Saturday 21 May 2016 saw Wikimedia UK volunteers and educators travel from across the UK to the City of Champions (and since you have an internet connection, you’ll know that’s Leicester).
I was fortunate enough to work with Fabian Tompsett, Wikimedia UK activist, volunteer and open education advocate, to co-organised the event. Supported and hosted by the Learning and Work Institute, the half-day meetup was designed to take open education in relation to Wikimedia projects forward across the schools, further education, higher education and adult education sectors.
Wikimedia UK is a charity that works with volunteers to support and promote active engagement with the wide range of Wikimedia projects – Wikipedia being of course the best known, since it consistently ranks as one of the most frequently visited sites globally. Like other Wikipedia projects, all of the content (text, images, multimedia, datasets) is typically in the public domain, or openly licensed (much under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike licence).
The event was designed to gather the Wikimedia education community – those currently involved in projects and volunteering, and to welcome newcomers. As a group we looked at the strengths of the organisation in relation to education, and to plan future initiatives.
Wikimedia UK and Education
The day started with an introduction from Wikimedia UK CEO Lucy Crompton-Reid.
This was followed by short presentations on and discussion about current and past education focused projects.
Connected Curriculum at University College London
Mira Vogal works with staff and students at University College London to plan, run and evaluate a range of digital education activities. Initiatives like UCL’s Connected Curriculum give students reasons to produce work “directed at an audience” and “out to the world”. Her talk Wikipedia includes the Talk and History pages, and corresponding articles in different languages. UCL Wikipedia work evaluations confirm that student activity depends heavily on their tutors’ lead, so sustaining Wikipedia work within a curriculum depends on how tutors understand the potential of Wikipedia and explain it to their students.
Charles Matthews has been a Wikimedia volunteer since 2003, working on Wikipedia, Wikisource and Wikidata projects. His talk focused on the Wikimedia UK Virtual Learning Environment project, which he leads on.
Wikipedia course work at Middlesex University
Stefan Lutschinger is a creative professional, curator, and lecturer in Media, Culture and Communications at Middlesex University. Stefan’s talk covered his experience of integrating Wikipedia into the MED3040 Publishing Cultures course at Middlesex.
Wikimedian in Wales
Jason Evans was appointed as Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales in January 2015. Since becoming a Wikipedian in residence Jason has organised public events and shared digital content and is now looking to take Wikipedia into schools and universities through a number of initiatives. His talk covered developing projects and building trust in order to engage schools and universities with Wikipedia.
Following the talks, we looked at some of the approaches to education Wikimedia UK staff and volunteers have established and how these could be promoted and improved. Things identified as particularly important and impactful included:
- The Wikimedian in Residence programme – UK residencies have included the British Museum, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library, and more recently, the University of Edinburgh
- Wikimedia project training for specific events, groups, topics or interests
- Train the trainer workshops
- Wikipedia Editathons – for example the upcoming Protests and Suffragettes: Strong Women of the Clydeside Editathon
- Resources – the projects and organisation have produced a wide range of resources, many of which are shared under open licence
- Wikimedia UK run and related conferences and events, and global participation
- The new Wikipedia in the Classroom programme which builds on successes and practice in relation to our work with education
Much of the conversation focused on how to raise the profile of activities and ensure that educational organisations and institutions were aware of the opportunities and benefits of working with the community and accessing expertise.
We then broke into smaller groups, structured around sectors, to more closely discuss current and future plans. The reports back were wide-ranging and identified a range of technical developments (including the ability for teachers to curate image and multimedia Wikimedia assets into themed sets), the importance of sector specific staff training and support, working with learners, the opportunities afforded by family learning, promoting and raising awareness of Wikimedia UK, and Wikidata and data literacy.
It was a rich and reflective day, marking the start of a renewed focus on education as a priority area for the organisation. Wether you are already involved in Wikimedia projects and education, or would like to connect to other educators and volunteers, get involved! You can sign up to the JISC Wikipedia mailing list (which is for anyone interested in education and Wikimedia projects), and check out Wikimedia UK upcoming events.
Membership is a great (and low cost!) way to keep in touch with and contribute to Wikimedia UK.