigner Mary Susan McIntosh among many many more.

Changing the way stories are told

That’s why it is enormously pleasing that over the whole year, 65% of attendees at our events were female.

Over the course of this same year, Fake News has come to the fore. For Wikipedia editors this is nothing new as they have been combatting Fake news for years. Evaluating sources is core skill for a Wikipedia editor.

The skills Wikipedia assignments help develop

 In fact, all the skills and experiences that universities and PISA are articulating they want to see students imbued with at this moment in time are ones that Wikipedia assignments help develop. And that’s not just hot air. The assignments we have run this year actually have delivered on these.

As a result of colleagues seeing connections with, and benefits of, a Wikipedia assignment we have run three Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments and three online assignments.

Anyone can teach Wikipedia in the Classroom.

Teaching with Wikipedia is even easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface

We have case studies for the World Christianity MSc Wikipedia literature review assignment; balancing up a hitherto Western-oriented field with new articles from perspectives in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and more.

Reproductive Medicine undergraduates – September 2016 (CC-BY-SA)

We have a case study of students in Reproductive Biology Hons. researching and writing new articles about reproductive health such as High-Grade Serous Carcinoma and thereby improving their research & communication skills and contributing their knowledge to the global Open Knowledge community. This is set to run for its third year this September.

We have a case study of students on the Translation Studies MSc course translating 4000 words from one language Wikipedia to another using the Content Translation tool  as part of their Independent Study module; thereby getting much-needed published practice in translation. This has been such a success that we have continued for a second semester and Edinburgh University Translation Society are also publishing their own Wikipedia translations now too.

The approach taken

Translation has been a massive part of the residency; communicating how both sides can benefit massively from one another. My approach has been based on my background. Teaching in the Far East helped me see how to engage learners through stimulating, engaging & accessible activities; graded to their needs. In this way, my approach with translating Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines into a way that educators can engage with has been to:

  • Making learning engaging and accessible.
  • Building on prior knowledge.
  • Sharing good practice.

What’s next?

We have a number of big events planned including a Celtic and Indigenous Languages Wikipedia Conference and a Swahili translate-a-thon to look forward to.

But my main task is to finish the residency in January 2018 leaving behind a sustainable way for involvement with Wikimedia to continue.

That, for me, is a mixture of People and Process. Identifying the people who are going to take this on and work with them to support others but also preparing enough materials so that the process of involvement is easy enough for anyone to pick it up and get started.

Making the residency sustainable

That’s why I’m working to embed this in our Digital Skills programme and have already trained 12 Wikimedia ambassadors to support the Wikimedia activities in their area of the university. That’s why I have created and curated 110 videos and video tutorials on the university’s Media Hopper channel. That’s why I’ve written up case studies and shared a reusable lesson plan on TES so anyone can teach Wikipedia editing. There is nothing worse than people struggling on their own to edit Wikipedia and becoming frustrated when they get told they are doing it the wrong way. Well, by sharing the right way and by showing how easy it now is I believe we can make this sustainable across Edinburgh and beyond.

Key learning points

  • Sharing good practice & working collaboratively is crucially important.
  • Creating a variety of stimulating events where practitioners from different backgrounds participate in an open knowledge community has proved to be a successful approach.
  • Wikipedia & its sister projects offer a great deal to Higher Education and can be successfully integrated to enhance the learning & teaching within the curriculum.
  • Areas of under-representation and systemic bias have proven to be extremely important motivators for participants.
  • Demystifying Wikipedia through presentations, workshops & scaffolded resources has yielded positive reactions & an increased understanding of Wikipedia’s important role in academia.

Reasons why other universities should also look into hosting a Wikimedian as part of their digital skills team.

