In January we had a first approach to students of the Information Management Systems class of the International Business career at the Universidad Católica Santiago de Guayaquil. This project, led by a teacher and two wikimedians, was meant to be done over the lapse of two months with three sessions in which the students had guidance from experienced wikimedians to create new articles that proved they could do proper research under external conditions (namely, the Spanish Wikipedian community's rules and policies on research and citation) to preserve and manage information.
In this class, a tutorial related to methods of preservation of knowledge and information was prepared, with an exercise to collect data on topics from Ecuador that do not yet exist in Wikipedia. In this exercise, the following are considered:
- The students did not previously know how Wikipedia and its virtual community work.
- The teacher knew the dynamics of interaction with other Wikipedians in the virtual community, but she had edited on a few occasions.
- The teacher had a direct relationship with the group of Wikimedistas from Ecuador, which facilitated the communication between her and the wikimedians to organize an editing workshop in the first instance.
The students' first task was to find a way to write an article on any topic in Ecuador on Wikipedia. This led to a series of successes and lessons learned around the development of articles and content in the encyclopedia; It finally led to the majority of articles they've created to be tagged with a speedy deletion template and later to be completely deleted, with only two articles remaining: Calle Panamá and Nefando. Other articles were later taken up as search and research topics for the later phase of this project.
First phase of implementation: Workshop and practical exercisesEdit
After a first exercise in the classroom led by the teacher without guidance from the local Wikimedians, she contacted Wikimedistas de Ecuador to ask for help. This resulted in a first instance of collaboration between Wikimedians and a teacher, without direct involvement of the institution (UCSG) that allows a direct link with the class she leads. In this regard, a first Wikipedia editing workshop was set up, aimed at solving particular doubts about the content addition processes, the necessary references to integrate the content and the virtual environment of the Wikipedian community behind the articles.
Twenty students and two wikimedians participated in this workshop, in which editing exercises were finally distributed to add content to their workshops. This would allow a concise first approach with the chance to fix errors and learn good editing practices, at the same time that it would better define the topics to be covered in new articles on the Spanish Wikipedia. Throughout the workshop a general explanation of the following topics was made: Editing existing articles, adding references and internal links, and creating a new article. At the end of the class, work groups were assigned between 5 and 6 students, finishing a total of seven groups with the task of creating a new article, starting with a first draft in the workshop for later publication.
Second phase of implementation: Practice in sandboxEdit
In our second meeting, the work topics of the seven groups were checked in order to continue with a brief Q&A session and advance with the improvement of content. In this workshop the students had a better understanding of how the visual editor works to add content and references from specific reliable sources. The need for students in the classroom to identify the different types of academic sources and their use in the writing of educational content was reiterated. Through a survey, it was sought to obtain more information about research habits among students, so that we could identify which tools they use most constantly to search for information when they do not obtain it from Wikipedia; we also questioned them about the interaction patterns within the classroom that strengthen cooperation between students in order to compare the existing improvements after the use of a collaborative digital space for editing, such as a wiki. Another aspect we analyzed along with the teacher and the students was the students' writing skills, so that it can be known from an introspective look if there are substantial improvements in the level of writing of each participant by identifying the form of neutral, objective and concise writing within the Wikipedia articles in Spanish, based on the quality criteria proposed by its own virtual community.
At this point, we identified some topics according to the interests of the coverage of the information that the students wished to highlight on Wikipedia, keeping in mind notability. In a simple exercise, we had a look at the criteria for References and Relevance in the spanish Wikipedia to understand what made something or someone locally relevant to create an article on Wikipedia, leading to a particular discussion about accessing sources that do not exist in a way digital, to the distinction between relevant institutions, and finally to local relevance.
Third phase of implementation: Publishing of articlesEdit
In the final meeting of the Wikipedians and students, the progress and improvement of the articles could be verified. Since the material in their sandbox space was qualifiable to be published as an article, we advised the students to proceed to publish them as a new article in spanish Wikipedia. 5 out of 6 articles were published and managed to pass a revision by an in-site wikimedian, as well as other supporting wikimedians from Ecuador; the last one was identified as too local to be considered relevant, so as far as the in-site wikimedians were concerned, they advised the teacher to not publish it instantly. This led to those articles that covered broader topics of interest for common readers to be ready for reading everywhere in spanish.
One of the group of students that had the topic that was considered too local to be relevant published the article after being advised to reflect some more on the topic and try to do more research to justify its relevance. The final result was that the article was published and tagged almost inmediately with a 30 days label to justify its relevance or else it would be removed from Wikipedia; in the end, the article did not survive after those 30 days.
