Education/Newsletter/May 2013/7th grade Wikipedia project in Geneva

Gabriel Thullen teaches computer science in an introductory course for 7th grade students in Geneva, Switzerland. The aim of this mandatory course is to provide students with a working knowledge of the main office tools (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation programs) as well as email and web searching. There also is a bit of computer programming thrown in to round out the school year.

As part of this course, the students work on editing wikipedia articles. They work mostly with the French Wikipedia, but every once in a while one of the students will prefer editing in English (or in their own other tongue). The project is described on the French Wikipedia project page: learn more about this school project (French).

The following proposal was submitted for the 2013 Wikimania conference in Hong Kong, and it is strongly suggested that your express your interest by signing up on the proposal page:

7th_Grade_wikipedia_project Wikimania 2013 submission

Wikimania 2013 call for participation


The Colombières junior high school is located in Versoix, a small town near Geneva, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. I am a math and computer science teacher, and have been working with my students on wikipedia projects as part of their curriculum since 2006.

There is a very large international community in Geneva which means that most students speak at least one other language, and have used wikipedia as a source of information in their mother tongue. Working with wikipedia and understanding how the encyclopedia is structured allows them to see how knowledge can be shared across different cultural divides.

The 7th Grade wikipedia project has the following objectives:

  • enable the students to become familiar with the information technologies (IT) used in education;
  • give students tools that enable them to do autonomous research on subjects that interest them;
  • encourages them to systematically document and reference their information sources;
  • shows the students the advantages and difficulties of collaborative work;

These objectives form a coherent whole and the aim is to enable the students to participate in the writing of an encyclopedia and to increase the sharing of knowledge. Most students use wikipedia on a regular basis for their course work. This activity increases their comprehension of how wikipedia works as well as helping some of them take the step and become contributors.

The project is described on the French Wikipedia, together with links to the contributions made by my students over the years: fr:Projet:Collège_des_Colombières. I also use this project as a case study for the continuing education course which I give in Geneva for Swiss teachers.

The issues that need to be adressed when working with students arise when working with most new contributors:

  • how to get new contributors interested and motivated ;
  • how to avoid having their hard work trashed and rejected after 15 minutes ;
  • how to create a viable article stub ;
  • how to avoid plagarism ;
  • how to provide references and citations.

My presentation will cover the method I use to work with the students, as well as the different changes brought to the procedure over time. I will also talk about the acceptance of the project by the school authorities, as well as the different guidelines public schools have to follow when working, and publishing, with students on the web.

I am bilingual English/French. My school project is run in a French speaking school, but this presentation will be held in English, and all the materials will be provided in both languages.