During the week, I attended a highly interactive workshop during the week in the Engine Shed in Stirling, lead by Sara Thomas, the Scotland Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK. While aimed at public library staff, I wasn’t the only person from a University there.
Initially we looked at a bit of background – there’s more to Wikimedia that I’d known. While I have used MediaWiki, come across Wikidata, and use Wikimedia Commons a lot, Wikispecies wasn’t the only new one to me.
Then she moved to looking at the benefits using Wikimedia tools can bring, particularly to those in public library service. As they work with the public as a whole, it’s a much broader audience than we’d generally come across in higher education. Of course, she brought up the whole aspect of reliability – and how article writers have to ensure that content is both verifiable and as neutral as possible. Later on, during lunch, several of us spoke about how we might showcase Wikipedia in Higher Education, in particular, involving staff and students in creating and editing content. Given the average academic essay has a readership of just over 2 (the student, the marker, and the occasional moderator/ external examiner/ mum, etc) – a wikipedia article with 5 readers has already doubled that!
As we we going to then have a go at creating an article, Sara covered the need for new articles – especially those featuring women. Under 20% of the biographies on Wikipedia in English are of women – unlike Wicipedia (Welsh Wikipedia) which had, at one stage more biographies of women than of men, thanks mostly to a very energetic Welsh wikipedia team and the support of the Welsh government.
Finally, we started looking at what should / shouldn’t be in Wikipedia.
Then – to the writing. As we’d got a person neither I nor the person I was working with had ever heard of, we had to rely on Google to start the search – Ruth Ewan is a fascinating character! I feel I should have heard of her protest jukebox; but perhaps I have forgotten over the years. It’s very similar, though, to the way we might get students to research something they know nothing about, so really useful from that point of view.
We worked in pairs; t took a lot longer than we’d thought – it’s all that fact checking that’s so important for Wikipedia. The article is rather small, but it exists. It didn’t before 🙂 We’ve started to help reduce the imbalance of women’s biographies. I’ll put a list of links to the other articles that were created that day in the comments when I have them. Thanks also to Ally from Popup Inverclyde – was good to work with someone new (and a reminder of what we put students through randomly assigning them partners for group work)
I came away thinking about how we might move this forward. I can see how archives might use wikipedia; I can see how some of the lecturers currently using private wikis for assessment might want to think about moving to a more public model. I have so many ideas!
Finally – the loo doors in the Engine shed deserve a mention 🙂 They’re great