Get to Know the Wiki Education Foundation

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the writer's own.

This past August over 2,000 Wikipedians descended upon London for Wikimania, the 10th annual conference of the Wikimedia Foundation. This was my third Wikimania, having attended in 2011 in Haifa, Israel and 2012 in Washington D.C., and each one is somehow more inspiring than the next. This isn’t surprising, considering that it’s a gathering of the community behind the most influential peer-produced encyclopedia in the world!

At Wikimania London, it was impossible to ignore the presence of the Wiki Education Foundation, which is an indispensable resource for educators in the U.S. and Canada. The idea behind the Wikipedia Education Program is simple — instructors assign their students to contribute content to Wikipedia in place of a traditional writing and research class exercise; the Wiki Education Foundation supports those professors with trainings and volunteers.

In 2009, at a time when these resources didn’t yet exist, I became a Wikipedian after being required to edit the encyclopedia for a class assignment. I’ve experienced first hand how validating it is to contribute your own research to the most widely read encyclopedia in the world. Trust me when I say that Wikipedia editing assignments are thrilling, authentic learning experiences, and the impact and scope of readership inherent in Wikipedia is incomparable. Over the past few years, it’s been amazing to watch the basic idea of a Wikipedia classroom project evolve and expand into the Wikipedia Education Program of today.

5 Facts About the Wiki Education Foundation:

1. The Foundation aims to:
> Improve the breadth, scope, and quality of Wikimedia content.
> Enhance student information fluency.
> Increase the number and diversity of contributors to the free knowledge movement by engaging educators, researchers, and students.

2. The first formal efforts to support Wikipedia in the classroom began with the Wikimedia Foundation in 2010, and later became the Global Education Program. In 2013, the Wiki Education Foundation spun off as an independent non-profit, focusing on the U.S. and Canada.

3. In the four years of the U.S./Canada program, students have contributed 44,000 printed pages of content. That’s 14.7 million words, 88 reams of paper, if printed, and the equivalent of 26 copies of War and Peace.

4. Nearly 500 classes have participated in the U.S. and Canada, with more than 9,000 students editing 16,000 existing articles and creating 1,900 new articles.

5. The Foundation helps target specific content gaps in Wikipedia, including literature and the humanities, by addressing the persistent “gender gap” among Wikipedia editors, with 61% female student participation in the program (as compared to a ratio of 15% female editors overall.)

The Wiki Education Foundation is also refreshingly transparent. You can review all of their hard-learned lessons in their Wikimania presentation, “The 7 Biggest Mistakes.” You can also check out their wrap-up of the most recent term or dive straight into their instructor resources.

In recent years, the misguided bias against Wikipedia in the classroom has begun to fade among educators, due much to the efforts of the team behind the Wiki Education Foundation. They consider themselves, “the missing link between Wikipedia and academia” and they are that! If you haven’t yet considered Wikipedia as a classroom project, I’d say there’s no better time than now.

Lori Byrd Phillips is a museum, Wikipedia, and social media strategist and researcher who defines and explores open authority in museums. She has a background in pre-primary and secondary education, and is the Digital Content Coordinator at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She can be reached at


Second and third image CC BY-SA 3.0 via the Wikimedia Foundation


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