[Life Centre]1A couple of weeks ago I attended OER14 up in Newcastle with Martin Poulter and I going to represent [Wikimedia UK]2 (who generously funded us).  The conference theme was ‘Building communities of open practice’ and is a well established conference for those interested in Open Educational Resources (and Open Educational Practices which has, for good reason I think, become the more fashionable term). I was slightly concerned we’d be doing a bit of ‘preaching to the converted’. However, I was very pleased to see that, although everyone there ‘buys in’ to the Open cause, many didn’t really think about Wikipedia, the value of working with it, or the fact that Wikipedia is arguably a) the largest OER ever, and b) the most successful Open Educational Community of Practice ever. Those are cool things, and we really need to get that message across!  Martin and I both took as many booklets of various types (including the education ones) that we could carry (actually, probably more than we should have been carrying!) but they were all snapped up with interest. So, the two days were a very interest opportunity to meet some new people, meet people I already knew in a slightly different context, and think about how we can ‘onboard’ more of this already sympathetic group to our community. Martin and I ran three events over the days (I’ll talk about the two I was involved in below), but actually I think the conversations over the days were just as productive if not more so. From those I’d highlight two interesting experiences: 1. A very well known academic raised with me regarding an ‘articles for deletion’ process on a conference in his area. The AfD decision was to ‘keep’ the article, but in any case the academic wasn’t asking for intervention, but rather for some explanation of what was going on (and any input there). Having gone off and done some research, this is an interesting area – establishing the notability of very important (but sometimes niche) journals, conferences, and learned societies is challenging. I’m in the process of writing this up for a blog post, which will appear [here]3. 2. A few times I found myself noting ‘Content is not your product’ – it’s a slogan the OER folk are sympathetic to (they wouldn’t be giving away resources for free otherwise), but it’s still interesting that they don’t use Wikipedia resources as much as one might think, and of course (as I noted at this [Nexters event]4) we need to get the message across to other educators and innovators. Citation needed: Editing Wikipedia, a hands on fringe event

Attending a workshop on Wikipedia at oer14 -cool! pic.twitter.com/yzk8yzC0r7

— Geoff Constable (@gardeninggeoff) April 29, 2014

On the second day of the conference Martin and I ran a lunchtime fringe event, which about 14 people came by to (some just popped in) – turns out that’s plenty of people to have a quite detailed and expansive conversation about the Wikimedia projects, how people might get involved, experiences people have already had, etc. A few of the attendees already had accounts, and some were going to go away and sign up (and were interested to see features such as the visual editor, the cite tool, etc.). We also went over some of the basics of the ‘talk’ page, viewing histories, etc. As well as some of the things the Wikimedia movement engages in including the [Wikipedia assignments]5. We also had some more policy based discussions around establishing [notability]6, [neutral point of view]7, as well as some discussion on projects (especially the [Wikiproject:Open]8) and some articles in need of attention there. The session was a really interesting opportunity to chat to a group with a range of experiences on Wikipedia, and I think that was valuable. I would have liked to have more time to talk to people individually, and think about how to get people editing in such a short space (especially on the Open articles), it also demonstrated the challenges of getting follow-up details from people in these sort of ad-hoc events (obviously I could give cards and brochures out). This is something to think about for next time anyway, although there’s a balancing act between going with the constructive unstructured discussion, and trying to tick specific goals, we did ask what people were likely to do next and it’d be really nice to be able to follow up on that! Analysing learning through Mediawiki [Lego DNA]9My lightening talk (SLOW lightening at 15 mins total!) was a modified reprisal of my talk on thinking about the practices of open education, and how Mediawiki supports analysing those. This holds a couple of potential benefits: First we can support communities to help develop their members, and second if we have paradata (useage data) on resources, we can start to think about which resources should be targeted at which learners (the linkedup project is aiming at this).  The [slides can be downloaded]10 from the website, and I think the video will also appear there at some point. Given the interest within the OER community on badging, and the importance of both community and technology for maintaining communities of Open Practitioners, the talk was quite popular (25-30 people, in fact the session was standing room only – nothing like a sweaty room!). This also gave me another opportunity to plug the Wikimedia educational work (and brochures) and answer interesting questions on how the Wikimedia community (and researchers beyond that community) analyses Wikipedia (,etc.) data, what that means, what issues there are, and so on. Again, lots of interest shown and loads of questions at very different levels! So, sympathetic to the cause, but with really varying levels of knowledge around how to engage, and how the Wikimedia projects might be useful in educational contexts.    


  1. /static/2014/05/life_centre.jpg

  2. http://wiki.wikimedia.org.uk/

  3. http://sjgknight.com/finding-knowledge/2014/05/wikipedia-notability/

  4. http://sjgknight.com/finding-knowledge/2013/12/smart-ways-to-educate/ “Smart ways to educate – Nexters event”

  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Student_assignments

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability

  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:NPOV

  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Open

  9. /static/2014/05/lego_dna.jpg

  10. http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/26/view/