February 8, 2022

Writing Wikipedia Entries as Part of Academic Studies

The Technion shares its knowledge with the public: writing Wikipedia entries as part of academic studies

The Technion’s Social Hub and the Center for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching have teamed up with the NGO “Wikimedia” to promote the writing of Wikipedia articles by students, with the aim of sharing knowledge with the public and expanding free knowledge in the fields of science, technology and mathematics

On January12, an introductory meeting was held for Technion professors to promote the writing of scientific and technological entries for Wikipedia by Technion students, as part of their academic studies.

Hebrew Wikipedia is the fifth biggest site in Israel in terms of views, with about 2,000 views per minute.  Today, there are more than 300,000 entries on the Israeli Wikipedia site, but there is a quantitative and qualitative shortage when it comes to STEM subjects–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Dr. Keren Shatzman, coordinator of academic projects at Wikimedia, explained that the organization is working to expand Wikipedia’s free knowledge base. “In this framework, we seek to encourage students to write entries in their fields of study, which will increase the quantity and quality of free information.

Although Wikipedia is not an academic source, about 85% of students in Israel use it as “presearch” – to understand basic terms and gain background on the subject before turning to academic articles – so it is important that the information is good quality and reliable.”

The meeting was attended by the head of the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching at the Technion, Dr. Olga Chuntonov; academic chairman of the Technion’s Social Hub Dr. Meirav Aharon Gutman; Hub Director Ronit Piso; students, and faculty members. According to Dr. Aharon Gutman, the collaboration with Wikimedia is part of the social involvement the Hub is trying to encourage at the Technion. “Academia is a public institution and has a role to play towards students as well as towards the general public.  Writing entries in Wikipedia is an effective way of disseminating knowledge to teachers, students, and anyone who wishes to do independent learning, outside the confines of the campus.”

Dafna Levin, a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the “Issues in Urban Sociology” course – one of the courses in the project –talked about working with the students.  “This is meticulous work. Trying to find out what our added value is compared to the English entry.  We encourage students to upload original images. Writing concisely is complex and important, and a valuable lesson for students.”

Technion students have already participated in writing articles for Wikipedia. The entry “Public Space,” written as part of Dr. Aharon-Gutman’s course, has already received 5,000 views, and “Porosity,” written as part of one of Professor Uri Shavit’s courses, has received about 6,000. At the meeting, Zohar Weiss, a graduate student in the urban planning track in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, said that writing the entry on “cooperative housing” combined her personal interest with the professional knowledge she acquired in her studies. ‘At the end of the day people use it to research everything, but its impact is greater because the information reaches a really wide audience, which is really exciting.”