Education/News/February 2021/Featured education community member of February 2021

Author: Nominated by Anass Sedrati

Summary: Starting November 2019, they are highlighting a Wikimedian who is impacting or who has been impacted by Wikimedia & Education work. For February, in this article, meet Soukaina Abelhad from Morocco and learn from their experience as a local coordinator of the Reading Wikipedia project.

This month's nomination comes from Anass Sedrati, a member of Wikimedia Morocco, who introduces us to Soukaina Abelhad. As Soukaina shares:

Soukaina is a graduate with a computer science engineering degree and currently working as a data scientist. She is passionate about AI and some of the topics that she's engaged in include empowering women in tech. Therefore she joined the WomenTech Network as a global ambassador and she contributed by organizing tech talks, networking events, and leadership courses.

As for her story with Wikimedia, she had the chance to meet Anas Sedrati, the co-founder of the Wikimedia user group of Morocco and he introduced her to Wikimedia and all the projects led by the foundation. She was quickly interested in it, especially getting to know the main goal summarized in Jimmy’s quote, “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” she started to learn how to edit and contribute in Wikipedia first, then she discovered the Wiki sister projects and how helpful they could be for people who are seeking for the information online. She discovered the power of this encyclopedia to fulfill the bridge of the information gap worldwide and that it can break all the boundaries and anchor culture’s heritage.

One of the amazing projects she worked on is ‘Reading Wikipedia in the classroom’, the project introduces teachers to the communities and practices behind Wikipedia. Through a localized set of tools and professional training opportunities, this project helps both educators and students to develop vital media and information literacy skills for the 21st century: understanding how information is produced, how to access and evaluate content online, and how to understand biases and knowledge gaps in the information they consume. She was the local coordinator in Morocco and her work started first by studying the education system in Morocco, searching for potential partners, reflecting on the implementation of the project in Morocco with the rest of the education team.

At the first stage of the project, they launched a survey in the MENA region, and she was in charge of the analysis of the response data to extract insights from the teacher's answers which was really helpful to design the localized set of tools for the training program. She also contacted many schools and teachers and launched registration forms on multiple online platforms to invite teachers to this training program. She was able to gather 100+ teachers with whom she conducted interviews to learn about them, their expectations from the program, their motivation to participate, and also their opinion about Wikipedia. Based on that, they were able to build and design the tools of the training program in order to be localized and adapted to the needs of the teachers.

One of the most challenging parts is the COVID-19 crisis that changed the plan of holding the program on-site to conducting everything online. So they had to create a facebook group where she was conducting the online sessions with teacher’s and explain to them each module, answer their questions, manage their interactivity, follow their advancement on the assignments, and most importantly assist them to use the facebook platform to answer the activity’s questions since most of them were not familiar using facebook group’s features. She was also motivating them to continue assisting and following the program and had many friendship relationships with them which were really helpful for them to communicate openly their questions and remarks.

Each week she was in charge of translating the lectures and the material of the training session. She was teaching them online about each module of the program and posting/communicating with them every update about the program. she was amazed to see the radical change in how most of them were considering Wikipedia. When she first interviewed them they were more like “Wikipedia is good but she doesn’t know how reliable it is’/’she doesn’t trust using Wikipedia inside her classroom”. After finishing the program, she invited them again to a post-program interview to get their feedback. She was surprised and amazed by their answers, most of them were already organizing classroom activities based on what they’ve learned in this program. Others are already working on their first article on Wikipedia. Most of them asked for the next editions of the training program and invited her to visit them in their schools in order to organize on-site activities with their students and colleagues.

She was glad to hear all these positive feedbacks and was mostly happy that all of them changed their opinion about Wikipedia. They are currently using Wikipedia inside their classroom with their students to teach them how to search safely for online information and how to contribute to Wikipedia by editing and sharing information. Finally, she believes that this pilot project should definitely be generalized because it will help build the next generation of Wikimedians starting from schools. she feels lucky to be part of this successful project especially because she participated in the very initial reflection to the implementation and by the end, the graduation ceremony that they had with the amazing cohort of Moroccan teachers that she is proud of.

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