Last week I attended a very engaging conference organised by Wikimedia, focused on the uses of Wikipedia in Education: EduWiki .
I was on a panel discussing openness in HE and I also I gave a keynote on 21st Century Scholarship and the role of Wikipedia. I’d produced a visual (infographic/poster/prettypicture) which I blogged and have included below. The slides of my talk are online. A video of the talk is also available.
It was interesting to bring together Wikipedians with educators and I learnt a great deal about how Wikipedia is being used in HE settings, and what the active debates are in this area. Some of my take-home points:
- An increasing number of countries are running targeted support for educational use of Wikipedia, there were some great presentations about setting Wikipedia assignments.
- A bit of digital literacy myth-busting: I had thought that Wikipedia wanted to be seen as an acceptable source of citation, but that’s not true. Perhaps old news (2006) but I wasn’t aware that Wikipedia was so clear that it is NOT a primary source and shouldn’t be cited in academic work.
- That said, I realised as the conference went on that I often use Wikipedia articles as unique identifiers for concepts and things. I think of Wikipedia in quite a linked data way, creating URLs for things. So I do reference Wikipedia as a way of helping people find out more, and I especially do this for things like academic theories: I use it as an accessible reference point.
- The role that Wikipedia has as an entry point for academic work is really interesting, I think. It makes it clear to me that those in the open access community should be helping Wikipedians ensure that wherever possible they cite an open access version of an article, monograph or textbook. Wikipedia editors are very niche group but really key to ensuring that people outside academia can get access to academic outputs.
- Wikipedia articles are written in a different style to academic essays, which are different again from journal articles. Even then, Wikipedia articles vary in their styles. Alannah Fitzgerald demonstrated the use of textmining tools to illustrate the different styles. The discussion surfaced questions about the way that academics communicate with each other and with “the public”.
- I didn’t realise there is a whole set of Wikimedia projects, I will be having a proper look at Wikidata and Wikibooks
- We heard some interesting angles about the nature of the Wikipedia community, how many are highly educated, and that as a community it is still developing and there is space for much more diversity in the contributor base, particularly more women. They are actively seeking engagement, and I love the phrase “pedants welcome”, I can think of many colleagues who fit that criteria admirably 😉
Overall, a great conference, congratulations to Martin Poulter and Daria Cybulska for organising it. I’m pleased to say that I have already arranged for me and my colleagues to get trained up in Wikipedia, and I already have my eye on some pages I want to contribute to.
As a parting shot, here’s the pretty picture I made (deftly dodges the infographic pedants who argue this isn’t one). (Update: Brian Kelly unpacks that issue in his post on posters and infographics !)