Projekt:SFI 2014/Blogginlägg WMF

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Wikipedia for Immigrants

To start using the Internet as an adult is hard but also extremely rewarding. In 2013 Wikimedia Sverige decided to try to reach a very underrepresented group of people when it comes to online activity – the immigrants. In Sweden, research has shown that immigrants learning Swedish as their new language are very interested in learning more about how they can participate online and want to use it in their education. However, teachers find it tricky to integrate web participation into the curriculum. We figured (surprise surprise) that multilingual Wikipedia would make a great tool for these teachers to use! Both to teach the students basic Swedish language skills and also to naturally integrate computers into their education.

We partnered up with GR Utbildning and managed to find external funding from the Internet Infrastructure Foundation (.SE) for a project aiming at changing the current situation, one teacher at the time. (We strongly suggest that you look around for funds available in your country to – and feel free to ask us for pointers!). We then teamed up with three teachers in two different schools and started teaching them about Wikipedia. In order to work efficiently on Wikipedia, it's necessary to know a thing or two about writing from the start, so after discussing with the teachers we focused on students with academic backgrounds. Because these students turned out to be more proficient in reading than writing Swedish, we decided that the most suitable way for them to contribute would be to translate from Swedish into their respective native languages.

What we liked even more was that by adding to other versions of Wikipedia, these learners also aided integration since immigrants who do not yet speak Swedish or English still could find relevant information about Sweden in Wikipedia articles in thier own language. (Strangely enough, there hasn't been an extensive amount of well updated texts covering Sweden in Swahili, Tagalog or Somali. Or for that matter most languages in the world...) This project, we figured, could help change that! The fact that many people in developing countries (through the awesome work of the Wikipedia Zero project) could access this information without any costs, made everybody thrilled!

On all of the language versions of Wikipedia, that we expected students in this first pilot to take part in, we asked volunteers to support us by guiding the beginners to the right help pages, proofreading and just greeting them welcome in their native language. We had a fantastic response and created an international list of mentors on Meta. In the future we will guide teachers to this resource so please add yourself if you are willing to help out!

Over the course of the project, 23 students were involved in creating 23 articles in 12 different languages. On average, each student has contributed 384 words of encyclopedic content.

Thanks to the bold teachers, who not only were brave enough to try this but also endured a number of surveys and interviews to gather inputs from their experience, we identified what they needed help with the most and what they thought worked the best. This knowledge is the foundation for our current work with finalizing a set of instruction pages and assignments to make it as easy and accessable for more teachers to use Wikipedia in their teaching in the future.