Education/Newsletter/August 2012/Working with International Baccalaureate students at ITESM-Campus Ciudad de México

By Leigh Thelmadatter

Four of the students from the Spring 2012 pilot program

In January 2012, ITESM-Campus Ciudad de México began a pilot program to allow their International Baccalaureate (IB) high school students to work with Wikipedia to fulfill their CAS or community service requirement for graduation.

International Baccalaureate is a preparatory level program found in many schools in various parts of the world, which has a standard and rigorous set of classes, exams and other requirements in order to earn the diploma. A major plus for Wikipedia is that this program emphasizes research and academic writing skills! In addition to having classes almost non-stop for seven hours a day, IB students are also required to do 80 hours of community service called “Creativity, Action, Service” or CAS.

Thanks to Laura Sevilla, the campus IB director, working with Wikipedia was added as an option for this requirement. The program started as a pilot with seven students to see how it would work. It worked well overall as these students have the advantage of having strong writing skills, but as with any other pilot, a number of lessons were learned. The first is that while Wikipedia offers an almost infinite variety of ways to work with it (writing articles, translation, taking photos, etc) in an almost infinite range of topics and interests, it is very important to set up defined projects for high school students, especially in the beginning. This is because having too many choices can be as bad as having none and students of this age group need more direction than older students. For the Fall 2012 semester, projects have been set up with Uriarte Talavera and the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, primarily working on biographies of Mexican artists associated with these two cultural institutions. Another lesson is that it is very important to have specified time and a particular place for Wikipedia work to occur. While technically, Wikipedia allows students to work anywhere and at any time, specified times and place are needed to keep students focused. For the Fall 2012 semester, “Wikipedia time” will be from 3:30 to 5:30 pm in a specified location in the campus library. In this way, students will be “at work” and it will also give us a place to physically organize the materials needed for projects. It will also provide tutors for Wikipedia work, which will be myself (Thelmadatter) and a professional artist and writer by the name of Iris Atma who is working on the project from the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana.