Wikimedia in Education UK Summit 2020 #WikiEdu20
When I returned to work the following week after attending this
event, the first thing I said to my boss was he’d just spent the best
£30 on me this year. It was a day packed full of really useful
information, especially for a novice like me. Don’t get me wrong, I am a
Wikipedia regular, as in I use it a lot for quick and easy information
gathering, but my Wikipedia adventure stopped there, until today.
For a start, I have never thought about how it could be used in
education, except for quick reference. until this Summit. I feel like a
brand new world has been opened to me, so I am going to try and capture
what I have learnt so I can refer back in the future and I hope you
might find something interesting from my review of the day.
The day began with an intro + keynote with Ricahrd Nevell from
Wikimedia UK giving us a few facts that we might all take for granted
including the most important fact of all:
Wikipedia is to be used as a resource not a reference!
I think everyone was secretly nodding their heads when Richard was
saying how Wikipedia was a taboo subject for any student back in the
days; you just simply wouldn’t dare to mention you have looked up a book
or an author or anything from Wikipedia. You simply would not admit
it. In recent years, however, it is perfectly acceptable to research
using Wikipedia, in fact, it is a very useful resource to sign post you
to more in depth research. Who has time to read a whole book only to
find out it’s not something you need? Well, Wikipedia can more than
help with this. It is also pretty common for tutors to recommend using
Wikipedia as a starting point for any kinds of research, I remember when
I was doing my MA back in 2013, my tutor told me don’t bother reading a
book that she highly recommends, just read what’s been written about it
on Wikipedia and go from there. My true reaction at the time was, “Are
you for real?”, but it turns out it was some of the best advice I got
from doing my MA. Let’s move on and speak no more about my MA, shall
So the intro keynote was by Professor Alison Littlejohn from the UCL
Knowledge Lab, she has introduced me to a new thing that people do –
Editathon. What? What is it that? You edit while you run? In order
to cover my ignorance, I took out my phone and quickly looked it up on
Wikipedia. Of course I did! Oh right, it is an scheduled event where a
bunch of people collectively (online and in person) edit the same topic
on Wiki. Now it makes sense, but why do it, you ask? I asked the same
The answer is simple, to collectively improve each other’s
understanding of the same topic and to work collaboratively toward a
common goal. Perhaps most importantly, to understand how to work on a
Wiki page, which I have learned today, can have many benefits that
directly relate to digital learning.
Professor Littlejohn also said that, according to the BBC Blueroom,
young people are more used to, more engaged to produce online content
than consume. I have never thought about it this way, but looking at my
own experience when working with students, a lot of students seem to
have a mental block with using a lot of online tools that are branded as
‘educational’. Meanwhile, they have no problem simultaneously updating
their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (if they still use it) when
chatting with their mates on Snapchat and Whatsapp AND half listening to
me trying to show them how to use an online learning tool. Fact!
What does this mean to us? I think it means students have all got
very capable skills and some ‘hidden experience’ with improving their
digital capability. The challenge here is use something that can engage
them and perhaps something that we actually use in the real world.
This brings me to the first presentation of the day from Caroline
Ball from University of Derby; Caroline is a Academic Librarian who is
also Wikipedia ninja, so she ran a term long module of how to edit a
Wiki page, she described this as teaching Digital Capabilities by
stealth. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, in order to
know how to edit a Wiki page and have your writing published online, you
need to know how to conduct your research, how to cite your sources
right and how to publish your writing online and how to deal with
feedback and criticism.
All in all, you have to be digitally capable to a point.
The more she described about her bespoke Wiki module at Derby, the more I have our very own DCAF
repeating in my head, both aim to improve students’ digital
capabilities, wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way to marry the
two? Right, boss, are you reading this? Can we introduce something
like “When DCAF meet Wiki”?
The more I listened to Caroline describing how her students all have
their confidence increased, the more I think some Wiki related
activities would be very useful to fulfil some of the attributes
outlined on the DCAF. For
example, all of Caroline’s students have had their confidence increased
with dealing with online research, editing their writing to be
published online, dealing with feedback from peers reviews such as
criticism and possible online trolling. Ain’t these some of the
attributes from our very own DCAF? Doesn’t what Caroline does answer
the same question I am always asked when trying to promote our DCAF?
Which is the DCAF is good at identifying which areas of digital
capabilities our students need to work on, but how? Start a Wiki page
on their favourite artist ot designer?
Another example is Charles from Sheffield, he is a historian and a
senior lecturer. Not once, but twice he made his students research a
particular medieval history topic using Wikipedia resources only. The
purpose of these exercises were not necessarily about understanding the
particular history topic, but instead his students needed to research
further on the information they have learnt from the Wiki pages and then
write about it, they needed to decide how accurate the info is from the
Wiki pages. I think it is a very clear idea that really does kill 2
birds with 1 stone.
There are so many great lightning talks and I have a lot more to say,
so I suggest if anyone is interested, get in touch and we can discuss
further. I’ll buy coffee if you bring cookies!
In the afternoon, I experienced my first un-conference – What a great
thing? It felt like a nice afternoon out with loads of good friends
with common interests, but in reality, I have only known them for 5
In one of the un-conference sessions, we talked about what digital
skills a Wiki editor needs. The answer is more than you think but less
than you expect. One would have to be comfortable with using a
computer, a mouse and a keyboard, which is something that everyone who
attended this summit takes for granted. In my experience, however, our
students are not always comfortable with doing some basic tasks on a
computer. Again, teaching them how to edit a Wiki page on a topic that
can interest them seems a good idea to not only help them increase their
online confidence, but also help them feel more comfortable with using a
computer – A skill that, rightly or wrongly, is necessary in most if
not all workplaces.
In Wales, they have made Wikipedia a part of the curriculum in
secondary school and Coventry University is due to start their very own
Wikipedia module. There are also other universities in the US that have
some forms of Wikipedia modules. Someone even asked if we would one
day have a Wikipedia degree, it is certainly something that would
interest some people, but perhaps not for everyone. The point here is
that it really does seem Wikipedia is a great little something that
could tick a lot of the crucial boxes out students need to take if they
are to do well in the digital world.
I am certainly going to be asking to be more involved in any
Wikipedia projects we might have up our sleeves. I hope one day someone
else will be writing about our Wikipedia success story.
If you want to discuss anything Wiki related, I am currently still on fire from the summit, please do get in touch!
Teaching and Learning Exchange (2017), Digital Creative Attributes Handbook. London: University of the Arts London.
This post was first published on PY Wong’s blog on 15 March 2020