Reading Wikipedia in Bolivia
Summary: The Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom experience in Bolivia, through the struggles and search for diversity to help teachers use Wikipedia in the classroom openly.
The Wikimedistas de Bolivia User group applied to be part of the Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom program with high hopes. We were chosen along with Morocco and the Philippines to be part of this amazing experience. The team was thrilled to learn that we were accepted. The Wikimedia Education team organized the local team and also gathered a research team to build a program that would suit the local needs. More than five school directors were very excited to be part of the pilot, and we were about to continue with the work when the government declared a national lockdown because of COVID-19.
The program, the materials, and the approach needed to be adapted to be delivered online. In order to do this, the team used the UNESCO guidelines for Digital Inclusion, and the local regulations to align the program to be used for school teachers. A survey was carefully designed and then thousands of teachers were invited to take it. In that way, we could learn about their needs and what was expected to learn from our program and Wikipedia. We received nearly 100 surveys from different parts of the country. This information was used to better build a program that was attractive for teachers, and that also conveyed Wikipedia's spirit of collaboration and reliability. Most teachers in Bolivia were forced into the digital world. While it was possible that some of them used online tools occasionally for their classes, most of them were not ready for fully online teaching.
Once the team had all the information and the materials, it was time to call out for teachers to participate in the program. In spite of the pandemic, nearly 600 school teachers responded to our call. The team had to choose only a hundred. They were picked from the nine different regions in Bolivia. In a very diverse country with 36 official languages, four of them on Wikipedia — Aymara, Spanish, Guarani, and Quechua — the team made a great effort to get participants from all over the country. After some work, a hundred teachers were chosen from towns as far as Yacuiba near the border with Argentina, and El Sena, a province in the north, in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest.
For almost three months, teachers devoted their time to build a learning community and participating in the live sessions every 14 days. There was a Facebook group for support and communication, a teacher's guide, live sessions, and special guests from our country that produce open content. The Wikimedia Foundation provided all the support necessary for the success of the program.
These resources were highly valued by the teachers at the of the program, and we're using them as a template for this year's programs. We already secured agreements with public universities in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, two of the most populated cities in Bolivia. The program was big enough to get covered on a local newspaper. The Wikimedistas de Bolivia community is looking forward to helping more teachers to get engaged with Wikipedia in their classroom freely. If you would like to read more about the experience, the Reading Wikipedia Classroom reached nearly a thousand teachers in three countries.
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