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

Author: Basak Tosun

Summary: Starting November 2019, we are highlighting a Wikimedian who is impacting or who has been impacted by Wikimedia & Education work. For January, in this article, meet Mehmet Korhan Erturaç from Turkey and learn from their experience in running Wikimedia education programs at Sakarya University.

This month's nomination comes from Basak Tosun, a member of Wikimedia Community User Group Turkey, who introduces us to Mehmet Korhan Erturaç. As Basak shares:

Mehmet Korhan Erturaç is a faculty member at Sakarya University Department of Geography, Turkey. He is giving the compulsory courses about Physical Geography, Geomorphology, Geosciences to the students of the department. His students have contributed Turkish Wikipedia articles related to Coastal Morphodynamics and Quaternary geology as a requirement of the course since 2013.

After a break to Wikipedia assignments in 2016, he re-started to contribute to Wikipedia with his students with a better strategy and planning. As a result, 240 articles were edited by his students just in 2020. He says the high numbers of students in the department (about 100-150 students taking each course) leads to high edit numbers during the course.

From poorly written assignments to great Wikipedia articles!

We asked him how he decided to give Wikimedia assignments and what benefits his students are getting from this experience. He explained that according to the grading guidelines of the university, students were to be evaluated in 5 different ways for each course while making personal or group assignments is one of them. In the first year of teaching, Erturaç realized how poorly the assignments submitted by the students were written. The main reason was that the papers were copied-and-pasted from some internet sources. In the class, they read some of those papers with his students and they discovered together that those internet sources were doing the same: copying and pasting the texts from other sources without reading the original text carefully and not evaluating them in their contexts!

He thinks of it as a two-sided problem; one side is that students see the assignments as only a sort of work to be completed just for getting a grade by spending as little time on it as possible, which results in a huge waste of time and paper. Secondly, he discovered the scarcity of modern sources with up-to-date information in Turkish, and therefore, he could see how the students do not have access to basic information sources even if they had the information technology tools (computers, mobile devices, and internet connection). When he learned that the students have been making assignments in the same way during their education lives before entering the university, he recognized that it was necessary to initiate a new multi-purpose home-assignment system. He found what he was looking for at the Wikipedia site, which previously he was using as a prominent source for his lessons.

Benefits for the students

Erturaç observed many benefits of editing Wikipedia, first of which was increasing students' motivation by making their work accessible and beneficial for others. Additionally, he finds it important that small contributions of students do not permanently stay there; even small mistakes that would be omitted elsewhere are being corrected by other Wikipedians; producing better work as a result of interaction with others is a great experience for the students. And finally, he adds “editing Wikipedia is a hands-on-learning opportunity for learning about open licensing and publication ethics”. At the moment, his assignments are restricted to asking students to translate articles with the help of content-translation-tool; but he is delighted to see that many students do not restrict themselves with this and they also search Turkish sources.

One of his former students who is now a Ph.D. candidate says, “instead of doing an assignment that nobody — including the instructor- carefully reviews, curating information for others who search for the meaning of a geography term reminded me that I was a university student. The first Wikipedia articles I edited were Artesian aquifer and Geoheritage. I am still proud of my work there.

Filling the content gap

We asked Korhan Erturaç whether he finds the content in Turkish Wikipedia about his field satisfactory. He says the number of articles on geography and geosciences increased a lot since 2013 but it is still not satisfactory. However, this year they were glad to find out that articles on basic terminology that was started during their courses were improved a lot and therefore they had to produce articles in more detailed subjects.

Collaborating with the Wikipedia Community

After starting to improve Turkish Wikipedia with his students, soon Wikipedians recognized their contributions. “They must have been alarmed when seeing that many pages are being edited by newbies from the same IP”, he says. Two Wikipedians reached out to me and suggested giving a seminar on Wiki-editing. Lastly, we organized a seminar again this year with 100 students in attendance. The most important thing we learned from them is the vision and mission of Wikipedia, understanding open culture better, and detailed information on licensing. Those subjects are covered in every department at the undergraduate level but having this opportunity to see those concepts in practice was great!

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