Wikipedia in Education

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom
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Educational Bulimia - no thank you!

Recently, I heard someone give a talk on the current status of the education system. The woman (who I've forgotten who it was) spoke about the educational bulimia. Students are fed and fed and fed with information in seminars, workshops and lectures. They are then asked to puke this information up in an exam. And that's, for plenty of students, the end of the story. One may here start to ponder upon meaning. What is the point? In most work related contexts around the world we do (most hopefully) not ask people to have an information-bulimic experience. Rather the opposite, we would want them to feed themselves, to have intrinic motivation, to feel a deeper meaning in what they do. This, as we have found, leads to beautiful and stunning achievement in work that comes from wanting the world to be a better place. So how exactly does an educational bulimia support people to want to work for a greater meaning? Or to know what their greater meaning is? That is perhaps not yet clear.

Anyhow, I need not to sell you on the benefits of free knowledge in the world. And I aim not to sell to you that Wikipedia in Education will make peace, save us from environmental and financial crises but I am quite sure that it does something very, very important with students. It lets them be meaningful. Useful. A part of something greater than that current course, degree or university. They suddenly find themselves becoming a part of a global movement.

So instead of solely having the bulimic-like exams, Wikipedia in Education offers something different. It offers you to think, reason and critically analyse, not by yourself, but with thousands of others. And yes, it is sometimes harder for students to work on Wikipedia than to take an ordinary exam. It takes more time, there are challenges in working with thousands of others (needless to mention perhaps!) but they find meaning. Suddenly, all the information that they've been fed with is of use to so many more. A Wikipedia assignment forces the students not to solely give back what they've been fed with but to think and critically examine how that information is to be shared with the potential audience of millions.

Wikipedia in Education may perhaps not create a new paradigm in education in itself, but it is a part of forming something in education as well as elsewhere that, and you may disagree with me in this, I believe humans need. Meaning. It is in itself a rather dazing experience. Students and pupils go from writing to One single teacher. One teacher that is to see and read their words, thoughts, knowledge and grasp of information given. It's all done and provided for within the walls of the educational institution. Suddenly, with a Wikipedia assignment in their hands, students are offered the world as their audience, the potential of feedback from thousands and the limitlessness in who they are working with and writing for. The educational institution has torn its walls down, has shown transparency in what their students do and what they know and may proudly pad themselves on their shoulders for fostering and educating young people who support the cause of free knowledge to everyone as a part of their current curricula. Can it be more beautiful than this?


A high school class in Sweden (Stagneliusskolan in Kalmar)

A few teachers in Kalmar took their students on exchange trips every year to South Africa and Uganda. The students learned plenty. The took part of ceremonies, went to take part in high-school classes in Uganda and South Africa and learned about their educational system and curricula. The teacher found that the students that went, in their last year of schooling, learned about the same things every year. They had no knowledge to stand upon prior to going there even though students before them had went. He looked at Wikipedia. Villages that they lived in, ceremonies that they experienced and the local language that they got accustomed to, was hardly mentioned. So how could he teach the students about this before they went? So they had the knowledge of the past students who'd already been? Yes. You are right. The students themselves started writing on Wikipedia. They wrote about ceremonies, language, places. One student in the class has long since the assignment of writing a Wikipedia article related to the exchange, continued to watch over, edit and take care of 'her' article. The phrase to stand upon the shoulder of giants is beautiful. Perhaps students who stand upon the shoulder of the previous students knowledge and experience are not giants per se, but it allows them to see further. The usage of Wikipedia as an assigment when coming home from the exchange trip to Uganda and South Africa allows all students going next years and in all years to come, to stand upon the shoulders of the past students and thus, learn more than what they previously could when going to South Africa and Uganda.

A college in Nepal (Islington College in Kathmandu)

After having had 150 students interested in joining a Wikipedia Education Program in Nepal, 25 were chosen to take part in the first pilot. During 12 weeks these students worked on Wikipedia. They did both individual and group assignments. An assignment was to jointly write an article on Nepalese Wikipedia where the topic of the article interested all the 25 students. They jointly decided to write about the Pashupati Temple. As a part of their pilot, they got a guided tour in the temple and gained plenty of knowledge about this temple also by a lecture held by the The Executive Secretary of Pashupati Development Trust. He let the students know about the historic value and it's development. Do contemplate this for a second. A class of students are brought around a temple. It has happened before. It will most surely happen again. As a student, did you go on field trips? What exactly did you do with that knowledge? The information you got at that museum, that temple or other historical place? Did you share it with millions of others? Perhaps you did. Most likely, you did not (at least not as a part of class but rather as a Wikipedian in heart). I would argue that the excursion to the Pashupati Temple for these students became much more interesting when they knew that what they learned in that historical place would be of interest to so many more. And not only that, but most importantly, that they could and were asked to, share that knowledge to those people. I bet that they were curious, asked questions, wanted to know and learn, as to be well prepared to tell the rest of the world about this place.

