WikiSkills: During and after course days - five participant's experiences
WikiSkills: During and after course days - five participant's experiences
WikiSkills is a part of the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme, and its purpose is to teach teachers how to use collaborative tools like wikis for teaching. Wikimedia Sverige, the official Wikimedia chapter in Sweden, is one of eight partners involved in WikiSkills, and though the project will end in December, we would like to present the experiences of five teachers in the WikiSkills courses that we arranged in Sweden. As a representative of Wikimedia Sverige, I felt it was natural to make Wikipedia part of the education.
Wikimedia Sverige has operated three courses during the spring, each two days long. Course events have been localized to both small and big cities, from north to south in Sweden, specifically at Skellefteå, Stockholm and Helsingborg. The courses have been about wikis in general and Wikipedia in particular.
In total, 23 excited participants have invested their time: particularly vocational teachers and secondary school teachers, teacher educators, project leaders from folk high schools and UR, mentors from SeniorNet, an entrepreneur and a communicator of an environmental organization. We course leaders have really been trying to bring about a dialogue between all participants and instructors. Participants are supposed to contribute actively before, during and hopefully after training days.
We started with preparative tasks on and about Wikipedia because Wikipedia is a concrete example that illustrates how a wiki engine and a wiki project can work. The tasks were sent out one week before each face-to-face meeting in order to let participants get up to speed. During the first day, the participants together with the instructors went through the basics of wikis and Wikipedia. Participants presented their preparative tasks in a way that they themselves thought was appropriate; instructors lectured partly by presenting facts and partly by trying to guide discussions among participants to important topics and by using the participant's thoughts and findings as basis to complete reasoning and fill up with facts (about wikis and Wikipedia). . Furthermore, we tried to weave in different elements where participants edited a wiki in order to present themselves and their expectations. The second day we engaged a lot in how to use wikis and Wikipedia in education or with a teacher's own target group. Participants worked in groups to create and present potential lessons to approach their own target group. During the course, they edited both Wikipedia (user pages, and sometimes other articles) and the course wiki (user pages, lessons, scenarios, discussion pages, etc.).
"Wikipedia has meant a lot to me over the past 10 years. I took the course WikiSkills and became inspired. As a result of the course and a wiki coffee, I am now a member of Wikimedia Sverige, and have participated in the annual meeting," says one course participant, Sten Sundin, who earlier received feedback on his course structure.
Some lessons are very complete, while in others, participants spent more time searching for answers to the wiki questions that where important to them. After each course, we invited them back for further contact and offered more guidance. Prior to the face-to-face meeting, participants had to indicate their expectations and, after the course, they answered evaluative questions. Overall, participants had almost never edited anything in a wiki project, neither in a Wikimedia project nor in any other wiki. After the course, participants generally reported that they are going to edit the Wikimedia projects, and that they are going to use a wiki or the Wikimedia projects in their teaching. This sounds promising, even though I believe it should be understood with a grain of salt.
What then have the participants learned? In this blog post and more following it, we'll find out from interviews with several of the teachers who participated.
"The course has had a motivational and inspirational influence and made it more likely for me to write on Wikipedia," Sten says. "Things I did not know were the active discussions on Wikipedia. Attitude in the discussions that I've seen is not so competitive. People try to help each other. It is more fun to do voluntary work if I both learn something and can do something together with others. "
Sten thinks that Wikipedia has gained greater acceptance among teachers and the latest five years people realize the value of Wikipedia. A good motto: Wikipedia is not perfect but fantastic. He has deepened his knowledge about Wikipedia and he mastered "skills both on how to write articles practically and technically, and also what to think about in terms of quality and what are the appropriate topics that one can write about - what is relevant.... I look positively upon using Wikipedia as a research tool. It is of course important to have a critical approach and evaluate sources. There are constantly discussions about if you can use Wikipedia as a reference. I urge students that Wikipedia is a starting point and that you can not be satisfied to stay there."
Sten has also gotten better at markup language in MediaWiki. "It's easier to write a letter to the editor in the newspaper or update your status on Facebook than writing in MediaWiki," he says. "We had plans [in Dalarna University] on MediaWiki but chose to retain MindTouch wiki because we considered that some computer-inexperienced students in the nursing program would have problems with MediaWiki," Sten writes. "I'm trying to streamline the task so that students can focus on the important things, for example, to do a literature study."
