null "Each gives a little – everyone gains a lot" - the Basic Education Wikileap uses the Internet to make textbooks accessible

"Each gives a little – everyone gains a lot" - the Basic Education Wikileap uses the Internet to make textbooks accessible

Basically, teachers are not responsible for providing learning materials. Still, they are often forced to spend hours upon hours adapting learning materials to suit their own pupils, not to mention giving thought to teaching approaches. This information can be saved in the WikiLibrary, whose material is CC-BY-SA-licensed and thus freely distributable and editable, provided that the original source is cited and the new material is distributed under the same terms and conditions.

Launched in 2017, the Basic Education Wikileap project is authoring comprehensive school textbooks for the Finnish WikiLibrary. The material is free and available to all online regardless of time or place. The driving force behind the project is the desire to make teachers' work easier and share the fruits of work already done with both colleagues and anyone else thirsty for knowledge.

There are already a few open educational resource projects and platforms for compiling learning materials. However, the WikiLibrary, which serves as a centralised entity, is a new way of collecting and sharing information.

– The project is based on a culture of sharing that has been around for years. As far as I know, there is no project like it anywhere in the world, explains project member Tero Toivanen, Vice Chairman of Wikimedia Suomi, special education teacher and ICT coach.

The ability to analyse and link information into a single entity is one of the benefits of the WikiLibrary. Indeed, it is possible to attach images to textbooks and pupils can be directed to supplemental materials within the WikiLibrary and outside it. It is easier to find materials, and teaching methods and materials are enriched. The Wikileap also promotes the digitalization of schools.

Easily shared and locatable information

The WikiLibrary is similar to Wikipedia in a variety of ways. Both are found on the Wikimedia Foundation platform and use a common open media bank and factual data bank.

The purpose of the WikiLibrary is to make information easy to share, find and use. Authors can import either finished texts to the wiki or rough drafts for other users to finish with their own information. The threshold for sharing expertise is low when it is understood that not everything needs to be done alone. Indeed, the whole premise of the WikiLibrary is based on the idea that 'Each gives a little – everyone gains a lot'.

Because information is built upon by several users, even the tiniest piece of information has value, as they gradually grow into a full storehouse of knowledge. The accuracy of information is also improved when there are multiple authors: information that has been processed by several authors and constantly edited is vetted and up-to-date.

Basic Education Wikileap project members at a hackathon held at the National Library of Finland in October 2017. Pictured (from left to right): Tarmo Toikkanen, Eija Kalliala, Tero Toivanen, Heikki Kastemaa, Kimmo Virtanen and Liisi Hakalisto. Not pictured: Teemu Korhonen and Markus Humaloja. Photo: Pinja Ahola / CSC.

In support of continuous learning

The WikiLibrary does not only serve individual teachers, it also facilitates community editing, where pupils can study things and produce materials for the WikiLibrary as part of learning under their teacher's supervision. Continuous learning is also promoted by the mobility of WikiLibrary and its compatibility with different platforms: books will no longer be forgotten at home or school.

The new national curriculum for comprehensive schools entered into force in 2016 and is now being phased into upper secondary schools, which can be seen in the WikiLibrary. The curriculum has been used as a framework for organizing subjects, thus making it easy to apply materials for each respective grade. This helps teachers assess implementation of the curriculum in their own teaching.

WikiLibrary and conventional textbooks – both serve a purpose

During the project, publisher representatives were also met and the supporting role that WikiLibrary plays with teaching was discussed. The discussion was constructive and it is hoped that the cooperation will continue even after the project has ended.

There is no intention of WikiLibrary competing with the publishers of conventional textbooks. Publishers can also benefit from WikiLibrary in terms of time and money. When there is no need to use resources for updating information, publishers will be able to focus their efforts on providing content that adds value to teaching.

For example, publishers have a large amount of learning-related analytics, which can be used to, for example, develop the pedagogical skills of teachers. The popularity of 'flipped learning' supports the model: An increasing amount of material to be learned is provided to pupils before each class, thus allowing more time to be spent working on the material than teaching the subject matter in class and, in turn, deepening the pupils' learning.

