Wikimedia Israel is expanding its activities in the education system, with a new program for using Wikidata as an educational tool
In 2016, a new matriculation track was introduced to the Israeli education system: Israeli high-school students can choose to major in Cyber Informatics. This new track focuses on the discovery, identification and detection of digital information, with an emphasis on the application of multi-lingual retrieval processes.
The students learn topics relating to information and communication technologies, retention, sharing and development of knowledge, internet and social media, information and informatics, as well as learning a foreign language. While students also learn about different programming languages, the track focuses on information analysis, not on programming.
One of the challenges that teachers in the new track were faced with involves giving concrete and relatable examples to explain (sometimes abstract) technological concepts. Furthermore, some ideas are best understood through experience. The Wikidata platform examplifies many ideas included in this track’s curriculum. Moreover, it allows students to learn by interacting and editing on the platform. With this in mind, WMIL approached at the end of 2018 several teachers of this track and suggested a small pilot to explore the feasibility of using Wikidata in the classroom . The teachers’ reactions were overwhelmingly positive, noting that Wikidata is exactly the kind of hands-on educational tool that they often feel they miss.
In February 2019, the first pilot took place. A group of 6 high-school students from Ort Yad Leibowitz in Netanya, arrived with their teachers to WMIL’s offices. During the 3-hour long activity, the students learned about the background of Wikidata, and the Wikimedia vision. The rationale and potential of Wikidata as an open-knowledge structured and linked database was explained. The students then got acquainted with the platform itself, learning how knowledge is represented through declarations, and making their first edits on Wikidata. In the last part, the students learned about the Query Service and were shown examples of how information can be retrieved using simple queries. The material learned at this activity will be further deepened by the teachers during the regular lessons in the coming weeks.
Although a second pilot is still to take place in a few weeks, WMIL has already reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education to organize a Wikidata training day for all the teachers of this track. Building on our extensive collaboration with the Ministry, and the experience and insights we’ve gained through the teachers’ Wikipedia training and WMIL’s educational program, we plan to implement the same model for working with students of the Cyber Informatics track.