Students learning Swedish

In Sweden we provide the classes Swedish for Immigrants' on four levels. As you all know, language is of utmost importance when desiring to take part of and understand one's new society and community. The Swedish chapter believed that they could further both the skills in the Swedish language along with the curiosity to learn more about the Swedish society. But who were they to tell it to? Well. The whole world of course. Currently in Sweden, some immigrants who study swedish are asked to choose a Swedish phenomenon that they are interested to learn more about, like Midsummer or Pickled herring among others which are compiled in a list of phenomenons known to be relevant and of good quality on Swedish Wikipedia. They are then asked to translate this Swedish text into their native tongue, which may be persian, arabic, spanish, thai etc. So they contribute knowledge to their native tounge, by sharing what they're learning about the Swedish society, whilst furthering their skills in the Swedish language. So far this is going well, and this week we found that teachers had a great response in interest from students, and students taking other classes wanting to take part and tell about their learnings of Swedish phenomenons in their native tongue.As a newcomer, much may be confusing and puzzling. The hope is that an assignment like this may provide understanding whilst generating a greater skill in the language. The hope is also that these students feel pride. Proud to have gotten to know something new, and sharing that new knowledge to so many others. That they take ownership of this knowledge and internalise it. This assignment allows them to share with others who are not in Sweden, aspects of their new country and society.

Where are people working with Wikipedia and Education?


  • Հայաստան (Armenia)
  • Österreich (Austria)
  • Belgium
  • Catalunya (Catalonia)
  • Česká republika (Czech republic)
  • Danmark (Denmark)
  • Eesti (Estonia)
  • Suomi (Finland)
  • France
  • Deutschland (Germany)
  • Ελλάδα (Greece)
  • Magyarország (Hungary)
  • Ireland
  • Italia (Italy)
  • Македонија (Macedonia)
  • Norge (Norway)
  • Polska (Poland)
  • Portugal
  • Россия (Russia)
  • Република Србија (Serbia)
  • Slovak (Slovakia)
  • España (Spain)
  • Sverige (Sweden)
  • Suisse (Switzerland)
  • Україна (Ukraine)
  • United Kingdom


  • الجزائر (Algeria)
  • مصر (Egypt)
  • Kenya
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • تونس‎ (Tunisia)


  • Azərbaycan (Azerbaijan)
  • বাংলাদেশ (Bangladesh)
  • 香港 (Hong Kong)
  • Bharat Ganrajya (India)
  • Indonesia
  • מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Israel)
  • 日本 (Japan)
  • الأردن (Jordan)
  • Қазақстан (Kazakhstan)
  • 한국 (Korea)
  • नेपाल (Nepal)
  • The Philippines
  • السعودية (Saudi Arabia)
  • Singapore
  • 中華民國 (Taiwan)
  • ประเทศไทย (Thailand)

North America

  • Mexico
  • USA
  • Canada

South America

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brasil (Brazil)
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela


  • Australia

What are they doing?


  • Generally students are writing Wikipedia articles as their university assignments
  • Done individually or in groups
  • Either initiating new articles or continuing on stubs
  • A tool on Wikipedia has been developed for this, Wikipedia Extension
  • This is the level of education that has been going on the longest and in which we have seen the greatest results (in qualitative contributions on Wikipedia)


  • Assignments on Wikipedia such as writing, taking photos or both
  • Comparing versions of Wikipedia articles to analyse the difference
  • Teacher training for high-school teachers in how Wikipedia works and why it's useful in an educational context

PhD students & researchers

  • Contributing with their knowledge in their area of research
  • At some universities, a part of the scientific outreach where researchers and PhD students ought to tell 'the public' about their knowledge. Here Wikipedia become a naturally useful tool for acting on this scientific outreach.


  • In some countries, seniors are encouraged to contribute their knowledge to Wikipedia
  • It can be a part of an already established senior group
  • So far quite small results (as in Wikipedia contributions)
  • But hopefully VE can help as WP is now 'easier' to contribute to

Why are they doing it?

  • To get a potential million audience
  • To have students & pupils do something meaningful
  • To work 'in reality'
  • For professors & teachers to get all free extra teachers that support the development of students/pupils

Why are we doing it?

  • We do it to gain qualitative contributions on various Wikipedia language versions
  • We do not find that more students stay on working on Wikipedia than by any other intervention (workshop, edit-a-thon etc.)

What skills are developed?

  • Writing skills development
  • Media & information literacy
  • Critical thinking & research skills
  • Collaboration
  • Working on Wiki: Technical and communication skills