Wikipedia comes of Age

 

  1. The new Visual Editor is super easy to learn, fun and addictive.
  2. Anyone can edit Wikipedia BUT there are checks and balances to help revert unhelpful edits in minutes. (Only 7% of edits are considered vandalism).
  3. Wikidata – query, analyse & visualise the largest reference work on the internet. Add your research data to combine datasets on Wikidata.
  4. WikiCite – tidying up the citations on Wikipedia to make a consistent, queryable bibliographic repository enhancing the visibility and impact of research.
  5. Wikisource – Quotations and images from long ago can still touch and inspire. Out of copyright texts such as digitised PhD theses can be uploaded & linked to from Wikipedia.
  6. Content Translation – The new tool allows Translation Students to get much-needed published translation practice and help share knowledge globally; correcting areas of under-representation and building understanding.
  7. The gender gap is real and working with Wikipedia helps address this as part of Athena Swan initiatives; creating new roles models for young & old alike.
  8. Develop students’ information literacy, digital literacy & research skills.
  9. Share your research & library collections’ material to Wikipedia the right way and open it up to a global Open Knowledge community of millions demonstrating impact with detailed metrics.
  10. Fake news is prevalent. Engaging with Wikipedia helps develop a critical information literate approach to its usage and to other online sources of information.
Wikipedia vs. Fake News

So there’s your summary of why you too should engage with Wikimedia. 10 good solid reasons why the cost of a Wikimedian, as just one more digital skills trainer among all your others, is peanuts compared to what the university as a whole can benefit out of the experience. Indeed, staff and students are already consulting Wikipedia for pre-research purposes so why not ensure gaps in representation and inaccuracies are addressed? Because if not you then who?

In conclusion

I began by saying the Chronicle of Higher Education acclaimed “Wikipedia had Come of Age” way back in 2011. With Wikipedia now 16 (going on 17) and this being the Politics of Open, I’ll leave you with one final thought, has Wikipedia now come of age? Is now the time for Wikipedia in Education?

And, to paraphrase our First Minister, if not now then when?

Wikipedia in Education: if not now then when?

Postscript

But don’t just take my word for it, here are the staff and students who have taken part in Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments at the University of Edinburgh this year.

Reflections on the Wikipedia assignments (video).

The feedback from the assignments this year has been really positive – from both staff and students.

Reflections on a Wikipedia assignment – Reproductive Medicine

Wikipedia as an important source of health information and not medical advice.

“The Internet, especially Wikipedia, had proven its importance in everyday life. Even the medical sector is influenced by Wikipedia’s omnipresence. It has gained considerable attention among both healthcare professionals and the lay public in providing medical information. Patients rely on the information they obtain from Wikipedia before deciding to seek professional help. As a result, physicians are confronted by a professional dilemma as patients weigh information provided by medical professionals against that on Wikipedia, the new provider of health information….

We state that Wikipedia should not be viewed as being inappropriate for its use in medical education. Given Wikipedia’s central role in medical education as reported in our survey, its integration could yield new opportunities in undergraduate education. High-quality medical education and sustainability necessitates the need to know how to search and retrieve unbiased, comprehensive, and reliable information. Students should therefore be advised in reflected information search and encouraged to contribute to the “perpetual beta” improving Wikipedia’s reliability. Therefore, we ask for inclusion in medical curricula, since guiding students’ use and evaluation of information resources is an important role of higher education. It is of utmost importance to establish information literacy, evidence-based practices, and life-long learning habits among future physicians early on, hereby contributing to medical education of the highest quality.
Accordingly, this is an appeal to see Wikipedia as what it is: an educational opportunity. This is an appeal to academic educators for supplementing Wikipedia entries with credible information from the scientific literature. They also should teach their protégés to obtain and critically evaluate information as well as to supplement or correct entries. Finally, this is an appeal to medical students to develop professional responsibility while working with this dynamic resource. Criticism should be maintained and caution exercised since every user relies on the accuracy, conscientiousness, and objectivity of the contributor.” (Herbert et al, BMC Medical Education, 2015)

Reproductive Medicine Wikipedia assignment at Edinburgh University – September 2016

Reproductive Medicine undergraduates - collaborating to create Wikipedia articles.
Reproductive Medicine undergraduates – collaborating to create Wikipedia articles.