CSC as facilitator

CSC plays an activating and coordinating role in the project. CSC has functioned as a sort of catalyst on several projects, bringing people and experts together.

The Wikileap project is closely tied to themes that CSC strives to promote. These include lifelong, continuous and open learning as well as the openness of learning materials. Open Educational Resources (OER) is part of an open education theme promoted by, among others, UNESCO since the beginning of the millennium.

In addition to this, the Ministry of Education and Culture Department for General Education and Early Childhood Education has commissioned CSC to conduct two studies focusing on digital learning material metadata. Metadata is structured data that describes, explains, locates or otherwise helps to retrieve, use and manage information. The purpose of the studies was to explore whether metadatification promotes the use and locatability of digital learning materials and how.

– CSC strives to act as a facilitator that promotes compatibility between different educational levels. We have a broad view of the subject and know how to recognize areas where existing solutions can be used or where cooperation between different educational levels would be The Basic Education Wikileap and, more broadly, open education are a natural extension of open science, which has been actively promoted by CSC, says coordinator Anna Lindfors, who works with open educational resources at CSC.

Tero Toivanen talking about the Wikileap project and cooperation with the National Museum of Finland at the Educa Fair, which was held at Messukeskus Helsinki on 27 January 2018. Photo: Kulttuurinavigaattori, CC BY-SA 4.0. (9.4.2018)


What was achieved?

No salary is paid to project participants or Wikibook authors – all contributions are voluntary. Indeed, the funding provided to the Basic Education Wikileap by the Ministry of Education and Culture was used to increase exposure, disseminate information and train teachers.

– The WikiLibrary has a much higher profile and we have managed to increase the amount of information available on the project and open learning materials, explains Teemu Korhonen, special education teacher and a member of the Wikileap project team.

In addition to this, the number of Wikibook articles has increased as authors have become inspired to share their knowledge at hackathons, school visits and other educational and open science events.

The tight-knit core group will likely continue their work even after the project has ended. Next on the agenda is to write textbooks suitable for use in the upper secondary school curriculum.

– The project has expanded the concept of what a textbook can be. Wikibooks aren't constrained by the same rules as conventional textbooks: there can be, for example, more pages, the same topic can be addressed from several different perspectives and information can be updated quickly. We've only just begun, says Korhonen.

More cooperation and active participation

In addition to publishers, there is also a desire to increase cooperation with museums and libraries in the future. The project got off to a good start by cooperating with the National Museum of Finland, which already had a prehistory learning package on its website, which had not been updated or maintained. It is hoped that this material can be transferred to the WikiLibrary. The WikiLibrary already contains information on artifacts from the National Museum's collections.

With regard to Wikimedia Suomi, the project will continue its cooperation with the National Museum for the entire year. In May, The Comprehensive School Coding Club is visiting Suomenlinna to rephotograph historic photographs.

– We sourced photos from the Helsinki City Museum, Board of Antiquities and SA-kuva archives, which are all found on Finna. The before-and-after photos taken on the photography outing will be used in Wikipedia and for WikiLibrary Wikileap projects, explains Kimmo Virtanen, a wikipedist participating in the Wikileap project group and a part-time employee of Wikimedia Suomi ry.

Indeed, the challenge for the future is to encourage authors to write even more. Simply 'liking' things in social media is not enough – inspiration needs to be channelled into actively participating in the drafting of Wikibooks.

– According to a survey we conducted, users don't have the time or they don't know what to write. We've made an effort to tackle this by encouraging them to write anything, even little blurbs, as well as by reminding them that they don't have to produce a finished product in one shot. If every one of us following in social media were to write even half-done articles, we'd have a book done in no time! urges Korhonen.




Project coordinator Liisi Hakalisto from CSC was interviewed for this article.
Wikiversity Wikileap page:


Published originally 13.04.2018.

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Pinja Ahola