From this specific workshop we can conclude that it's possible to hold a brief collaboration between teachers and students along with Wikimedians, even if it's a short-term project. It's very important to point out that these kind of projects work best when there is in-site collaboration from Wikimedians that can solve any question the teacher or the students have around Wikipedia and its policies, as well as for direct advice on writing and compiling information. The teacher would be the most qualified person to point out different sources that could improve their research and they need to be present in all stages as well.
Another one of our conclussions was that not every university student knows very well how to interact with Wikipedia even when they read it on a daily basis. This leads to wikimedians having to explain step by step how to process the information they can collect from Wikipedia articles, to point out the sources they need to check after reading the articles and also how talk pages work. Eventually, the wikimedians will have to lead them into sandboxes and final publishing. One thing we learned from this was that it's best when two or more wikimedians collaborate with the students and are constant into double checking with them how their work is developing in sandbox spaces before publication.
From the one topic that didn't make it through we learned that enthusiasm is not always the best fuel a student could have to start adding content to Wikipedia. Most of them are convinced that they need to show something that is very appreciated by their community, and that they might own it to them to share it to the world. While this feeling is what drives most of the wikipedians around the world, we believe that it's best to start with broader topics if the students want to create an article from scratch. This will allow them to find more sources in their library or academic community and have a better sense of the topics that are considered relevant under Wikipedia's rules. Also, this particular thing shows the students that Wikipedia is a safe place where information is not left for everyone to add anything, but has a caring community that focus on relevance and reliability as their pillars.
Lastly, we also learned that spontaneous collaborations from teachers and Wikimedians can attract other people into collaborating with Wikimedia projects. A different workshop in the same university was being programmed, but it was held back due to quarantine this year.
During 2020 we had other events that made impact in our views about Wikimedia and education. First, we took part in Wikimedia Argentina's Fellowship to exchange experiences and information about education and human rights. This 5-day workshop brought some insight on the planning we used to have and what we needed to do in order to achieve more of our own goals and how to keep in contact with other countries across our region. This didn't only help our volunteers to understand how education could be approached in a more effective way, but also how collaboration works in the Wikimedia Movement so that we could bring more outsiders in, keep them motivated and keep them within the movement. Eventually, some remarkable outcomes were that this led us to organize our first ever event to invite other chapters and user group to join us.
The Virtual Panel about Education and the Wikimedia Movement in Latin America was our first experience organizing virtual events and we had teachers from Bolivia, México and Argentina talking about how their programs work and what went well for them. This helped us reach new followers and teachers learned that it was possible to have a Wikipedia program in their classrooms successfully.
Later, in april and may, we had two webinars organized by the SENESCYT (National Secretary Board of Science, Techonology and Research) in which Edgar Rosero talked about Wikipedia and open knowledge and Vahid Masrour and Luisina Ferrante from Wikimedia Argentina talked about Wikipedia's uses in education. This experience helped us reach a broader audience, specially in the academic circles, since SENESCYT is the main board that oversees the development of university courses in Ecuador.
Wikimedia and WomenEdit
Our last in-site event was an editatona meant to teach new female users how to edit on Wikipedia. We had a major focus on the gender gap and helped these new users to do research, compile the information and write an article the Wiki way. Ten different women from Guayaquil found this workshop really helpful in their activism as they didn't know previously how Wikipedia works and they used it on a constant basis.
One of the goals we had been working towards was to have women editors take charge of the planning, organization and development of these events, and this year Mishelle Macías was the one to plan, organize and develop La Mujer Escribe La Historia 2020 as our main event for Women's Day. She was also the one conducting the workshop and along her users Lucero Orellana and Mónica Echeverría helped her in welcoming the assistants and sharing their own experiences as women editors. Also, Lucero, as a journalist, shared some insights on writing for academic papers and writing for Wikipedia on a brief talk during the event.
Second semester of 2020Edit
During the quarantine, Wikimedistas de Ecuador had little to no events across the country, not even virtually. As some of the issues around the pandemic and quarantine affected some users more than others, we decided to stop all activities for a while to take care of ourselves, prevent burn out and also to heal. It's been a different year with so many things to learn and we're taking care of our teams. Wikimedistas de Ecuador's structure, even when based around groups in cities that create a bond as friends and colleagues, is a broad community across our country, and we loved to learn from what the different teams in cities like Quito, Cuenca, Riobamba, Machala, Santo Domingo, Guayaquil, Ibarra and more were doing, but during the second semester of the year we decided to rearrange our personal priorities a little to take a deep breath and focus on what's coming on 2021.