In September 2016, Reproductive Biology Honours students undertook a group research project to research, in groups of 4-5 students with a tutor, a term from reproductive biomedicine that was not yet represented on Wikipedia. All 38 were trained to edit Wikipedia and they worked collaboratively both to undertake the research and produce the finished written article. The assignment developed the students’ information literacy, digital literacy, collaborative working, academic writing & referencing and ability to communicate to an audience. The end result was 8 new articles on reproductive medicine which enriches the global open knowledge community and will be added to & improved upon long after they have left university creating a rich legacy to look back upon.

One of the new articles, high-grade serous carcinoma, was researched and written by 4th year student, Áine Kavanagh.

High-grade serous carcinoma - new Wikipedia article researched and written by Áine Kavanagh, in September 2016.

Rather than a writing an assignment for an audience of one, the course tutor, and never read again, Aine’s article can be viewed, built on & expanded by an audience of millions. Since creating the article in September 2016, the article has now been viewed 2196 times.

Pageviews for the High Grade Serous Carcinoma
Pageviews for the High Grade Serous Carcinoma

Guest post:

Reflections on a Wikipedia assignment

by Áine Kavanagh.
Reproductuve Medicine students - September 2016
Reproductive Medicine students – September 2016

The process of writing a Wikipedia article involved me trying to answer the questions I was asking myself about the topic. What was it? Why should I care about it? What does it mean to society? I also needed to make the answers to those questions clear to other people who can’t see inside my head.

It then moved onto questions I thought other people might ask about the topic. Writing for Wikipedia is really an exercise in empathy and perspective. Who else is going to want to know about this and what might they be interested in about it?

Is what I’m writing accessible and understandable? Am I presenting it in a useful way? It’s an incredibly public piece of writing which is only useful if it serves the public, so trying to put yourself in the frame of someone who’s not you reading what you’ve written is important (and possibly the most difficult part).

It’s also about co-operation from the get-go. You can’t post a Wikipedia article and allow no one else to edit it. You are offering something up to the world. You can always come back to it, but you can never make it completely your own again. The beauty of Wikipedia is in groupthink, in the crowd intelligence it facilitates, but this means shared ownership, which can be hard to get your head around at first.

It’s a unique way of writing, and some tips for other students starting out on a Wikipedia project is to not be intimidated. Wikipedia articles in theory can be indefinitely long and dense and will be around for an indefinitely long time, so writing a few hundred words can seem like adding a grain of sand to a desert. But if the information is not already there then you are contributing – and what is Wikipedia if not just a big bunch of contributions?

There’s also the fear that editors already on Wikipedia will swoop down and denounce your article as completely useless – but the beauty of storing information is that you can never really have too much of it. There’s no-one who can truly judge what is and isn’t worthy of knowing*.

*There’s no-one who can judge what’s worth knowing, but the sum of human knowledge needs to be organised, and so there are actually guidelines as to what a Wikipedia article is (objective account of a thing) and is not (platform for self-promotion).

Áine Kavanagh

Wikipedia assignment – Translation Studies MSc

 

 

The artwork "Een vertaling van de ene taal naar de andere" / "A Translation from one language to another" by Lawrence Weiner. Placed in 1996 at the Spui (square) in Amsterdam. It consists of three pairs of two stones placed against each other. On each stone there is an inscription "A Translation from one language to another", in another language - Dutch, English, Surinam and Arabic. Author: brbbl (CC-BY-SA)
The artwork “Een vertaling van de ene taal naar de andere” / “A Translation from one language to another” by Lawrence Weiner. Placed in 1996 at the Spui (square) in Amsterdam. It consists of three pairs of two stones placed against each other. On each stone there is an inscription “A Translation from one language to another”, in another language – Dutch, English, Surinam and Arabic. Author: brbbl (CC-BY-SA)

