This is a draft proposal, not yet the product of consensus.
This page outlines an workshop in which contributors can both deepen their understanding of Wikimedia projects and learn to teach other people. This would normally be led by one facilitator and use a mix of discussion and online activities. However, it is an active learning process: not a transfer of knowledge from the facilitator to an audience but a shared experience of researching a topic and teaching others.
The user should already be an active contributor to Wikipedia or another Wikimedia project, familiar with the project's core policies. They should have a contributions record that includes improving some articles and creating a page (which can be a subpage in their user space).
This workshop is based on a simplified form of problem-based learning. This is an active form of learning which puts the onus on the learners to explore at topic either individually or in small groups, and present their findings to the rest of the room. The leader of the session facilitates and guides the process.
- Each activity is built around a research topic, such as "How are disputes resolved on Wikipedia?" "What does a Wikipedia administrator do?" or "How do articles get to Featured Article standard?" This is broken down by the facilitator into a serious of specific questions. These questions which are divided among the participants, who work either individually or in pairs depending on the size of the workshop. Since this is a learning process, participants should take on the questions they feel least confident about answering.
- The facilitator should make sure that participants are clear on the meaning of the challenge and understand the relevant jargon (unless finding the meaning of jargon terms is the point of the exercise).
- Participants have a short time (15 mins max, depending on the complexity of the question) to find an answer using the existing help pages and outreach materials. If the question is about a process such as Wikipedia:Categorization or Wikipedia:New pages patrol, learners can do this activity and feed back anything difficult or interesting about their individual case.
- Then each group or individual presents their answer back to the room. The facilitator keeps this moving along quickly. Presenters are allowed to use a flip chart, or to project an image and speak to that. However, their presentation should involve writing a minimum of words, usually avoiding any jargon except the jargon they are trying to explain.
- There is then a plenary discussion to answer the following questions. It's important not to get distracted into a discussion of how things should work. Keep focused on the activity's goal which is deciding how you would explain the topic to someone else.
- What are the key ideas needed to understand this area?
- What ideas will pose the most problems for newcomers?
- How can the various points be structured to make it accessible and fun?
- As far as possible, we try to include a wiki twist into each session. Participants use their wiki skills to write up what they've learned, either individually or collaboratively. However, this needs to be done in a strictly time-limited way to keep participants from getting absorbed in their computers. A more physical and energetic example of the wiki twist uses a whiteboard, with participants encouraged to make bold changes to each other's writing.
This structure can promote cohesion as well as learning, because each person in the room is useful to everyone else in achieving shared goals.
A workshop is a succession of these activities, based around topics that are relevant to the needs of the participants. A special case of the activity is the Resource review, described below, which involves not just assessing but trying to improve a learning resource.
Writing Wikipedia Signpost
As an example of the approach set out above, imagine a session to train people to write for Wikipedia Signpost. The facilitator starts with a central question that the group as a whole is going to answer: in this case, "How is the Signpost written and edited?"
The facilitator breaks this into a list of smaller issues, such as:
- Who decides when an edition of the Signpost is ready for release, and how?
- What news items and events qualify for a mention in the "In the News" section?
- How are controversial topics such as ArbCom cases handled? What's the appropriate level of detail?
- In "Wikiproject report", how is the Wikiproject chosen? What information about the Wikiproject is summarised? What is the timescale for the interview?
- Where do "Technology report" items come from? What sort of news items are in its scope?
- How does a Special Report get written?
- How do Signpost-writing policies and guidelines differ from those that govern the encyclopaedia? For example, what is the scope for editorialising and going beyond dry facts?
Depending on the size of the session, attendees have a limited time to explore these questions individually, in pairs or small groups. They can answer the questions by any legitimate method, including looking at the Signpost newsroom, reading past issues, or interviewing other people in the room. The facilitator can suggest starting points. The task is not to answer the questions in detail but to come up with a few key points.
The groups take turns to report what they've learnt. The point is to be engaging as well as informative, so draw charts, use hypothetical examples, use creative analogies, be bold, be funny or whatever else helps you convey the point in your own way.
In plenary discussion, the room returns to the original research question, "How is the Signpost written and edited?" Imagine that each person is going to answer this question to a newcomer. What would be the most important points to get across? Which are the most helpful resources to bookmark?
The wiki twist: Now that you've learnt about writing for Signpost, apply this in a small way on the wiki itself: summarise a news item, copy-edit a draft, or start on another contribution. If you have an idea for something which cannot be achieved in the time slot, make notes in your user space to work on after the session.
This is focused on improving learning resources — meaning handouts, video clips, help pages and similar materials. It is important in this session that no one person takes on too big a "chunk": if you are looking at a booklet, just concentrate on a couple of pages. If reviewing a video, concentrate on just a minute or two of its content.
You can get resources from:
- Outreach wiki: educational materials
- Wikipedia Ambassadors resources
- The Help section of a relevant project (e.g. English Wikipedia)
- Relevant Wikiversity and Wikibooks modules
In pairs (if there are enough people in the room), first look through the collection and decide which items you'd be interested in (usually those you're least familiar with). Make sure that each pair has chosen a different item.
You now have 10 minutes to critically evaluate the resource you've chosen. Bear in mind that there are many different settings in which people learn about Wikimedia projects (online, face-to-face, educational projects) and that people learn in different ways. So you are not aiming to conclude "This is good" or "This is bad". Instead, work towards something of the form, "With [these modifications] this could be used [in this sort of session] along with [these other learning materials]."
It's always possible to find fault with something if you try, so for this to be a constructive exercise, consider these points in order:
- What are the strengths? (Examples: It illustrates visually something that takes a long time to describe in words; It avoids unnecessary detail; It's well laid-out.)
- What are its weaknesses? (Examples: It uses terminology that only an experienced Wikipedian is likely to know; It's too repetitive for all but the slowest learners; The video's correct in what it says, but so slow-paced that people will lose interest.) If the other person in the pair disagrees with your answers to these two questions, talk about what different assumptions or experiences might underlie that.
- What would preserve the strengths, but avoid those weaknesses? This might be a minor change to the resource, or to the context in which it is delivered (e.g. you might recommend that people skip the first minute of a video). Alternatively, it could be a radical proposal: you might decide the content of a video is better delivered as a handout, or vice versa.
Now in plenary discussion, say what you were reviewing and how you responded to the three questions above. Try to draw out general lessons, and avoid minor detail: what are the best resources to use for this topic? What makes a good resource?
The wiki twist: Now implement your suggested improvements, making a draft of an improved version of the resource in your user-space on the relevant wiki. If it's a video, write a narration text or storyboard. Don't be a perfectionist: spend 15 minutes on a rough draft which you can return to later, then the session ends and you move on to another topic. If you don't think the resources you've looked at need any improvement, use the time to create a micro-syllabus of annotated links to the resources, as a reminder of what you looked at and what you've personally concluded from the session.