How easy it is to edit Wikipedia – or was

How easy it is to edit Wikipedia – or was

Many Wikipedia activists ask themselves: Can’t we “use” Wikipedia at school, let pupils write articles? This would make two winners: the pupils who learn and Wikipedia that grows.

Editing Wikipedia then...
Editing Wikipedia then...

Let’s read what Hanjo Iwanowitsch wrote about his experiences with Wikipedia at school. He can tell about extremely successful and happy Wikipedia editing students at a vocational school in Bad Malente, Northern Germany.

Teaching or learning platforms are expensive, provide few opportunities and are technically weak, he complaints. The technical solution for contributing in a team must be easy for everybody, teachers and students, “in a way that also unexperienced people can publish and change their results”.

A wiki is such a solution, especially when editing is so easy as it is on Wikipedia. Everything there is easier even than in a word processor.

Iwanowitsch explains in his blog how students of his class of future book sellers and book makers worked on Wikipedia articles. They used secondary sources but created original texts in their own words. Actually they needed no much help from their teacher because the Wikipedia system is self-explanatory.

Most of the students’ texts were impeccable, the students were very positive about Wikipedia editing, according to Iwanowitsch. There was a lot of laughter and communication within the teams.

Wait a minute – is this the same Wikipedia?

... and now.

If you have experiences of your own with teaching about Wikipedia editing, you must be quite surprised by Iwanowitsch’s story. Isn’t it extremely diffcult for newbies to edit, to edit in a way that the changes remain?

Apparently it was not in February 2003 when Iwanowitsch wrote his blog. His report is a time travel to a Wikipedia totally different from Wikipedia of 2010.

See what one of the articles looked like then. Here the complete source code of “Kupferstich” (Engraving):

Beim ”’Kupferstich”’ wird das zu druckende [[Bild]] mit einem Stichel in eine Kupferplatte geritzt. Die Ritzen nehmen die [[Farbe]] auf. Daraus entstand das [[Tiefdruckverfahren]].

Three short sentences. No categories, no interwiki links, no templates. The only wiki markup is bold and links to other articles. What would happen to such an article in 2010? Speedy deletion, of course, with a brusque or even aggressive comment (“such thing no article”). Take a look at “Kupferstich” now.

Wikipedians who read about Wikipedia at school in former years and who would like to go to school or give lessons themselves should be aware of the development. The complexity of today Wikipedia with its wikisyntax, rules and conventions makes much more preparation necessary.


2 thoughts on “How easy it is to edit Wikipedia – or was

  1. (Just found your article.)

    I was easy, then. Today I would not repeat this experiment because the pupils’ experiences would be rather disappointing for the reasons you mentioned.

    1. Hi, it’s great to meet the people from the sources! 🙂 When I asked teachers recently, they said: “No way! Use a test wiki!” So, it is remarkable how much Wikipedia has changed in just a few years.

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