The University of Edinburgh offers a taught Translation Studies. As part of an independent study module, students were asked to choose a Wikipedia article that was at least 4000 words long and to translate it into another language. 29 people took part in the assignment, translating articles from English to Arabic, Chinese, French, Greek, Turkish, Japanese and from Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Norwegian (bokmal) into English. Students were allowed to choose the article and language they wished to work on but the article choice had to be run past their course tutor who would check the article’s suitability for a class assignment in terms of the article’s subject and the degree of challenge to the language used in the article. Importantly, the tutors were prepared to reject any articles they thought were too simple in the language being used or too frivolous in the subject matter with students reminded that the purpose of the assignment was to further develop their translation skills in tandem with supporting the dissemination of important articles into another language. (The relative importance of the article being decided in negotiation between the student and the tutor.)

The assignment was structured with two in-person training sessions after which students were expected to translate the articles in their own time and submit them. The first in-person session introduced the students to editing Wikipedia and then got them to select the articles they would be working on. The Gapfinder tool was used to help identify trending pages with no corresponding coverage in the target language. A week later at the second in-person session, the students began the process of translating their chosen article.

The students used the Content Translation tool to prepare their translations which helped with the formatting of the article so that they could focus on the translation itself. There is a screencast demonstrating how to use the Content Translation tool which students watched at the end of session one and received more detailed instruction on the use of the tool in session two. The students had until the end of the semester (15 December) to complete and publish the translations.

As of writing, the assignment is now complete and a third in-person drop-in session was held to assist the students with any issues relating to the publishing of the articles. The students were also supported by email. Issues did arise, such as the source article being edited by a Wikipedia community member during the translation process. However, the student in question was able to flag this concern via email and I was able to look at the issue and advise promptly not to change the nature of the translation but instead stick with the older version they had begun to translate. Referencing and notability has also been flagged up when an article has been published in the target Wikipedia but again the student in question was reassured that ensuring the referencing is as clear & detailed as on the source Wikipedia will mean there is no problem. The course is routinely monitored with any issues noted to ensure best practice is documented for future iterations of this project. Student volunteers and course tutors have also provided video interview feedback on the course.

The is the first time Wikimedia UK has supported a translation classroom course, and the first time it has encouraged the use of the Content Translation tool – and we are keen to learn how this will develop. The course has been making a very positive impression within the university so far and there’s an commitment on both sides to continue this assignment next semester too.

In addition, through the running of this course in Translation Studies MSc, the residency has been introduced to Edinburgh University’s Translation Society (EUTS). Student representatives from EUTS learned of the Wikipedia Translation assignment through the Translation Studies MSc course leader and requested to take part in the exercise. As there was not enough in the computing lab to accommodate them during the in-person sessions, the EUTS reps sought to meet in order to learn more about how their society could collaborate with Wikimedia in a way that would be mutually beneficial. The meeting was extremely positive and there are now plans to have an EUTS translation project beginning in February 2017 where the student reps will invite all 100+ of their members to attend and take part in. Discussions are at an early stage but both parties are keen to see this happen with current consideration being given to whether the project should have an over-arching theme, fitting in with students’ interest areas and Wikimedia’s strategic priorities; using University College London’s translation editathon themed on women’s health as a model for the collaboration.

There have been additional benefits from the session as also in attendance during the assignment was a staff member from Edinburgh University’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine. The staff member in question works as a Eurostemcell Translation Manager and is keen to support the translation of Eurostemcell related articles into different languages as the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine works closely with European partner labs to share research knowledge related to the study of stemcells; particularly on Wikipedia as they receive research funding on this very basis. Consequently, a Danish Wikimedia trainer has been contacted and secured for a scheduled Eurostemcell Wikipedia editathon at a Danish partner lab in Copenhagen at the end of November 2016. If this Danish pilot works well then the Eurostemcell team plan on holding Wikipedia editathons every year for World Stem Cell Day.