Education/News/August 2019/International Days and pop culture motivate primary and secondary education students to write on Wikipedia and Wikidata

International Days and pop culture motivate primary and secondary education students to write on Wikipedia and Wikidata

Author: Mina Theofilatou, Computer Science teacher (User:Saintfevrier)

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How 6th and 7th graders in Greece were encouraged to edit Wikipedia and Wikidata using International Days and missing articles from international pop culture as inspiration.

Three 6th Grade students have just published their article about the pop group "Marcus and Martinus" on Greek Wikipedia

Background edit

I have written before about how challenging it is to squeeze Wikipedia editing into the Middle School curriculum in Greece, as 13 to 15 year-old students get only one 45-minute class of computer science per week. This however should be viewed as a challenge rather than an obstacle: in 2017 a class of 8th graders wrote 10 new articles and expanded several more in a two-month project, after we had covered the core curriculum and discussed Wikipedia-specific issues throughout the two semesters. Year after year students become more and more attracted to the more entertaining aspects of the Internet: video games, pop music and following YouTubers are usually their online activities, leaving little room for more valuable use of their time. In primary school it is easier to integrate Wikipedia editing, as there is more flexibility in the curriculum; but how do you motivate 6th graders to write on Wikipedia? And again, in the same restricted time slot of 45 minutes per week…

New articles on pop culture edit

Greek Wikipedia is lacking many articles that are available in other languages, so the translation of existing articles was the quickest way to go forward and make the best use of our limited time. Greek Wikipedia does not have a restriction on the number of edits one needs before using the translation tool; however, even when we did encounter issues with the tool the easy solution was to use Google translate in a separate window. In this way, three sixth-graders were happy to write about their favourite pop group. Boys are usually keener on video games... so I got them to write about their favourites: the 7th graders produced two new articles, one of which was previously available only in Turkish and Portuguese. What's most important though is that the students were incredibly happy and proud of their work, especially when they found out it was well received by the Wikipedia community :)

International Days edit

Not all students however are "into something" that inspires them enough to write about it... here is where my idea of using thelist of International Days on Greek Wikipedia comes in! The list is full of red links, so I guided one group to produce a stub on International Children's Book Day. Others were hesitant to create a new article, so they introduced new sentences to existing ones, or added internal links leading from the subject article to its International Day. This was especially successful for the article "Romani people": all the team did was to add a sentence and reference about International Romani Day. The special impact of this edit however was much greater, as the team included a Romani girl: her classmates' initiative boosted her self-confidence and she became more actively engaged in our classwork.

If they're still not inspired... turn to Wikidata! edit

There were, however, two seventh-graders who didn't want to participate in any of our activities. I, on the other hand, would not swerve from our agreement that this was a class project and everyone would have to contribute in one way or another. The solution was Wikidata: I guided them to the data items for their favourite video games and they added the Greek translations of the labels and descriptions. What was most exciting was that they really got engaged and wanted to make more edits... problem was that it was the last day of our class. My ambition is to launch a wikiclub in the coming school year: if I find a way to set up an evening class once a week for the most motivated students, we will have the chance to further develop our passion for knowledge, inclusion and skill-building on Wikipedia and Wikidata. And naturally, I will report to the international community on our results :)