Sten is however tempted to allow the students to use MediaWiki because it would make it easier for them to participate in Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects. (The Wikimedia Foundation has worked actively to develop a new visual editor with WYSIWYG editing because the markup language has been identified as an obstacle for new writers on Wikipedia and now they have achieved quite a bit.)
Sten's students are using a wiki to perform and present their tasks because a wiki provides good opportunities for collegial learning, or "peer learning." Also, since much of Sten's teaching is done remotely, he notes, "it's valuable to have established contact with the students in a virtual community before you meet each other for the first lesson. One challenge is to adjust the wiki task that I let my students do today so that it comes closer to Wikipedia. But if I add an element of Wikipedia in my teaching, would I then have to remove something else?"
Because teaching with Wikipedia integration is more comprehensive ... Sten weighs arguments ... "Perhaps it would yet be worth the integration. Students should be able to respond to arguments in a discussion on Wikipedia. With my background (as a teacher in sound and music production), I could bring something to the media section to Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. Visualizing, sound recording in order to illustrate concepts, articles. We teachers let students report in writing and orally. I am open to allow students to a greater extent report on a wiki and maybe let them report with sounds and images."
What are the obstacles to use wikis in education? "Some of my teaching colleagues are not so positive towards using wikis in their teaching. They want to teach in the simplest way and do as they are accustomed. They feel that it's a small threshold that requires more preparation. We have no infrastructure support for our wiki like we have for our learning platform. In the learning platform, there are others who ensure that all participants are included. On a wiki, I have to create a number of pages where students get their tasks, build a framework for the tasks and archive files from last year. In my teaching this means dozens of pages. It is about both formatting the text on the pages and managing links," he says.
He also notes that managing links is not trivial. Almost half of the students have not succeeded in creating a link back to their own article, despite instructions that Sten has tried. He really has endeavored to make instructions easily available, searchable, and easy to find and understand when instructions are needed.
Anna Bauer, employed by Wikimedia Sverige
Project leader, WikiSkills
As I wrote in a Wikimedia blog post last week, WikiSkills is a part of the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme, and its purpose is to train teachers how to use collaborative tools like wikis for teaching. Wikimedia Sverige, the official Wikimedia chapter in Sweden, has partnered with the EC on WikiSkills. As a representative of Wikimedia Sverige, I felt it was important to present the experiences of five teachers in the WikiSkills courses that we arranged in Sweden to make Wikipedia a part of pedagogy.
In the last post, we met Sten Sundin, a teacher in the course. This week we'll meet the other four.
Bia Rask, teacher of media and Swedish at JB Gymnasiet, did not waste any time and did a one-click installation of MediaWiki on her school's site on the first day's course in Skellefteå. During the course, she laid the foundation for her lecture sessions.
Bia knew "absolutely nothing about wiki before. All I know today comes from the course. Wikipedia content is no surprise, but how to edit and how to see what is done on the talk page and the history. I was fascinated by how it is designed from a technical point of view. "
Bia has made a flying start and has already used the pedagogical scenario that she has been involved in developing – a lecture series that started on April 17. "Together, you shall make a basic photography course. It shall be so clear that even a beginner understands the content. Use both text and explanatory images (your own or from Wikimedia Commons)."
Bia's students (roughly 16-20 years old) are in their second year of a program focusing on aesthetics and media. What is so great about Bia's scenario () is that it is closely linked to the course plan and it is a course requirement to allow students to work in virtual communities.
According to Bia, the lecture series was successful and they will keep the wiki for other lessons in the future. "I've never worked like this before. Students and teachers work together towards a common goal and edit each other's pages," she says. "Although the wiki is built together, it is still possible to see what edits are made by each student when it is going to be assessed."
Everything was of course not a bed of roses. "The challenge that I see directly is to get the less motivated students to develop themselves further: It is easy to start a wiki page but not to improve those already started," she says. "It might be about confidence. It is about being able to commend and get them to develop themselves through pep talks. They may need help to find information, how they can learn things, and show that it need not to be so fancy."
Overall Bia thought that "useful things came up during the course. It felt so all the way." Bia will hold lessons where she and her students use a wiki again, and also, more specifically, use Wikimedia Commons, the free image database behind Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. "The other day a student needed music for a film. I referred them to Wikimedia Commons, which I would never have done before."
Jorgen, Nils, and Susanna
Jörgen Qvartsenklint is the project leader at Glokala Folkhögskolan. There he works with flexible learning locally and nationally, and in the capacity of an IT coordinator. Jörgen is already an experienced wiki user and initiator of Folkbildningsnätets Wikifarm] (Folkbildningsnätet is administrated by The Swedish National Council of Adult Education), but says he still learned some technical stuff valuable to him, such as how to generate templates with lists of all users.
"I took the courses in order to find more opportunities for collaboration. How do you encourage people to contribute, how to get people to start? I wanted to meet others for input." He thought that "the meetings between the participants were good; people got inspired and developed ideas together; everyone had their own personal ideas; it became meetings based on participants' own experiences. It was good that the process lasted for two days, so that one could land and get feedback."
Learnings from the course will be handy when Glokala Folkhögskolan (Jörgen's workplace) starts a wiki for their projects in the fall. "Project progress communicated in internal meetings needs to be documented, communicated and disseminated. We have divided the activities into tracks and thoughts around organizational development that we will put into the wiki. We also consider maybe to publish a course in citizen journalism on Wikiversity to get more feedback and further development by new people. "
According to Jörgen, the challenge is to get people to participate. As the initiator of a wiki, one needs to be "stubborn, but not in a nagging way, encourage, find openings, needs, moments," he says.
Nils Olov Ahlgren teaches Swedish as a second language for newly arrived immigrants. In addition, he calls himself an IT demagogue trying to spread the good word. Wiki is one of those words. Nils thinks that Wikiskills has made him more familiar with Wikipedia and editing wikis. He now knows more about markup language and citations, and he has gained a deeper insight in how to spread information and how to use a wiki, particularly how to use wikis in education.
Nils plans to start a wiki during the fall, first on his own site, which is easier than through the municipality and its IT department. The purpose of the wiki is to provide an additional dimension to the learning of the Swedish language. The wiki will work as a wordlist that is illustrated and explained by photos, illustrations, animations and videos. The wordlist is going to be built up by both teachers and students. He hopes different groups of students are going to contribute over a longer period with visual explanations to both concrete and abstract words.
The challenges Nils predicts include that the student group between 16-20 years old will be beginners on both Swedish and on wikis. But similar challenges have been overcome where beginners learned Swedish while they also learned to script, record and edit film. He hopes and believes that students who are more advanced in their language can go to the wiki to help and teach new students.
Susanne Antell is a teacher educator at Dalarna University who participated in the Wikiskills course in Helsingborg. She will continue to work with and use her scenario Human's Anatomy and Physiology at the DU-wiki this fall.
Susanne thought it was very good that we raised the issue of free licenses, (Wikipedia's third pillar): "There is material which is produced at universities but owned by companies and which is not published freely. Copyright may hinder. If instead we could have a generous attitude, we can achieve so much more," she says. "However, we must have a dialogue with the students about what they think is ok to pass on. It is an ethical question. How we relate to the material is a question of democracy and might require a change of attitude. Is it mine and yours, or ours? The world might be ripe for change."
After the Wikiskills course, Susanne presented wikis to 10 of her colleagues. "All were inspired with the idea and we'll go further." This fall Susanne will hold a teaching session in a course aimed at teacher students. Susanne, along with a teacher colleague, has decided to use a wiki. The course aims to get students to be active in working with Internet-based educational resources.
"We have distance students who then will continually be active on the wiki that will be available throughout the semester," she says. "We will tell the students that we are beginners. It can take twists and turns that are not anticipated, but it may well be fun!"
Other initiatives planned by the students include a course on Wikipedia aimed at companies, a study circle on Wikipedia, a course on digital media (including Wikipedia) for union representatives, a course in digital creation in the folk high school where the collaboration platform may be a wiki, information on Wikipedia targeting older internet users and visitors of SeniorNet's internet cafés etc.
So, dear participants - well done! While the knowledge you gain, you obtain yourself, you can benefit from collaborating with the Wikimedia movement on the way.
Anna Bauer, Wikimedia Sverige Project leader, WikiSkills
- See m:Talk:Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/WikiSkills: During and after course days - five participant's experiences
- Sten's image will come soon.
- Add links from to the "part 1" post into the posts "part 2-4" before publishing "part 2-4"